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Five Jobs For A Slowing Economy
by Hans H. Chen
With all the unpleasant economic news pouring out of today's newspapers, maybe you've begun to worry that the career you've charted in the promising world of dot-com e-consulting won't panning out. Or maybe you're an investment banker who's spent the last two years chasing the almighty dollar and working 100 hours a week, only to get canned because Alan Greenspan got too stingy with the interest rate cuts. Or perhaps you're still a student, horrified as you watch your peers before you stumble and fall like the first soldiers to step off the boats onto Normandy Beach.
Well, take heart. Vault has identified five careers where demand should remain high, even if the economy sinks low. These are jobs that won't go the way of the lithograph - or e-consultant, for that matter. Demographics, social forces, and the geopolitical balance of power means signing up for these jobs at the next career fair you stumble across might be a good idea.
Even if the economy continues its descent into recession, let's be honest - the very rich will probably stay very rich, no matter how many dot-commers, low-performing investment bankers, and auto workers lose their jobs. That's why jobs in private asset management may be the most recession-proof of all careers in finance.
The fortunes of investment banking and commercial banking depend in large part on the continued plans of their corporate and institutional clients to keep expanding through mergers, acquisitions, financing deals, and big loans. In time of economic uncertainty, these expansion plans can quickly dry up. On the other hand, asset management, catering to the demographic group that banks euphemistically term "high-net worth individuals " (rich people) relies on the more dependable drive of individuals to preserve the money they've got.
Asset mangers research investment opportunities for their customers and then invest their clients' money for a fee. Private asset management once lay exclusively in the province of retail brokers such as Paine Webber or securities firms such as Morgan Stanley. But deregulation over the past five years has allowed commercial and retail banks - the kind of institutions that once could only take deposits, make loans, and write mortgages - to sell stocks and bonds. That means job opportunities for aspiring asset mangers and private banking professionals everywhere from rarified Wall Street houses to corner offices of your local bank.
"If you're looking for ways to become recession-proof and still make it in the financial world, the fact that we've got another good 20 years of high-wealth with the boomers, the wealthiest generation ever to come through our society," says Mary Mallett, the president of SearchPro, Inc, a recruiting firm for commercial bankers. "If one were to select a career today, it would be to be in investment management, asset management or financial sales." And you'll be guaranteed years of continued need for private asset management.
Sick of pulling in a $300,000 banker's salary but leading a spiritually bankrupt life? Concerned about the savage inequalities of urban life that consign the children of the poor to chronically underperforming schools? Want to make a difference about it? Well, young I-banker, if you're willing to give up 90 percent of your annual pay, you can. And you won't get laid off so quickly either.
If you live in New York City, there's a program specifically designed to ease you into the teaching world. Launched last year, the New York City Teaching Fellows program "targets young professionals and mid-career changers who may not have education backgrounds but who are eager to make a commitment to New York City schools to leverage their past success in our city's classrooms," according to the site's web site, at www.nycteachingfellows.org/. The fellows receive a crash course in teaching, a $3,000 training stipend, and can pursue an accelerated master's degree. The first-year pay ranges from $31,910 a year for teachers with a bachelor's degree and no additional coursework to $40,180 for fellows with advanced degrees or work more experience.
So far this year, according the New York Daily News, more than 7,800 people have applied for 1,500 teaching fellowships this year. Last year, 2,300 applicants bid for about 250 spots.
Teaching fellows don't have it easy. The school board assigns them to the city's most troubled spots, so-called "Schools Under Registration Review," which are that have failed to bring up failing standardized test scores. Last year's class, a group that included a Ph.D. and several artists and lawyers, suffered a 9 percent drop out rate. To reach his goal of recruiting more than a thousand Teaching Fellows this year, New York City Schools Chancellor Harold Levy launched a $8 million ad campaign. In March, as an added incentive, Levy announced the Board of Education would provide 50 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments as temporary housing to new teachers. Levy has also proposed hiring foreign teachers.
Even with these inducements, Levy faces a daunting task. He must fill nearly 12,000 expected openings by September. That's more than an eighth of the 78,000 teaching jobs in the city.
Big classes and pay that is 20 to 30 percent below teacher salaries in the surrounding suburbs prompts many teachers to flee New York for the halcyon suburbs of Westchester and Long Island. By the end of June 2001, as many as 7,000 experienced teachers could leave, out of about 20,000 who are eligible to retire. Needless to say, your job won't be going anywhere.
If you go to the hospital, it'll be the doctors who will treat your illness, but it'll be the nurses that will return your health. But with nursing now facing a severe staffing shortage and demand expected to outstrip the nursing supply within the decade, working nurses today say they need more colleagues - and soon.
"As soon as we started classes in nursing school, they said demand would be peaking in 2003 to 2005 and they said it would be the worst nursing shortage in the world," said Jonathan Pabalate, a critical care nurse in Miami. "The healthcare industry cannot survive without us. We're used in all aspects of the medical field."
With Americans living longer and the baby boom generation just beginning its downward slide toward old age, dementia and infirmity, officials at the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services say the needs of the ill will outstrip nursing capacity by 2010. The average age of the 2.6 million nurses in the country now stands at 45.2 years. Registered nurses under 30 years of age make up just 10 percent of the workforce.
Just last month, a federally funded study conducted by Vanderbilt and Harvard universities linked nursing shortages to increases cases of shock, urinary tract infections, bleeding, and other calamities.
Pabalate said his own experience nursing in intensive care units supported the study. "Two ICU patients will keep a nurse busy. Throw in a third patient, and the patient outcome may not be as good. Throw in a fourth and you're drowning."
One solution to the nursing shortage lies in recruiting more men and minorities into the field. In 2000, men made up just 5.4 percent of the field and minorities made up 12.3 percent, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Another solution lies in increasing pay to nurses, who frequently work 12.5 hour shifts under frequently trying circumstances. Adjusted for inflation, nurses' salaries have barely risen in the past 20 years, according to March 2000 sample of nurses conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Nurses in 2000 earned an average of $46,782.
However, even if salaries have remained flat, the shortage means some perks for nurses already in the business and lucrative enticements for those thinking of joining the field. Overtime is common, and signing bonuses are growing in popularity, too. And, with nursing shortages most acute in certain areas of the country, several national staffing companies pay for the moving fees of nurses who want to resettle where the need for nurses is greatest. Just this year, for example, Pabalate, a ski buff, spent several months in Denver working as a critical care nurse.
"I literally called and said I'm looking for a job in Denver. (I actually said I was looking for a job in Vail)," Pabalate said. "They came back to me and said we have jobs in every single hospital in their ICUs, days and nights."
Pabalate said the challenge of nursing and the continued demand means he's sure to stay busy for decades to come.
"As long as I don't purposely kill anybody," Pabalate said, "I have great job security."
Military recruiters have had a tough time in the past decade. The strong economy allowed many potential recruits who had been thinking of joining the Army or Navy to find another job where getting shot at isn't a routine job hazard. The Army, Air Force and Navy missed several annual recruiting quotas over the past decade. But the armed services were able to meet their quotas last year, and with the economy heading south (or at least sideways), military recruiters think young men and women may be more receptive to the benefits of Army life.
"Traditionally, the prevailing wisdom is that when youth unemployment is up, that might have a positive impact on military recruiting," said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Smith said he couldn't yet tell if any former dot-commers have fled to the Army instead, but he did make a pitch for college graduates.
"Somebody who may be uncertain about what their employment opportunities are going to be after college, if they've got the usual kind of federally insured loans, we can fix them right up," Smith said, pointing out that the Army will repay enlisted soldiers $65,000 in college loans over 4 years.
But for college students interested in the glamorous life as a military officer, Paul Kotakis, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's Cadet Command in Ft. Monroe, Virginia, said ROTC training would bear benefits during college, immediately afterwards, and later on in life.
ROTC students are eligible for $60,000 over four years in merit based scholarship. And every ROTC cadet earns a $150 monthly stipend.
"Any college has got managerial courses. But the difference between those and the ROTC curriculum is that ours are not just academic classroom instruction. We, unlike most of the college courses, have a practical application."
And then, for the officer who decides to join the private sector, Kotakis reminds us that the military officer is in "a very respected position."
"There's some really good examples there of people who have taken that leadership training, gotten some practice experience in the Army for some time, and then moved into other careers," Kotakis said.
America is locking up more of its citizens than ever, and putting them away for longer than ever, making corrections one of the most recession proof of all industries. From 1999 to 2000, American's prison population doubled from 712,000 to 1,931,859 inmates. Now, one of every 142 Americans is in prison or jail.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which has had to deal with the explosive growth of federal drug-related prisoners, is currently building more than two dozen new penitentiaries to supplement the mere 98 it has now.
What this means for you is that prison jobs are very stable. Pay start at around $32,000, but anyone interested in working for as a Federal corrections officer needs to have either a college degree or three years of work experience. The maximum age for any new applicant is 37, and while you won't necessarily be disqualified if you've got a relative in the slammer, you will have to pass a criminal background check.
Prisons are well known for acting as economic engines in depressed areas. McCreary County, Kentucky is one of those areas. For much of the century, the county led the state in coal production. But by 1988, with the last tapped-out mine closed, the county fell into the deepest bowels of Appalachian poverty. By 1990, McCreary was the third-poorest county in the country. But county officials say the construction of a federal prison, slated to open in 2003, will funnel $30 million into the area. That means the county can finally get what it has long needed: jobs, a renovated courthouse, and even fast-food restaurants. Just imagine the low cost of living in a place like McCreary, Kentucky, combined with a recession-proof job.
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