Robot overlords. How do you choose the right college major when everything is becoming automated? This piece claims health services is the answer. Liberal Arts, anyone? Anyone? From John Wasik, writing in CBS MoneyWatch.
How college students can make better career choices
For some solace, I always refer to the occupational outlook prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the government’s job-growth projections can be as compelling as oatmeal, they do reveal some basic truths.
First, significant job growth will be seen in direct human services. As America ages, we’ll need millions of occupational and physical therapists, home health aides and nurse practitioners.
The downside? These occupations may pay poorly at first. A physical therapy aide averages around $25,000 a year, although with more college and training you can ascend the pay scale. Median pay for a nurse practitioner or physician assistant is around $98,000 annually. Both are among the fastest-growing occupations, according to the BLS.
Jobs least prone to automation are “high touch” positions that involve extensive human interaction. Although robotic surgery is gaining a small foothold, for example, the majority of professionals in health care will have to deal with people directly -- and they’ll be in greater demand.
What’s true now will continue to fuel specialized employment as people get older because health and well-being issues get more complicated as you age. Health professionals are always on the run tracking the latest technology, research and procedures while ensuring better quality of life for their patients. That’s going to get easier with better information systems, but it will be difficult to manage without a broader base of skills.
That’s why the health care industry in general will show the greatest job growth: The BLS expects it to create up to 4 million jobs between 2012 and 2022. That’s more than any other industry. In addition to positions in hospitals and clinics, demand for home health care, lab and “other ambulatory services” will also climb.
Aside from health care, plenty of other jobs will integrate multiple skills: Statisticians will be needed to merge Big Data with human analysis, while research analysts and mapmakers are essential to give others the big picture. We’ll also need translators, genetic counselors and personal financial advisers to provide nuanced advice that often eludes machine logic.
Ideally, picking the right courses and degree in college departs from the old method of matching jobs to a degree. Today you need to cross boundaries and think about merging language, communication, technical and people skills. No one degree is a sure meal ticket. Instead, the best payoff will come from a combination of in-demand skills and a willingness to keep learning new ones.