A Guide to the Job Market in 2034

Robot

Whether you’re an aspiring lawyer, policeman or programmer, you should be aware that at some point — maybe a decade from now, maybe two, perhaps less — many jobs in those industries will be replaced by an algorithm.

That’s what many economists predict and in some cases it looks like it will happen very soon. For instance, algorithms currently perform some tasks previously executed by paralegals, patent attorneys and contract lawyers. In Doha, Sao Paulo and Beijing, municipal governments use cheap sensors on pipes, pumps and other water infrastructure components to watch out for water leaks, a practice that has led some to speculate that fewer law enforcement workers will be needed on patrol once more sensors are deployed. Even programming — once the epitome of a safe-as-milk job in the 21st century — could be taken over by the bots as machine learning lets algorithms make and optimize design choices in coding.

All told, some 47% of U.S. employment is at risk of being automated over the next two decades, according to a 2013 study by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of the University of Oxford.

All of this means that if you’re in college now, it’s diabolically tricky to try to pick a career that you’ll still be doing when you’re 40, assuming that the world is still around in some form or another. While economists are a bit hazy when it comes to predicting new occupations that might replace the faltering old ones, they do offer some general guidelines about career development.

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