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Let's Begin Today to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Let's Begin Today to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow

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By Dr. Bjorn Mercer
Program Director, Communication, Music, Philosophy, Religion and World Languages Programs, American Public University

Some of us are at the beginning of our careers while others are in the midst of their working life, looking at the next 20 years and trying to prepare not only for survival, but for long-term success. All of us, however, have to prepare for the future. This is where an Indeed report, The State of Opportunity, comes into play.

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As the report states, “Today, many people feel that the labor market is polarizing, with high-paying opportunities going to a select few, middle-wage jobs disappearing, and low-wage jobs proliferating.”

If you have a high-paying job, then you are good; all is right in the world (besides having a job that is usually stressful and time consuming). But if you are in a middle-wage job and are worried about your future or you are in a low-wage job and want to earn more, you have to be careful about what you do with the rest of your working life.

The Indeed report includes 170 jobs and goes into detail about the top 25. It also includes three criteria — talent mismatch, automation risk and education requirements — of positions that are classified as opportunity jobs.

Three Types of Talent Mismatches for Jobs

For all positions, there is a balance between how many job openings there are versus the number of people seeking those jobs. In simple terms, a talent mismatch is that “share of occupations with a job-seeker shortage.” A neutral talent mismatch means a like number of job-seekers and available positions. A surplus talent mismatch is when there are too many job seekers even with opportunity jobs.

Some examples of a talent mismatch shortage include registered nurses, occupational therapists and systems software developers.

Examples of a neutral talent mismatch include financial managers, industrial production managers and computer information systems managers.

Examples of a talent mismatch surplus are when there are too many job seekers even with opportunity jobs; they include marketing managers, HR managers and administrative services managers.

These examples offer a simple conclusion: There is a positive talent mismatch if the job is specialized. For example, occupational therapists and system software developers are specialized jobs because they require more education and continuous training. Thus, there are fewer applicants for those highly sought positions (surplus of jobs). While there will be many more applicants for positions such as marketing and HR managers (surplus of applicants).

Educational Requirements Vary for Jobs of the Future

The next criterion to think about when preparing for the jobs of tomorrow are the educational requirements. Every job has some educational requirements, from high school graduate to doctorate or even post-doc training.

The hard reality is that it takes a long time, anywhere from two to 10 years, to complete one’s education. People have to adjust their lives whether it is to go to college full-time after high school or possibly work part-time. For others, it might mean working full-time and going to school full-time or part-time as a working adult.

When looking at the top 25 opportunity jobs, all but two require a bachelor’s degree or above. Only registered nurse and administrative services manager require an associate’s degree. Fourteen jobs require a bachelor’s degree including many of the managerial jobs; nine jobs require a graduate degree.

When you look at the difference between the bachelor’s and the graduate degree, the graduate degree jobs are in specialized areas: occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist, and physician’s assistants with additional state or national certification after graduation. These graduate degrees may take years to achieve, but the salaries are higher and the available positions are greater than for graduates with just a bachelor’s degree.

Finally, when it comes to educational requirements there are two important factors to consider, Return on Investment (RO) and personal interest. Going to college often raises the question of how to pay for the education. Ideally, scholarships or savings would cover the bills, but for a majority of students, college loans are the answer.

This is why you need to consider the cost of a degree versus your potential future earnings. Becoming a registered nurse is a great option because it requires at a minimum an associate degree and pays fairly well; becoming a physician’s assistant (PA) requires a bachelor’s degree plus an additional three years. The income potential is higher for a PA, but the average graduate has between $50,000 and $100,00 in loans.

Personal interest is another consideration. You have to want a college degree and have a personal interest in the field of your choice to complete two to 10 years of schooling. To become a software developer, you have to get a bachelor’s degree and you have to like computers, coding and technology. To become a registered nurse, you only have to go to school for two years, but you have to really like medicine and helping people.

Automation Risk for Many Jobs

The final criterion in the Indeed report is automation risk. Each job listed has a risk of automation. That is the measure that “indicates the likelihood that job functions will become automated over the next 20 years.”

A recent study from the Brookings Institute, found that 25% of all jobs are at risk of becoming automated. This is a serious concern for every worker. This may sound like a bit of doom and gloom, but with proper preparation we can mitigate the risk of automation.

Of the top 25 opportunity jobs, only two have a high automation risk — accountants and auditors, and administrative services managers.

For accountants and auditors, the risk is obvious. With better accounting software, the need for basic or foundational accounting and auditing will decrease.

But there is a bright spot. As companies spend capital to replace the average accountant and auditor, they can retrain these highly skilled employees to focus on business intelligence such as financial process improvement, risk analysis, forecasting, and strategic analysis.

The other job at risk of automation is administrative services manager. This risk makes sense because some companies, like Uber, do not have supervisors for their contract drivers. For traditional full-time employees, not part-time or contractors, artificial intelligence (AI) will keep track of many of the key performance indicators used to rate employees.

By having software that automatically tracks performance data, the need for managers will decrease. This will become a concern because managerial positions are well compensated and as a Medium article stated, 10% of the jobs in the U.S. are managerial jobs. Even if only half of these jobs are lost to automation, thousands — if not tens of thousands — of jobs could be lost.

The Challenge of Knowing What to Do

It is a challenge to know what to do. Consider the following:

  • Talent mismatch: Is your career or the career you want to go into an in-demand career or is it slowly declining?
  • Career timeline: How much time do you have to work? Are you at the beginning, middle or latter years of your career?
  • Education attainment: How much schooling do you want? Can you be a full-time student or do you need to work? Do you want to go to a traditional school or an online university?
  • Training opportunities: Can you partake of internships or residencies if needed?
  • Education cost: How much are you willing to spend on your education? Can you get part of it covered or do you need loans?
  • Automation risk: Is the career you are in now or want to go into at risk of automation? How can you mitigate this as much as possible?

In addition to reading The State of Opportunity report, we all need to research the best options for us, work hard and try our best.

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About the Author

Dr. Bjorn Mercer is a Program Director at American Public University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Missouri State University, a master’s and doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. He writes about leadership, management and why the humanities and liberal arts are critical to career success. Dr. Mercer also writes children’s music.

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