Special Report

Fastest Shrinking Jobs That Require a College Degree

To get an idea of how modern technological advances are a leading cause in the decline of certain professions, consider the insurance underwriter, a professional who evaluates risk and establishes the price to insure people or assets.

While insurance remains in high demand, many of the tasks involved in these risk and price determinations have been automated, using algorithmic evaluations that require fewer human inputs. The result is a projected 1.8% decline in the number of insurance underwriters between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To determine the 25 fastest shrinking jobs that require a college degree, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics employment growth projections from 2020 to 2030 per occupation. We considered only occupations that require a college degree, from associate’s degree higher, and that have a negative projected employment growth. Occupations were ranked based on the decline in employment. Median annual wage is for 2021, also from the BLS. Note that the BLS caps wages at $208,000, so occupations noted to have this median wage could have a higher median.

Insurance underwriters are not the only profession getting squeezed out by automated digital technologies. Other professions include tax examiners, human resources assistants, drafters, credit analysts, and purchasing agents. These are all jobs that are using more software and fewer people over time. 

Thanks to outsourcing and remote work technologies, the number of U.S.-based computer programmers is expected to shrink by almost 10% by 2030 as companies outsource such jobs to countries like India that have lower-wage, comparably skilled programmers.

Among these 25 occupations, the projected employment decline ranges from 0.3% to 12.4%. Desktop publishers, who use computer software to design page layouts for items that are printed or published online, is the second shrinking job that requires a college degree, thanks largely to the decline in print and software that makes the skill more broadly accessible. The fastest shrinking job is nuclear technicians, as more U.S. nuclear power plants are retired. (These are America’s oldest nuclear power plants.)

Fourteen of the 25 occupations on the list pay annual wages above the median annual wage for all occupations of $45,760 or the mean wage $58,260. Six of these occupations currently employ nearly 1.5 million workers — led by purchasing agents, pharmacists, and CEOs. (These are the highest paying jobs you can have in America.)

Some professions expected to shrink despite a projected shortage. For example, the BLS projects the number of anesthesiologists to shrink by 0.5% by 2030 even as the Association of American Medical Colleges expects a shortfall of 12,500 anesthesiologists by 2033. This could present an opportunity for medical students and professionals to specialize in the field and enjoy high demand.

Here are the fastest shrinking jobs that require a college education

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