This article discusses why midlife career changers, as well as young people who are making their first career decisions, both should seriously consider what effect future automation might have on the careers that they are considering. When choosing their future careers, these groups of people still should ponder factors such as their ability, values, interests, and personality, as well as the pay they would receive. They should not, however, overlook how likely it would be that their prospective careers could be automated in the future.
Many economists are predicting that, in the next 20 years, increasingly sophisticated automation, including robots, will destroy jobs or greatly reduce the number of humans employed in them. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, however, can predict the job outlook for occupations only ten years in advance. Furthermore, even the Occupational Outlook Handbook states that customer service representative positions, for example, will require good computer skills. Thus, even those who are able to keep their jobs still will have to be well trained to function in the new, more fully automated workplace.
Economists already have predicted the 10 jobs that are the most likely to be automated and the 10 jobs that are the least likely to be automated. They also have predicted that the broad occupational groups of manufacturing, administrative support, retail, and transportation are groups where automation is likely to continue taking jobs from humans.
Even jobs that do not seem to be vulnerable to automation can be automated somewhat or completely. Examples of these jobs are surgeons, journalists and technical writers, repair crews, customer service representatives, train engineers, cashiers, computer operators, venture capitalists, pilots, and college professors.
Social and cultural factors might slow the rate at which jobs are automated, but the number of jobs being automated seems to be accelerating. Thus, those who are choosing future careers should research, as thoroughly as possible, the chances that the careers they are considering will be automated in the future. Although written resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook can be useful, the information it contains is more dated than the information that is available by informational interviewing.
To survive in the increasingly automated world of work, employees must become lifelong learners. They should not only willingly accept the training that their work unit provides, but also, they should actively seek this training. If all of this talk of automation seems unrealistic, read about Google’s driverless car.