Jobs in these dying professions are rapidly disappearing
Just like trends come in and out of fashion, jobs also rise and fall in popularity. Thanks to the rise of automation, smartphones, and new technology, many American jobs are rapidly disappearing. Workers in manufacturing fields are especially vulnerable right now, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Many of these workers have skills that can be transferred to rising positions in other fields. To illustrate how our workforce is changing, we’ve put together a list of jobs that are on their way out, plus a few suggestions for folks in those fields who might need to change careers. Could your job be on the list? Keep reading to find out.
2018 median annual pay: $44,080
Number of fallers in the US in 2016: 7,500
Predicted number of fallers in 2026: 6,300
Fallers are basically modern lumberjacks. Using chainsaws and axes, they cut down trees and carefully control the direction of their fall.
Though cutting down our forests is going out of style, it looks like taking care of them is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists are in increasing demand. Fallers who know a thing or two about protecting the woods might be wise to consider joining forces with Smokey the Bear to prevent forest fires.
NEXT: These workers hate that you made the switch to online billing.
2. Mail sorters
2018 median annual pay: $58,770
Number of mail sorters in the US in 2016: 106,700
Predicted number of mail sorters in 2026: 89,100
Mail sorters are responsible for routing, sorting, and examining your mail. In addition to manually looking at the mail, they also operate and adjust mail processing machinery. Unfortunately for them, as more of us do our business online and by email, there’s just less mail to sort.
So what’s a mail sorter to do? With some training, they could apply their machine operating know-how to the growing field of wind energy. Demand for wind energy turbine service technicians is expected to grow by 96% by 2026.
NEXT: This clothing industry job is going out of style.
3. Pattern makers
2018 median annual pay: $40,560
Number of pattern makers in the US in 2016: 5,500
Predicted number of pattern makers in 2026: 4,600
Pattern makers draw and sometimes construct the patterns that are used to make our clothes. According to one pattern maker interviewed by Marketplace, the job is disappearing because “computers are making things more efficient. And you need less pattern makers to do the same amount of work and also things are getting outsourced overseas where the things are being made.”
However, pattern makers have the skills to do many other design related jobs, including going into business for themselves as fashion designers where they can truly see their patterns brought to life.
NEXT: Pattern makers aren’t the only workers in the garment industry whose jobs could be in trouble.
4. Sewing machine operators
2018 median annual pay: $25,030
Number of sewing machine operators in the US in 2016: 153,900
Predicted number of sewing machine operators in 2026: 128,200
Sewing machine operators use sewing machines to embellish, join, and finish fabrics for garments and other cloth products. From stitching up t-shirts to doing custom embroidery, sewing machine operators do a wide variety of tasks. Automation and overseas manufacturing are also factors contributing to this job’s decline.
Sewing machine operators can apply their keen eye for detail and knowledge of fabrics to a variety of other fields, including graphic design, merchandising, or even interior design.
NEXT: This once-powerful job engine is starting to run out of steam.
5. Engine and machine assemblers
2018 median annual pay: $44,380
Number of engine and machine assemblers in the US in 2016: 38,000
Predicted number of engine and machine assemblers in 2026: 31,500
Engine and machine assemblers are still an essential part of many manufacturing processes, and they work on products like air conditioners, cars, and other machines used for construction and manufacturing. However, due to automation and overseas production, many engine and machine assembly jobs in the U.S. are disappearing.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for engine and machine assemblers, and it’s solar powered. Solar photovoltaic installers are in high demand. The job requires mechanical skill but often provides on the job training.
NEXT: This corporate job is on its way out.
6. Executive assistants
2018 median annual pay: $59,340
Number of executive assistants in the US in 2016: 685,300
Predicted number of executive assistants in 2026: 566,200
Executive administrative assistants and secretaries provide high-level support to their C-suite bosses, handling a broad range of tasks including scheduling, research, and correspondence. They are highly organized people who are often charged with sensitive information.
Because executive assistants have so many different responsibilities, they can transfer their skills to a variety of other roles. Executive assistants can apply their organizational skills and communications savvy to a variety of in-demand jobs in project management or sales.
NEXT: If you’re starting out in this career, it could be tough to get off the ground.
7. Aircraft assemblers
2018 median annual pay: $53,340
Number of aircraft assemblers in the US in 2016: 41,800
Predicted number of aircraft assemblers in 2026: 34,500
Aircraft assembly is a vanishing field with some big responsibilities. Aircraft assemblers literally put airplanes together, making sure everything from an aircraft’s wings to its landing gear is installed properly. They have a high level of technical skill, and they work under the pressure of knowing that any error they make could put lives on the line.
Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that this career is in decline, an LA Times report is more optimistic. Citing the popularity of drones and the rise of companies like SpaceX, this report predicts that aircraft assembly jobs won’t go away.
NEXT: Workers in this field might soon be pressed to change jobs.
8. Prepress technicians
2018 median annual pay: $40,410
Number of prepress technicians in the US in 2016: 34,600
Predicted number of prepress technicians in 2026: 27,700
Prepress technician jobs are among the many casualties in the decline of print media. Prepress technicians are responsible for proofing and formatting text and images before they go to print. They use a variety of skills, including graphic design and copyediting.
As print media jobs disappear, prepress technicians can apply their skillset to the digital world. They might turn their eye for graphics into a career in web design, or perhaps they can put their editing skills to work for a digital publication.
NEXT: This management role is getting stamped out.
9. Postmasters and mail superintendents
2018 median annual pay: $75,970
Number of postmasters and mail superintendents in the US in 2016: 14,200
Predicted number of postmasters and mail superintendents in 2026: 11,200
Postmasters and mail superintendents might be looking for new jobs soon. In their role, postmasters and mail superintendents oversee post office staff and manage postal operations. However, as the postal business shrinks these roles are on the decline.
Luckily, postmasters and mail superintendents have valuable skills that can transfer to many other industries. Their operational know-how and people management skills could make them valuable employees in other growing fields like tech where a human touch is often needed behind the scenes.
NEXT: This once key role could be locked out soon.
10. Data entry keyers
2018 median annual pay: $32,170
Number of data entry keyers in the US in 2016: 203,800
Predicted number of data entry keyers in 2026: 160,600
Data entry keyers are responsible for accurate data entry and data verification in a variety of fields. Though our world is made up of more data than ever before, increased computing power and outsourcing these jobs overseas is causing the number of domestic data entry jobs to shrink.
While this may be true, data entry workers do have skills and experience that can transfer to other positions. With a little training, these workers could advance into project management or other business roles.
NEXT: These jobs are going underground.
11. Mine shuttle car operators
2018 median annual pay: $56,340
Number of mine shuttle car operators in the US in 2016: 1,500
Predicted number of mine shuttle car operators in 2026: 1,200
Mine shuttle car operators are used to things getting dark. These workers are responsible for driving shuttle cars in underground mines to move materials from mine cars to conveyors. They are excellent drivers, and they’re not afraid of the dark.
The outlook for mine shuttle car operators isn’t all dim. They can use their driving and manual labor skills in other growing in-demand positions, such as working on oil rigs or as roustabouts.
NEXT: Smartphones are putting these workers out of business.
12. Telephone operators
2018 median annual pay: $37,240
Number of telephone operators in the US in 2016: 9,100
Predicted number of telephone operators in 2026: 7,000
When was the last time you actually dialed up a telephone operator? In case you didn’t know, these workers can answer requests for information, assist telephone customers with some billing inquiries, and help people with disabilities make phone calls. However, smartphones and search engines have been steadily taking the place of these human helpers.
Telephone operators can certainly transfer their outstanding phone skills to a new line of work. Customer service experience is an essential asset in sales roles and other client-facing positions.
NEXT: These jobs are in serious danger of being cast out.
13. Metal pourers and casters
2018 median annual pay: $37,730
Number of metal pourers and casters in the US in 2016: 8,400
Predicted number of metal pourers and casters in 2026: 6,500
Metal pouring and casting is a line of work that’s literally hot, even though it seems to be cooling off right now. These workers use hand-operated mechanisms to pour molten metals into molds. Unfortunately, the decline in American manufacturing has spelled trouble for these workers.
Metal pourers and casters might benefit from applying their manual labor experience to growing fields like wind and solar energy. Though it may take some extra training to switch careers, it will be worth it in the long run.
NEXT: The mold is breaking for another manufacturing job.
14. Foundry mold makers
2018 median annual pay: $35,430
Number of foundry mold makers in the US in 2016: 12,500
Predicted number of foundry mold makers in 2026: 9,500
Metal pourers aren’t the only manufacturing workers whose jobs are in decline. The foundry mold makers who manufacture the molds they use are also looking at a shrinking job future.
Like metal pourers, foundry mold makers can apply their manual proficiency to other fields. Wind and solar power are attractive options, but there is also opportunity in oil. Jobs like derrick operator or roustabout could be options for mold makers looking to explore new avenues.
NEXT: These train workers could find themselves getting fired.
15. Locomotive firers
2018 median annual pay: $63,820
Number of locomotive firers in the US in 2016: 1,200
Predicted number of locomotive firers in 2026: 300
Locomotive firers are responsible for keeping trains running safely and smoothly. They monitor train equipment, look out for obstacles on the tracks, and relay signals from yard workers to the railroad yard engineer. These workers have a keen eye for public safety issues in addition to excellent driving skills.
Though locomotive firer jobs are vanishing, these folks have a valuable skillset that can take them places in the transportation field. They might look into driving trucks, operating other heavy machinery, or even safety inspection for their next career move.
NEXT: These workers help us breathe easy, but that could change very soon.
16. Respiratory therapy technicians
2018 median annual pay: $51,210
Number of respiratory therapy technicians in the US in 2016: 10,800
Predicted number of respiratory therapy technicians in 2026: 4,700
Working under respiratory therapists, respiratory therapy technicians administer respiratory care directly to patients. These workers monitor patients, update records, and operate ventilators and other respiratory devices.
Though respiratory therapy technician jobs are dwindling, there is increasing demand for their supervisors. Respiratory therapist jobs may require more training, but they are expected to grow 20%. Alternately, respiratory therapy technicians might wish to go back to school to study nursing. Nursing jobs are expected to grow by 15%.
NEXT: These workers are getting a ticket out of their jobs.
17. Parking enforcement workers
2018 median annual pay: $39,840
Number of parking enforcement workers in the US in 2016: 9,400
Predicted number of parking enforcement workers in 2026: 6,100
Nobody likes getting a parking ticket, so you might not be too sad to learn that parking enforcement workers are seeing a decline. These folks have the thankless job of patrolling city streets and issuing citations to illegally parked vehicles and people who forgot to run out to feed the meter.
Parking enforcement workers have a skillset that can translate into work as a security guard or surveillance officer. Thankfully, these are jobs that are expected to grow by 5% in the next few years.
NEXT: Can this type of work be saved?
18. Word processors and typists
2018 median annual pay: $39,750
Number of word processors and typists in the US in 2016: 74,900
Predicted number of word processors and typists in 2026: 50,100
Typists and word processors could be looking at switching jobs sometime soon. These workers are responsible for typing documents either from handwritten notes or transcribing audio. As Americans have become more computer literate, these jobs have experienced a decline in demand.
However, many typists and word processors are highly skilled in programs like Excel that could make them great candidates for other clerical and administrative roles. Highly experienced word processors and typists might also consider taking some additional classes or training to pursue roles in office management.
NEXT: It looks like it’s time for these workers to look into switching careers.
19. Watch repairers
2018 median annual pay: $39,910
Number of watch repairers in the US in 2016: 1,800
Predicted number of watch repairers in 2026: 1,200
Every time you check the time on your smartphone instead of a watch, the outlook for this career looks worse. Watch repairers fix, clean, and reassemble all the tiny components that go into making a watch run smoothly.
Though the field of watch repair has been in decline for a while, vintage-loving millennials could help the field make a comeback. According to Bloomberg, hip new watch companies like Movado Group are bringing analog watches back into style.
NEXT: This job in electronics is losing its spark.
20. Motor vehicle electronic equipment installers
2018 median annual pay: $35,590
Number of motor vehicle electronic equipment installers in the US in 2016: 12,100
Predicted number of motor vehicle electronic equipment installers in 2026: 9,000
Motor vehicle electronic equipment installers install sound, navigation, and other electronic systems in our cars. However, even as our cars are becoming more intertwined with our electronic devices, this line of work is in decline in the U.S.
Motor vehicle electronic equipment installers have great mechanical skills as well as a depth of electronics knowledge. With some training, they could easily move into new careers as electricians, a field that is projected to grow by 9% in the coming years.
NEXT: Here comes another job in electronics that’s winding down.
21. Coil winders, tapers, and finishers
2018 median annual pay: $34,400
Number of coil winders, tapers, and finishers in the US in 2016: 14,100
Predicted number of coil winders, tapers, and finishers in 2026: 11,200
This job is on the manufacturing side of electronics, so it’s getting zapped by competition from cheap overseas factories. Coil winders, tapers, and finishers operate machines that wind wire coils for use in all kinds of electronics.
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers have manual and operational skills that can transfer to many growing fields. These workers might be particularly interested in other electronics assembly jobs or, with a little education, pursuing a career as an electrician.
NEXT: These smooth operators might be looking for new jobs in the years to come.
22. Switchboard operators
2018 median annual pay: $29,420
Number of switchboard operators in the US in 2016: 93,200
Predicted number of switchboard operators in 2026: 74,700
Switchboard operators direct calls, take messages, and arrange conference calls for businesses. However, with many employees now relying more on email than the phone, and with video calling software taking the place of old school conference calls, many businesses are foregoing hiring new switchboard operators.
Switchboard operators are organized and efficient professionals who would thrive in many customer service roles. Customer service jobs are expected to grow by about 5% by 2026.
NEXT: The list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t weave this job in.
23. Knitting and weaving machine operators
2018 median annual pay: $29,160
Number of knitting and weaving machine operators in the US in 2016: 22,200
Predicted number of knitting and weaving machine operators in 2026: 17,900
Much of the clothing that we wear is knitted or woven on machines. These workers operate those machines, feeding them thread and monitoring for tangles, snags, and other troubles. Knitting and weaving machine operators are skilled in working with machines, staying alert, and troubleshooting.
As more clothing companies rely on foreign factories, these jobs are disappearing in America. For these workers, looking into careers in packaging manufacturing could be another great option. Though those jobs are only growing at 1%, that’s better than nothing.
NEXT: Even if these folks object, they still might lose their jobs.
24. Legal secretaries
2018 median annual pay: $46,360
Number of legal secretaries in the US in 2016: 194,700
Predicted number of legal secretaries in 2026: 157,500
Legal secretaries are responsible for scheduling appointments and other secretarial duties, but they also must be familiar with legal terminology at a high level. Thanks to this combination of valuable skills, legal secretaries can pursue a variety of different roles if their jobs suddenly disappear.
They might be especially well suited for paralegal work. Paralegals also assist lawyers in drafting documents, and it’s a field that’s expected to grow 15% by 2026. Legal secretaries with plenty of knowledge and experience could easily make the jump to new careers as paralegals.
NEXT: Take a picture to make this job last longer.
25. Photographic process workers
2018 median annual pay: $29,180
Number of photographic process workers in the US in 2016: 26,900
Predicted number of photographic process workers in 2026: 22,000
Digital cameras and smartphones have made a huge dent in the business of traditional film photography, and the photographic process workers who develop film are really feeling the burn. Camera shops and film developers are closing, and sadly these jobs are disappearing with them.
Many photographic process workers are also photographers themselves, so that provides one avenue to explore professionally should they lose their jobs. Additionally, these workers might be interested in jobs that involve more digital photo editing, including web design or social media content creation.
NEXT: Lots of jobs fall under this umbrella, but they could all end up caught in the rain.
26. Office machine operators
2018 median annual pay: $32,790
Number of office machine operators in the US in 2016: 59,900
Predicted number of office machine operators in 2026: 50,500
Job titles like copy center operator, print shop technician, and more all fall into the broader office machine operator category. However, with commercial printers cheaper than ever and less demand for printed goods in general, these jobs are fading out like a Xerox of a Xerox.
The future isn’t all fuzzy for office machine operators. These workers perform customer service duties in addition to their printing prowess, so a wide range of customer service roles are out there for them to step into if their current jobs end.
NEXT: Are you seeing any patterns yet?
27. Metal and plastic pattern makers
2018 median annual pay: $45,840
Number of metal and plastic pattern makers in the US in 2016: 3,400
Predicted number of metal and plastic pattern makers in 2026: 2,900
Metal and plastic pattern makers’ work is an important part of manufacturing many different goods. These workers are responsible for laying out, machining, fitting, and assembling metal or plastic components. Unfortunately, the market for these workers in America is shrinking fast.
However, metal and plastic pattern makers can easily transfer their skills to a different career that’s pretty hot right now. Machinists and dye tool makers are thriving in the U.S., with jobs expected to grow by 6%.
NEXT: You may be wondering where this job fits in.
28. Structural metal fabricators and fitters
2018 median annual pay: $39,290
Number of structural metal fabricators and fitters in the US in 2016: 77,000
Predicted number of structural metal fabricators and fitters in 2026: 65,200
Structural metal fabricators and fitters fabricate, assemble, and weld the metal used for building structures. They must be able to accurately read blueprints and carefully align metal pieces to their specifications.
Thanks to their welding experience, these workers should be able to transition into other roles fairly easily. Welding as a job category is expected to grow by 6%, giving many of these experienced metal workers a clear next career move.
NEXT: Time could soon be up for workers in this job.
29. Timing device assemblers and adjusters
2018 median annual pay: $34,650
Number of timing device assemblers and adjusters in the US in 2016: 800
Predicted number of timing device assemblers and adjusters in 2026: 600
Timing device assemblers and adjusters do a variety of tasks, such as building digital timers and adjusting and calibrating timers and digital clocks. These workers must pay superb attention to detail and have very steady hands.
Soldering, the process of fusing electrical wires with melted metal, has a great occupational outlook currently with 6% job growth predicted. Soldering requires a steady hand and familiarity with electronics, making it a perfect fit for timing device assemblers and adjusters in need of a new career.
NEXT: Can you guess what the last job on the list will be?
30. Computer operators
2018 median annual pay: $45,840
Number of computer operators in the US in 2016: 51,500
Predicted number of computer operators in 2026: 39,700
Wait, aren’t we all computer operators? Not exactly. This job category encompasses information technology associates, software technicians, and systems operators. These folks are responsible for monitoring and maintaining computers and other office devices. They may also offer assistance to employees who are having technical difficulties.
Though the market for this job is shrinking, computer operators have a bright future. These workers can go on to careers in database administration or user support, both of which are fields with a sunny outlook in the years to come.