The Robots Are Coming!

By Ed Zwirn (originally published in the New York Post on April 30, 2017)

If you’re just about to start on your working life, you might be advised to stay away from such hands-on occupations as welder, floor assembler or boilermaker.

These three occupations are prime candidates for automation and make for the worst three entry-level jobs, according to a study released last week by personal finance Web site WalletHub.

Engineers, systems engineers and architects, on the other hand, represent good starting opportunities, according to the study.

Judged strictly by paycheck, tax attorneys made out the best, with a median starting salary of $93,899, or 5.8 times that of the lowest-paying job, that of college teaching assistant.

In coming up with their rankings for 109 entry-level jobs, the researchers weighed immediate opportunity, job hazards and “occupational viability,” or “the probability of a certain occupation being replaced with a computer,“ says WalletHub senior analyst Jill Gonzalez.

The bottom five, according to this logic, are: tool and die maker, plumber, boilermaker, floor assembler and welder. The top five jobs — engineer, systems engineer, architect, Web applications developer — all by contrast require advanced education in science, technology, engineering and math.

The dismal rankings attained by many traditional blue-collar jobs, Gonzalez says, are largely the result of their having the “highest probabilities of being automated. A lot of these jobs started to disappear decades ago.”

Gonzalez also contrasts the high starting salaries garnered by tax attorneys with the more dismal prospects for tax accountants, who are “being taken over by commercial software such as H&R Block.”

“If it is doing the same thing over and over again, and it doesn’t require analysis, it’s going to be automated,“ says Ed Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

“We’re on the leading edge of a technology tsunami,” he adds, predicting that 60 to 80 million U.S. jobs will be lost to automation over the next five to 15 years, destroyed by artificial intelligence, the internet of things and other technological developments. “The question is, is this automation going to produce enough new jobs that technology itself can’t do?”

Hess advises those launching careers to pursue occupations that won’t go away any time soon. “Train to repair smart robots, train for a service job where you have to emotionally engage one-on-one to meet people’s individual needs, or get into a technology job and upgrade your skills every year,” he suggests.

On the other hand, there are at least some manual skills that will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future. “The plumber or electrician that crawls under your house to see what the problem is is probably going to be all right,” he says.



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About Ed Zwirn

Ed Zwirn is a journalist/editorial professional with a focus on financial trends and practices. He lives out in the woods in Bethel, NY, not far from where the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival was held in 1969. As a financial writer, his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, CFO Magazine and news services including Dow Jones Newswires and Informa Global Markets. Ed also spent three years in Ukraine, where he ran an English-language news service. He now divides his time between his freelance journalism, song and poetry writing, and barbequing and lawn-mowing on his 2.5 acre property.

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