9 of the Best Jobs for the Future That Pay Well
As the 4th Industrial Revolution approaches, it seems that nary a day goes by that we don’t see another headline about how robots and machines with artificial intelligence will take away all of our jobs someday. We’ve read more than once, for example, how autonomous cars and trucks promise to drive taxi and truck drivers onto the road of financial ruin. We looked at how humanoid robots will soon start occupying the world’s most dangerous jobs. It’s not just blue-collar jobs under threat. We even speculated on Nanalyze how a startup creating AI for medical imaging might put highly paid radiologists out of work.
This brought up a couple of thoughts.
First, how will Trump be able to deport all those robots and save American jobs? Second, is it really such a bad thing that McDonald’s is replacing employees with fast food robots? In other words, there are some jobs we simply won’t miss that much. The Luddites have lost, and unless you want your kid left behind or running for public office, you better start preparing him or her for the best tech-related jobs of the future.
We’re here to help, with our year-end list of the Best Jobs of the Future. Such prognostication is an inexact science at best, especially when you consider that up to 65 percent of the children entering primary school today will end up working in a job type that doesn’t even exist today, according to the World Economic Forum.
Our best jobs for the future list is based on a mixture of criteria, and all of them fall within some segment of the technology sector. On the objective side we look at things like predicted job growth and a median annual salary of about $75,000, which would place the next generation in the top 20 percent of U.S. earners. Then there are subjective criteria, such as coolness factor, and the clarity of our crystal ball to see accurately into the best jobs of the future that don’t even exist yet. All statistics, unless otherwise noted, come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries are based on 2015 median pay, while job growth forecasts are for 2014-2024. These data are helpful starting points, but remember that many of these specialties, as demand rises, will likely command even better salaries than the generic equivalents provided here.
If you can’t beat them, build them. One of the best jobs for the future has to be robotics engineer. Who else is going to design and create our future overlords? There is no one prescribed path to becoming a robotics engineer, but a background in mechanical or electrical engineering, computers and mathematics, or some combination thereof, would likely go a long way. This category can include cutting edge ventures from designing artificial limbs to autonomous submarines to killer robots.
Median salary: $83,590 (mechanical engineer) to $110,620 (computer scientist)
Job growth: 5 percent (mechanical engineer) to 11 percent (computer scientist)
Education: At least a bachelor’s degree, with a graduate degree highly desirable. Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offer graduate studies and research opportunities specifically in robotics technologies, according to Study.com.
AI software engineer
These are the guys and gals who put the brains into artificial intelligence, which could probably be a “best jobs of the future” category all in itself. AI is as hot as it gets, and there’s no reason to think it will cool off any time in the future. Big companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are basically building their entire organizations around AI technology. We’ve lost count of the number of startups in the mobile computing sector alone.
Median salary: $100,690 (based on software engineer)
Job growth: 17 percent (based on software engineer)
Education: At least a bachelor’s degree, with a graduate degree highly desirable.
Big data scientist/engineer
A different flavor of computer scientist or software engineer, big data scientists and engineers find ways to analyze and use all of the data generated by our technological world. This includes not just the internet but the Internet of Things, which is growing exponentially, as we’ve noted before.
Salary: $135,000 to $196,000 (from Robert Half North American recruiting and staffing company)
Job growth: 11 to 17 percent (based on BLS stats for computer scientists and software engineers)
Education: At least a bachelor’s degree, with a graduate degree highly desirable.
Alternative energy expert
We remain bullish on alternative energy – while still keeping some of the more traditional energy companies tucked into our portfolio – and the fact is this sector will require large infusions of labor of all stripes as the green economy gain renewable steam. Renewables are now the second largest source of global electricity production, accounting for 22.3 percent of world generation in 2014, according to the International Energy Agency. We use the generic term “expert” but this could include scientists and engineers in a variety of disciplines: physics, chemistry, materials, mechanical, etc.
Median salary: Depends on the generalization, with physicists at the top of the range at $110,980.
Job growth: Again, varies depending on discipline, but most are better than average.
Education: At least a bachelor’s degree, with a graduate degree highly desirable. Vegan diet optional.
Not all of the best jobs for the future need to be white collar. Asteroid miner might at first conjure up images of Bruce Willis blowing up space rocks before they annihilate the Earth. No doubt that job came with a nice bonus, if you came back alive. Asteroid mining, in this case, involves sending people to a rock hurtling through the cold vastness of space to extract rare metals and other resources that are, well, rare on Earth but vital to many of our technologies. Of course, robotic engineers (see above) may eliminate these jobs before they even become a reality.
Salary: Oil rig drillers can earn more than $80,000. There will probably be hardship pay included.
Job growth: TBD (but it has to be better than oil and gas sector, which has shed 100,000 jobs in the last two years, according to Reuters)
Education: Experience as a mechanic or technical skills would be useful, as well as nerves of steel.
Sounding like some sort of human-computer hybrid from Dune, quants are quantitative analysts who develop algorithms that are faster and smarter than pretty much any veteran trader on the floor. It seems like it’s no accident that Wall Street’s fastest growing hedge fund, Two Sigma Investments, is driven by AI technology and big data. Two Sigma’s co-founder David Siegel has previously said, “eventually the time will come that no human investment manager will be able to beat the computer.”
Median salary: $80,310 (based on financial analyst, but the best in the business can make well into the six-figures range)
Job growth: 12 percent (based on financial analyst)
Education: A bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is often required for advanced positions. Forget the MBA and go for a degree in computer science.
Technological innovations and continued developments in genomics is opening up a whole new field in healthcare. Genetic counselors play a role in the genetics revolution by assessing patients for a variety of inherited condition such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They support both patients and other healthcare providers with their assessments.
Median salary: $72,090 (slightly below our cut-off of $75,000 but you have to like the growth potential)
Job growth: 27 percent
Education: Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics, and board certification. Backgrounds can include biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, public health and social work.
That’s not a typo; we mean gamer, not gambler. At this very moment, your kid may be practicing for his or her shot at greatness. eSports has exploded worldwide, according to a story in Forbes, and some players can now make a living playing video games, with the elite capable of pulling in six-figure salaries. Keep in mind that’s the exception and not the rule. The arrival of virtual reality headsets promises to add another dimension (pun intended) to this new phenomenon.
Median salary: Varies but ranges between $25,000 and $50,000 for players in the big leagues, according to TechCrunch. eSports earnings.com lists more than 25 players who have earned more than $1 million during their career.
Job growth: TBD
Education: Drop out of school immediately. Just kidding. Like any skill, practice, practice, practice.
OK, this is our bonus job of the future for the high achievers. What kid didn’t want to be an astronaut while growing up? We admit the prospects for job growth are negligible at the moment. Only about a dozen people of the 18,300 who applied for the 2017 astronaut class will eventually be accepted into the candidate program, according to NASA. But if the big dreamers of today – entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson – can fulfill the promise of visionaries like Gene “Star Trek” Roddenberry, then we see a bright future for these intrepid explorers.
Average salary: $82,920 to $100,701 (based on government pay scale, ranging from a GS-12 to GS-13). Or just pick any job at NASA if you’re looking for something that pays six figures and lets you causally drop, “I work at NASA” during cocktail party conversation. As of March 2016, the average NASA salary was $119,665.
Job growth: Negligible if not negative for the foreseeable future. However, we can’t help but think that the space race to Mars and the pending destruction of our own planet will eventually lead to a significant uptick in astronaut numbers. If nothing else, there may be some openings for pilots in space tourism in the not-so-distant future.
Education: Eligibility requires at least a bachelor’s degree in biological science, computer science, engineering, mathematics, or physical science. Jet aircraft experience is a big plus. Take a look at the NASA astronaut bios for inspiration.
So there you have 9 of the best jobs for the future. You can now welcome the 4th Industrial Revolution with open arms. Life is good.
Are you paying too much in transaction fees to your broker? Check out a brokerage firm called Zacks Trade that's offering $1 trades on U.S. stocks and options until 2020. After that, you'll pay just $3 a trade or a penny a share, whichever is greater. You can also trade on 91 stock exchanges in 19 foreign countries. Click here for $1 trades on U.S. stocks and options until 2020.