18 Jobs That Might Disappear in the Next 25 Years
Is your job in danger of becoming obsolete? If it's on this list, you're at risk—no matter how good you are at it.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, artificial intelligence expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee predicted that 40 percent of the world’s jobs will be replaced by robots in the next 15 to 25 years. As AI progresses, warns an Oxford study, it is inevitable that large sectors of the workforce will face mass unemployment, mainly in jobs that involve manual or repetitious labor.
Peter C. Earle, a research fellow at the Institute for Economic Research, says what we’re seeing now is different from previous industrial revolutions. “My grandfather was trained as a blacksmith and farrier before World War I. When automobiles and trucks replaced horses, the company he worked for sent him and his fellow blacksmiths to mechanics’ school,” he explains. That transition made sense, as the blacksmiths were already adept at working with tools and basic machines, but today, the employees that AI and automation are replacing will not so easily be able to shift their skill sets. “Many of the new jobs are extremely technical,” Earle says, “and don’t lend themselves to quick training for an orderly shift in employment.”
This can obviously pose a big problem for many people—possibly even you. But if you know what to expect, you can start making plans now to develop new skills within your current field or even change careers altogether. Here are the jobs that industry and employment experts believe will disappear within the next few decades.
“The job that is in imminent danger is warehousing people filling orders for online sites like Amazon. [Jeff] Bezos has said multiple times in interviews that he would love to keep the warehouses completely automatic. They are developing robots that could easily fill those positions, and they could work 24/7, unlike their human counterparts. Elon Musk is another one who has been very open about this. He knows that robots get complicated with simple tasks, so his warehouses will never be 100 percent human-free, but the type of job will be very different than it is today.” —Alberto Navarrete, General Manager of Frisco Maids. On the flip side, here are the 10 best careers to pursue right now.
Taxi drivers, Uber drivers, and other ride-share drivers
“Autonomous self-driving cars will use AI technology to drive and apps to identify who needs to be picked up and dropped off. Payment will be made with a simple credit-card swipe (as it often is today), and there will be no one holding onto a steering wheel who needs to be tipped.” —Laura Handrick, Careers and Workplace Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com
“We see a massive decline in demand for jobs in the payroll department. This includes payroll clerks, payroll coordinators, payroll managers, payroll specialists, and more. We believe the advancement of payroll systems like Gusto has made a significant impact on the demand for these positions. Gusto recently received a $3.8 billion valuation, and while exact numbers aren’t made public, they recently passed 100,000 paying businesses.” —Patrick Algrim, a human-resources expert for product and engineering teams in Silicon Valley.
“At my company, we are working on an AI algorithm that will eliminate several pricing-analyst positions. The AI will have machine learning so that it can figure out the costs of our products and the market trends. Right now, we have pricing analysts doing this job manually with Excel sheets. The turnover is extremely high for these positions.” —Becky Beach, a web developer and blogger at MomBeach.com
“We’ve all seen Tesla making waves in the automotive industry, and this is just the beginning. The industry as a whole is moving toward all-electric and self-driving vehicles. Mechanics are going to be more like computer scientists. It’ll be more like working on a computer than working on a car. So, I see the mechanic who likes to get his hands dirty as a thing of the past. A study from the UK’s Institute of the Motor Industry states, ‘As many as 97 percent of active auto mechanics aren’t qualified to work on electric cars. Worse, of that 3 percent of auto mechanics who are qualified, the vast majority of them are employed at manufacturer dealerships, presenting prospective EV buyers with very limited service options.'” —Sean Pour, cofounder of SellMax, a nationwide car-buying service
“One of the largest anticipated changes has been the transition of assembly-line workers to a heavier emphasis on robotics. Since 1947, more than 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, even as economic output grew by $4 trillion. Considering that robotic equipment has the ability to maximize efficiency and lower production costs, soon the only available manufacturing positions will begin to require skilled trades or industry-specific technical requirements.” —Dennis Theodorou, Managing Director of JMJ Phillip Holdings. Some jobs, on the other hand, are less likely to become obsolete. These are the 10 jobs Americans can’t live without.
“For decades, deep-sea divers have been exploring, researching, and providing manual treatments on the ocean floors. This work can be dangerous and takes a high level of skill to do well. Increasingly, this area of labor and expertise is leaning on the effort of robots and drones. For example, Australian experiments using robots to repair the Great Barrier Reef have proven successful, and there are near-term plans to [increase] these efforts by 10 to 100 times in the coming years. In addition to removing safety concerns, another advantage of drone divers is that they can go deeper and sustain greater pressures, and stay submerged nearly indefinitely.” —Michael Alexis, Director of Marketing at Museum Hack
“Automation will most definitely have a severe impact on the job market, but I think where it will hit the hardest are in industries or specific roles where the risk of human error is not only greater, but the consequences from said errors have a more catastrophic impact. People assume I’m talking about air-traffic controllers and things like that. However, there are still technological constraints that will enable humans to keep that type of role. [There are] a ton of abnormal situations arising every day that a computer isn’t yet capable of handling. This isn’t to say that won’t change in the coming decades.” —Jason Yau, VP of E-Commerce and General Manager at CanvasPeople
Fast-food restaurant servers
“Already in Japan, human-looking robots take orders and deliver meals in restaurants. And in the United States, the process of ordering has been automated at McDonald’s, for instance. The workers in the back may still be cooking and assembling your order on a cafeteria tray in the future, but there will be little need for a real person to call out, ‘Jack, your order is ready!’ or to deliver it to the table.” —Handrick. Here are some strange food jobs you won’t believe actually exist.
“This is not just about the automatization of work but also about changing lifestyles. Books are relatively cheap, plus people tend to use more and more electronic readers or audiobooks these days. Not to mention that people read less in general. Don’t you worry—the libraries won’t just disappear overnight with books burnt in a bonfire, but the rental system will most likely become an online solution.” —Roger Maftean, a career expert at ResumeLab
“For the past five years, we’ve had a hard time finding any apprentices or youthful people interested in painting. Our workforce has been getting older, and our competitors are experiencing the same problems. One contribution to this is a lack of interest in commercial painting. But another contribution is maintenance-free surfaces. New technologies in material sciences are creating walls, ceilings, and floors that don’t require any coatings. So not only is there less interest from younger people to become commercial painters, but there is also less demand due to these new materials being used to construct new buildings.” —Jeff Neal, project manager for Penn Coat Inc.
Customer service representatives
“The development of artificial intelligence brought us chatbots—friendly AI bots that substitute for customer-service officers. Perhaps the times when we hang on the customer-service telephone lines for hours will soon be over. Bad news for those that make a living as customer helpers, and for those who are good at it, too. But some thinkbots can do an equally good job, plus they’re cheaper and quicker.” —Maftean. Thinking of changing careers? Here’s how to write a résumé that blows away hiring managers.
“Already, computers have become so affordable that most users are more likely to recycle and replace them when they break down than to fix them. That’s likely due to the relative cost of parts and labor to have a computer-repair person fix it versus the more affordable replacement cost and the likelihood they’ll use the PC breakdown as an excuse to upgrade. In addition, it won’t be long before computers can do their own self-diagnosis and then provide instructions to the computer owner on exactly what needs to be fixed and how (if it’s hardware); or if it’s a software fix, the computer-repair bot will ask your approval and then fix it.” —Handrick
“It’s not that we will suddenly learn how to speak different languages. It’s that the machines will do it for us. Online translators are now able to listen to and translate a conversation on the spot, read it out loud, and swap between dozens of language options. Soon, a human factor here will no longer be needed.” —Maftean
“Jobs such as cashier have already changed while not being entirely replaced. The job of cashier has taken on the flavor of an IT position because self-checkout lanes are growing in popularity.” —Sy Islam, PhD, Assistant Professor at Farmingdale State College and Vice President of Consulting for Talent Metrics. Jobs themselves aren’t the only things that are changing.
“During the ‘Great Recession’ when the real-estate bubble burst, there was a major shakeout in the ranks of well-paid, traditional mortgage brokers. The number of working mortgage brokers dropped by roughly 80 percent—and the average salary of the survivors dropped by more than 30 percent. Further, getting a mortgage quote on the Internet these days is generally quite straightforward due to the efforts of outfits such as Rocket Mortgage, Guaranteed Rate, Quicken Loans, Better Mortgage, and several others. Finally, millennials (which recently became the largest demographic group in America) are more likely to get things done via the Internet than in face-to-face transactions; and those young folks, along with their fledgling brethren in Gen Z, are the home buyers of the future. So, as a profession, the future for traditional mortgage brokers is quite bleak, and I believe that very few of them will survive the next decade.” —Timothy G. Wiedman, PHR Emeritus, Associate Professor of Management & Human Resources (Retired)
“More than half of the United States’ 336 tolled highways, bridges, and tunnels are using a cashless tolling system. This has already made 1,200 toll workers lose their jobs along the New York State Thruway.” —Saurabh Jindal, Talk Travel
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2026 there will be 41,800 fewer bank-teller jobs in America. Physical bank locations are becoming increasingly less essential for consumers and businesses alike. With online and mobile banking options, 24/7 ATMs, and the rise of digital wallets, there is less need for brick-and-mortar financial institutions, which unfortunately means your friendly bank teller’s days are numbered. Over time, we will all become our own personal bank tellers.” —Tasia Duske, CEO of The Great Guac Off. If you’re worried that your job isn’t secure, don’t despair.