AI

The Robopocalypse Cometh: What Jobs Will AI Replace by 2030?

December 27, 2023

If you've not been living under a rock, you've probably already heard a lot about artificial intelligence and automation lately. Maybe the news of this inevitable AI development has even got you worried that a robot is going to steal your job in the not-so-distant future. The uncomfortable truth is, AI and automation are advancing at an unprecedented speed, and many human jobs are at high risk of being replaced by algorithms and smart machines over the next decade.

Recent studies back this up. A July 2023 labor report by McKinsey finds that "activities that account for up to 30 percent of hours currently worked across the US economy could be automated" by the end of the decade. Unsurprisingly, many low-skill, repetitive jobs like data entry, telemarketing, customer service, and assembly line workers are likely to be replaced by AI and robots pretty soon. Even jobs that require technical skills are primed for AI automation. In the healthcare sector, specialized AI have been designed to analyze medical scans, detect diseases and even diagnose conditions.

The good news is, not all hope is lost. In a rare victory for the creatives, jobs that require human skills like emotional intelligence, creativity, and complex problem-solving are — for the time-being — safe from automation. But many of the jobs we know today will be radically transformed in the coming decade as AI and robotics take over more routine tasks.

The robo-pocalypse is coming, so you'll want to make sure your job skills are ready. Here's a look at the jobs most likely to be replaced by AI by 2030 according to the experts.

What Jobs will AI Replace?

Many jobs are at high risk of being replaced by AI over the next decade. According to the McKinsey report, AI is expected to replace 2.4 million US jobs by 2030, with an additional 12 million occupational shifts. An expected 400 to 800 million people will lose their jobs due to AI.

Jobs with repetitive and routine tasks are the most vulnerable. This includes positions like data entry clerks, telemarketers, cashiers, and customer service representatives. As AI systems get better at understanding speech and text, jobs like transcriptionists, telemarketers and even some call center workers could be significantly reduced or eliminated.

Source: McKinsey's July 2023 report titled "Generative AI and the future of work in America"

Many transportation and logistics jobs are also at risk as self-driving vehicles hit the roads. Taxi drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, truck drivers, and delivery drivers may need to find new careers.

Even jobs that require a college degree aren’t safe. As AI improves at reading radiology scans, diagnosing diseases, and recommending treatments, the demand for radiologists, pathologists and some physicians could decrease.

The good news is that not all jobs will be replaced by robots. Occupations requiring creativity, emotional intelligence, and complex decision making are harder to automate and should be safer. The key is choosing a career with skills that complement AI rather than compete with it. With some prudent career planning, you can avoid the robopocalypse.

Jobs At Risk of Being Replaced by 2023

At a glance, here are the jobs at risk of being replaced by 2030:

1. Transportation and Warehousing

Transportation and warehouse workers, your jobs are on the chopping block. Over the next decade, many positions in these sectors will be replaced by automated systems and robotics.

According to several reports, nearly 50% of jobs in transportation and over 5% of warehouse gigs are at high risk of being taken over by AI and robotics by 2030. That amounts to over 10 million jobs in the US alone that could be displaced in the next 5 to 10 years.

Drivers, whether you maneuver taxis, trucks, or delivery vans, your roles are especially vulnerable. Self-driving vehicle technology is advancing rapidly and many companies are testing autonomous trucks, taxis and delivery vehicles on roads today. Once the tech is fully baked and regulatory issues are ironed out, many driving jobs could be eliminated.

Warehouse workers, robots are coming for your jobs too. Automated pickers, sorters and movers are already working alongside humans in some distribution centers. These bots don’t get tired, don’t make mistakes and don’t file workers compensation claims from on the job injuries. By 2030, most major warehouses and fulfillment centers will likely be highly automated, requiring fewer human workers.

While new jobs may emerge in these sectors, many traditional roles will be phased out. Both transportation and warehouse employees should start preparing now for the robot invasion happening in the not-too-distant future. Retraining, education and learning new skills will help ensure you have a place in the automated world to come.

2. Food Service and Retail

According to the McKinsey study, nearly 12 million Americans may need to switch occupations by 2030 due to automation and AI, many of them in the food service and retail sector.

Cooks and food prep workers, your jobs could be 86% automated. Burger-flipping bots and taco-assembling droids may replace human hands in fast food kitchens. AI-powered chefs can follow recipes, measure ingredients, and monitor cooking equipment. Self-service kiosks let customers place orders without a cashier. Just this year, fast-food chain Wendy's announced a partnership with Google to create an AI chatbot that can take verbal orders at its drive-thrus in the US.

As online shopping accelerates, retail workers face a precarious future. The study projects employment for retail salespeople and cashiers dropping by over 800,000 in the next decade. Automated checkouts and AI product recommendations reduce the need for in-store staff. Virtual reality and augmented reality may provide an immersive shopping experience from home.

While new jobs will emerge, many displaced workers may struggle with the transition. Retraining programs and a stronger social safety net can help ensure people aren’t left behind in the robopocalypse. But for now, food service and retail remain squarely in the crosshairs of our silicon successors.

3. Office and Admin Support Roles

Secretaries and administrative assistants

Secretaries, administrative assistants, and office clerks perform repetitive and routine tasks that are prime targets for automation. Jobs like managing schedules, filing paperwork, and data entry are increasingly being handled by AI. Many companies have already started using automated tools for scheduling meetings, managing travel itineraries and processing expense reports. These AI systems are getting smarter and more capable over time.

Customer service representatives

AI chatbots and voice assistants are getting better at handling basic customer service inquiries and tasks. Automated phone menus and chatbots can answer frequently asked questions, handle account lookups, and process simple requests. While AI may not completely replace customer service reps, many companies will likely use AI to augment human staff and reduce costs.

The future is hard to predict precisely, but many experts estimate AI and automation could potentially impact millions of jobs over the next decade. However, new technologies often create new types of jobs even as they eliminate others. Many office and admin professionals may need to learn new skills to work with AI and stay relevant. The robot revolution is coming, but with preparation and adaptation, humans can work alongside the bots.

4. Sales and Marketing

AI is poised to significantly impact sales jobs in the coming years. The LinkedIn State of Sales report 2020 highlights that the vast majority of sales representatives recognize that sales intelligence tools are critical for closing deals, with 72% acknowledging as such, and most sales reps consistently utilize a CRM tool at a rate of 61%.

AI in sales tools can predict user behavior and suggest ideal responses, giving salespeople talking points and additional resources. These tools automate routine tasks like lead scoring, personalization, and forecasting. While making salespeople more effective, AI narrows their role in complex deals.

Chatbots and voice bots may replace some sales roles, especially for simple transactions. Virtual agents can handle basic inquiries, qualify leads, and nurture prospects with automated campaigns. For repetitive sales like subscriptions, bots may fully replace sales reps.

The recent boost in e-commerce and self-service options also reduce the need for salespeople. Customers increasingly prefer self-serve buying, especially for simple or low-cost goods and services. Self-service kiosks and apps give customers more control but squeeze out sales jobs.

For complex sales, salespeople will still be needed but in an evolved role. They’ll focus on higher-level work like strategy, consulting and relationship building. Success will require a blend of human skills like emotional intelligence along with digital fluency. While AI may transform sales, people remain essential for trust, empathy and long-term partnerships.

5. Healthcare and Social Assistance Roles

Many healthcare and social assistance roles are at risk of disruption from artificial intelligence and automation over the next decade. While the demand for healthcare workers overall is projected to rise, many routine tasks currently performed by humans could be handled by AI systems and robots.

Up to 30% of jobs like pharmacy technicians, physical therapy assistants, home health aides, and medical assistants may be significantly impacted by 2030 according to studies. AI and robotics are getting better at assisting with predictable physical tasks as well as analyzing patient data to detect health risks or diagnose conditions. Automated pharmacy dispensing systems can fill prescriptions faster and with fewer errors. Exoskeletons and rehabilitation robots can assist physical therapists. AI can analyze medical scans, detect diseases, and suggest diagnoses to doctors.

However, healthcare jobs requiring a human touch like nurses, doctors, social workers, and occupational therapists remain relatively safe for now. AI struggles with complex social and emotional skills that these roles demand. Healthcare is also a highly regulated industry, limiting how much human judgment can currently be replaced. Patients generally prefer human interaction for sensitive health issues.

While no one can predict the future with certainty, healthcare workers should stay up-to-date with technology trends in their field. Continuous learning and expanding skill sets will help ensure you remain an asset that complements rather than competes with AI. Focusing on the human elements of care, critical thinking, and jobs requiring advanced degrees or credentials offers more protection from automation. The robot apocalypse may be coming, but humans and AI can work together in healthcare for the benefit of all.

Jobs That are Relatively Safe from AI

Jobs that rely heavily on human skills like creativity, empathy, and complex problem-solving will likely remain relatively safe from AI automation for the foreseeable future. Roles that focus on augmenting or overseeing AI systems are also less prone to replacement by machines.

1. Design and Visual Arts

Graphic designers, animators, illustrators, photographers, and fine artists rely on creative vision, aesthetic judgment, and personal expression that computers cannot reproduce. AI may improve productivity by automating routine tasks or suggesting design ideas, but humans will remain necessary to generate new concepts, refine AI outputs, and ensure work aligns with client needs and artistic goals.

Many visual artists are also turning to new media like 3D modeling, augmented reality, and virtual reality, where human creators are still essential for generating content and experiences. Artists who combine technical skill with creative expression will be well positioned to work alongside AI to push their fields forward.

Overall, jobs focused on creating original content, making subjective judgments, and applying human creativity will likely remain safe from AI for the foreseeable future. However, 83% of creatives are already using machine learning tools to augment their daily work.

Nevertheless, while automation may reshape some roles over time, but humans will continue to be needed for the aspects that make us uniquely human.

2. Healthcare Professionals

AI is anticipated to perform more tasks in the healthcare industry, with a projected increase of 20% by 2023. However, the emotional support, complex decision-making, and hands-on care that doctors, nurses, and therapists provide cannot be replaced.

While AI and automation will enable healthcare providers to focus on more complex tasks and specialized care, human professionals will still be needed to fill roles that require emotional intelligence, compassion, and the ability to think creatively and adapt to unique circumstances. As AI technology advances, healthcare workers should seek out opportunities to collaborate with and learn from AI systems in order to improve patient outcomes. However, AI should be viewed as a tool to augment human capabilities rather than replace human professionals.

With proper training and an emphasis on lifelong learning, healthcare professionals have an opportunity to thrive alongside AI by focusing their skills in areas that machines currently cannot match. This includes patient-centered care, holistic treatment approaches, and the human connection that comes from compassion and empathy.

3. Education Professionals

AI can assist with administrative tasks and grading, but the understanding of individual student needs and the ability to inspire and motivate can't be automated.

Some key roles that teachers fulfill that are difficult for AI to replicate include:

  • Providing individualized attention and feedback that is tailored to each student's learning style, interests, and challenges. AI lacks the ability to truly understand individual students in a holistic sense.
  • Motivating and inspiring students through personal connections, enthusiasm, and a passion for the subject matter that sparks students' curiosity and imagination. AI lacks the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to form meaningful connections with students.
  • Adapting lessons and materials on the fly to accommodate students' unique needs, questions, and areas of confusion. AI lesson plans tend to be rigid and unable to adjust to the complex realities of a classroom full of diverse learners.
  • Serving as role models and mentors who can influence students' social-emotional development, self-confidence, and life goals. The human relationships students form with their teachers can have a profound impact on their development.

In short, while AI shows promise to assist teachers with some administrative tasks and personalized practice, human teachers will remain necessary to form meaningful connections with students, inspire a love of learning, and individualize education based on an understanding of each student as a whole person.

4. Mental Health Professionals

AI is used in some aspects of mental health, like identifying patterns in patient behavior. Still, the deep understanding, empathy, and therapeutic rapport building that psychologists, therapists, and counselors provide are uniquely human.

However, AI can still play an important supportive role for mental health professionals. AI chatbots and virtual assistants can provide round-the-clock support for basic needs, monitor patients for high-risk behaviors, and deliver low-intensity interventions. This can free up clinicians to focus on complex cases that truly require human skills.

As AI technology advances, mental health professionals should seek opportunities to integrate it into their practices where appropriate. But human therapists will always be needed to provide the human touch — the listening ear, compassion, customized treatment plans and motivation — that AI cannot match. By embracing technologies that augment rather than replace human skills, the mental health field can work towards the shared goals of improved access, lower costs and better outcomes for all patients.

5. Legal Professionals

The ability to think creatively, provide nuanced judgment, and navigate complex human relationships will ensure that legal professionals remain indispensable even as AI adoption increases. Lawyers will need to focus their skills on tasks that machines struggle with, like:

  • Advising clients based on a holistic understanding of their unique circumstances and goals
  • Developing innovative legal strategies that go beyond following established procedures
  • Negotiating agreements by reading emotional and nonverbal cues from other parties
  • Building trust and rapport with clients through in-person interactions

AI will be most effective when used to augment the work of lawyers, freeing up time for higher-level analysis and client-facing activities. Technologies like contract review software, legal research tools, and automated document assembly can help improve efficiency.

However, the human qualities that set lawyers apart — creativity, empathy, persuasiveness, and good judgment — will ensure they remain central to the legal profession for the foreseeable future. By embracing AI tools that complement rather than compete with their skills, legal professionals can spend more time engaging in work that truly requires a human touch.

6. Social Workers

While AI and automation show promise to enhance the work of social workers through things like scheduling, record keeping and basic case management, the core of social work — helping people through some of life's most difficult challenges — relies on human skills that AI cannot replicate.

Social workers listen with empathy, provide emotional support, build trust and form meaningful connections with clients that technology has yet to achieve. They consider each client's unique circumstances and develop customized intervention plans based on human judgment and insight.

The work of social workers often involves motivating clients to make positive changes in their lives, navigate complex social and emotional issues, and build resilience. Automation has not achieved the subtleties of human communication and interpersonal skills required to inspire clients and foster behavioral change.

Conclusion

The robots are coming for your jobs, people. If you're in a routine job that doesn't require much human interaction or judgment, the robopocalypse may displace you within the next decade. But not all hope is lost. Many new types of jobs will emerge, and plenty of human-centric roles should remain. The key is to build skills that artificial intelligence struggles with: complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and social-emotional intelligence.

While the robots may transform the future of work, humans still have a bright outlook if we play to our strengths. The future is unwritten, so make the most of new opportunities on the horizon. Stay ahead of the trends and keep your head in the game!

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