10 jobs that won't exist 20 years from now

Paul De Los Reyes/FlickrMail carriers might become a thing of the past.
  • The truth is, no industry is 100% safeguarded against the influence of technology.
  • Some workers, such as dispatchers, are more at risk of seeing their jobs become computerised than others.
  • Occupations that tend to be more routine and repetitive will likely cease to exist in 20 years.

Out with the old, in with the robots! These days, new technological advances happen all the time – and while some industries have flourished in the changing landscape, others have fallen prey to automation.

Here’s the good news: automation isn’t necessarily synonymous with job loss. In fact, many workers won’t lose their jobs so much as see their roles getting redefined to meet society’s ever-evolving needs. Some jobs, however, will likely be extinct 20 years from today.

From fast food cooks to traditional lumberjacks, here are 10 jobs that probably won’t exist in the year 2038.


Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty ImagesSelf checkouts are increasing in number.

When the first automated check-out machines were tested, they weren’t immediately popular with customers; but while today’s versions are still far from perfect, the proliferation of self checkout machines is undeniable.

According to Allied Market Research, the self checkout industry is projected to garner $US31.75 billion by 2020, which could bode poorly for the future of cashiers. Popular services such as Amazon Fresh also allow shoppers to order groceries and other items from the comfort of their home.

Fast food workers

Seika Chujo/ShutterstockRobotic kitchen assistants could displace fast food cooks.

One of the big appeals of fast food is that it’s consistent and reliable – chain menus tend to be standardised, so there’s little variation in how specific menu items taste from location to location. According to The Guardian, that could translate to an 81% probability of fast food cooks seeing their jobs replaced by automated kitchen assistants.

In California, for instance, an AI-powered robot named Flippy has been flipping burgers and placing them on buns at a CaliBurger location since 2017.

Retail jewellers

Paramount PicturesJewellery store closures have been accelerating.

The jewellery industry has been declining for the past few years. Per Bloomberg, the Jewellers Board of Trade reported that jewellery store closures accelerated 53% in 2016.

One factor, per National Jeweller, is that Millennials prioritise spending their money on experiences, rather than material things.

“Jewellery has definitely been tough and millennials are shifting their spending to experience,” Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co., told Bloomberg. “That limits your ability to show a lot of growth.”

Mail carriers

Mat Hayward/ShutterstockA paperboy on his route.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s, many suburban children were paperboys and girls. The entry-level job was considered a rite of professional passage – until the dawn of the digital age began to render it obsolete.

These days, more people rely on the internet for breaking news coverage, which explains why mail carriers placed 200 out of 200 careers examined in the Career Cast 2014 Jobs Rated report for projected growth outlook. With the advent of online banking and the like, the need for snail-mail is dwindling every day.


Getty Images/Sparta Prague/Champions Hockey LeagueReferee Martin Frano signalizes a timeout.

While advances in technology contribute to the decline of sports referees in the coming years – instant replay is more reliable than the naked eye in assessing certain plays on the field, for example – there are multiple reasons for the projected decrease.

Full-time referees earned less than $US25,000 in 2016, according to an infographic by Ohio University; they also reported experiencing physical and verbal abuse from angry fans, and limited mobility in terms of job prospects. All this means that as older refs retire, fewer young ones are ready to replace them.

Meter readers

Grigvovan/ShutterstockIn-person meter reading is on the decline.

As digital meters become more and more ubiquitous, traditional meter readers – and the trained professionals who check them in-person – are getting phased out in favour of technologies that can process information off-site. According to Career Cast, meter reading is anticipated to see a 19% job decline by 2022.


FS Stock/ShutterstockTelemarketing could become computerised.

According to a 2013 study called The Future of Employment, conducted by Oxford University academics, the future of telemarketing jobs could be dire.

While the authors admit that the projected decline of sales occupations seems counter-intuitive – sales traditionally requires human-to-human contact and nuance – they defend their prediction by explaining that while telemarketing is interactive, it isn’t necessarily nuanced, nor does reading from a sales script require a high degree of social intelligence. Therefore, telemarketing could be at risk of becoming computerised.

Travel agents

Tim Boyle/Getty ImagesTravel websites are replacing travel agents.

Travel agencies used to be fundamental services for people who wanted to book a trip. Not only would travel agents filter through available flights for you, but they’d book your tickets, provide you with necessary travel information (such as maps or relevant brochures), and more.

Today, websites such as Kayak and Google Flights do all that work quickly and for free. Additionally, travel rewards credit cards are enticing to travellers who can use them to book trips on the credit card’s website to earn points and bonuses.

Per The Atlantic, the Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates that the number of full-time travel agents in the US dropped from a high of 124,000 in 2000 to around 74,000 a mere four years later.


Transportation is becoming more independent with the array of rideshare apps available. Travellers can now plan their trip ahead of time from their phone, and drivers can rely on technology to tell them the most efficient route and to track their progress.

Additionally, services such as Google Maps present travellers with an encompassing list of transit options.


Flickr / Sonny Side Up!Society is shifting to become more green.

As society grapples with climate change and works toward establishing a more green and sustainable planet, lumberjacks will likely see their occupation go the way of the dodo (they’re projected to see a 13% decline in the coming decade alone).

Not only are paper products becoming increasingly digital, but the world is beginning to prioritise using eco-friendly alternatives across the board.

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