Avoid the Fastest Dying Occupations for This Decade

Although employment is expected to rise by 14% between 2010 and 2020, there are certain occupations that are projected to rapidly decline. Read on to find out what these dying occupations are as well as what better alternatives are out there.

Job Growth from 2010-2020

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), estimates that total employment in the United States will grow by 20.5 million jobs (a 14% increase) between 2010 and 2020. However, there are many occupations that will face rapid job declines due to advances in technology, shifting business practices, decreased industry demand, and many other factors.

The following occupational groups contain the fastest declining professions according to the BLS. So whether you're switching careers or are figuring out what career path you want to pursue, consider avoiding jobs with a bleak outlook and seek more promising alternatives, which we've outlined below.

Dying Careers in Office and Administrative Support

Mail Sorting

While the office and administrative support occupational group is expected to grow by 10% as a whole between 2010-2020, there are several occupations within this group that are expected to decline significantly. Postal-related professions, which are grouped in the office and administrative support group, are experiencing the largest job declines.

Desktop publishing, a profession that utilizes computer software to design book, magazine, and newspaper layouts, is declining because other workers are able to perform these tasks.

The fastest declining occupations in office and administrative support include:

Occupation Percent Employment Change 2010-2020 Median Annual Wage (2010)
Postal Service Mail Sorters, Processors, and Processing Machine Operators -49% $53,080
Postal Service Clerks -48% $53,100
Postmasters and Mail Superintendents -28% $60,300
Postal Service Mail Carriers -12% $53,860
Desktop Publishers -15% $17.60 per hour

Better Alternatives

If you're interested in the office and administrative support field, avoid postal professions, as well as jobs that may become automated, outsourced, or done by other workers. For example, advancing technologies can automate certain occupational tasks, such as data entry, and make other jobs obsolete, such as mail carrying.

Better options in this sector exist for job functions that deal directly with people, such as customer service. The BLS expects that general office clerks will be the largest growing occupation in this group, with 489,500 new jobs. Customer service representatives, bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks are also expected to increase, primarily because it's difficult to automate these processes. In a similar vein to postal work, becoming a courier or messenger may be a wiser choice because of increasing employment. A better alternative to desktop publishing is graphic design, which pays more and has a more positive job outlook.

Occupation Percent Employment Change 2010-2020 Median Annual Wage (2010)
Cargo and Freight Agents 29% $37,150
Receptionists and Information Clerks 24% $25,240
General Office Clerks 17% $26,610
Customer Service Representatives 15% $30,460
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks 14% $34,030
Couriers and Messengers 13% $24,080
Graphic Designers 13% $43,500

Good Degree Options in this Field:

  • Graphic Design
  • Accounting
  • Communications
  • Business

Dying Careers in Production

Industrial Sewing

According to the BLS, 11 out of the 20 fastest-declining occupations are in the production occupational group, and they're projected to decline by 77,300 jobs by 2020. As a whole, the occupational group is expected to only grow by 4%; however, jobs in textile, apparel, and furnishing are expected to decline the most.

The decline can be attributed to changes in business productivity, outsourcing of jobs to offshore facilities, and a general decrease in demand for production workers, in addition to increasing automation in factories.

Among the fastest-dying occupations in production are:

Occupation Percent Employment Change 2010-2020 Median Annual Wage (2010)
Shoe Machine Operators and Tenders -53% $26,280
Fabric and Apparel Patternmakers -36% $38,970
Sewing Machine Operators -26% $20,600
Textile Cutting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders -22% $23,490

Better Alternatives

More job opportunities in production exist in metal and plastic working, as opposed to textiles. However, more promising jobs related to textile and fabrics include assembly and fabricating, and interior design if you want to work with fabric in some facet. You should note that there may be more educational requirements needed for these professions, though.

Occupation Percent Employment Change 2010-2020 Median Annual Wage (2010)
Interior Designer 19% $46,280
Paint and Coating Workers 9% $31,170
Metal and Plastic Machine Workers 6% $15.34 per hour
Assemblers and Fabricators 5% $28,360

Good Degree Options in this Field:

  • Interior Design
  • Math

Dying Careers in Farming, Fishery and Forestry


In general, farming is expected to decline steadily; however job openings will open up in other related areas, such as logging. The BLS reports that productivity improvements and rising production costs will primarily cause the widespread job decline.

Management occupations in farming, ranching and other forms of agriculture are also expected to decline by 96,100 jobs by 2020. This is mostly attributed to rising prices for land and capital and declining sales of wheat and corn.

Occupation Percent Employment Change 2010-2020 Median Annual Wage (2010)
Farmers, Ranchers & Other Agricultural Managers -8%, $60,750
Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers -2.6% $19,180

Better Alternatives

Some job opportunities in farming, fishing and forestry will grow because of job turnover and a retiring workforce. Within this sector, logging has the best job prospects. If you want to work with animals in some way, or be involved in agriculture, a more scientific or medically related career will likely yield more job opportunities, although additional education is typically required.

Occupation Percent Employment Change 2010-2020 Median Annual Wage (2010)
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians 52% $29,710
Animal Care and Service Workers 23% $19,550
Grounds Maintenance Workers 20% $11.41 per hour
Logging Workers 4% $32,870
Agricultural and Food Science Technicians 7% $32,760

Good Degree Options in this Field:

  • Veterinary Technology
  • Animal Science
  • Biology
  • Landscape Design
  • Horticulture

Further Reading

In general, the majority of these declining jobs only require a high school diploma, and the BLS reports that the jobs requiring only a high school diploma or its equivalent will experience the slowest growth in this decade.

For more information on growing jobs that don't require too much higher education, check out Five Jobs That Don't Require A Bachelor's Degree...And Pay More Than Those That Do.

But if you're thinking of earning your degree to give yourself more career options, you may be interested in reading our list of Top Online Colleges for 2013.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?