Two-thirds of Americans believe that, in 50 years, robots and computers will do much of the work humans now do. The World Economic Forum’s 2016 report, The Future of Jobs, estimates that 5 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2020 and that the number will keep growing. Jobs that once seemed like "safe bets"—office workers and administrative personnel, manufacturing, and even law—will be hit hardest, the report estimates.
"There are some overarching shifts poised to change the nature of work itself over the next decade," says Devin Fidler, research director at Institute for the Future, a nonprofit research center focused on long-term forecasting. That includes a demand for new skills and strategies that could help people to thrive in future work environments,
So what do you need to work on to be marketable in 2025? Here are six skill areas that the experts recommend, as well some of the strongest job-growth categories, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other sources—that relate to them.
It’s no surprise that tech skills will be in demand. However, Fidler says that "computational thinking"—the ability to manage the massive amounts of data we process individually each day, spot patterns, and make sense out of all of it—will be valued.
"As the total amount of information coming at you increases and increases, the ability to manage that in a way that you're not overwhelmed, is pretty key," he says.
Related jobs: Software developer jobs will grow 18.8% between now and 2024, according to the BLS, while computer systems analyst jobs will increase 20.9% by 2024. Market research analyst and marketing specialist jobs, which also require those analytical skills, will increase 18.6%.
As more people live longer, every aspect of the health care sector is poised for growth. And while telemedicine, robotic surgical equipment, and other forms of automation are changing how some health care is delivered, demand for caregivers is going to increase as we commit to providing health care for more of the population—a population that is growing and living longer, says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement and career coaching firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc.
Related jobs: Challenger’s firm analyzed the hottest job sectors from 2018 through 2025 and half of the sectors were caregiving and health-related. Hot fields included medical technicians, physical therapists, and workplace ergonomics experts. Veterinarians will also be in demand, the report found. BLS also found that support jobs related to caregiving, such as medical secretaries and medical assistants will also be in high demand. Home health aide jobs are expected to grow a whopping 38.1%.
It’s going to take a long time for robots to be good at soft skills, like social and emotional intelligence and cross-cultural competency, "which are hugely valuable in a world where you or I could go and be working with somebody in the Philippines within an hour. Virtual collaboration itself is really useful in that environment as well," Fidler says. In addition, new media literacy—understanding various media platforms and how to best communicate effectively in them—are valuable skills that robots won’t be likely to match any time soon.
Related jobs: Sales and related jobs are one of the top five growth areas worldwide, according to the WEF report. In the U.S., BLS projects that jobs for retail and other sales representatives, marketing specialists, and customer service representatives are each projected to grow between 6.4% and 18.6%, depending on the category by 2024.
With the world moving as fast as it is, we need to become a society of people who are always learning new things, says Julie Friedman Steele, board chair of the World Future Society, a membership organization for futurists. But we’re also going to need to shift how we learn, she says. As so many things advance quickly, it will be difficult for teachers and trainers to keep up with the latest thinking. Instead, we’ll use technology to find the best sources of information to keep our knowledge and skills current.
Antonia Cusumano, people & organization leader at consulting giant PwC says that we’ll also need to turn to more dynamic resources. "You're going to have 10 minutes on your bus ride home when you're commuting. You're going to pull up an app from one of the many businesses out there that are doing these mini-clips of video learning. I'd like to learn 10 minutes on C++ so that I can brush up on my coding. You're going to see learning shift to these little mini bite-sized chunks of information that you can get on the go and when you need it and at any given time," she says.
Related jobs: Teachers and trainers made Challenger’s firm’s list of eight hot fields through 2025. Education and training is number six on the WEF report’s list of growth sectors.
With opportunities in innovation and entrepreneurship and the rise of the "gig economy," Cusumano says understanding how businesses work is essential. Even if you’re working for a company, you have to have a better understanding than ever of how the business operates. "It's how the millennial generation has been raised. They are more in tune to collaborate. They know how to do project-based work and move quickly, which I think is inherent in today's economy," she says.
Related jobs: BLS estimates that management analysts, accountants and auditors will experience double-digit growth through 2024. One Intuit report projects that more than 40% of U.S. workers will be independent contractors by 2020.