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43 Jobs That'll Soon Be Lost to Automation

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Jobs Going to the Robots

Workers have long feared losing jobs to newcomers, but the threat has changed in the digital age, with automated technologies posing a new form of competition. With 2.3 million already present in the global workforce, robots are now projected to supplant 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030, including 1.5 million in the United States. The shock of a pandemic is expected to accelerate this shift, as industries turn to technology to alleviate financial losses. The jobs that follow are poised to become increasingly automated, including order-taker positions at your local McDonald's.  

Related: Jobs That Have Disappeared From American Life

Drive Thru at Mcdonald's

Drive-Thru Workers

Fast-food joints want to get you through the drive-thru line as quickly as possible, and they'll be increasingly leaning on automation to make that happen. In fact, McDonald's just announced a partnership with IBM that will help it speed up the use of artificial intelligence in drive-thru order-taking, which it has already been testing in Chicago. The technology has shown "substantial benefits" for both workers and customers, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski says. 

Related: Rude? Friendly? Here’s How Your Favorite Fast-Food Drive-Thru Ranks

A Flippy robot in use at White Castle
Miso Robotics

Other Fast-Food Positions

Fast-food companies use an assembly-line approach to streamline cooking, so many positions can be filled by specialized automatons. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 80,000 jobs in the industry will be gone by 2024. Former McDonald's Chief Executive Edward Rensi's thoughts on the matter: "It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging french fries." Last July, White Castle became the first chain to employ a burger-grilling robot, dubbed Flippy, which was also touted as reducing the risk of spreading human pathogens.


Related: 20 Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now


Other Retail Positions

Amazon is pioneering retail at its Seattle-based store Amazon Go, which eliminates checkout altogether and automates purchases through the customer's smartphone. This year, the company launched a business line selling the same technology to other retailers. With other convenience stores expected to follow suit in coming years, this higher-tech approach will likely lead to more lost retail jobs, as it irons out kinks and lessens the need for humans to provide help at checkout.

Related: I Shopped at an Amazon 4-Star Store and This Is What Happened



According to Eric Schmidt, chairman and former CEO of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), dishwashing robots are high on everyone's list for useful applications of artificial intelligence. As of 2019, the startup Dishcraft had raised $25 million in venture capital for its mission to perfect its robotic dishwashing system, which is already in use at certain high-volume cafeterias. 

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Chefs aren't as safe from automation as most other creative positions; robotic cooks are already being used to prepare food and generate interest at restaurants in China as well as pockets of the West. In Paris, the French company Pazzi has opened a restaurant staffed by its own pizza-making robot, while Creator in San Francisco boasts an automated assembly line for gourmet burgers made to order. Meanwhile, 3D-printing tech that creates gourmet pasta and replica steaks is seeing varying degrees of success and implementation.

Related: Personal Chef and Other Well-Paying Jobs That Make Social Distancing Easy

Toll-Booth Operator

Toll-Booth Operators

Toll-booth operator is another low-skill position already becoming automated. As many as 16 states now use E-ZPass, an electronic tolling system that eliminates the need for human workers to staff paid-access roads. Nearly half of the nation’s toll roads are now cashless. At least seven more of the 34 states with toll roads have some other form of electronic tolling in place. For 185 toll operators in Northern California, health measures relating to coronavirus presented the final nail in the coffin for the automation of their positions earlier this year.

Related: 16 Ways Driving Has Changed in the Past 50 Years



Though everyone's heard the buzz about self-driving cars, fully autonomous vehicles haven’t yet lived up to their most optimistic projections, and aren’t expected to be common until the late 2020s at the earliest. When they do, self-driving cars may make obsolete almost 5 million human jobs dependent on driving, including truckers, taxi drivers, and tractor operators.

Related: 14 Car Innovations We Could See in the Next Decade (And One We Won't)


Courier and Delivery Services

Even couriers who don't rely on a car to get around are in danger of robot replacement as companies such as Amazon experiment with delivery via drone or autonomous ground vehicles, like those being prototyped by the company Unsupervised AI.



While most health-care professionals can rest easy knowing patients prefer treatment from people, radiologists are at unique risk of being supplanted by machines that can analyze complex data from MRI and CT scans more efficiently. But despite companies including IBM and GE working toward diagnoses by artificial intelligence, at least some radiologists will still be necessary for the foreseeable future to design algorithms and interpret results.


Related: The Greatest American Inventions of the Past 50 Years



Robots have begun writing the news, though their abilities are still limited generally to writing reports based on specific datasets. The Washington Post and UK's Press Association employ automatons to write sports and election coverage. Yahoo Sports uses similar technology for its fantasy football leagues, while Bloomberg news’s Cyborg program converts financial reports into digestible articles. To compensate for lost ad revenue, MSN laid off dozens of editors in favor of content-processing AIs. When it comes to reporting and writing, it remains to be seen whether machines can generate more complex news analysis on their own, or if they’ll be limited to merely assisting human reporters by detecting trends or generating story templates, as they have for outlets such as Forbes and the Post.

Telephone Operators

Telephone Operators

As with telemarketing, many companies have already switched from human operators to more cost-effective automated ones. Switchboard attendants may even go down as one of the first occupations to be supplanted by robotics; companies began introducing automated attendants in the early 1980s.

Middle Management Positions


More than a million Americans tending to the nation's farmland may soon be rendered obsolete by specialized automatons performing all manner of traditional agricultural tasks, from picking apples to weeding lettuce. Some are already in mass operation, while others are in development to compete with the cost of unskilled (human) labor.

Related: 25 Undervalued Jobs That We Appreciate More Than Ever

Agriculture Graders and Sorters

Agricultural Graders and Sorters

Machines offer considerable value over human competitors in grading and sorting agriculture as well as harvesting it, which is why the occupation is at high risk of automation. Spot-spraying automatons and optical sorting machines, which use hyperspectral cameras to analyze foods at a chemical level, are just two examples of innovations reducing the need for human labor in agriculture.

Related: 17 Ways Grocery Stores Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Accountants and Tax Preparers

Accountants and Tax Preparers

America's 2 million tax preparers and other accountants may soon see their jobs filled primarily by machines. TurboTax and H&R Block already have tax bots, though they're not yet capable of filing with the IRS. As with journalists, however, it’s likely that in many cases new technologies will simply aid CPAs by performing more mundane, number-crunching tasks, enabling them to focus on bigger-picture, organizational problems that can still benefit from human creativity.

Related: Why You Might Not Need a Tax Pro

Assembly and Manufacturing Workers

Assembly and Manufacturing Workers

Assembly and manufacturing workers have seen perhaps the biggest impact from automation so far, as mechanized labor has become a more cost-efficient and often safer option. Eighty-five percent of the 5.6 million North American jobs lost in the sector from 2000 to 2010 were from machine-related "productivity growth." Economists at MIT and Boston University estimate another 2 million workers in the industry could be replaced by robots by 2025.


Related: 30 “Foreign” Cars That Are Made in America

Umpires and Referees

Umpires and Referees

In tennis, umpires have already been partially replaced by a computerized equivalent called Hawk-Eye, which uses high-speed 3D cameras to impartially and immediately settle challenges to the human umpire's call. Though they work side by side for now, an NPR report predicts umpires and referees have a 98.3% chance of becoming automated, with ample advocacy for and against this shift among athletes and sports fans.

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Loan Officers

Loan Officers

Loan officers, whose job it is to evaluate and authorize or deny commercial, real estate, or credit loans, are at a 98% risk of automation. That’s bad news for the 308,700 Americans employed in such positions as of 2018.

Real Estate Appraisers

Real Estate Appraisers

Other real estate-adjacent fields are not far behind loan officers, with appraisers and sales agents at 90% and 86% risk of automation, respectively. Advances in artificial intelligence in home appraisal are already helping out at Zillow, where their algorithms are supposedly able to assess a multitude of complex price indicators.

Related: 16 Pros and Cons to Weigh Before Selling a Home by Owner

Postal Service

Postal Service Workers

At the perpetually cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, various robots have been employed in sorting centers over the past 30 years, replacing human forklift drivers and tuggers to transport mail throughout the facilities. Mail carriers have long been safe from automation, but that began changing in 2016, when the Swiss Post tested robotic delivery vehicles from Starship Technologies that may soon make their ways to America. For now, however, the USPS’ plans only go so far as installing sorting robots in delivery vehicles to pass them between storage bins or to the drivers — still human, for now.

Related: Why Stamp Prices Keep Rising as the Post Office Sinks Slowly

Travel Agent

Travel Agents

Travel agents are projected to see an 11.7% drop in employment by 2024 from 2012, in part due to the impact of artificial intelligence on the travel industry. (The travel slump accompanying the coronavirus lockdown may have accelerated things.) Agents are made redundant by largely automated travel sites such as Skyscanner and Thomson, which employ artificially intelligent chatbots to help customers save money and create personalized experiences.

Related: Travel Agencies and 20 Other Businesses That Are Disappearing



Jewelers and others who help manufacture, appraise, or repair jewelry have a 96% chance of having their jobs become automated, thanks to 3D printing and gem-cutting robots. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of people employed in such jobs will decline another 7% from 2018 to 2028.

Utility Meter Readers

Utility Meter Readers

Most utility companies still employ meter readers to travel between homes and businesses determining water, gas, and electricity use, but these positions have been vanishing for years as companies turn to digital meters to collect the information. The job is projected to have a 100% chance of replacement by automation.

Security Guard

Security Guards

The company Knightscope has already deployed its bulky K5 security robot to patrol parking lots and offices in 10 states. Though they're designed to supplement human guards for now, the profession has an 84% chance of automation, as the K5 and similar robots are becoming more cost effective and — with the complication of coronavirus — pose less health risk than their high-maintenance human counterparts. 

Secretary talking on telephone at hospital reception stock photo
FG Trade/istockphoto

Receptionists and Secretaries

Callers to companies should expect to be increasingly greeted and connected by robots in the coming years, as receptionist positions have a 96% likelihood of becoming automated. Already there are numerous virtual softwares on the market such as Auto Attendant and Greetly Digital Receptionist that can manage company-wide calls and coordinate schedules independently.

Bank Tellers

Bank Tellers

Bank tellers have a 98% chance of being replaced by robots — on top of what ATMs and mobile banking apps have done already. International banks such as Emirates NBD have also begun using personable robots at select locations to greet customers and help staff present services.

Related: 24 Jobs College Kids Can Find Near Campus

File Clerks and Bookkeepers

File Clerks and Bookkeepers

The job of file clerk has already changed considerably as banks and other businesses depend less and less on paper filing systems, and it's due to shrink another 8% by 2024 thanks to affordable software programs such as QuickBooks that accomplish many of the same tasks. The profession is supposedly doomed.

Related: 15 Best Work-From-Home Jobs for Retirees

Typists and Transcriptionists

Typists and Transcriptionists

Court reporters, typists, and transcriptionists of all stripes can expect to be passed over for automated tools that can more swiftly and cheaply take down conversations. Medical transcriptionist positions are already being phased out as hospitals, including Fletcher Allen Health Care in Vermont, transition to technologies such as the electronic Patient Record and Information Systems Management.



The world's largest meatpacking company, JBS in Brazil, bought a controlling share of the robotics firm Scott Technology in 2016, intending to develop butchery robots beginning in its sheep and pork processing plants. Beef processing has been more difficult to automate, but efforts will continue given the high cost and safety hazards of human labor in the industry.


Porters and Bellhops

Porters and bellhops, who handle lodging guests and train travelers’ luggage, have an 83% risk of automation. Hospitals in Japan have been using automated porters to answer client inquiries and transport luggage since at least 2006, and South Korea's LG Electronics began demonstrating commercial robots for hotels and airports in 2018, which could affect up to 800 million workers worldwide.

Auto Mechanics
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Customer Service Representatives

The market for customer service robots is forecast to be worth $88 million by 2022, though about half of the bots deployed will go to the Asia Pacific region. Banks, malls, airports, movie theaters, and exhibitions where employees perform repetitive customer interactions are looking beyond self-service kiosks to artificially intelligent helpers, with U.S. businesses such as Target and Lowe's already running tests. This process only accelerated in response to the pandemic, with companies and government services replacing their human-operated call centers with chatbots and AI platforms courtesy of IBM and LivePerson.

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Stock Traders

Stock Traders

Artificial intelligence is threatening jobs even in the elite field of Wall Street investing, as BlackRock and other major investment companies lay off employees in favor of computerized stock-trading algorithms that by far outperform them. By 2025, financial institutions are expected to have lost 10% of their human workforce, with 40% of those eliminated operating in money management.


Cleaning Services

As anyone with a Roomba knows, robots can ably perform many run-of-the-mill cleaning tasks on their own, so in-person facilities such as hospitals, airports, and grocery stores have been employing them more and more to free up employees during the pandemic. For example, the San Diego company Brain Corp. saw a 13% increase in retailers using their automated floor cleaning technology between February and April of last year.


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Hotel Workers

Hotel Workers

Some hotels were already deploying mechanized butlers and room service attendants to deliver meals and hygiene essentials, even before the pandemic incentivized our cutting back on direct human contact. Now even more are investing in high-tech cleaning robots such as the Xenex LightStrike, which zaps germs using UV rays to sanitize rooms and luggage and ensure guests’ peace of mind. As of now, the robots still work in conjunction with human cleaners.

Related: I Drove Cross-Country During the Pandemic — Here’s What I Learned

Recycling Sorters

Recycling Sorters

Among the first to shut down services in response to the pandemic were municipal recycling facilities, where human workers sorted through plastic, paper, and glass in now-dangerously close quarters. Many have turned to AI-assisted robots to fill the gaps, with inquiries to the manufacturer AMP Robotics increasing fivefold between March and June, and nearly 100 facilities expected to employ their technology by the end of 2020, compared with just 35 before. It seems unlikely the centers will revert to more human workforces from a productivity standpoint, as the machines can sort through 160 items a minute to the average person’s 13. 

Construction Companies

Construction Workers

A 2018 study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute estimated robots would replace 2.7 million jobs in construction within the next 30 years. The automation potential for different occupations within construction was just 38% for unpredictable physical work, such as roofing and sheet metal application, compared with 70% for more predictable physical work. This includes the operation of heavy machinery, for which some autonomous technology already exists, and bricklaying, which has an 82% chance of automation thanks to advances including the SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) 100 robotic arm.

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Credit Analysts

Human credit analysts, who review the financial histories of firms and individuals to make recommendations for lending money or extending credit, are almost guaranteed to lose their jobs to automated technologies in the near future. Though finance remains a popular industry for job seekers, its highly technical nature means it will also be subject to high degrees of automation. For example, JPMorgan is already using AI to review commercial loan agreements in a fraction of the time it used to take human lawyers and analysts. 

Related: How You're Destroying Your Credit Score Without Knowing It