As always, some careers and other working opportunities get special attention from those who want to inform job-seekers about the best choices they can make. Those putting out lists of the “hot jobs” or the like use different standards, but one always there is the implication that related careers will be around for a long time. Three lists, issued in December and more recently, rank-order the best jobs to get into – one by salary.com, one by careeralley.com, and a third issued jointly by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International.
These lists, though, have one key limitation. Those who issue them focus more on current demand and only consider a few years of the future. After that, their conclusions may not hold up, as the trends of automation, globalization, and efficiency will continue to shape where American workers will be needed. It is critical for today’s students and career-changers to be aware of these longer timeframes, since in many cases they need to invest a lot of time and money, and often will not be ready to he hired at their selected jobs for years. In last year’s Choosing a Lasting Career, I rated the survival and growth of over 500 positions Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. So how did the jobs on these lists do?
Of the ten positions most prominent, none received a forecast of Excellent. Although only 19 of the 506 jobs I assessed did, I was slightly surprised to see none of those rating higher than fifth on the three listings. Four came in at Very Good: daycare center teacher, Registered Nurse, medical assistant, and market research analyst. All need to be done locally by Americans, are unlikely to be made obsolete by computers, other machines, or automated interfaces, and are serving people with at least steady numbers. All four, however, have real concerns. Competition for elementary school teaching jobs of all kinds, already strong, will increase as more men join the field. Registered Nurses will, in some settings and for some tasks, be replaced by Licensed Practical Nurses or even nurse’s aides. Medical assistants may become excessively specialized, and market research analysts may lose out to predictive data analysts, who need not be American.
One step behind these four was mental health technician, with Good growth and longevity. Psychiatric technicians and aides, as the Department of Labor labels them, are low-paid enough to avoid replacement by others, but are often dependent on whom they help being inpatients.
Three other positions rated fourth or higher in the lists got ratings of Fair. These were public relations specialists (many of their duties will be taken over by other managers), personal financial advisors (at risk to be replaced by both computer programs and lower-paid foreigners) and training and development specialists (a long-term employer’s market will further reduce how much training companies will provide).
While Fair was more or less a weak average growth and survival rating, two of the jobs rated high on the lists did not even do that well. Fourth on one was financial analyst, in a field that has been growing in recent years but won’t do that for much longer, as workers will be replaced by foreigners not needing to be paid nearly as much, fully automated systems making no mistakes, or both. The second was, sadly, the highest rated job on two of the three lists and fourth on the other: software developer. There is positively no long-term reason for most of them to be Americans, working for the high five-figure salaries plus solid benefits most of them enjoy. As well, most need to communicate with pure programmers, who are in the same position – if coders are Russian or Indian, then developers from those countries will be not only cheaper but valued more highly. It is only a matter of time, probably five years or less, before software development becomes a field few Americans can realistically hope to join.
It is not true that nobody should seek the jobs above. Many people already have most or all of the credentials they need to be hired in these fields, and they would be fools not to consider them. But starting a course of study now, expecting it to lead to, say, a software job at the likes of Microsoft or Google, would be equally unwise. In careers as well as in other things we need to consider not only what is occurring now but what will be happening when we get there. Only when we incorporate the future into our plans will we know what the truly “hot jobs” really are – and aren’t.