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31 Dying Jobs and Careers to Avoid

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I once had a job holding a sign all day on the side of a hot Florida highway for minimum wage. Never again. Meanwhile, a few of the guys who worked at the same day labor company were digging ditches by hand in that heat — also for minimum wage.

Some jobs are just awful, others don’t pay enough, and those day labor jobs had both strikes against them. Then there are jobs that might be okay, and might even make for a good career, except for the fact that they’re not going to be there in the future.

Consider that in the 1890s, just before automobiles became popular, the wagon and carriage industry included 13,000 businesses. What do you think happened to their employees when Henry Ford started to ramp up car production? It would not have been a good time to apprentice as a carriage wheel builder or buggy whip maker.

Similarly there are industries now that will either disappear or at least have far fewer jobs in the near future. Here are some examples of these dying jobs to avoid.

1. Travel Agent

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for travel agents is $36,460 annually. That’s not too bad for a job that requires only a high school diploma. So you might want to stick around if you already have the position.

But you may want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a new career, because the number of travel agents in the U.S. has been falling for years thanks to online search and booking sites. That trend is expected to continue. The BLS projects an additional 12% decline in these jobs by 2024.

2. Telephone Switchboard Operator

This is another career that doesn’t require anything more than a high school diploma. You just do some training on the job and make sure calls get routed properly. The BLS says the median annual wage is about $28,000.

But really, who expects these jobs to be around in the future? The last manual switchboard in California was replaced in 1991, and more modern systems require less and less human input. Automation is taking over, and Data USA projects a 33% decline in switchboard operator positions in the next decade.

3. Postal Worker

I was hired by the Postal Service as a mail sorter a while back, but with no benefits, and only for the pre-Christmas season. One reason these positions are available is that they need temporary part-time workers to fill the gaps while they figure out how to downsize the full-time workforce. I was paid $13 per hour and worked for a few months each year.

For a regular position as a postal service worker you don’t need a college degree, and the BLS says the median annual wage is $56,790. But they project a 28% decrease in jobs by 2024 thanks to “automated sorting systems, cluster mailboxes, and tight budgets.” When positions do occasionally open up, the BLS says “very strong competition can be expected.”

By now you might see a pattern developing; Good jobs are disappearing for those without a college degree. But getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a secure or high-paying job, as we’ll see…

4. Newspaper Reporter

You typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to get a job as a newspaper reporter. Even if you have that you may also need a bit of luck, because the jobs are simply disappearing.

The BLS lumps together “reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts” for statistical purposes. Median annual wage: $38,870. Job outlook: A 9% decline by 2024.

That almost certainly understates the coming decline for newspaper reporters specifically. The Pew Research Center notes that circulation for newspapers has been dropping for 17 years, and Sunday circulation is at it’s lowest since 1945 — when the population was much smaller.

So if you’ve thought about becoming a newspaper reporter you may want to consider doing something else. But don’t think the next job is much better…

5. Radio or TV Announcer

Kiplinger says radio disc jockeys, talk show hosts, and television news positions are among the worst jobs for the future. They project a 10% decline in these positions by 2026, thanks to the consolidation of stations and streaming music options.

And the median annual salary of $32,383 is not too inspiring in any case, at least for a job that typically requires a bachelor’s degree.

6. Textile Machine Operator

You don’t need a college degree to work in a textile mill, but this position also makes Kiplinger’s worst jobs list. The median annual wage is just $27,227, and more than 21% of the remaining jobs are expected to be gone by 2026. U.S. textile workers are being replaced by machines and cheaper labor overseas.

7. Photo Processor

When is the last time you brought a roll of film to Walmart to be processed? Digital photos and the ability of consumers to print photos at home or using a machine by themselves means photo processing jobs are quickly disappearing.

According to Kiplinger the median annual salary of photo processors is just about $27,000 and, of the jobs that are left, another 20% will be gone by 2026.

8. Door-to-Door Salesperson

Okay, who wants this job anyhow? Sure, it’s a job for which you don’t need a degree. But you’re out in the rain and the heat with doors being slammed in your face, and for what? $21,486 per year — that’s the median annual salary according to Kiplinger.

And the future? Kiplinger projects a 20% decline in these jobs by 2026, due to more efficient mass-marketing strategies.

9. Jeweler

Setting precious stones in rings, as well as designing, repairing and appraising jewelry, can pay decently for a career that requires only a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. The BLS says the median annual salary for “jewelers and precious stone and metal workers” is $38,200.

Sadly, many of these jobs are going away. Most jewelry is now manufactured overseas, and the BLS projects an 11% decline in these positions by 2024.

10. Taxi Driver

Autonomous vehicles are coming soon, and some reports suggest 5 million driving jobs will be lost as a result. That includes most of those those Uber and Lyft drivers.

You might still make some extra cash driving for Uber or Lyft, at least for a few more years. But be prepared to look for something else in the near future.

Other Jobs With Poor Future Prospects

Here are a some more questionable career choices for the future, according to BLS projections for 2014 to 2024:

  • Insurance underwriters (11.4% decline)
  • Postmasters and mail superintendents (26.2% decline)
  • Home economics teachers, postsecondary (11.6% decline)
  • Parking enforcement workers (20.8% decline)
  • Cooks, fast food (15.3% decline)
  • Motion picture projectionists (18.2% decline)
  • Gaming change persons and booth cashiers (10.9% decline)
  • Communications equipment operators (32.9% decline)
  • Meter readers, utilities (18.0% decline)
  • Computer operators (19.0% decline)
  • Statistical assistants (10.9% decline)
  • Electronic equipment installers and repairers, motor vehicles (50.0% decline)
  • Watch repairers (25.7% decline)
  • Manufactured building and mobile home installers (30.0% decline)
  • Metal furnace operators, tenders, pourers, and casters (11.7% decline)
  • Tool and die makers (13.0% decline)
  • Miscellaneous metal workers and plastic workers (18.4% decline)
  • Printing workers (14.4% decline)
  • Sewing machine operators (27.1% decline)
  • Sewing machine operators (19.2% decline)
  • Locomotive firers (69.9% decline)

Best Jobs for the Future

Okay, so you know what to avoid as a career choice, but what are the best job prospects for the future? Here are a few listed by Kiplinger, along with their projections for growth by 2026, along with the typical educational requirements.

  • App Developer (21.6% increase; bachelor’s degree)
  • Computer Systems Analyst (22.0% increase; bachelor’s degree)
  • Nurse Practitioner (32.3% increase; master’s degree)
  • Physical Therapist (30.4% increase; doctoral degree)
  • Health Services Manager (17.4% increase; bachelor’s degree)
  • Physician’s Assistant (28.8% increase; master’s degree)
  • Dental Hygienist (19.0% increase; associate’s degree)
  • Market Research Analyst (20.9% increase; bachelor’s degree)
  • Personal Financial Adviser (23.8% increase; bachelor’s degree)
  • Speech Language Pathologist (21.0% increase; master’s degree)

Clearly many of the best high-growth jobs require a degree. But a post on Clark Howard’s website identified at least a few jobs for the near future that do not require more than a high school diploma. Here they are:

  • Home health aide (38% projected growth)
  • Hearing aid specialist (27% projected growth)
  • Optician (24% projected growth)
  • Occupational therapy aide (31% projected growth)

If you can think of any positions to add to this list of jobs to avoid, or jobs that have good future prospects, please tell us about them… and keep on frugaling!

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