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When people plot out what field they want to work in one day, or calculate a potential career change, one of their chief considerations tends to be how much money they can earn.

Money doesn’t buy everything, they say—and it’s true. It’s not hard to run into people who took less money to do something they enjoyed even more. But for many other people, the bottom line is the top dollar, so they aspire to the highest-paying jobs they can find.

However, the last thing you’d want to do is put in a lot of hard work only to find that, when it’s time to apply, that dream career is backsliding or vanishing altogether. And right now, there are a number of jobs that, while the pay is good now, are nonetheless in decline.

Is your future career (or your current job) dying out? Today, I’m going to look at 10 high-paying jobs that are currently in decline. 

But I’ll be clear: While a few of these professions are rapidly being whittled away, others are more so shifting as positions in slowing industries are being replaced by similar positions in booming industries.

 

About the Information


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The data used to find the fastest-dying careers comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Specifically, I’ve looked at the BLS’s projections for changes in employment across more than 800 industries between 2022 and 2032. A quick look at how BLS makes those projections:

“Bureau of Labor Statistics projections of industry and occupational employment are developed in a series of six interrelated steps, each of which is based on a different procedure or model and assumptions: labor force, aggregate economy, final demand (GDP) by consuming sector and product, industry output, industry employment, and employment and openings by occupation.”

From there, I zoomed in on jobs paying $80,000 per year or more that are expected to see a decline in employment over the 10-year period.

Well-Paid Professions That Are Dying


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The definition of “well-paid” is pretty subjective and would certainly differ depending on where you live. However, for this article, I’m defining high-paying jobs as ones with a 2022 median pay of $80,000 or more.

Please read on as I look at the high-paid professions the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will employ fewer people 10 years from now. I’ve listed these jobs in reverse order of expected rate of decline (in other words, the slowest rate of decline is first, and the greatest rate of decline is last).

And remember: These are merely projections, not a gaze into a fully functional crystal ball.

10. Petroleum Pump System Operators + Refinery Operators + Gaugers


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— 2022 median annual wage: $85,090

— 2022 employment: 32,200

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -700

— Growth rate: -2.2%

Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers control or operate petroleum refining or processing units. Some people specialize in controlling manifold and pumping systems, regulating oil flow into pipelines, or testing oil in storage tanks. This job typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent, and it involves at least moderate-term on-the-job training.

This job, where salaries average a bit above $85,000, isn’t exactly going to vanish overnight. But it is projected to experience a small amount of employment decline, at least in the U.S. That’s possibly connected to an overall expected decline in U.S. oil production, as well as a slowdown in global oil demand growth, as substitutes for petroleum-based products become more commonplace.

Related: Today’s 10 Fastest Dying Careers

9. First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers


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— 2022 median annual wage: $82,850

— 2022 employment: 364,400

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -8,000

— Growth rate: -2.2%

First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers are effectively sales managers. The most important task of these supervisors is to coordinate the activities of salespeople. But that’s not all they do. They also often perform other tasks, such as budgeting, resolving customer complaints, conferring with company officials, accounting, and personnel work.  A high school diploma or equivalent is typically a sufficient educational level.

Non-retail first-line supervisors are often employed by insurance carriers, automotive repair and maintenance shops, and grocery wholesalers.

Again, BLS is only predicting a slight decline in these roles over time. The decrease is so slight, in fact, that it’s difficult to point to any single overarching cause. Artificial intelligence is one potential factor—while many conversations about AI focus on lower-level employees, it’s expected the technology will end up reducing at least a few supervisory roles over time, too.

But if you look deeper into the data, you can see that there’s a lot of pushing and pulling going on—changes in first-line sales supervisor employment hinges heavily on the underlying industry. For instance, the BLS sees big declines in employment for self-employed workers, radio broadcasting stations, newspaper publishers, and photographic services. However, roles are expected to greatly expand in fields such as electric utilities, food manufacturing, health care, and transportation and warehousing.

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8. Electrical + Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, Relay


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— 2022 median annual wage: $93,720

— 2022 employment: 26,100

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -700

— Growth rate: -2.7%

Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, relay professionals, as their title implies, largely work with electrical equipment in generating stations, substations, and in-service relays. Jobs include substation electricians, wiremen, and electrical technicians, among others. To get into this career, workers need at least a high school education, but most specializations necessitate more advanced education, work experience, or both. Sometimes, prior work experience in machine or electrical workshops or as an electrician is needed.

Again, this is a case where the overarching role is expected to decline modestly, but only because of wild swings in the underlying fields. For instance, employment for these roles are expected to plunge in fossil fuel electric power generation, but soar in “other electric power generation,” such as wind and solar.

 

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7. Chemical Plant + System Operators


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— 2022 median annual wage: $82,670

— 2022 employment: 19,300

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -600

— Growth rate: -3.1%

Chemical plant and system operators control or operate chemical processes or systems of machines. Their jobs may include controlling chemical processes using control boards or other equipment, inspecting operating units, even regulating or shutting down equipment during emergencies. Typically, this job only requires a high school education and moderate-term on-the-job training.

This is another high-paying job that’s declining slowly. There are few concrete reasons behind it, but it might be due to challenges the chemical industry is facing as a whole. Currently, the industry is dealing with volatile raw material costs, transportation disruptions, strict regulations, and climate change concerns, which in turn is leading to cost-cutting (that often involves shedding positions).

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6. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators


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— 2022 median annual wage: $115,870

— 2022 employment: 5,500

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -200

— Growth rate: -3.6%

As you can likely deduct from the name, a nuclear power operator controls nuclear reactors. These professionals monitor reactors, turbines, generators, and cooling systems. They adjust controls when needed and record data. If something is off, they determine the cause and fix it.

In addition to a high school diploma or equivalent, these workers typically have extensive on-the-job training. Often, a background check and drug screenings are required. Plus, nuclear power reactor operators need a license. Many businesses have potential workers take the Power Plant Maintenance and Plant Operator exams from the Edison Electrical Institute.

The nuclear industry itself is competing against clean power alternatives that are faster to install. Also, part of the projected employment decline is because many of the tasks in this profession can either currently be automated or could be automated soon.

Indeed, while the BLS often is light on detail when explaining its projections, it’s clear on this one: “Efficiency gains are expected to impact nuclear power reactor operators’ employment. Nuclear power faces steep competition from renewable energy sources, making new, traditional reactors less attractive as many of the existing reactors reach the end of their lifecycles.”

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5. Power Distributors + Dispatchers


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— 2022 median annual wage: $101,650

— 2022 employment: 9,600

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -500

— Growth rate: -5.2%

Power distributors and dispatchers control the electrical flow of power as it travels through generating stations, substations, and users. They may need to reroute power and handle any outages. Usually, these workers need at least a high school diploma or equivalent and some employers prefer people with a college or vocational degree. Then, there is rigorous long-term on-the-job training.

Says the BLS: “Employment of power distributors and dispatchers is projected to decline due to advances in smart-grid technology. Some dispatcher tasks, such as rerouting power during an outage, lend themselves to automation. However, some distributors and dispatchers will still be needed to manage the complex electrical grid.”

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4. Postmasters + Mail Superintendents


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— 2022 median annual wage: $82,760

— 2022 employment: 13,000

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -900

— Growth rate: -6.9%

Postmasters and mail superintendents handle a variety of tasks for U.S. post offices. Usually, these careers require a high school diploma or equivalent and moderate-term on-the-job training.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, United States Postal Service’s revenues haven’t covered its debt and expenses in over 15 years—though the service has been significantly handicapped for decades by a pension formula that as far back as 2010 was deemed “inequitable and has resulted in the Postal Service overpaying $75 billion to the pension fund.” However, in March 2021, the USPS published a 10-year strategic plan that it hopes will help it financially break even by 2031.

Only time will tell whether the plan is successful or not. But more pertinent to the projected employment decline in this space is that newer technologies have sent mail use into steady decline for nearly two decades. The volume of mail delivered by the USPS has fallen year-over-year every year since 2006, from 213 billion units then to 127.3 billion units as of 2022.

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3. Chief Executives


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— 2022 median annual wage: $189,520

— 2022 employment: 280,000

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -23,000

— Growth rate: -8.2%

Chief executives typically have many responsibilities, ranging from coordinating an organization’s financial activities to conferring with board members, to implementing policies, and much more.

These are the highest-paid workers on this list, but also have more barriers to entry. While the minimum educational requirement is usually a bachelor’s degree, more commonly graduate school is also necessary. Some jobs require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree). Additionally, many of these roles require over five years of experience, and they require familiarity with many types of software.

Chief executive officer turnover has been quite high recently. For instance, Challenger, Gray & Christmas noted that the third quarter of 2023 saw a record-breaking total of chief executive turnover, and that through the first nine months of the year, turnover was up 47% from 2022. Reasons for this turnover include retirement, a desire to switch companies or roles, and chief officers being forced out.

But importantly, “chief executives,” as far as the BLS is concerned, isn’t just limited to CEOs. It includes other chief officers including chief information officers (CIOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), chief operating officers (COOs), executive directors, and more. The bureau sees these positions declining by more than 8% through 2032.

“Employment of chief executives is projected to decline as office technology improves, increasing the ability of these workers to perform tasks previously done by multiple chief executives,” the BLS says, adding that changing organizational structures might lead to fewer required chief executive positions.

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2. Computer Programmers


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— 2022 median annual wage: $97,800

— 2022 employment: 147,400

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -16,600

— Growth rate: -11.3%

Computer programmers write, change, and test code and scripts so software and applications run properly. They work closely with software developers, with the duties sometimes overlapping.

This is one of the few careers on the list that often requires at least bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. As this is far from a stagnant field, workers are expected to keep up with changing technology and may need to take more classes or attend professional development seminars.

While many technological fields have been growing over the past decade-plus, computer programmer is one that’s decidedly been on the schneid. This profession employed 316,790 in 2012. It employed less than half that number as of 2022. The rate of growth is at least expected to slow significantly, though, to a decline of about 11% through 2032.

The BLS’s explanation: “Computer programming work continues to be automated, helping computer programmers to become more efficient in some of their tasks. Many companies are leveraging technologies to automate repetitive tasks, such as code formatting, to save time and money. In addition, some computer programming tasks are more commonly done by other computer occupations, such as developers or analysts.”

The bureau does add, however, that as some of computer programmers’ routine work is automated, they might instead shift to conducting strategic planning activities and other tasks that cannot be automated.

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1. Power Plant Operators


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— 2022 median annual wage: $93,060

— 2022 employment: 32,000

— Projected employment change (by 2032): -4,000

— Growth rate: -12.5%

Power plant operators operate and maintain machinery that generates electricity. They distribute power among generators and regulate the output, as well as monitor the instruments. The typical level of education most workers need to start this job is a high school diploma or equivalent, though additional education is often preferred. These workers undergo rigorous training and technical instruction.

The biggest factors in the BLS’s projections are increased efficiency in power plants, which should reduce the number of physical locations needed for staffing purposes, as well as modernized control rooms that can automate some tasks.

 

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About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of WealthUp (previously Young and the Invested). He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.