A List of the Jobs That Are Most (and Least) Likely to Be Replaced by Robots

December 6, 2017

A list of the jobs most likely to be replaced with machines and/or AI.

Automation is coming.

This isn't as scary as it sounds. The widespread adoption of AI and robots will not mean the replacement of every job. Instead, experts and historians believe it will mean most jobs will change, requiring professionals to learn new skills to master them.

But, as always, there are exceptions. Some jobs have a very high likelihood of being fully automated (although we'd argue this really means more tasks being replaced than jobs going away, but more on that later). Others, well, don't.

Curious which jobs are the most likely to be automated, and which ones aren't? Oxford University recently released a full report on the jobs that are most likely – and least likely – to be automated.

The jobs most likely to be automated

Twelve jobs have a 99 percent chance of being automated, according to Oxford. They are:

  • Data Entry Keyers
  • Library Technicians
  • New Accounts Clerks
  • Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators
  • Tax Preparers
  • Cargo and Freight Agents
  • Watch Repairers
  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Mathematical Technicians
  • Hand Sewers
  • Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers
  • Telemarketers

The jobs least likely to be automated

There’s no reason to make this all doom-and-gloom though. Here are 22 jobs that have a 0.4% chance or less of being automated:

  • Recreational Therapists
  • First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers and Repairers
  • Emergency Management Directors
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
  • Audiologists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Healthcare Social Workers
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • Lodging Managers
  • Dietitians and Nutritionists
  • Choreographers
  • Sales Engineers
  • Instructional Coordinators
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Psychologists
  • Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education
  • General Dentists
  • First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives

A few takeaways from the list

There are some trends that jump out from both lists.

On the likely-to-be-automated list, you’ll see tasks that require a lot of repetitive tasks. Two good examples are data entry keyers and telemarketers – both of these jobs require people doing the same thing over and over, which is something a machine could eventually do.

But take a step back and look at what these jobs are trying to accomplish. Telemarketing is a form of sales. Yes, perhaps the task of telemarketing will go away, but sales will never go away – it’ll also be a crucial part of any business. So, it’s really a skill change, as opposed to the removal of the job.

Same for data entry keyers. As AI becomes more sophisticated, computers will be able to input data on its own. That said, the real need here is to make sense of all this data – data scientists are the most in-demand job in the world and will continue to be so.

Again, it’s more of a skill change than the removal of a job. You see it again and again – jobs are going away from “do this one task every day, all day” to more strategic roles that require more critical thinking.

Conversely, look at the unlikely-to-be-automated list, and you’ll see a lot of jobs that require human interaction and critical, empathetic thinking. A perfect example of a job that won't be automated – social workers, who need to handle cases from a clinical, legal and emotional angle. It’s virtually impossible to see a robot doing that.

Don’t overgeneralize though and say all customer-facing positions are unlikely to be replaced by machines. Cashiers, for example, are increasingly being replaced by robots. Instead, it’s that two-part combo – both human interaction and critical, empathetic thinking – that’s very difficult for a machine to replace.

The bigger point? Yes, change is coming. But it doesn’t have to be scary. By starting now and learning the skills needed to take on this change, you’ll be well prepared for it and turn a challenge into a great opportunity.

Are you looking to better prepare yourself for the future of work? Well, we asked a wide range experts about the future of their respective fields and to identify the future skills needed for each one. See: