Stay Ahead in Today’s Work Environment: A Guide to Top Careers, Majors and Work Trends

by Edwin Quinabo

Are you prepared for the artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation revolution? AI expert-venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee predicted that 40% of the world’s jobs will be replaced by robots in the next 15-25 years. An Oxford study also warns that as AI progresses, it is inevitable that large sectors of the workforce will face mass unemployment or job replacement.

The internet has already transformed the work environment and is almost single-handedly and slowly upending traditional retail. Outside of major cities, malls are so desperate for tenants, spaces are being leased for non-retail uses like gyms and yoga classes.

But that’s just the internet. The AI, robotics and automation revolution is expected to make obsolete car mechanics that auto industry giants say cars will move to mostly electric and self-driving vehicles, resembling computers. Computer scientists will be fixing cars. Auto industry experts say already 97% of active auto mechanics aren’t qualified to work on electric vehicles.

AI chatbots are expected to replace customer service representatives. Simple tasks like paying bills online or on the telephone have already cut into customer service representatives’ workload.

The workload for cashiers and bank tellers is also being reduced – for grocery stores with increasing self-check outs, for banks with increasing ATMS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predict by 2026 there will be 41,800 fewer bank-teller jobs in the U.S.

New tech is expected to render obsolete or dramatically impact warehouse workers, taxi and commercial drivers, payroll employees, assembly-line workers, air-traffic controllers, fast-food restaurant servers, to name a few.

The potential for automation is highest in manual work and lowest in work where expertise must be applied. Here are some averages for automation replacement: predictable physical work 78%, data processing 69%, data collection 64%, unpredictable physical work 25%, applying expertise 18%, managing others 9%.

It’s estimated that 30% of half of all jobs today can be automated. And as technology advances to more sophisticated capabilities, automation is bound to increase.

Selecting a career of the future
Choosing the right career has never been more critical for college students than today, pursuing a career that is not forecasted to be on the chopping board of obsolescence in the next 10 to 20 years. Getting the most years of post-secondary education, like a Ph.D. or an advanced degree, can be advantageous in certain fields but is not as important as selecting the right career to pursue.

Over the past 25 years, around 30% of new jobs created in the US were those that were almost non-existent or totally didn’t exist. Some of these jobs had no “major” to select in college programs. These new tech jobs include IT systems management, app creation, hardware manufacturing, and IT development.

While STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) careers started to take off during Generation Xs’ time in college starting in the late 1980s, by the time millennials enrolled in college tech and healthcare majors were high in demand and the most competitive programs to get into. Until today STEM and trade professions offer some of the most secure and highest paying careers.

Faye Campos, a millennial Filipina, Honolulu, said “Our Gen X parents impressed upon our generation the importance of choosing the right career. I pursued a career in STEM as well as many of my cousins, friends and classmates. More Filipinos are pursuing STEM than in previous generations.

“In my social cluster, I see it’s harder financially on those who did not choose a career in STEM. I don’t like to say this, but I do sense regret from some of them. I think Filipino millennials are more diverse careerwise than our parents were. STEM gave many of us a social-economic boost. I think the gap between the haves and have-nots widened within our Filipino community compared to our parents’ mostly working class, immigrant generation,” said Campos.

Top careers in 2023 and future
Healthcare and technology remain prominent among experts’ list of top careers in 2023 and the future. There are some surprises like engineering and pharmacy (once among the top careers) are not in the top tier in part due to outsourcing for engineering and increasing automation for pharmacy. But both are still high in demand and lucrative employment.  With AI gaining momentum, management is making a comeback. AI can perform what employment talent hunters call hard skills — like crunching numbers and even provide analysis — but AI cannot execute soft skills like managing people.

US News & World Report’s 25 top jobs
Healthcare professions make up nearly 40% of the top 100 Best Jobs for 2023 while technology has the top spot, according to researchers who assessed 17 categories for US News & World report.

1. Software developer, 370,600 projected jobs, $120,730 median salary
2. Nurse practitioner, 112,700 projected jobs, $120,680 median salary
3. Medical and health services manager, 136,200 projected jobs, $101,340 median salary
4. Physician assistant, 38,400 projected jobs, $121,530 median salary
5. Information Security Analyst, 56,500 projected jobs, $102,600 median salary
6. Physical therapist,40,400 projected jobs, $95,620 median salary
7. Financial manager, 123,100 projected jobs, $131,700 median salary
8. IT Manager,82,400 projected jobs$, 159,010 median salary
9. Web developer, 28,900 projected jobs, $77,030 median salary
10. Dentist, 7,700 projected jobs, 160,370 median salary
11. Lawyer, 80,200 projected jobs, $127,990 median salary
12. Veterinarian, 16,800 projected jobs, $100,370 median salary
13. Physician, 19,400 projected jobs, $208,000 median salary
14. Orthodontist, 300 projected jobs, $208,000 median salary
15. Market Research Analyst, 150,300 projected jobs, 63,920 median salary
16. Logistician, 54,100 projected jobs, $77,030 median salary
17. Registered nurse, 195,400 projected jobs, $77,600 median salary
18. ManagementAnalyst, 108,400 projected jobs, $93,000 median salary
 19. Occupational Therapy Assistant,11,000 projected jobs, $61,730 median salary
20. Computer System Analyst,50,900 projected jobs, $99,270 median salary
21. Financial Advisor, 50,900 projected jobs, $94,170 median salary
22. Data Scientists, 40,500 projected jobs, $100,910 median salary
23. Financial Analyst,77,200 projected jobs, $81,730 median salary
24. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, 300 projected jobs, $208,000 median salary
25. Nurse Anesthetist, 5,300 projected jobs, $195,610 median salary

“Software developers are becoming increasingly critical for the growth and sustained success of businesses across industries,” says Janica Ingram, careers editor at U.S. News. “The 10-year outlook for the occupation is strong and expected to grow at an above-average rate. It is predicted to be in high demand, because of the rising number of products and services that leverage software. Low unemployment and a high median salary also contribute to the appeal of this career.”

Nurse practitioner, Charmaine Gonzalvo, MSN, APRN, told the Filipino Chronicle “There is an increasing demand for nurses as the baby boom generation rises and more people are living longer. Nurses are needed to deliver care managing chronic and acute diseases. The aging workforce will hike up, and approximately one-third of the nurses could be at retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. Nurses are assets in the health field who provide indispensable duties to deliver quality patient care. The beauty in nursing is the wide spectrum of specialties available such as critical care, emergency, pediatrics, or surgeries.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), there are about 203,200 openings for nurses projected each year and is calculated to grow at 6% from 2021 to 2031.

Nurse practitioners are a type of advanced practice registered nurses who furthered their education and underwent additional clinical training to expand their scope of practice beyond the initial registered nurse (RN) preparation.

“Hawaii is one of the states with full-practice authority, which means we can practice to the full extent of our education and training. Collectively, we assess, evaluate, diagnose, order, interpret labs, initiate, prescribe, and manage treatments including pharmacotherapy. Depending on the type of work setting or environment you desire to work in (inpatient versus outpatient), we generally manage chronic and/or acute illnesses,” said Gonzalvo.

Her advice to a college student interested in pursuing a nurse practitioner career is to focus on becoming a registered nurse first and gain nursing experience, then get the additional education required. “Gaining nursing experience builds a strong foundation for becoming a nurse practitioner. You will learn how to approach various patient populations, interact with families, collaborate with other healthcare team members, time management, familiarize yourself with medications, and develop interpersonal skills. Those skills are things you learn in practice, outside of the textbook which can set you up for success during your transition from a registered nurse to a nurse practitioner,” Gonzalvo said.

A nurse practitioner and a physician, Paula Nichaelle Aquino, MD, ARPN-RX, told the Filipino Chronicle one of the most important roles that NPs should remember is that nurse practitioners act as a primary care provider to their patients. “In a nutshell, we can diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions, write prescriptions, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform certain procedures when necessary. As a result, NPs have vastly more flexibility and freedom in their roles than many other types of nurses. Nurse practitioners can work at a variety of settings that include, ER, hospital, managed care facilities, surgical facilities, and private practices. We treat a wide range of patient populations depending on our unique area of expertise.”

She mentions some of the areas of expertise such as Family, Adult-Gerontology, Pediatric, Psychiatric Mental Health, and Women’s Health. 

Her advice to college students interested in this medical field, “GRIT! It takes dedication and determination! Knowing the reason behind the ‘why’ can help you stay grounded and focused on your end goal. The journey may be long and sometimes challenging, but the beauty is at the end of the road. Enjoy the adventure and embrace the view. At the end of it all, the commitment you have given to your chosen specialty as a nurse practitioner, will reflect towards the compassionate and competent care you will provide to your patients.”

Ann Mae F. Mendoza, M.D., told the Filipino Chronicle, “We [physicians] are expected to remain in high demand, although there may be some changes to the way healthcare is delivered in the future. Advancements in technology and healthcare delivery methods may result in more opportunities for us to expand practice, and even work remotely or in virtual settings. In effect, there is a great outlook for physicians in the next decades to come. There may be increased emphasis on preventative care and wellness, which could change the focus on healthcare delivery and the type of services that are in demand.”

Dr. Mendoza said college students interested in becoming a physician should focus on academics, develop strong communication skills, and build a well-rounded profile. She said medical schools look for well-rounded individuals.

To learn more about the profession she recommends 1) volunteer and shadow, 2) pursue research opportunities, and 3) seek mentorship. “Gain hands-on experience in healthcare by volunteering at hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes. Try to shadow physicians to observe their day-to-day. Engaging in research allows you to explore the scientific side of medicine and contribute to advancements in the field. Working with a professor or joining a research team will provide valuable experience and potentially enhance your medical school applications. If you have a thesis in college, try to absorb everything so you are ready for med school research.” She said mentors can offer insights into the medical field and potentially write recommendation letters when you apply to medical school,” Dr. Mendoza said.

Marielle Corazon Bantog, MD. said working in a healthcare setting provides job stability and security, even during economic recession as seen throughout the pandemic. She said medicine is constantly changing and evolving leading to more innovative therapies.  “Most satisfying about being a physician is that you wake up every day knowing you make a difference. It is indeed a humbling experience to care and treat for the sick during their most difficult time, and to be a part of that change in a patient’s life is one of the most rewarding feelings you can experience.”

To college students thinking about a career as a physician, Dr. Bantog said, “Ask yourself, can you imagine doing anything else aside from being a physician knowing its pros and cons? If not, then definitely go for it. Being a physician is no easy feat. You must have grit, a combination of passion and perseverance, to survive the journey towards being one. Be dedicated to your goals. Be compassionate and have a strong heart and a strong-willed mind. Medicine is a life-long commitment. As we all say, there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

Elaborating on the profession’s challenges, “Physicians are often faced with life and death situations and are expected to make crucial decisions that can greatly impact patient’s life. And seeing people every day who continuously suffer and cry in pain can be mentally and emotionally draining. Aside from the emotional toll, the nature of profession – working for long hours even weekends and holidays, can lead to both physical a mental exhaustion, making it difficult to balance work and life,” Dr. Bantog said.

New majors in colleges for industries with high growth
To meet industry demands, colleges and universities are offering vanguard majors like these.

1. Cybersecurity, career options as security engineer, information security officer, IT security manager, projected job growth 13% over next 10 years, median salary $116,000. Cybersecurity is a lucrative and growing field. Students with a cybersecurity degree should not have trouble building a long, successful career protecting businesses, mitigating risks, and developing policies for maintaining security. Many cybersecurity majors find jobs in the government, law enforcement, healthcare, and financial sectors.

2. Game Design, career options as game designer, software developer, application developer, projected job growth 12.8% by 2030, median salary $77,200. While many game design majors work for video game studios, some work as software/app developers or even computer systems analysts.

3.  Financial technology (Fintech), career options as blockchain developer, apps developer, quantitative analyst, projected job growth 25% over the next couple of years, average salary $80,000 – $175,000. Fintech graduates help banks, governments, and companies update their systems (including adopting blockchain and distributed ledger technology).

4. Health Informatics, career options as health informatics specialist, clinical informatics analyst, medical information officer, health information technology project manager, projected job growth 8% by 2030, median salary, $67,000. Health informatics is a scientific field that employs computer technology in advancing health care services. This major integrates computer technologies, clinical practice, information science and business management.

5. Actuarial science, career options as business analyst, budget analyst, fund manager, management consultant, projected job growth 24% through 2030, median salary $72,000. Actuarial science is considered one of the best college degrees in 2023. Majors are trained in statistics, mathematics, and economic techniques that enable them to quantify risk. They apply their skills to social security, employee benefits, and determine rates for various insurances.

High demand work with nontraditional requirements
Not all college students are in their early adult years and have less life responsibilities without children and a mortgage. For those middle-life career changers, there is high demand for work that requires little to no college degree, has online courses, and some allow you to work from home. These jobs can also be a second job, a supplemental income stream.

CareerFitter compiled a jobs listing for the fastest growing careers in 2023 with nontraditional requirements.

1. Home Health and Personal Care Aide, over 1 million new hires and projected growth in the next seven years. This profession shot up to number one during the pandemic and stayed there. The job requires that you travel to people’s homes, group homes to provide daily care to patients. You would work for a certified home health or hospice agency. Online classes are available. No student loan money is required. Starting pay is close to $30,000 a year.

2. Chef, over 28,000 new chefs needed, about $53,300 a year, community college or technical school, or skills through work experience.

3. Animal Caretaker, projected growth 29.9%, average about $28,000 a year, home study program for certifications.

4. Health Specialties Teachers/Postsecondary, expected growth 24.1%, average salary $100,000-plus. If you are already credentialed in certain health professions like medical technology, counseling, respiratory care or other specialties and want to teach, it might take just certification from a board to be able to teach on your subject of specialty.

Work trends of the future
No matter what your occupation is, there are work trends that all workers should be aware of to get ahead.

1. Digitization of work.
With the rise of remote working and alternative workforces, the digitalization trend (meaning work on the computer via internet) has gained more speed. The U.S. labor market is seeing an intensifying digitalization across all industries which means the acquisition of digital skills is becoming increasingly requisite for career advancement. In the US alone, the use of digital tools has increased to about 90% of the entire US economy.  Even lower-skilled jobs like security guards, construction laborers, and the like are now required to know some computer apps to perform their jobs.

2. Skills over experience, focusing on job candidates’ skills to match job requirements. Companies are increasingly valuing skills (for example cloud computing and artificial intelligence are very in-demand) over experience. Top global companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple had shifted looking at college degrees and began focusing on the skills that a potential new hire may bring.

3. Soft skills that matter in today’s labor market are creativity, good communication and leadership. Creativity is the most in-demand soft skill. It’s defined as the act of making new and innovative concepts into reality. It’s a skill that can be applied to any job or function.

It’s a brave new world, certainly when it comes to the modern work environment. It’s complex and fast-paced. Experts say staying ahead and informed of job trends and where job opportunities can be the difference between achieving success or getting lost.

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