With the United States unemployment rate jumping to 14.7% in April 2020, and over 40 million Americans filing unemployment insurance claims, we certainly are on the cusp of—or in the midst of—an economic recession.
Job stability is certainly in question for millions of professionals, even those in tech. Due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the International Data Corporation (IDC) projects worldwide IT spending to drop 5.1% this year.1
While IT will not be spared from the recession’s impact, growth is still projected in certain tech areas, such as cloud and infrastructure.
No jobs are 100% recession-proof, but these tech roles are proven to be essential during a crisis as enterprises scramble to change strategies and meet goals. The skills demonstrated by IT professionals in these 10 positions can make the difference between business success and failure, especially during a recession.
Top 10 Recession-Proof IT Jobs
- Information security
- Programmer / developer
- Cloud administrator
- Data analyst
- Risk manager
- Cloud architect
- Database administrator
- Help desk / tech support
- Project / portfolio manager
- DevOps engineer
1. Information security
Demand is already high for information security professionals. According to an (ISC)2 study, the cybersecurity workforce gap is nearly 500,000 in the U.S. and 4.07 million globally.2
Prior to the pandemic and recession, there simply weren’t enough security professionals to keep organizations safe. As budgets tighten, information security is not an area that can be ignored. Without proper security professionals, sensitive data and information is ripe for the taking. Cybercriminals and hackers aren’t going to put their computers away just because there’s a recession. Cyberattacks will continue to grow in frequency and intensity.
“Large-scale disruptions to everyday life are viewed as opportunities to cybercriminals,” said Brad Puckett, global portfolio director for cybersecurity at Global Knowledge. “Changes in position, posture or circumstance mean possible open doors and expose vulnerabilities while workforce and infrastructure is strained and distracted. Cybersecurity careers become increasingly secure and positions valued as uncertainty grows in the enterprise.”
Even though data breaches are inevitable, consumers aren’t willing to accept that their data is in danger. An IDC analysis revealed that 55% of consumers would switch platforms or providers due to the threat of a data breach, and 78% would switch if a breach impacted them directly.3
The cybersecurity problem has now exacerbated as an enormous number of IT professionals are accessing sensitive information remotely. A secure VPN connection must be available to all remote employees to ensure their information is encrypted and their databases are protected from cybercriminals.
- CISM - Certified Information Security Manager
- CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- CompTIA Security+
2. Programmer / developer
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs are projected to grow 21% by 2028, much faster than the average occupation.4 A recession will likely slow this growth, but it won’t kill it. Programmers and developers are needed now and will be needed in the ensuing months and years. And if you can master a programming language, you’ll be even more attractive to current or prospective employers.
3. Cloud administrator
Of the utmost importance to cloud administrators is ensuring their organization’s cloud is up and running smoothly. With so much infrastructure to oversee, cloud admins have a lot of responsibilities and thus, their days can be unpredictable. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it position. They must provide technical assistance when needed, in addition to managing cloud services, subscriptions, resources and storage.
During a recession, organizations will look to the cloud to drive digital strategies. This will likely require an even stronger emphasis on cloud vendor management and a better understanding of how the cloud can serve customers. Internally, more remote work and less travel will also increase the focus on secure access to cloud services.5 All of these responsibilities will fall to cloud admins.
Also, IDC predicts that infrastructure spending will post moderate growth as businesses will continue to fund cloud deployments and maybe even accelerate cloud projects.1 Cloud administrators will oversee these endeavors, which will have major implications across the enterprise.
If you only have experience administering on-premises infrastructure, it’s time to evolve your skill set, which won’t translate 100% to cloud administration.
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
- Professional Cloud Administrator (vendor-neutral)
4. Data analyst
Spending on storage, infrastructure and cloud services aren’t expected to take a major hit during a recession. And that means an influx of new data.
According to Stephen Minton, program vice president in IDC’s Customer Insights & Analysis group, “the amount of data that companies must store and manage is not going anywhere.”1 This data will be vitally important as organizations rely heavily on trend analysis and predictive thinking to drive their initiatives.
If they haven’t already, IT decision-makers will realize the need to filter through and study data to cover a wide spectrum of uses, from target advertising to security intelligence analysis.
5. Risk manager
Especially during a recession, organizations need to make smart investments. An IT risk manager evaluates technology investments and strategies. They predict what could go wrong and create tactics to minimize risk to the business. Some also manage compliance risk, ensuring organizations operate within the law and meet industry regulations.
A proper risk assessment must be conducted to better identify, assess and control threats. This is particularly crucial during a crisis as many organizations cannot afford further financial losses.
New investments must be scrutinized during a recession. Knowing and understanding the risks of such investments will help the organization make more informed decisions.
Risk managers and assessors also have some of the highest IT salaries in the world. According to the Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, individuals in these job roles earn $113,193, which is 33% higher than the average IT professional.
6. Cloud architect
If there is IT growth this year, it will likely be in the cloud. Much of the work in tech is done in the cloud, as organizations have already invested heavily in cloud services and platforms. Many will be looking to further those investments and fund existing deployments even during a recession.
Unlike the day-to-day focus of cloud admins, cloud architects deal with the bigger picture. They must coordinate cloud adoption, develop an architecture and ensure staff follow best practices.
Cloud architects are also responsible for communicating with other departments during the cloud adoption process. Whether employees “buy in” on a cloud strategy is often up to the cloud architect, which makes their duties essential, especially as organizations increasingly expect major returns on their cloud investments.
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
- Professional Cloud Solutions Architect (vendor-neutral)
7. Database administrator
The increasing amount of data housed on the cloud must be managed. That’s the job of database admins.
While data analysts study data, database admins organize the data and make sure it’s secure. It’s also their job to ensure the data is backed up in case it needs to be recovered.
There are certain skills that help database admins do their jobs better and more efficiently. Having SQL skills, for example, will help to develop and manage larger databases. This is the type of skill set that employers will look for in a database admin.
8. Help desk / tech support
Technology usage doesn’t disappear during a recession. That’s why help desk and tech support professionals will always be in high demand.
IT professionals may be tech gurus, but that expertise doesn’t necessarily transfer to the rest of the organization. We all have co-workers who frequently need help logging onto Zoom or resetting their passwords. That’s where internal help desk professionals come in.
Tech support professionals, on the other hand, are needed when something breaks. They diagnose issues, fix network problems, and install and configure hardware and software.
Without help desk and tech support, technology issues would delay business activities,. That’s why these roles are essential, even if an organization is forced to downsize.
9. Project / portfolio manager
Costs are going to be a major concern in the ensuing months. More projects may be deprioritized based on evolving organizational goals. That means the projects that remain active must be managed efficiently and thoughtfully. Resources and finances may be limited, so project managers must keep an open dialogue with decision-makers and make sure goals are fair and attainable. Now is not the time to over promise and under deliver.
“During tough times, companies need to change and adapt to the new realities,” said Samuel Brown, a Global Knowledge instructor. “Projects are the way that organizations drive changes, so competent, skilled, professional project managers are key players in a company’s ability to successfully adapt.”
For portfolio managers, it’s about aligning the elements of a portfolio with broader goals, and determining what is and isn't important. IDC suggests separating the portfolio management steps into “do now” and “longer term,” where the longer term actions can be automated over time.6
For project and portfolio managers, new priorities must align projects and portfolios with business strategies and goals. The ones that don’t align will likely be put on hold.
10. DevOps engineer
DevOps engineer is ranked the fifth best job in America according to Glassdoor.7 The role requires oversight of software code releases and management of IT infrastructure.
An increasing number of organizations have adopted DevOps to improve collaboration among software development and IT operations. According to a study of more than 25,000 tech professionals from Puppet and DevOps Research and Assessment, high-performing organizations that have bought into the DevOps philosophy deploy 200 times more frequently, with 2,555 times faster lead times.8
The benefits of DevOps are hard to ignore—that’s why DevOps engineer has become one of the most in-demand jobs in IT. These professionals will be responsible for automating software deployments while limiting disruption to existing infrastructure.
Now is the time to expand your cloud and cybersecurity expertise
Cloud computing and cybersecurity skills are in-demand now and will continue to be during a recession. According to IT decision-makers, these are the two most difficult hiring areas, as well as the top two investment areas. Professionals with cloud and cyber expertise are in high demand.
The GK Polaris Discovery subscription allows you to train in both areas for an entire year. Gain access to over 130 live virtual courses taught by subject matter experts. With this many training opportunities, you can prepare for over 60 certifications and solidify your standing as a cloud or IT security expert.
- IDC Lowers Forecast for Worldwide IT Spending to a Decline of 5.1% in 2020, but Cloud Spending Remains Relatively Resilient, May 2020
- Strategies for Building and Growing Strong Cybersecurity Teams, (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, 2019
- IDC, Market Analysis Perspective: Worldwide Identity and Access Management, 2018 — The State of Identity, Doc #US44260118, Sept. 2018
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Software Developers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- IDC, Post-COVID-19: A CIO Recovery Guide — The CIO as Business Strategist, Doc #US46264620, May 2020
- IDC, IDC PlanScape: Portfolio Optimization for the Post-COVID-19 Era, Doc #US46262720, May 8, 2020
- Glassdoor, 50 Best Jobs in America for 2020
- ZDNet, How to implement DevOps: 5 tips for doing it right, April 2017