10 Jobs That Are Safe From the Robots

Young female engineer using digital tablet to operate Robotic Arm
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Are you worried about robots taking your job? Is your occupation safe from automation? The odds of your job being automated might be greater than you think.

Forty-seven percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years, according to Oxford University researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne. Their 2013 paper, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” looked at the probability of automation for 702 occupations. Their research showed that higher-paying jobs requiring more education were less at risk.

Jobs That Are at the Most Risk of Automation

Not every white-collar job has a solid occupational outlook in the age of robots. In short, the jobs that are most at risk are the ones that involve repetitive work that a robot (or a software program) can perform more cheaply than a human.

While manufacturing and transportation jobs are at risk, so are office jobs like Insurance Underwriter, Tax Preparer, and Library Technician.

If you’re contemplating a career change, and want to pick an occupation at low risk of robot takeover, your best bet is obviously to pick one that humans do better than machines. Specifically, you might want to target jobs that involve what Frey and Osborne identify as three “computerisation bottlenecks”:

  • Perception and Manipulation – Finger or manual dexterity, or the necessity to work in cramped spaces/awkward positions
  • Creative Intelligence – Originality and fine arts
  • Social Intelligence – Social perceptiveness, negotiation, persuasion, and caring for others

Top 10 Jobs That Are Safe From Robots

These jobs had the lowest chance of being automated in the next decade or two, according to the research by the BLS. You can search the Occupational Outlook Handbook by job to get a summary of quick facts. Note that they each include at least one of the bottlenecks described in the paper – dexterity, creative intelligence, or social intelligence.

1. Recreational Therapists

These therapists create and administer recreation-based programs based on arts, sports, music games, etc. They typically work in hospitals, retirement communities, and parks and recreation departments. Most recreational therapists have a bachelor’s degree and many are certified.

2. First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers

People in this occupation might work in a variety of industries, including automobile repair/dealers, local government, electric power generation, natural gas, and construction. These jobs typically require a high school diploma and on-the-job training.

3. Emergency Management Directors

This job requires a bachelor’s degree plus experience in disaster planning or a related field. Emergency Management Directors coordinate between agencies, non-profits, and officials in emergency situations. 

4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Social workers typically need a master’s degree and licensure – a lot of education for a job that can be grueling and not particularly remunerative. However, the job offers a chance to make a difference to people who need it most.

5. Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose and treat hearing loss and related problems. This high-paying, fast-growing occupation also requires a significant investment in education. Audiologists need a doctoral degree and licensure to practice.

6. Occupational Therapists

OTs help patients regain and maintain the skills required to live as independently as possible. This fast-growing occupation typically requires a master’s degree and licensure. 

7. Orthotists and Prosthetists

People with these jobs create artificial limbs and other medical devices to help patients regain mobility. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that this occupation is growing quickly in part because “the large baby-boom population is aging, and orthotists and prosthetists will be needed because both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the two leading causes of limb loss, are more common among older people.” A master’s degree and certification are required in these jobs.

8. Healthcare Social Workers

Healthcare Social Workers often work in hospitals, performing case management and helping patients and families navigate the healthcare system. These jobs typically require a master’s degree and licensure. 

9. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

These dental specialists diagnose and treat defects in the face, jaw, and mouth. This occupation requires significant education: typically, four years of dental school and four to six years of residency.

10. First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

People in this occupation manage and direct firefighters and related workers. This job typically requires a postsecondary nondegree award and on-the-job training.

What These Robot-Safe Jobs Have in Common

Unsurprisingly, when the Oxford team ranked occupations in terms of low potential for automation, health care professions topped the list. These jobs typically require caring for others, social perceptiveness, and dexterity. They may even involve creativity and negotiation. (Just ask any Registered Nurse.)

But the most significant thing about the list is that there are jobs for all education levels and interests. Look at the top 10 occupations in the ranking. Audiologists, Emergency Management Directors, and Firstline Supervisors of Mechanics have very different skill sets – but the unique requirements of their jobs make these occupations much easier for a human than a robot.

Bottom line, building a career that’s safe from the robots may require additional education and training, as well as some careful planning. But it might not require a wholesale shift in interests and priorities.