Matt Brown/Wikimedia Commons
30. Payroll and timekeeping clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 317,740,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,018
The many workers in these roles are tasked with preparing employees’ paychecks and making sense of timesheets and invoices. The repetitive nature of this job makes us think that this job could be done with robotic assistance. Payroll requires straightforward rules-driven calculations and even help from programs like QuickBooks.
When there might be a mistake in payroll, it’s a result of unexpected but usual disruptions to the pay cycle. Robots can’t react to abnormalities like humans can. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet: Cloudpay reports that business process automation technology is being developed with AI to respond to changes. Scary, but that’s not as bad as what’s happening to order clerks…
29. Order Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 351,960,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,235
As an order clerk, your responsibilities are to process orders from clients and offer customer service. Orders could be for anything — products, services, facilities or item rentals, classified ads, and more. You might also have to explain products to clients and track their packages in a polite and timely manner.
Dealing with angry customers with missing packages might be hard on order clerks, but you could possibly hand over those duties to robots in the future. There’s already sales order programs like Esker that customers can use to place their orders. Order clerks typically make a lower wage, but those that make more money are at stake too.
28. Legal Secretaries
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 380,780,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,418
Legal work that consists of repetitive entry-level tasks are most likely to be automated. According to a study by Oxford University, jobs like legal secretaries and paralegals have a 94.5 percent likelihood of being replaced by machines. Law firms in general already use computers to scan and organize thousands of legal documents.
The same Oxford study provided an example: Symantec’s Clearwell system. This program uses language analysis to search through documents for general concepts. Interestingly enough, the study puts legal assistants in the “low risk” category, while legal secretaries and paralegals are “high risk.” Data entry keyers at law firms are also high-risk. If you work in this career, scroll on to find out your possible fate…
27. Data Entry Keyers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 384,920,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,444
Data entry clerks keyers enter information for electronic records using things like Excel or word-processing programs. They might also verify the data, prepare it for printing and file records. Oh and one more thing — data entry keyers are one of the professions most likely to suffer from a robot takeover..
There’s already quite a bit of software out there to make data entry easier like Blue Prism and Autoentry. It’s an easy job to automate because a lot of it is repetitive. Software is welcomed in many offices because it’s fast and accurate, ultimately leading to increased productivity. Some types of dispatchers will have a similar amount of hours lost.
26. Dispatchers (Not Police Fire or Ambulance)
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 394,560,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,444
If you’re a dispatcher supporting police or firemen, you’re safe as RuPaul would say. Robots are not great (yet) at making people feel safe and giving life-saving advice. They just don’t have the emotional capacity and intelligence to respond appropriately during emergency situations. Many cities have a dire need for dispatchers too, so these jobs should stay readily available.
Dispatchers that work with truckers delivering goods could find their gigs being disrupted. MH&L reported that MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is creating a robo “travel advisor” that helps drivers get on the most optimum routes to make deliveries easier. Other types of communication jobs might be automated — read on to find out.
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 427,820,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,717
We feel like people will like robot telemarketers even less than human ones, but it’s happening! The Federal Communications Commission said consumers received an estimated 2.4 billion robocalls per month in 2016. There are also robots to combat telemarketers like the Jolly Roger Telephone Company. This lets callers patch telemarketing calls to a robot that strings a telemarketer along with phrases like “uh-huh.”
Robots on the phone can also be used for good, at the expense of people that used to do these tasks, however. For example, automated calls to confirm doctor appointments and prescription pickups have been used quite frequently. Over 427 billion hours lost seems like quite a bit, no? It’s hard to believe, but there are some jobs that are even MORE at risk.
24. Electronic Equipment Assemblers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 430,560,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 2,734
Also known as fabricators, these workers assemble and secure all the parts in electronic equipment like computers and electric toys. Manufacturing in this field has grown exponentially despite it having fewer workers. How’s that possible? Let me guess — robots? Yep, that’s right. That seems to be the theme of this article…
Unlike real human workers, robots don’t need safety measures, breaks, health insurance, and vacation days. All that’s necessary is a power source and maintenance here and there. As a result, factories have become more productive than back in the day. Persons that sell the parts used to make some of these electronic devices might also have their gigs automated as well…
23. Parts Salespersons
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 494,360,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 3,139
People in this role assist customers with placing orders for parts, whether it be for cars, motorcycles, machines, etc. They’ll find the items in stock or order parts if their business doesn’t have it. They’ll have to know details about parts, so reading catalogs or researching online might also be necessary, as well as advising customers on particular parts.
Humans might not need much training in this because salespersons robots are being developed. Some companies, like Nestle in Japan, have added robots to their workforce during the holiday season. A company called Aldebaran has developed a salesperson robot called Pepper. Perhaps we’ll see more Peppers gracing the aisle of stores soon?
22. Claims Adjusters, Examiners and Investigators
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 526,820,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 3,345
These folks work in the insurance industry — at any kind of insurance company — and analyze insurance claims by speaking with claimants, witnesses, police, and hospitals. They might also examine property damage, if applicable. Some insurers have already been implementing robots into claims management decisions. KPMG reports that robots integrated into insurance companies are used to predict outcomes in the claims process and suggest strategies based on predictions.
Bots are also used to identify mismatches between internal policies and ones suggested by brokers. This is all to help insurance companies make the best and most accurate decisions for their practice. Adjusters, examiners, and investigators aren’t the only ones squirming in their seats at the thought of a robot-insurance takeover. Insurance claims and policy processing clerks are also at risk.
21. Insurance Claims and Policy Processing Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 545,940,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 3,467
Insurance claims and policy clerks support insurance companies at an almost administrative level. They are tasked with examining submitted claims for accuracy and completeness, handling claim forms, processing new policies, and modifying existing ones as necessary. Their jobs, however, are more at risk than the adjusters they support. Not necessarily by straight up robots, but computer software.
The Lab Consulting says that robotics process automation (aka RPA, aka software robots) is currently being implemented to replace claims and policy processing clerks. They do a lot of the data entry and so-called “low-value-add” work. Some of these platforms are UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism. They can operate things even down to the mouse and keyboard commands.
20. Loan Officers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 591,460,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 3,756
Loan officers are tasked with acting as a liaison between an institution and a loan applicant. They explain everything that the insurance company will offer to a client. They have specializations like commercial banks, mortgage companies, and credit unions. They must become expert in the different types of loans available and find an arrangement that works for both the institution and client.
Well, it seems like a lot of talking to humans is required with this job. How can automation be implemented? Software available offers loan servicing processes like Shaw Systems. The product’s website says that automation software can make loan processing services much more efficient than doing it the old fashioned way with paper.
19. Bill and Account Collectors
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 595,380,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 3,781
The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes this role as one that recovers payments from overdue bills from clients. They might provide some customer service duties and negotiate a payment plan for those that are in debt, either in person or via phone. They might also document interactions with clients in a CRM.
The Kaplan Group writes on their website that companies can benefit from the automation of bill collecting — at least for the clerical duties associated with the job. They argue that the major benefits to automation would be saving the company money, improving productivity and enhancing customer service.
18. Operating Engineers and Equipment Operators
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 711,780,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK:4,520
The people that choose these careers operate power construction equipment like bulldozers, tractors, and compressors to do things like pour concrete, move materials, and excavate. Since these jobs already involve machines, they’re at higher risk of automation as opposed to other gigs in the construction industry like welders and carpenters.
This is according to a 2018 study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute. The study said that jobs in construction that require solving unique challenges are less likely to be automated. Robots cannot solve problems and think the way humans can (yet). Some examples of jobs most likely to be safe from automation are roofers, electricians, carpenters, and plumbers.
17. Packaging/Filling Machine Operators/Tenders
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 770,660,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 4,894
People in this field include cannery workers and people that pack food products. They typically operate MACHINES to prepare consumer items for shipment. Hmmmm… Looks like machines already play a big role in this field. Could they possibly take over these jobs altogether? A publication called Automation World has some thoughts on this.
They wrote an article describing how companies are increasingly relying on robotics to provide more efficiency in the manufacturing workplace. Some companies have benefited from automation, like pasta company Pastificio Ghigi. It briefly shut its factory but reopened with virtually everything automated. The company was saved! Perhaps not the restaurants that serve its pasta, however.
16. Foodservice Hosts and Hostesses
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 804,720,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 5,110
Food service workers are paid such low wages that automation might not even be worth it, argues Science Mag. Despite this observation, places like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Panera are just a few of the large dining chains that have rolled out online and kiosk-based ordering.
This eliminates the need for a cashier and a hostess. If customers can order themselves, they can also seat themselves. Combined with the growing trend of “fast casual,” many restaurants are giving into a more relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t even require the need of a host to seat guests. Those that deliver food might find their jobs diminishing as well.
15. Driver/Sales Workers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 848,040,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 5,385
Folks hired in this role drive trucks to sell or deliver a variety of products like take-out, food products, and Amazon orders. Some drivers also take orders or process payments when delivering goods. Robots have figured out how to do some of these tasks, so, unfortunately, these jobs don’t have as much security going forward.
There’s lots of potential for disruption in the delivery industry. Take Starship, for instance, that Business Insider has reported on. It’s a six-wheeled rolling robot used for deliveries in tech-savvy cities like Silicon Valley. Driver jobs are also at stake — driverless cars are already on the road! So we know about delivery jobs, but what’s at stake for counter and rental clerks?
14. Counter and Rental Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 896,860,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 5,695
Counter and rental clerks are found at the counters of places like bowling alley shoe rentals, dry-cleaning, and storage facilities. They assist clients with rentals and services, process payments, and answer any and all of their questions about the business. Like most food service jobs and anything customer service-based, these jobs have the potential for automation.
Customer service jobs like cashiers have experienced automation. Stores like Target have self-service kiosks where customers can scan their items, pay for them and bag their items. Other examples are automated toll booths and various types of computerized credit-card processing systems.
13. Billing and Posting Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 966,060,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 6,134
Clerks that work in billing and posting do tasks like compiling, computing, and accounting for billing purposes for services, delivery or goods shipment. They could work in medical offices, retail outlets, or manufacturers. Software programs can automate some part of this job. Maybe someday all of it!
Salesforce is an example of an attempt at automated software that helps billing and posting clerks do their jobs. Chargebee Blog says that automated billing can save a company hundreds of hours that could have been wasted on manual billing. Such programs can also remedy errors, for example, a billing system with dunning capabilities.
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 989,480,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 6,283
Tellers work in banks offering customer service and basic banking services to clients. They can make withdrawals, exchange currency, conduct cash and check deposits and answer any questions you may have. More advanced services are given to bankers and financial experts within a financial institution.
You might have seen those self-help kiosks in Chase banks. Tellers are still there in case there’s something a robot can’t answer. Well, the kiosks can’t talk at all. They can only deposit checks, dispense money, and other basic banking commands. This leaves time for tellers to get to other tasks, and also possibly takes their jobs…
11. Counter Attendants, Cafeteria/Food Concession
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 995,320,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 6,320
Counter attendants work processing customer payments, taking customer orders, and offering customer service. Like we’ve mentioned before, customer service jobs are easy to be automated to some extent. Having some part of their job automated lets counter attendants attend to other tasks. Or, just leave their jobs up to the robots!
There are some programs actively being used to take customer orders like Presto, a touch screen food ordering system. There are also many restaurants, like Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery, that allow you to order online and pick up your order or have it delivered. iPads and tablets have also been integrated into restaurants as a replacement for menus and waiters.
10. Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 1,031,040,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 6,547
These workers will work with non-agricultural raw materials, parts, and/or products and inspect, test, sort, sample, or weigh (just as their job titles suggest). They’re looking for potential wear and tear or mistakes in the products before they are shipped out for consumption. Could robots be used to do this instead? Chances are they could!
Automation World says quality control has often been a job for humans. The human eye is useful in reviewing products that machines have made. The most commonly used tool in quality control automation, according to Automation World, is machine eye. Companies that are working on automated quality control are Meyer Tool in Cincinnati and Eponsa of Barcelona, Spain.
9. Shipping, Receiving and Traffic Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 1,348,460,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 8,563
Clerks in these roles are in charge of all aspects of shipping products or material. They pack the items, address them, stamp them, and mail them off to consumers eagerly awaiting their shipment. They can also receive products — unpacking the items and recording what’s received are part of those duties. Those duties, unfortunately, can be handed over to C3PO over there…
However, website Safecutters says the U.S. Department of Labor is expecting more jobs for shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks that are familiar with computers because so much in this field has become automated. At least within smaller companies, if more work is automated, then clerks are able to take on other tasks. Production is increased and duties get delegated more effectively.
8. Landscaping and Grounds Keeping Workers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 1,802,900,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 11,448
Americans LOVE lawns. They love them so much they have 40 million acres of lawns according to a 2005 study published in Environmental Management. To keep those millions of acres looking fresh, landscaping and groundskeeping workers are needed. They spend their workday doing tasks like sod laying, mowing grass and watering plants.
Vonigo.com says the demand for lawncare is up, but companies in the industry are having issues expanding. It recommends automation in the form of robotic lawn mowers or software for administrative work. Some companies are integrating these suggestions. A Chicago Tribune article said that lawns are becoming less popular due to environmental concerns, so who knows if robot landscapers will even be necessary?
7. Receptionists and Information Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 1,984,840,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 12,604
Receptionists are those smiling faces when you walk into an office. They greet you, answer questions, and pick up callers’ phone calls. This is all nice and good, but this is a high-risk job when it comes to potential automation. Those warm welcomes might be replaced by the cold greeting of a robot soon.
Already, offices have seen the benefits of replacing a human with an iPad at reception. Website The Receptionist, says such automation can aid the front desk staff, allowing for increased flexibility and efficiency. They call it a “visitor management system” and say that such a system can be easily customized according to the office’s organization.
6. Team Assemblers
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 2,216,760,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 14,076
Team assemblers typically work in places, like factories or manufacturers, that assemble products. These are also workplaces that have incorporated automation in order to create more products faster. Factory workers find themselves overseeing machines, making sure they don’t malfunction and that they create products correctly.
Although machines help create more products, they’re not so great for jobs. Moving jobs overseas has affected manufacturing jobs but not as much as machines have. TechCrunch reported that 85 percent of jobs from 2000 to 2010 were lost to machines. Not only are robots working their way into factories, but they’re also trying to get into our kitchens too.
5. Cooks, Restaurant
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 2,423,560,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 15,390
A lot of cooking is already automated — we’ve got all sorts of kitchen gadgets like microwaves, rice makers, bread makers, juicers, dehydrators, etc, etc. Fast food restaurants, in particular, are awash with machines in order to get food out FAST to hungry customers.
There have been some attempts to create robots that do all of the cooking for you. For example, Mashable reported on a robot that cooked a pasta meal with veggies and meat called GammaChef. From Croatia, the machine looks more like a coffee maker in which you add all your meal prep items. Chefs might be sweating in their aprons at the thought of this, but bookkeepers should be a bit more worried.
4. Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 3,118,520,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 19.803
If you’re a bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk, you’re tasked with handling financial data — computing, classifying, and recording. It’s necessary for every company to have accurate financial records. It might not be necessary for the employee in charge of that to be human, however…
The site Work is Changing estimates bookkeeping will be automated within five to ten years. They don’t think that this means jobs in this field will dwindle, but instead, automation might free up time for bookkeepers to do other things. Bookkeepers don’t need to spend all their time doing data entry but can do entries that can’t be automated.
3. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 4,567,420,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 29,003
Individuals working as a secretary or administrative assistant find themselves playing a supporting role to fellow employees in an office. They might not be the stars in the company the way lawyers, journalists or doctors might be, but they’re absolutely necessary to the organization of an office. Despite how necessary the role is, humans might not be necessary to fill these jobs…
Some companies have started offering services that complete tasks usually done by administrative staffers. For example, x.ai created AI personal assistants to coordinate emails and Clarke.ai created AI assistants to take notes during meetings. This all sounds bad to an administrative assistant, but general office clerks might have it slightly worse.
2. Office Clerks, General
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 5,879,740,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 37,336
General office clerks are in charge of clerical tasks (surprise) like preparing documents, interfacing with clients via phone and filing. This job already has a lack of opportunities prior to the imminent threat of AI: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one in four office clerks in 2016 were part-time.
Financial Times reports that software is already replacing a lot of the work that office clerks do. Clerks find themselves in the new position of “filing the gaps between fragmented systems.” Having more than 5.8 billion work hours lost to robots seems massive, but cashiers, unfortunately, will possibly face a lot more hours lost.
NUMBER OF ANNUAL HOURS: 7,037,300,000
LIFETIMES OF WORK: 44,687
Cashiers are unfortunately most at risk for automation. Cashiers scan and charge customers for products, compiling their total and bagging their items. A study by Cornerstone Capital Group that as many as 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots, with cashiers most at risk.
A good portion of cashier jobs have been automated already. You might have noticed the self-check kiosks at big box stores like Target, Walmart and CVS. Customers scan their own items, bag them and pay at the kiosk. Sometimes consumers might need the assistance of a human to operate the machines. It’s only a matter of time before the humans won’t need assistance anymore…