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10 of the Worst Jobs for the Future


The job market is improving, albeit in fits and starts. After reaching 10% unemployment in 2009, the nation's jobless rate has worked its way back below 7%. But the slow pace of the recovery has tempered employment expectations for the coming years. Two years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that overall employment would increase 14.8% by 2020; the latest projection is 10.8% growth by 2022. "When they made those rosier projections, they didn't realize how slow this rebound was going to be," says labor force expert Laurence Shatkin.

Some career fields are in worse shape than others. We've identified ten struggling professions that you might want to think twice about entering. All ten are shedding positions rapidly, most are saddled with below-average pay and many come with high stress levels, based on such factors as time pressure and having to deal with unpleasant people. To lend a hand, we've identified viable career alternatives that promise brighter futures.

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Floral Designer


Total number of U.S. workers: 46,490

10-year growth projection:
–8.0% (All occupations: +10.8%)

Annual salary range: $20,120 to $30,240 (All occupations: $22,670 to $56,860)

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 50.7 (All occupations: 53.1)

Future job prospects are wilting for floral designers. Budget- and convenience-conscious consumers are opting to buy fresh-cut flowers from grocery stores instead of elaborate arrangements from florists. So if your heart is set on a floral-focused future, look for a position with a grocery store, where demand for floral designers is expected to grow by 7%; employment in stand-alone flower shops is projected to fall by 22%.

Alternate Career

Try applying your keen eye for design to merchandise displays inside shops, in store windows and at trade shows. As a merchandise displayer, you'll likely have to arrange more than flowers. But you'll be in higher demand—these positions are projected to increase by 10.1% by 2022—and have the opportunity to earn more pay, $21,980 to $35,070 a year.

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Ticket Agent


Total number of U.S. workers: 141,900

10-year growth projection:
–14.0%

Annual salary range: $24,120 to $44,470

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 63.0

Travel is stressful, not just for the travelers themselves but also for the people who work in the industry. Ticket agents at airports, railroad depots and bus stations often absorb the brunt of travelers' frustrations. So it's no surprise that these workers report one of the highest stress levels on this list, mostly related to having to accept criticism, deal with angry people and handle time pressures.

Adding to their stress, the need for ticket agents is dwindling due to advances in technology. Travelers can now book their own tickets online, print itineraries and boarding passes at home (or download them to mobile devices), and check in at self-service kiosks.

Alternate Career

Hotel desk clerks are expected to add 31,800 new positions by 2022. Like ticket agents, they take and confirm reservations, but they also provide many more services, including assigning rooms, processing payments and handling guests' requests—tasks less likely to be automated. Unfortunately, the pay is not very generous: Salaries for hotel desk clerks range from $18,030 to $24,130.

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Courier


Total number of U.S. workers: 74,060

10-year growth projection:
–11.1%

Annual salary range: $20,720 to $32,750

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 52.3

The bike messenger could be going the way of the Pony Express. The ability to share documents and other files via e-mail and the cloud is putting a big dent in the courier business. Similar shifts are hurting the U.S. Postal Service. Mail-carrier positions will be reduced by an estimated 26.8% by 2022. "Routes and sorting can be done more and more by computer now," says career expert Shatkin. "So there are a lot less people needed to move stuff around."

Alternate Career

If you don't mind trading two wheels for four—figuratively, if not literally—you can perform a similar function as a delivery-truck driver. The job requires just a high school diploma or the equivalent, and 32,000 new such jobs are expected by 2022 (though that's a growth rate of just 3.8%). Salaries range from $21,880 to $40,180 a year. Staying put in the delivery business as a cargo or freight agent offers better salary prospects, with projected growth of 14.5% and a pay range of $31,200 to $51,680.

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Office Machine Operator


Total number of U.S. workers: 66,840

10-year growth projection:
–10.2%

Annual salary range: $22,360 to $35,630

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 66.0

Overall, office and administrative support occupations are expected to grow 6.8%, but several positions that require less skill and training have landed near the bottom of our job rankings. Office machine operators, who handle photocopying, scanning, shredding and other similar tasks, are among the unlucky ones. "As more and more paper documents are replaced by electronic documents, these tasks lose importance and the workers who do them are less necessary," explains career expert Shatkin.

Alternate Career

Add to your administrative skill set and you can do much better as a secretary. On top of operating office machines, some of your duties might include answering phones, scheduling appointments and arranging meetings. As a jack of all office trades, you'll enjoy higher earnings potential with salaries ranging from $25,910 to $41,070. There are already a whopping 2.2 million administrative assistants in the workforce (excluding legal, medical and executive assistants), but you can still expect 307,800 new opportunities, or 13.2% more, to be added by 2022.

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Reporter


Total number of U.S. workers: 43,630

10-year growth projection:
–13.8%

Annual salary range: $26,500 to $53,270

Typical education: bachelor's degree

Stress score: 61.7

The ongoing shift toward the digital consumption of news continues to pressure newspaper and magazine publishers, as well as television and radio broadcasters. While it's true that more money is being earned online as a result, it's not enough to offset the revenue lost to declining advertising and subscriptions. And if reporters and correspondents didn't already have enough stress thanks to deadlines and the pressure to get the facts straight, the rise of media conglomerates has shrunk the number of positions as newsrooms have merged.

Alternate Career

If you truly love journalism, stay the course. "There's always going to be a need for people who are passionate about reporting stories on their local communities and on the state and national level," says Chris Ariens, editorial director of Mediabistro.com. But recognize that you'll need to be "multi-faceted" in order to compete in the contracting business. Expand beyond just being an inquisitive reporter and learn other skills such as basic Web site coding or videography. "That's going to make you that much more valuable to a publisher," says Ariens.

Otherwise, try jumping on the other end of the press release and pick up a gig in public relations. As a PR specialist, you'd still be in media and communications, but you'd be in much higher demand (projected job growth is 12.0%) and earn more than your journalistic counterparts; salaries range from $40,290 to $75,180 a year.

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Data Entry Clerk


Total number of U.S. workers: 207,660

10-year growth projection:
–24.6%

Annual salary range: $23,180 to $35,030

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 51.4

The largest pool of workers on this list of worst jobs is also losing the most positions at the fastest pace. Another casualty of the digital age, data entry clerks, who typically enter print information into computer databases, are losing their usefulness as more data is being collected already in electronic form.

Alternate Career

Transfer your precise recordkeeping skills to the booming health care field (which boasts three of the best jobs for the future) and become a health information technician. You'll be charged with organizing and managing medical records in both paper and electronic forms. To get started, you need more education—a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree—than would be required to do more simple data entry. But you'll enjoy more prospects, with the number of positions growing 22.1%, and higher pay, between $27,520 and $45,260 a year.

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Electronic Equipment Assembler


Total number of U.S. workers: 203,880

10-year growth projection:
–6.8%

Annual salary range: $22,840 to $37,120

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 52.2

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers build electric motors, computers and other such devices that can be used in all types of military systems, medical equipment and elsewhere. While some of this work is still done by hand, much of the work is already performed by automated systems because the parts are too small or fragile for human handling. And even more of the work may be taken on by automation or be otherwise handled in more-efficient ways, requiring fewer human hands.

Alternate Career

Other types of assemblers are expected to gain jobs. For example, aircraft structure assemblers—who work with airplanes, space vehicles and missiles—ought to see 5.8% more work opportunities as demand for new planes grows. Their salaries can be significantly higher, too, between $36,400 and $64,890.

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Switchboard Operator


Total number of U.S. workers: 118,060

10-year growth projection:
–13.2%

Annual salary range: $21,360 to $31,490

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 57.6

Automated answering services are rapidly replacing their human predecessors as switchboard operators, and the trend shows no signs of flagging. (Note: These are not call-center jobs; these are the people who answer the phone for businesses, respond to basic questions and transfer calls.) The lowest-skilled operators are particularly vulnerable to job loss.

Alternate Career

As a customer-service representative, you can still assist people over the phone. Job opportunities in this field are expected to grow at a rate of 12.6%, and you'll likely get paid a little better, earning a median income of $30,870 a year. Automation is less of a threat to this profession because customer-service reps need to know more information and respond to more complex questions. "In career planning, people have to think in terms of what they can do that's going to be unique," says career expert Shatkin, "where there's a human touch that's needed."

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Food Batchmaker


Total number of U.S. workers: 109,660

10-year growth projection:
–2.6%

Annual salary range: $20,670 to $34,980

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 57.5

Increasing automation strikes again. As food manufacturing companies turn to machines more and more to raise productivity, they'll have less need for people to mix ingredients by hand. Food batchmakers help make industrial-sized batches of everything from pasta and baked goods to candies and cheeses. Consolidating facilities and streamlining production will also cut the number of workers needed.

Alternate Career

Hone your culinary skills and try your hand at being a cook. Cooks at fast-food joints are also facing job losses, but in restaurants and cafeterias, they're in high demand, expecting growth rates of 14.7% and 13.2%, respectively. Unfortunately, the pay is less appetizing, with respective median incomes of $22,160 and $23,170 a year. If you can work up to becoming a head cook—a job growing at a rate of 5.2%—you'll earn much more, $31,070 to $57,640 a year. The role usually requires experience of five years or more. An apprenticeship or formal training at a community college or culinary school may help move you up the ranks faster.

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Metal and Plastic Grinding Tool Operator


Total number of U.S. workers: 70,910

10-year growth projection:
–12.6%

Annual salary range: $25,540 to $40,240

Typical education: high school diploma or equivalent

Stress score: 55.5

Employment in U.S. manufacturing as a whole is expected to grow by less than 1%, adding 75,600 new jobs. That's not much, but at least it's still moving in a positive direction. But certain manufacturing jobs are less promising because much of the work can be done more efficiently by machines or more affordably abroad. Along with grinding tool operators, who remove excess material, sharpen edges and smooth surfaces of metals and plastics, machine operators specializing in cutting, slicing, extruding or forming also are faring poorly.

Alternate Career

While low-skill manufacturing jobs are declining, more high-tech positions within the industry are on the rise. For example, operators of computer-controlled metal and plastic machines are actually expected to add 14.5% new jobs by 2022. Salary is also better, ranging from $28,590 to $44,530. You'll typically need a year or more of work experience to become highly skilled. Additional training may also be helpful. "People have to have some sort of post-secondary education, whether it's an apprenticeship, technical school or even a college degree, to deal with the modern technologies that are used on the manufacturing floor these days," says career expert Shatkin.

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Our 2013 Worst Jobs


- Post Office Clerk
- Switchboard Operator
- Semiconductor Processor
- Sewing Machine Operator
- Printing Press Technician
- Desktop Publisher
- Door-to-Door Salesman
- Floral Designer
- Reporter
- Jeweler

Kiplinger updates many of its "best" and "worst" rankings annually. Above is last year's list of ten of the worst jobs for the future. Keep in mind that ranking methodologies can change from year to year based on which data were available at the time of publishing, changes to how the data were gathered, switches to new data providers and tweaks to the formulas used to narrow down the pool of candidates.