by Cindy Perman
The reasons vary — everything from outsourcing to technology to the economy.
As high school seniors start scouting colleges and thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, it’s a good idea to zoom out and take a look at the broader jobs landscape — what the fastest-growing jobs are and what jobs may be disappearing, what they pay — and what are some of the alternatives for a degree in that field.
Before students, their parents or their student aid drop $30,000 to $100,000 or more on college, it’s important to think about what that investment will buy you: a job with good prospects, or a ticket to the unemployment line?
You would spend time researching a major purchase like a house or car — and it’s even more important to research your career. You know, the thing that will actually pay for the house, car and other lifestyle choices.
Here are disappearing jobs for those with bachelor’s degrees, according to the Labor Department:
Reporters and Correspondents
- Employed in U.S.: 61,600
- Change expected in next decade: -8%
- Average salary: $34,850
The news business gets hit particularly hard during economic downturns as most revenue comes from advertising, and companies spend less on advertising during a slump. Improving technology is one bright light, which could drive some employment in online or mobile divisions.
Competition is expected to be intense for jobs at large and national newspapers, broadcast stations and magazines. The best opportunities are expected to be with smaller, local news outlets as well as for online news organizations, as technology generates demand for online reporters or mobile news units. Writers who can handle scientific or technical subjects will have an advantage.
For those just starting out, there are more opportunities for freelance work than full-time. Plus, it’s a big advantage to have a joint degree with journalism and an area of specialty such as politics, economics or biology, rather than a single degree in journalism.
As an alternative, journalism graduates are qualified for the related fields of advertising, public relations or corporate communications, which tend to pay better.
- Employed in U.S.: 103,000
- Change expected in next decade: -4%
- Average salary: $56,790
Technology is the main reason that the need for insurance underwriters, the people who decide if insurance will be provided and under what terms, is shrinking as the Internet and increased use of automated underwriting software boosts worker productivity.
The Internet links databases and makes information used by the underwriters more accessible and the software helps them sort through it more quickly and determine whether an application for insurance should be accepted or denied.
While the industry is expected to shrink, there will still be opportunities because of a high turnover rate and as insurance carriers try to return to profitability. Growth in long-term care insurance, a relatively new type of insurance being offered, may also offer opportunities for underwriters.
Job opportunities are expected to be best for those with strong computer skills in addition to a background in finance.
- Employed in U.S.: 426,700
- Change expected in next decade: -3%
- Average salary: $69,620
While computer software engineers, the guys who write the software, are projected to be among the fastest-growing jobs, rising 32 percent over the next 10 years, demand for computer programmers, the guys who write the instructions for a computer to use that software, is expected to shrink 3 percent in the next decade.
The reason is twofold: The growing ability for users to write and implement their own programs, as well as outsourcing the task of computer programming.
This is one of the few cases where it hurts you to be in the digital field: Because your work is digital, you can do it from anywhere in the world. Plus, the work of computer programmers requires little localized or specialized knowledge. All you have to know is the computer language.
It’s also one of the few cases where a weak economy is helpful: Some companies are hiring programmers in the U.S. in areas that were particularly hard hit by the recession.
- Employed in U.S.: 26,900
- Change expected in next decade: -3%
- verage salary: $110,220
It seems counterintuitive that we’re increasingly becoming a lawsuit-happy nation and yet, the need for judges is shrinking. The reason is simple: Budget. From the federal government on down to states, cities and towns, cash-strapped governments are slashing their budgets.
Making it even more difficult to land a position as a judge is competition. There are a ton of people who apply for these jobs due to the prestige associated with them and the turnover rate is low. And, with the costs of going to court so high, more parties involved in disputes are opting for out-of-court arbitration.
On the plus side, demographic shifts will actually help demand for judges as more immigrants migrate to the U.S., creating the need for more judges to deal with all the paperwork, and as the population ages, creating a need for legal review of elder-care issues.
As an alternative, many candidates for judgeships opt to go into the private sector, where the pay is significantly higher.
- Employed in U.S.: 31,700
- Change expected in next decade: -2%
- Average salary: $84,680
Demand for engineers overall is good, with some specialties expected to see outstanding growth, but demand for chemical engineers, who work in the manufacturing of chemicals and products such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics and cement, is expected to drop 2 percent in the next decade.
The biggest demand in engineering will be for biomedical engineers, with projected growth of 72 percent over the next decade, as well as civil, environmental and petroleum engineers.
The reason some areas are seeing a decline again comes down to money: Cutbacks in defense expenditures have crimped demand in industries such as electronics and aerospace. Plus, there is an increasing trend toward contracting engineers instead of hiring them full time, as well as outsourcing work to English-speaking engineers outside the U.S., who are often willing to work for lower wages.
In order to remain competitive, it’s imperative for engineers, like computer programmers, to stay on top of the latest technology and trends.
Advertising and Promotions Managers
- Employed in U.S.: 44,600
- Change expected in next decade: -2%
- Average salary: $80,220
Overall employment in advertising, marketing, promotions and PR is expected to jump 13 percent in the next decade, but for those who direct a firm’s ad campaigns and promotions aimed at driving sales, prospects are expected to drop by 2 percent.
The drop is largely due to the economy — and the changing landscape of the media business. Advertising and promotions are also subject to demand in the industries they’re promoting, so if an industry is hard hit by the economic slump, it will take a toll on the advertising and promotions managers that work with it.
The advertising industry is changing rapidly as the media and Internet landscape changes, making it crucial for advertising and promotions managers to be flexible and creative in harnessing new methods of promoting products.
Job opportunities will be greatest for those with a high level of creativity, plus strong communications and computer skills, and those who quickly adapt to new media such as the Internet and social media.