Are You in a Dying Field? We Found Alternatives to 6 Declining Jobs

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Milkman. Elevator operator. Town crier. Ice cutter. Bowling alley pinsetter.

They’re all jobs that no longer exist — or at least they’ve declined so heavily that they’re on the verge of disappearing altogether.

History shows us that advancements in technology and market shifts can lead to the phasing out of certain occupations. Couple that with the rise of automation and ceaseless talk about how AI will one day rule us all, and disappearing jobs have been a hot topic.

So we decided to join the discussion and took a look at occupations that are likely on the way out.

But we didn’t want to just say, “Here are some jobs that might not exist in 10 years, OK bye!” We took it one step further. We found jobs that are declining and then found other occupations that use similar skill sets that are projected to grow.

To formulate this list of declining jobs and their growing counterparts, our data journalist Alex Mahadevan turned to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. First, he checked the latest employment projections for jobs showing a decline over the next decade. Then, using the U.S. Department of Labor’s skills and abilities matrix, he found two jobs for each declining job that not only have similar aspects but are projected to grow in the next 10 years.

6 Declining Jobs and Their Growing Alternatives

Word Processors and Typists

Clerk typists, keyboard specialists and legal transcriptionists are a few examples of occupations in this field seeing a decline, mainly due to the automation of services. In my humble opinion, most online transcription services are far from perfect — but hey, what do I know?

Median annual pay: $39,740

Number of people employed in 2016: 74,900

Projected employment in 2026: 50,100

Projected decline: 33.1%

Two occupations with similar skill sets and their projected job growth:

1. Medical records and health information technicians

Median annual pay: $39,180

Projected growth: 13.5%

2. Insurance claims clerks

Median annual pay: $38,790

Projected growth: 11.1%

Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants

Ever wonder the difference between a secretary and an executive secretary? Me too. Basically, an executive secretary does everything a secretary does and then some, such as office coordination. But employment for this role is projected to drop almost 120,000 by 2026.

Median annual pay: $57,410

Number of people employed in 2016: 685,300

Projected employment in 2026: 566,200

Projected decline: 17.4%

Two occupations with similar skill sets and their projected job growth:

1. Paralegals and legal assistants

Median annual pay: $50,410

Projected growth: 14.6%

2. Billing and posting clerks

Median annual pay: $36,860

Projected growth: 14.1%

Sewing Machine Operators

Not to be confused with seamstresses or designers, sewing machine operators are typically in charge of monitoring equipment, loading equipment and detecting malfunctions in a factory setting. This job could decline by 25,000 in a decade, but those steady hands can be put to use elsewhere.

Median annual pay: $24,320

Number of people employed in 2016: 153,900

Projected employment in 2026: 128,200

Projected decline: 16.7%

Two occupations with similar skill sets and their projected job growth:

1. Food preparation workers

Median annual pay: $20,180

Projected growth: 16.8%

2. Helpers — production (machinist, tailor, welder, woodworker)

Median annual pay: $26,070

Projected growth: 11.6%

Postal Service Mail Carriers

Mail carriers begin their shift at the United States Postal Service in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

This one surprised me, mainly because of how many packages I receive from Amazon on a regular basis. But further research pointed out the decline in day-to-day letters in your mailbox. Bills are increasingly switching from paper to online, junk mail is just spam now and no one bothers to write letters anymore.

Median annual pay: $57,000

Number of people employed in 2016: 316,700

Projected employment in 2026: 278,500

Projected decline: 12.1%

Two occupations with similar skill sets and their projected job growth:

1. Couriers and messengers

Median annual pay: $28,250

Projected growth: 11.5%

2. Light truck or delivery driver

Median annual pay: $31,450

Projected growth: 6.5%

Travel Agents

Now this one did not surprise me, considering that I’ve never used a travel agent in my 26 years on this earth. Why would I when I can pull up online travel comparison services at a moment’s notice? Plus, using a travel agent means you actually have to talk to a human in real life… can you imagine? The horror.  

Median annual pay: $36,990

Number of people employed in 2016: 81,700

Projected employment in 2026: 72,200

Projected decline: 11.7%

Two occupations with similar skill sets and their projected job growth:

1. Customs brokers

Median annual pay: $70,010

Projected growth: 7.4%

2. Loan officers

Median annual pay: $64,660

Projected growth: 11.4%

Bank Tellers

Two bank tellers work at a bank in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Dalton Iohrke, left, helps a customer as he and Moreno work as bank tellers at Mount McKinley Bank. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Obviously, we still need the banks, but online banking has made us need actual human tellers less. I use my banking app almost daily, but very rarely do I actually go inside the bank anymore for some human interaction. Thanks to people like me, this occupation is projected to drop by almost 42,000 in 10 years.

Median annual pay: $28,110

Number of people employed in 2016: 502,700

Projected employment in 2026: 460,900

Projected decline: 8.3%

Two occupations with similar skill sets and their projected job growth:

1. Medical records and health information technicians

Median annual pay: $39,180

Projected growth: 13.5%

2. Receptionists and information clerks

Median annual pay: $28,390

Projected growth: 9.1%

Kaitlyn Blount is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

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