Want Career Stability? 7 Jobs You’ll Probably Never Lose to a Robot

Robot people
Caracarafoto under Creative Commons

Think about the last time you needed to make a call but didn’t have the number. Did you dial 0 to talk to the operator? Probably not.

That’s because phone operators have been replaced by new technology. The Internet and mobile devices help us find whatever contact information we need with a quick search. In some cases, like online takeout orders and live customer-service chat, this technology eliminates the need to make calls at all.

The pace of technology advancement is speeding up, and with these changes come shifts in the job market. While new jobs are being created, other jobs are disappearing.

Two recent reports (one in 2013 and another in 2014) looked at which sectors of the economy are the most (and least) vulnerable to being taken over by technology.

Using the 2013 research, NPR put together a fascinating tool that predicts the chances your job will be automated in the next 20 years. Chances are editors will be around for a while longer. The projections give us a 5.5% chance of being automated.

On the other hand, bank tellers have a 98% chance of being replaced. If you think about it, this trend began years ago with the introduction of ATMs and online banking.

Among the least replaceable are health and substance abuse social workers, with a 0.3% chance of losing their jobs to technology.

Here are the fields least likely to be automated in the next 20 years, based on current research.

1. Legal Services

While advances in technology mean legal positions no longer include looking up cases in a dusty law library, researchers predict jobs requiring knowledge and experience with the legal system are at low risk of being automated.

However, some workers within this category, like paralegals and legal assistants, are at much higher risk than others, like lawyers and judges.

2. Management

Jobs requiring complex social skills and the ability to prioritize, direct teams and make decisions are less likely to be taken on by computers.

3. Financial Services

While some parts of the financial sector may soon be increasingly automated, more strategic, judgement-based roles will likely stick around.

4. Computing, Engineering and Science

This one’s not a surprise. After all, someone has to create the technology that transforms the economy. The crucial element is the amount of “creative intelligence” these types of jobs require, note the researchers.

However, these workers face the challenge of keeping their skills up to date as the field advances.

5. Education

This field is already being transformed by technology, but the report predicts teachers and other staff will be around for the long haul. As in other fields, these professionals will need to adapt as technology changes.

6. Arts and Media

Creativity is notoriously hard to automate (although computers might be responsible for more web content than you think).

When it comes to creating work to be consumed by humans, the obvious choice is other humans.

7. Health Care

While some lower-level health care positions may be at risk of automation, medical professionals who specialize in management and coordinating care for patients are at low risk of being replaced.

For example, dentists have a 0.4% chance of being replaced, and occupational therapists have a 0.3% chance.

Who’s Most Likely to Be Replaced?

The fields most vulnerable to automation are “Office and administrative support; sales and services; transportation; construction and extraction; and production,” according to the 2014 report.

Some estimates place the number of at-risk jobs as high as 40%, with low-income workers at higher risk than those in the higher income brackets. Highly skilled workers also face a lower risk of automation than their less trained counterparts.

How to Avoid Being Replaced by a Robot

So how do you safeguard your position as technology changes?

The top skills employers look for include digital knowledge, management skills and creativity, according to the authors of the 2014 study. The 2013 research focused on job requirements like people skills, cleverness, negotiation skills and the ability to maneuver in awkward spaces.

Staying competitive may mean seeking out new skills to enhance your current position or preparing to change fields.

If you’re ready to build some new strengths, look for scholarships before you take out costly student loans.

And don’t discount less formal venues for learning new skills. Coursera, Khan Academy and even Stanford offer free courses on everything from coding to creative writing.

Should we take this research as gospel and base our every decision around the findings? No, probably not. Even the researchers acknowledge these are simply predictions, not facts.

However, there’s no denying that technology is changing the world, including the workplace. To stay competitive, workers in all sectors will need to adapt and acquire new skills.

Your Turn: Is your job at risk of being automated? What new skills are you working on?

Lyndsee Simpson is a writer and editor in Washington, D.C. She would love it if a robot could come clean her apartment this weekend.   

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.