20 Best Jobs of Tomorrow for Today's Millennials

March 7, 2014

Automated labor is substituting for human labor in an increasing number of tasks. Which jobs will survive and, most importantly, thrive in the future? Using a recent study and some handy BLS data, we're beginning to have some answers.

Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimated the probability of computerization affecting 702 occupations, something no other study had done. They found that upwards of 47% of today's jobs are at high risk of being automated. Why? Machines have already encroached on routine labor thanks to their efficiency (and by not getting bored). They now have non-routine work in their sights. Big Data enables complex tasks to be rapidly scaled, a key comparative advantage relative to humans. Combined with robot's increasing dexterity and perception, computers are bringing both brawn and brain to the table.

Across the board, high-skill and high-wage jobs have a lower probability of being replaced and a greater degree of growth. The spots requiring social and creative skills do particularly well. As Tyler Cowen's been saying, the conscientious will prosper in the machine economy. We don't just need brains, but social intelligence too.

Some roles are practically irreplaceable by computers and others simply complement them. As the report finds, "Generalist occupations requiring knowledge of human heuristics, and specialist occupations involving the development of novel ideas and artifacts, are the least susceptible to computerization." These include "most management, business, and finance occupations" in addition to "education, healthcare, as well as arts and media jobs." On the other hand, those in engineering and science roles are generally safe due to the "high degree of creative intelligence they require" and their "strong complementarities" with computers.

The paper's authors make a couple of predictions we don't often hear. First, they foresee an impending technological plateau, where engineering bottlenecks slow down the pace of automation. Perhaps that will buy the labor market more time to adjust. Second, the hollowing out of the middle class will slow down, with low-skill and low-wage jobs bearing most of the brunt. Opportunity will remain for those who wish to pursue it.