5 Jobs in Danger of Becoming Extinct

If you aspire to a career as a meter reader for a utility company – best to think again. That job – along with many others that have long provided decent pay and benefits for many Americans — is headed for extinction.

Automation and technology

A blend of economic factors, and fast-changing automation and technology has put many positions on the chopping block. A recent study by the Associated Press found that almost all the jobs disappearing are the mid-skill, mid-pay jobs — jobs with salaries ranging from $38,000 to $68,000 — positions “that form the backbone of the middle class in developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia.”

Is your career at-risk of extinction?

For job seekers and those employed in “at-risk” careers, experts say emphasize the need to diversify your skill sets, actively marketing your range of abilities and experiences, and being flexible and open to new opportunities. In addition to meter readers, here is a closer look at five jobs on the brink of extinction.

Secretary: A long staple of the American office, more than 1.1 million secretaries vanished from the job market between 2000 and 2010, and the trend continues to accelerate.

Technology has made it easier for executives and bosses to manage their own calendars, make travel arrangements – and brew their own cup of coffee.

businesses,businesswomen,communications,connections,corporate,determinations,Fotolia,global leaders,successful womenTravel agent: It’s hard to find a field as dramatically changed by the Internet than the travel industry. While 20 to 30 years ago it was almost a necessity to book travel through an agent, now it can happen with a couple mouse clicks.

The travel industry itself however outpaces most of the rest of the employment sectors, according to David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics at the U.S. Travel Association in his analysis of recent U.S. employment and exports numbers.


“While the rest of the economy added jobs at a slower rate in March, the travel industry bucked the trend and added 7,000, or 8 percent, of the 88,000 new jobs. Direct travel employment now totals 7.7 million,” Huether said.

businesses,businesswomen,callers,calling,calls,close-ups,conversations,females,Fotolia,listening,listens,offices,phones,Photographs,receivers,receptionists,secretaries,talks,telephones,womenTelephone operator: Chances are, young people today may never speak to a live telephone operator. Once the standard go-between for a range of telephone calls, the number of people performing the job plummeted 64 percent from 2000 to 2010.


Did you know that the very first telephone 0perator was actually a man by the name of George Willard Croy in 1878?  The first female operator, Emma Nutt, was put in place a few months later by Alexander Graham Bell himself.

Farmer, agricultural manager: While there will always be the need to put food on our tables, the agricultural field is contracting rapidly.  A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study projected farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural mangers will see a loss of 96,100 jobs by 2020 – the fastest predicted decline of any occupation — and that is on top of a loss of 260,700 jobs between 2000 and 2010.

Paralegals: Until relatively recently a career as a paralegal was viewed as stable and growing. No longer. The recent Associated Press analysis finds the paralegal position is being “obliterated by technology.” Software can now handle many paralegal functions, while the position is also under pressure from young lawyers eager to get their foot in the door at law firms.

While the jobs listed above are among those that have seen the biggest declines, they are far from the only ones. Workers need to prepare for inevitable changes. The days of spending your whole career doing one type of job is fast becoming history.

Staying ahead of the curve.

Regardless of the economic forecast, smart employees know that the best way to survive – and thrive – professionally can be summed up in one word: marketability. The more marketable your skills and experience are, the more likely you’ll be to find a new position quickly if you – or someone else – decides it’s time for you to move on in your career. And, while maintaining your marketability does require effort on your part, it isn’t as challenging as you may think. It all comes down to being proactive and keeping an eye on the road ahead, even as you work hard and focus on the present.

Contact your local Adecco office or use our Job Search to find the job opportunity that’s best for you.

Are there other careers you can think of that have gone extinct or could be in danger of becoming extinct? Share your thoughts and experience below.