IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The worst jobs for the 21st Century

Health care, education and financial services — if you're looking for work in the coming decades, these are the fields to get into.
/ Source: Forbes

Health care, education and financial services — if you're looking for work in the coming decades, these are the fields to get into.

What to avoid? The usual suspects. According to the projections by the U.S. government, manufacturing jobs are expected to decline by more than 5 percent by 2014 as production moves overseas. Same goes for textile workers, such as sewing machine operators, who will see a 36 percent drop in employment. Technology will kill off more office positions, such as file clerks. They'll see a 36 percent drop in their ranks by 2014. Digital cameras will zap the manual photo processing industry by about 30 percent. And that guy who comes around to read your electric meter? Expect to see a lot less of him, too.

But these are the obvious victims as the U.S. moves from a goods-producing economy to a services-producing economy. More interesting are the jobs that are likely to experience slower than average growth (average being about 13 percent). This is where the surprises are.

Like computer programmers. Despite all the advances — and expected job growth — in the computer industry, expect the number of programmers to increase by about 2 percent between 2004-2014. Why? Outsourcing. Americans who want a career in this field should find a specialization, like cybersecurity.

Another endangered species: journalists. Despite the proliferation of media outlets, newspapers, where the bulk of U.S. reporters work, will cut costs and jobs as the Internet replaces print. While current events will always need to be covered (we hope), the number of reporting positions is expected to grow by just 5 percent in the coming decade, the Labor Department says. Most jobs will be in small (read: low-paying) markets.

Radio announcers will have a tough time, too. Station consolidation, advances in technology and a barren landscape for new radio stations will contribute to a 5 percent reduction in employment for announcers by the middle of the next decade. Even satellite radio doesn't seem immune from the changes. The two major companies, XM and Sirius — which now have plans to merge — have regularly operated in the red.

Anyone who regularly books their flights online can tell you why the travel agent business is in jeopardy. So here's a surprise: The Department of Labor only predicts a 6 percent drop in travel agent jobs by 2014. The demand for luxury and specialty travel, and increased spending on tourism, will buoy the industry somewhat. If you do plan to be a travel agent, best to find a niche field or specialize in specific-destination trips. Travel agents might also find success in organizing groups of foreign visitors to their home markets. But remember, the travel industry is highly connected to swings in economic conditions.

Worse off? Federal employees and their amazing benefits. Washington employs nearly 2 million people, not including the military, making it the country's largest employer. After Sept. 11, 2001, it expanded significantly due to homeland security needs. But those days may be coming to an end. By 2014, federal government jobs — excluding the Postal Service —  will only have increased by about 1.6 percent above 2004 levels due to the transfer of some jobs to state and local governments and the increased use of private contracting companies. Don't believe it? A report compiled by a House of Representatives panel earlier this year found that government spending on contracts rose by 103 percent between 2000 and 2005.

Should you be discouraged if a career you pinned your hopes on is not expected to grow? Not at all, says Anthony Spadafore, director of Pathfinders, a career counseling company in Alexandria, Va. He says that if people pursue their fields that play to their talents, they'll be able to compete for the top jobs where competition is fierce, even if the industry is diminishing.

"The idea of shrinking and hot fields, we think it's sort of a rudimentary way of looking at things," Spadafore says. "Believe it or not, there's still a need for bank tellers."