By Charles B. Stockdale
The national unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high -- above 9% since May 2009. While some companies are hiring, many continue to lay off workers, causing an overwhelming sense of job insecurity. However, certain workers may have less to worry about than others. That's because they are in professions Americans can't live without. 24/7 Wall St. has identified those crucial jobs.
Jobs that keep us safe are critical. Police officers protect people and property from theft and violence. Firefighters protect people and property from fire and other dangers. Correctional officers and jailers keep citizens safe by running the country's prison system. Austerity measures may cause some of these jobs to be lost, but on the whole these professions will always exist.
Additionally, there are a number of occupations that help to keep America's infrastructure running. Electrical power line repairers and water and wastewater plant operators make sure our utilities stay operational. Air traffic controllers and railroad conductors keep transportation moving. These jobs are essential to the economy's well-being.
24/7 Wall St. has identified crucial jobs in transportation, utilities, security and health care that America cannot live without. We used the Bureau of Labor Statistic's Occupational Employment Statistics database to identify specific job categories and relevant data for each.
In a time where nobody feels their livelihood is safe, 24/7 Wall St. presents the Jobs Americans Can't Live Without.
10. Correctional Officers and Jailers
Number Employed: 457,550
Median Income: $39,040
Correctional officers are the largest part of the prison workforce and yet there is always demand for more. "All [Bureau of Prison] institutions routinely have vacancies for this position," according to the organization. Prison officers play an indispensable role in society, not only maintaining order but assuring that no prisoners escape. Correctional officers do not have an easy job and deal with extremely high levels of stress. On top of the threat of inmate violence and actual inmate violence they are exposed to, they also have to deal with factors such as understaffing, overtime, poor public image and low pay, according to the National Institute of Justice.
9. Electrical Power Line Repairers
Number Employed: 105,540
Median Income: $58,030
We take for granted that lights go on at the flip of a switch. But when electricity stops running entire cities can shut down, such as in the Northeast Blackout of 2003. When power utilities cease operation, they affect many important functions of society. Many services, from public transportation to hospitals, rely on electricity to run properly. As a result, linemen are always on call to attend to repairs.
8. Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
Number Employed: 644,300
Median Income: $53,540
Police officers "protect lives and property," as the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it. Being a police officer is both dangerous and highly stressful. Unfortunately, the poor economy has resulted in city budget cuts, causing shortages in many forces and further exacerbating officers' stress levels. Chicago, for instance, is currently facing a shortage of between 1,300 to 2,300 officers, according to Medill Reports. Police officers are spread thin and must cover extra sectors. In Chicago, this means citizens sometimes must wait up to 40 minutes for response from police. Yet, a certain level of law enforcement has to remain in place to ensure protection.
7. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
Number Employed: 5,080
Median Income: $75,650
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators control and monitor power-generating plants and the various equipment and instruments involved in their operation. Due to concerns about the safety of nuclear power, plant operators must either be working or on call nights, weekends and during holidays. Use of nuclear power will likely experience significant growth in the near future. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "the number of operating reactors in the world is expected to increase by between 90 and 350 units by 2030," reports Reuters.
6. Air Traffic Controller
Number Employed: 23,970
Median Income: $108,040
Air traffic controllers are needed to ensure safe and efficient air travel. Without a satisfactory number of people working this job, people are put in danger and airports run poorly. The country is already experiencing these problems due to a recent shortage. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, there has been a wave of controller retirements as more and more reach the mandatory retirement age of 56. "The effects of the nationwide air traffic controller staffing shortage can still be felt throughout the system," the organization states. These effects include a number of serious operational errors in recent years, well above the average. Air traffic errors increased 81 percent from 2007 to 2010.
5. Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers
Number Employed: 190,100
Median Income: $54,710
When telephone and computer services fail it is an inconvenience for most Americans. In certain cases, however, basic communication utilities can be critical. Telecommunications companies therefore often have equipment installers and repairers available or on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just think: What would happen if you couldn't call 911 in an emergency?
4. Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters
Number Employed: 42,700
Median Income: $49,770
To this day, America depends on the railroad system. Many companies rely on freight trains to deliver supplies, people depend on passenger trains for transportation, and city dwellers depend on urban transit to get to work. Railroad conductors and yardmasters are essential to keep operations running smoothly. Demand for rail transportation is on the rise, and as the railroad workforce continues to age, the railroad industry will hire workers at increasing rates.
Number Employed: 302,400
Median Income: $45,250
Firefighters work year-round, protecting people and their property from fire. Recently, areas all over the country are suffering from shortages of paid, professional firefighters, as well as volunteers, due to retirements and tightening city budgets. When fire departments are not fully staffed, it often results in few firefighters responding to calls. Cuts can only go so deep, however, due to the need for firefighters.
2. Water/Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
Number Employed: 108,330
Median Income: $40,770
Water and liquid waste treatment plants require near-constant supervision in order to ensure that customers receive safe water. As a result, system operators must either work or be on call at all hours. Plants are highly regulated and can face a number of problems. Storms can cause flooding in sewers, and water can be tainted by chemicals. Plant operators are responsible for all of this.
1. Registered Nurses
Number Employed: 2,655,020
Median Income: $64,690
Registered nurses are the most common occupation in the health care industry. As more people gain access to medical coverage as a result of healthcare reform, there may be a shortage of primary care physicians. To address the shortage, medical professionals are pushing for more nurses to become nurse practitioners.
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