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15 Jobs Robots Will Soon Be Filling

15 Jobs Robots Will Soon Be Filling

Robots are coming for our jobs — here are 15 they’re already taking over.

Thanks in part to automated mail-sorting systems, postal workers may be out of a job in the not-so-distant future.

By 2024, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 28% decline in postal-service jobs, totaling around 136,000 fewer positions than in 2014.

Mail carriers and processors aren’t the only ones whose jobs are disappearing thanks to robots.

 
Automation technologies that conduct physical, intellectual, or customer service tasks are already affecting a variety of fields, most notably metal and plastic machine workers.

 
Information technology research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that one-third of jobs will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines by 2025. And Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, takes that prediction a step further with his prediction that by 2029 robots will have reached human levels of intelligence and be capable of taking over purely intellectual tasks.

 
While what the experts are calling “The Second Machine Age” strikes fear into the hearts of many workers, some argue that this increase in computing prowess will simply eliminate old jobs and introduce new ones, resulting in a net-zero effect — or even an increase in jobs. And these new jobs may be safer and more interesting.

 
For now, based on the BLS’ occupational outlook data, here are 15 American jobs that are already on their way out, thanks to robots:

 

15. Metal and plastic cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators, and tenders

They set up, operate, or tend machines to saw, cut, shear, slit, punch, crimp, notch, bend, or straighten metal or plastic material.
Median annual pay: $31,280
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 192,200
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 152,700
Projected decline: 20.6%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


14. Metal and plastic model makers

They set up and operate machines like lathes, milling and engraving machines, and jig borers to make working models of metal or plastic objects.
Median annual pay: $45,980
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 6,200
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 4,900
Projected decline: 21.5%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


13. Metal and plastic forging machine setters, operators, and tenders

They set up, operate, or tend forging machines to taper, shape, or form metal or plastic parts.
Median annual pay: $35,070
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 21,600
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 17,000
Projected decline: 21.5%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


12. Metal and plastic grinding, lapping, polishing, and buffing machine tool setters, operators, and tenders

They set up, operate, or tend grinding and related tools that remove excess material or burrs from surfaces, sharpen edges or corners, or buff, hone, or polish metal or plastic work pieces.
Median annual pay: $32,840
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 71,400
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 55,800
Projected decline: 21.9%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


10. Metal and plastic extruding and drawing machine setters, operators, and tenders

They set up, operate, or tend machines to extrude or draw thermoplastic or metal materials into tubes, rods, hoses, wire, bars, or structural shapes.
Median annual pay: $33,120
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 73,400
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 55,500
Projected decline: 24.4%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


9. Metal and plastic molding, core making, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders

They set up, operate, or tend metal or plastic molding, casting, or core-making machines to mold or cast metal or thermoplastic parts or products.
Median annual pay: $29,340
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 129,500
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 97,200
Projected decline: 25%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


8. Postmasters and mail superintendents

They plan, direct, or coordinate operational, administrative, management, and supportive services of a US post office, or coordinate activities of workers engaged in postal and related work in an assigned post office.
Median annual pay: $70,640
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 17,300
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 12,800
Projected decline: 26.2%
Why it’s declining: The BLS’s projected loss of postal worker jobs is due to more reliance on email and online bill pay services and to technological advances that allow for automatic mail sorting. Less postal workers also means less need for supervisory roles.

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7. Postal-service clerks

They perform any combination of tasks in a post office, such as receive letters and parcels; sell postage and revenue stamps, postal cards, and stamped envelopes; fill out and sell money orders; place mail in pigeon holes of a mail rack or in bags; and examine mail for correct postage.
Median annual pay: $56,790
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 69,600
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 51,300
Projected decline: 26.2%
Why it’s declining: The BLS attributes the decline in First-Class Mail volume to increasing use of automated bill pay.


6. Postal-service mail carriers

They sort mail for delivery and deliver mail on an established route by vehicle or on foot.
Median annual pay: $58,280
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 297,400
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 219,400
Projected decline: 26.2%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, the US postal service is moving to automated “delivery point sequencing” systems that sort letter mail directly. This reduces the amount of time that carriers spend sorting, allowing them to spend more time on the streets delivering mail, thereby increasing the size of their routes and reducing the need to hire more carriers.


5. Metal pourers and casters

They operate hand-controlled mechanisms to pour and regulate the flow of molten metal into molds to produce castings or ingots.
Median annual pay: $33,850
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 9,800
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 7,200
Projected decline: 26.6%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

4. Foundry mold and core makers

They make or form wax or sand cores or molds used in the production of metal castings in foundries.
Median annual pay: $32,680
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 12,000
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 8,700
Projected decline: 27.7%
Why it’s declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of metal and plastic machine workers is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs.


3. Switchboard operators, including answering service

They operate telephone business-systems equipment or switchboards to relay incoming, outgoing, and interoffice calls. May supply information to callers and record messages.
Median annual pay: $27,440
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 112,400
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 75,400
Projected decline: 32.9%
Why it’s declining: Switchboard operators are on the decline thanks to the growth of automated communication technology and software that lets people field calls themselves.


2. Postal-service mail sorters, processors, and processing-machine operators

They prepare incoming and outgoing mail for distribution. They also examine, sort, and route mail; load, operate, and occasionally adjust and repair mail processing, sorting, and canceling machinery; keep records of shipments, pouches, and sacks; and perform other duties related to mail handling within the postal service.
Median annual pay: $56,740
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 117,600
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 78,000
Projected decline: 33.7%
Why it’s declining: The BLS projects the US postal service will need fewer workers to sort mail thanks to new mail sorting technology that can read text and automatically sort, forward, and process mail and the increased use of online bill pay services and email.


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1. Telephone operators

They provide information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories. They assist customers with special billing requests, such as charges to a third party and credits or refunds for incorrectly dialed numbers or bad connections. May handle emergency calls and assist children or people with physical disabilities to make telephone calls.
Median annual pay: $35,880
Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 13,100
Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 7,500
Projected decline: 42.4%
Why it’s declining: The growth of automated communication technology like voice recognition systems has decreased the need for telephone operators.

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