Ask LH: What Can I Study That Won't Become Obsolete?

Dear LH,

Due to technological advancements and societal trends, which types of careers are at most risk of becoming obsolete in the near future? Equally, what are the growth industries that students should be considering to ensure they will be in high demand after graduation and throughout their career?

From ellrob88

Education image via Shutterstock

Dear ellrob88

With UAC preferences due for this year's HSC graduates in two weeks, a lot of teenagers are going to be currently pondering this question. Many once-common jobs are becoming increasingly automated -- just look at how many shops are setting up self-service checkouts as one very visible and obvious example.

In Australia, some reports have estimated that anywhere up to a whopping half a million existing jobs could be replaced by robots or machines with artificial intelligence. According to this report from 2014, the jobs that are most at risk of being automated are accountants, cashiers and secretaries, along with a number of highly 'process-based' jobs in fields such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Although robots are set to steal many of our jobs, they can't design themselves. Engineers and specialists in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence will be highly sought after, while other STEM fields are likely to grow in turn. In the US, STEM jobs are the largest growing sector http://www.wired.com/brandlab/2015/05/5-numbers-explain-stem-diversity-matters-us/ , with available jobs in that field set to increase by 17% in the next ten years. While Australia doesn't have as large a technology industry as the home of Silicone Valley, it doesn't mean we won't experience similar or even more rapid growth in the years to come.

With many parts of our lives moving online, web developers and app developers are also going to be in high demand. Recently, we even featured the story of a front-end web specialist who receives between five and ten job offers in an average week.

Even if you are not STEM inclined, having some basic knowledge is going to vastly increase your future employability -- such as simple coding knowledge, or knowing how to develop a simple app. Recent movements have seen coding being taught to younger and younger students, and it won't be long before it's part of the core curriculum of Australian schooling. Make sure to catch up on it yourself before the next generation overtakes o

Cheers, Lifehacker

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Comments

    Personally, I think the reports of accountants being automated are a tad premature. I've worked in taxation for over 25 years now, and in that time many things have been automated, but the accountant is still there, and if anything, needed more than ever.

    We've gone from tax returns taking 6 months to be done to a day or two, specifically since ELS was introduced in the early 90's, then etax some years later. That online presence takes a lot of the basic work out of things, and let the individual be empowered to do it for themselves.

    That was hailed as the death of the accountant, and accountancy software, but instead, accountants are needed more than ever for businesses, and the software side has just moved on to become Xero, MYOB, etc.

    Accountants are here for a while yet, though the role may become more and more refined.

    Tax´╝îlaw, medicine. Think of professions that have been around for hundreds of years.

    There's a huge demand for engineers.
    The demand for engineers will continue to increase.

    One of my friends asked why his company didn't get any responses to an employment advert for experienced engineers. I helped by telling him to advertise in trouble-spots overseas because engineers in developed countries are continuously over-employed.

    Skills: Anything which can help you solve real-world problems.
    (Math, English, Programming, Chemistry, Logic, Metalworking.)

    Harmonica. Everyone loves a harmonica player.

    I suggest audiology.

    Ten years from now all the arseholes with shitty headphones that force everyone on the same train carriage to listen to their shitty dance music will need treatment for tinnitus and/or premature hearing loss.

    Proctology could be a second option, to treat the same people after I improve their manners by "relocating" their phone.

    As a university admissions person I have this conversation every day of the week. Trust me, don't choose a course because of any popular trend, the remuneration, your parents, etc. Do what you love, what you are interested in or if not sure, do a generalist degree first like an Arts degree to start. You can always apply to change course after six or twelve months... Most students do nowadays or you can always specialise or do something unrelated later on at postgrad level ( Grad cert, grad dip., masters). Definitely use any elective classes in whatever degree and take a class completely outside your comfort zone. Steve Jobs did a calligraphy class after all.

      Arts: How to get a 3 year HELP debt while deciding what you want to do with your life.

    The mid professional jobs are the easily replaced with robots jobs. Its easy to make a computer that can crunch numbers and do data entry. Conversely it's really hard to build a robot that can stack shelves in a supermarket or clean a toilet and replace the toilet paper. Doctors nurses lawyers law enforcement driving I think are the safe bets. Just my 2c

    I am glad I read this. Automation has become a significant part of our economy in terms of employment availability. I like what some of the other commenters have said about professions that have been around for a long time, specifically law. I am thinking about studying law, and I feel like it is a profession that will never really be obsolete or automated.

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