Talk of disappearing jobs often conjures up images of shuttered factories and out-of-work blue-collar workers. But manufacturing jobs aren’t the only ones that have taken a hit in recent years. Whole swaths of careers that once provided a middle class living to many Americans are also vanishing, such as travel agents, bank tellers, and mail carriers.
While much of the country is wondering where all the good jobs have gone, higher-income workers may be patting themselves on the back, believing they’ve chosen a career that insulates them from job-killing forces. But robots may be coming for their jobs, too. Nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. could be automated in the next two decades, a study out of the University of Oxford found.
In some fields, jobs are already starting to vanish, and new technology that increases individual worker productivity or automates certain tasks is often the culprit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled a list of jobs paying $75,000 a year or more that are expected to decline between now and 2024. These nine high-paying careers top the disappearing jobs list.
9. Chief executives
Projected decline: -1%
Median wage: $175,110
CEOs aren’t going to disappear completely in the coming years, but there will be fewer of them. Those sitting at the top of the corporate food chain will face stiff competition for jobs, according to the BLS. Though the number of jobs for all executives is projected to increase by 6% (about the same rate of growth for all occupations), the number of chief executives is likely to decline, from 343,400 in 2014 to 339,400 in 2024, a loss of 4,100 jobs.
8. Aerospace engineers
Projected decline: -2%
Median wage: $107,830
Majoring in engineering seems like the first step on a path to a lifetime of steady employment. But there’s a huge variety of engineering jobs out there, and the prospects in some fields are much better than in others. The number of jobs in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, and civil engineering are projected to grow anywhere from 8% to 23% by 2024. Aerospace engineering jobs, on the other hand, are on the downswing. The number of positions in this field will fall by 1,600, in part because many aerospace engineers are working in declining or stagnant manufacturing industries.
7. Administrative law judges
Projected decline: -4%
Median wage: $90,600
Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers are responsible for making decisions for a range of government agencies. For example, administrative law judges working for the Social Security Administration might make decisions about disability benefits, while a hearing officer working for a school district might rule on student expulsions and suspensions.
“[B]udgetary concerns may limit the employment growth of hearing officers and administrative law judges working for local, state, and federal government agencies, despite the continued need for these workers to settle disputes,” the BLS noted. There are currently 15,000 administrative law judges in the U.S., but that number will fall to 14,500 by 2024.
6. Nuclear engineers and technicians
Projected decline: -4% to -5%
Median wage: $80,260 (nuclear technicians); $102,950 (nuclear engineers)
Employment in the nuclear energy industry is likely to decline in the coming years due to automation of existing nuclear plants and a shift to alternative energy sources, according to the BLS. However, there will still be demand for nuclear engineers and technicians in medicine, waste management, and nuclear security.
5. Industrial production managers
Projected decline: -4%
Median salary: $93,940
Industrial production managers oversee operations at manufacturing plants. Given the long decline of America’s manufacturing economy, it’s hardly surprising that jobs managing plants are disappearing, with the total number of industrial production managers is expected to shrink by 6,300 by 2024, going from 173,400 to 167,000. However, “reshoring” could reverse some of the downward trend, especially if President Trump succeeds in fulfilling his campaign promise of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
4. Power plant operators
Projected decline: -6%
Median pay: $75,660
The number of people working as power plant operators and distributors is expected to decline by 6% between 2014 and 2024. It’s not that we’ll be using less energy, but rather that new plants will be increasingly automated, reducing the number of available jobs for plant operators. Smart grid projects and other technological advances will also reduce opportunities for power plant dispatchers. Overall, the number of power plant jobs is expected to fall from 60,000 to 56,700 by 2024.
3. Computer programmers
Projected decline: -8%
Median wage: $79,530
Employees with tech skills may be in high demand, but jobs for computer programmers are expected to decline by about 26,500 between 2014 and 2024. You can blame outsourcing for the fall, according to the BLS, since “computer programming can be done from anywhere in the world, so companies sometimes hire programmers in countries where wages are lower.”
A fall in computer programming jobs doesn’t mean there’s no demand for people who know how to code, though. Jobs for software developers will increase by 17% over the same period. Though some people use terms like programmer, software developer, and software engineer interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same. “A programmer knows how to code and may have the technical skills needed to build meaningful products. A software engineer follows a systematic process of understanding requirements, working with stakeholders and developing a solution that fulfills their needs,” explained Siya Raj Purohit in a blog post for Udacity.
2. Air traffic controllers
Projected decline: -9%
Median salary: $122,950
Air traffic controller is one of the rare six-figure jobs you can land without a four-year college degree. But even though the volume of air traffic is increasing, advances in technology means fewer controllers will be needed. As a result, the total number of air traffic controllers is expected to fall by 2,100 by 2024, to 22,400. However, a mandatory retirement age of 56 means there will still be opportunities for people in this field.
1. Insurance underwriters
Projected decline: -11%
Median wage: $65,040
The median wage for insurance underwriters is a bit under $75,000 a year, though the top quarter of people working in this field earn more than $87,000 annually. Again, technological advancements are to blame for the shrinking number of jobs, as software makes it easier and faster to process insurance applications and more underwriting decisions can be made without human input. As a result, roughly 11,700 underwriting jobs will disappear by 2024.