Getting a solid apprenticeship or a college education is almost always a good idea for anyone traveling down the career path. The problem arises when you have to decide between several different options. While anyone with a strong skill set (blue- or white-collar) should be fairly employable, it’s just a basic fact that some vocations are more in demand these days than others. It often depends on where, and especially when, you live.

Jobs that have been popular for decades, centuries, or even millennia can fall out of fashion or usefulness, thanks to technology and shifting social and work patterns. Keeping that in mind, we’ve put together a list of a few professions that are shrinking at a quick rate, or not growing fast enough to match future employment needs—and probably won’t be as reliable as they once were as far as secure and steady work are concerned.


If you want custom-built items made out of wood, then a professional carpenter is definitely the person you should call. The reason this profession has made it onto our list is due to the advent of prefabricated materials used in home construction, as well as ready-made furniture and furniture kits (e.g., Ikea) that people can buy at fairly low prices.

While this craft will probably never disappear entirely—there will always be a demand for custom woodwork—the number of new jobs created in the carpentry profession has diminished significantly over the last few years.

Data Entry and Typists

Data entry professionals and typists aren't in as much demand as they once were. Between 13,000 and 16,000 jobs, approximately, are expected to be lost in these two industries by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technology and outsourcing (especially to offshore companies), plus the need to cut costs in a tough economy, are all contributing factors to the decline of these types of jobs in North America.

Farming and Ranching

Sadly, farming and ranching are not the professions—or the ways of life—that they once were. The consolidation of family and smaller farms and ranches into larger ones, plus improvements in harvestings technologies, mean fewer people are employed in the business of growing and raising the food we depend on as a nation to survive.

Massive agribusiness has also contributed to diminishing wages for those ranchers and farmers who do manage to get by outside the corporate structure. Larger, but fewer farms just seems to be the trend. While mid-sized farms are on the outs, there is a little good news as well. Some smaller farms seem to be doing all right, and even increasing in number—as long as the farmers in question have other sources of income, and access to local and urban niche markets.

John Moore, Getty Images
John Moore, Getty Images

Postal Service Clerks and Carriers

Postal service jobs have taken a huge hit over the last few years. Things aren't going to get better soon. Private postal carriers, email and other forms of digital communication (no more letters to grandma—only emails) mean postal workers aren’t as busy as they used to be. Postal clerks, carriers and mail sorters are all professions that have seen drastic reductions in job numbers. By 2020, the overall decline in this field will reach almost 30%. Mail sorters will be hit even harder than carriers and clerks, due to automation and more efficient sorting machinery.

Administrative Support Staff

Office workers who describe themselves as clerks and secretaries don’t have a lot of good news on the horizon, but at least these professions still have some life left in them. Sophisticated yet easy-to-use software as well as better and better machines now do many of the tasks that administrative professionals used to perform. The Internet, word processing programs, email, Skype, fax machines, multi-function digital printers and other technologies make clerical work much simpler for businessmen and women to do—without the need for a fulltime sectary, or a large support staff.

The net result is that administrative support staff jobs will still be around for some time, but this profession won't experience any real significant growth. Technology, it seems, has imposed its limits.

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