Careers On Their Way Out (And What’s Here to Stay)

10 Jun

Careers That Are Shrinking

Warning: Your future job may be in decline. Before you make any sudden moves, check out these smarter, more stable alternatives.

By Danielle Blundell

You’ve heard it before – all jobs aren’t created equally. But what does that mean? Salary is one obvious point of differentiation, as is the type of labor, bosses’ management styles, and office culture. But have you considered the health of a job’s industry on the whole? Turns out this factor is pretty important for anyone seeking employment these days, as some jobs are slowly fading into history while others are hurtling toward a much brighter future.

So what’s the great agent of change among these professions? “Many roles are evolving and being created every day because of technology,” says Megan Pittsley-Fox, a career coach and resume writer for WorkLife, a career advising company. “While some are changing, others are completely disappearing.”

And the numbers don’t lie, folks. We’ve taken a look at five professions that the U.S. Department of Labor predicts are in decline and paired each with a similar job that’s anticipating steady growth over the next couple of years. Intrigued? Keep reading for five careers that are on their way out and five more that are here to stay.

Career #1: File Clerk

You’ve got an uncanny knack for remembering details, staying organized, and you’ve never lost a receipt in your life. Sounds like those propensities would make you a great candidate for pursuing a job as a file clerk. There’s only one down side to taking this kind of job: It’s shrinking.

Why It’s Declining: The routine daily tasks involved in this job make it a prime place for technology to start replacing humans. “Working as a file clerk is one of the industries that’s going to be removed or deskilled through heavy automation,” says Tim Ragan, owner of Career Coaching International.

To put a numerical value on technological automation, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts this field will experience a 5 percent loss over the 2010 to 2020 time period. That’s 8,800 total jobs, folks.

What to Do Instead: Accountant/Auditor

Pushing papers as a file clerk likely won’t be as lucrative as crunching numbers as an accountant. And fortunately, as an accountant, you could do much more than that. In fact, the job might involve everything from analyzing a company’s financial statements to computing taxes and suggesting cost-cutting strategies to supervisors, notes the Department of Labor.

Even better news, the Department says this field is expected to grow about 16 percent by 2020, which balances out to 190,700 jobs.

Pittsley-Fox has some ideas about how to go the long haul in this field: “It all comes down to technology – look towards the newest advances in your field and become an expert at them to increase your growth, stability, and advancement opportunities.” She adds that people working in accounting can make themselves more marketable by learning enterprise resource planning (ERP) and accounting systems, automated/customized reporting capabilities, and data analysis.

NEXT STEP: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Education Options: According to the Department, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s in accounting or a related field to pursue a career as an accountant or auditor.

Career #2: Reporter, Correspondent, or News Analyst

“All the Presidents Men,” HBO’s “News Room,” “Anchorman.” Being a reporter may be cool enough to portray – and gently mock – on the screen, but sadly, in the years going forward, there will be far fewer Ron Burgundy’s reporting than you think.

Why It’s Declining: The U.S. Department of Labor attributes the decline in this field to “the consolidation of news organizations, decreases in the readership of newspapers, and a decline in viewership for many news television shows.” As the media landscape changes, the Department of Labor predicts that organizations will cut staff in order to cut costs.

How deep will those cuts run? The Department reports a 6 percent contraction throughout the field, accounting for 3,200 jobs over the period from 2010 to 2020, which is quite a bit when the field only had 58,500 jobs to begin with.

What to Do Instead: Public Relations Specialist

If you’re a people-person who thrives in a fast-paced, newsroom-style environment, a better bet in this economy might be a position as a public relations specialist. The good news? You’ll still be writing. As a matter of fact, you might put together press releases or speeches to create a public image for a particular company, client, or employer, notes the Department.

The best part is that you’ll be shaping the media’s viewpoint in a profession that, according to the Department, is growing at about 23 percent, or by 58,200 positions, between 2010 and 2020. This may sound like a lot, but Ragan says the growth makes sense. “We’re living in a world where communication is increasingly important, so companies need these workers,” he says.

Education Options: According to the Department, preparing for a career as a public relations specialist has similar education requirements as reporting; that is, a bachelor’s in journalism or communications is usually acceptable, but so are bachelor’s in public relations, English, or business.

Career #3: Desktop Publisher

You love getting on your computer to blog and post images, and if you could pay the bills with your creative output, you would. Well, before you go thinking a career as a desktop publisher is right up your alley, consider where it’s headed over the next few years.

Why It’s Declining: As the printing and publishing industries see an overall decline, one stream of this job’s potential employers will dry up, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. And for the others that don’t dry up, the Department of Labor predicts some of the desktop publisher’s tasks will be absorbed by graphic designers, Web designers, and copy editors.

And while the job isn’t yet obsolete, the Department is sure projecting a steep decline: The field should see a 15 percent drop overall from 2010 to 2020, going from 22,600 jobs to a mere 19,200.

What to Do Instead: Graphic Design

Don’t be so glum; why not try your hand at graphic design instead? You could work one on one with clients to make images that convey a message about their products or integrate text with images for websites, ads, logos, and more, says the Department.

What’s more, instead of employment opportunities decreasing by 15 percent like in desktop publishing, you’ll be looking at a 13 percent increase from 2010 to 2020, says the Department, making graphic design a much better creative profession by the numbers, with 37,300 new jobs.

But why are employers hiring graphic designers? They’re part of the future of advertising. “Smaller corporations and businesses are going to need graphic designers to arrest people’s attention,” says David Reynaldo, owner and founder of counseling website “That’s where advertising is moving, so there’s a lot of growth here.”

Education Options: If you want a shot at graphic design, you’ll need to spend a little more time in school than a desktop publisher might, since according to the Department, a bachelor’s in graphic design or a related field is required. If you happen to already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you could “pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications,” adds the Department.

Career #4: Air Traffic Controller

Do you get a rush when thinking on your feet or making split decisions? Pursuing a job as an air traffic controller could be the right fit for you. There’s just one big problem: This career seems to be going the way of the buffalo.

Why It’s Declining: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, due in part to federal budget constraints limiting the hiring of new controllers, the career is expected to decrease by 3 percent, roughly 800 workers, by 2020. If you think that doesn’t affect your odds much, consider the fact there were only 27,000 total air traffic controllers employed in 2010.

But technological advances play a role here, too, says Ragan. “Air traffic controllers certainly will lose some positions as the industry experiences some automation over time,” he says. Essentially, better tools will enable single controllers to monitor more air traffic successfully.

What to Do Instead: Airline or Commercial Pilot

Instead of going after a grinding career as an air traffic controller, consider the slightly more glamorous path of airline or commercial pilot. And don’t worry, you’ll still be able to geek out over how cool the radar is.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects an 11 percent growth rate and 11,500 new jobs between 2010 and 2020, which isn’t jaw-dropping, but it’s certainly more hopeful than air traffic control. Ragan sees the growth as a result of our constant need to travel, especially as business becomes increasingly global. “We’ve certainly got a lot of planes in the air,” Ragan says. “And there likely will be growth in small commercial jets – the executive jet range, rather than the bigger stuff.”

Education Options: More and more pilots are now earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a civilian flying school, says the Department of Labor. Another path many aspiring pilots follow involves learning to fly in the military, says the Department.

Career #5: Farmers, Ranchers, or Other Agricultural Managers

That fresh salad or juicy hamburger you enjoy weekly has to come from somewhere, which is why for thousands of years, people have been making an honest living by farming and ranching. Problem is, the U.S. Department of Labor is seeing a decline in the profession.

Why It’s Declining: The agriculture industry today is getting a bit stagnant in terms of job opportunities, and Ragan has some explanation as to why.

“The agricultural industry is increasingly becoming polarized because there are two competing trends,” says Ragan. “You’ve got the commercialization of agriculture, meaning in order to produce very cheap food, you’ve got bigger and bigger farms and combines, and fewer farmers who have just a couple of acres.” And that might exaplin why the Department of Labor projects an 8 percent decline and loss of a staggering 96,100 jobs by 2020.

What to Do Instead: Purchasing Agent

Take your work ethic and dedication to your craft, and channel it into prepping for work as a purchasing agent instead. What will l be doing, you ask? Well, the Department says purchasing agents evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review product quality before buying products for companies to use or resell – and some even do this for farm products like grain, cotton, and tobacco.

During the 2010 to 2020 period, this industry (which includes purchasing managers and buyers) is expected to be more robust than farmer and rancher occupations, growing by 7 percent, or 31,700 jobs, rather than declining, says the Department.

Ragan can see why there could be extra activity in this area. “Increasingly businesses are transitioning to the outsourcing model for their own products and services,” he says. “So people who are good at managing third parties, developing contracts, and ensuring that the contract deliverables happen within the time, cost, and quality parameters set will be in increasing demand.”

NEXT STEP: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Education Options: Like farming, you don’t need college credentials to pursue this job; however, larger distributors may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s who have completed some business or accounting courses, says the Department. A number of manufacturing firms like to see formal education, particularly candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s in business, economics, or engineering, to name a few.

Five of the Fastest-Growing Jobs in America:

Have none of the booming career alternatives above caught your eye? You might want to check out these occupations, which are among the list of jobs the U.S. Department of Labor predicts will expand the fastest between 2010 and 2020.*

All career growth projections from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 edition.


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