The most sustainable jobs are the most secure jobs for today and for many years to come. They are the ones that will not be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics or machinery.
Since the launch of ChatGPT, there’s been report after report of how it’s going to replace one job after another.
If the news in 2019 was how it’s low-skill, low-wage jobs that are most at risk, ChatGPT and the rise of other large language models are threatening higher-paid jobs and creative jobs.
These include web designers, writers, tax preparers, mathematicians, and more — they are the most highly exposed to automation.
The worst part? They each have 100% exposure to automation.
The most sustainable jobs, on the other hand, are robot-proof, meaning they are future-proof.
So, if you are in the process of deciding what to study, do yourself a favour now and explore a programme that leads you to the most sustainable jobs.
We’ve listed them below based on two factors:
- The degree leads to jobs that are at little risk of being replaced by robots
- The degree leads to jobs that relate to the defining issues of this generation, particularly the climate crisis
10 degrees that lead to the most sustainable jobs
Whether it’s mechanical, construction, civil, or chemical – there will always be a job waiting for you at the end. That applies now and in the future
For instance, a renewable energy engineer. The traditional oil, gas and energy sectors have always needed technicians and engineers worldwide.
It is still the same case today; the only difference is employers want “greener versions” of those exact jobs.
There will be 14 million new jobs in the clean energy sector by 2030, according to a 2022 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
In fact, solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians are said to be the fastest-growing roles in the US from now until 2031.
Can robots take over these roles? CEOs of tech companies say it’s unlikely.
AI may even create more jobs for engineers, according to the CEO of Oii.ai, a supply chain planning software firm, in a Fast Company report.
“AI is already creating new jobs—from Deep Learning stack architects to prompt engineers,” says Flavio Villanustre, SVP of technology and chief information security officer for LexisNexis Risk Solutions. \
“If someone would have asked me what a prompt engineer was six months ago, I would have been puzzled.”
Money app Cleo founder and CEO Barney Hussey-Yeo says a career in software engineering will become mainstreamand not just “for the privileged few with advanced degrees.”
Whether it is building homes, workspaces, entertainment venues or football stadiums – you will always need collaboration between architects and developers.
Many prominent developers all over the world are now addressing the environmental impacts and how sustainable building operating practices can make a real difference.
So, can you do this with an architecture degree? Yes, you can, for sure.
Many architecture degrees now include modules on how to maximise space, minimise waste, and efficiently use technology for water and energy consumption.
When we asked ChatGPT to design a 20-storey apartment in the middle of Mumbai that tackle environmental concerns, the chatbot answered with a list of considerations immediately.
Its 10-step plan asked us to use recycled steel, bamboo, and cross-laminated timber, incorporate energy-efficient features and to install low-flow toilets and faucets to reduce water usage.
At first glance, it seems like it could make architecture degrees irrelevant. It doesn’t help that looking into the future, it looks like AI will soon be able to generate architectural designs completely on its own.
Look deeper, however, and it’s limitations become clearer. Sure, it can generate designs, visualisations and technical information, but it’s light years away from creativity, communication, teamwork and problem-solving.
All of which an architect must have to design safe and planet-friendly buildings and environment.
3. Data/Computer science
This field is filled with career opportunities.
A degree in this field is highly regarded everywhere — retail, cybersecurity, finance, medicine, engineering, and so much more.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that from now to 2031, there will be a 36% growth in jobs in this field.
With the increasing advancements of the digital world, businesses fully rely on data to help them analyse and interpret information for decision-making purposes.
For example, retailers use data collected to discover what are the best-selling items so they can manufacture more of them.
The same goes for medicines and drug testing; data scientists are the people behind the pages and pages of discovery of what drug works best and for which ailment.
It’s not the technical know-how this degree offers that leads students to the most sustainable jobs.
Rather, it’s how the degree pairs it with more human decision-making, which is crucial for almost all sectors and organisations.
Lawyers play a fundamental role in society. They defend you when accused and protect you when harmed.
But is it true that automation may one day overtake what lawyers do? Possibly.
Right now, big law firms often make their money by drafting paperwork or dealing with compliance issues for big companies.
But, some believe that automation will only affect the lower-level employees who are more likely to get stuck with the “grunt work”.
However, that can be a good thing because this will free up their time to work on their soft skills, which is not something that can be automated.
Soft skills like leadership, emotional intelligence, self-management, and sound judgement are no aspects you can replace with robotics or machines.
Perhaps the biggest aspect of a law career that AI can’t replace is the understanding of morality.
Most jobs in the legal fields, from researcher to advocate and judge, require us to assess whether something is okay or not okay based on a set of ethical principles.
It demands a delicate balance of understanding what’s acceptable by most people, yet novel and not objectionable.
A capacity to reason from moral principles is necessary. ChatGPT and the like can’t do this as they’ve been programmed to steer away from anything novel or controversial.
The healthcare sector is another field where automation will weigh heavily in, but never fully replace humans.
According to a Bloomberg MLIV Pulse survey, 40% of 678 respondents said elementary-aged children will be better off with a job in healthcare if they want to avoid being displaced by AI.
The reason for this? The medical field involves more human-to-human interaction than you can imagine.
For instance, a surgeon may utilise machinery in the operating theatre, but they are simply another tool to be utilised.
Robotics are often just an interface between the surgeon and the surgical site.
What about nursing? Nurses are kind, comparing human beings that do more than just look after patients post-surgery.
They play an integral role because of their empathetic communication, care and compassion and human connections that no form of automation can replace.
Educational institutions, whether it is K12, high schools, colleges, or universities — they’ve all been inundated with the use of technology in classrooms.
To top that off, more than half the world went into lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools pivoted to online learning.
But one thing we can be sure of, all the technology in the world will never replace the emotional support and guidance that a teacher or lecturer can give.
Also, ask yourself, how different would it feel to learn how to solve a math problem from a online tutorial rather than a person sitting beside you?
What are some of the main elements that make a good businessman?
Is it a pure, raw passion for an idea or product? Or a customer-centric approach paired with good marketing skills? Or even creativity and people’s skills?
The similarities in all of them have one common feature: it’s the people.
While automation might be able to take over some of the more menial tasks, businesses often thrive because they have a face to it. And people trust this.
Think of how Walter Elias Disney turned his company into one of the biggest, most lucrative businesses today.
Disneyland, dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth,” was the result of one man’s dream, not a robot.
The question of whether careers in therapy, psychology or mental health are future-proof is a valid one.
The simple answer is yes — they are some of the most susstainable jobs today.
Why’s that? The human mind is a mystery, and the way people think and react is so different to each other. Who better to try and understand that those in this field?
And since these fields are largely based on the supply and demand factor, it is safe to assume that psychologists, therapists, and the like will always have job opportunities.
That being said, automation cannot replace this persona because this is a highly personalised service given to people, which means there are no two alike.
Those behind Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign will know what a powerful tool marketing actually is.
The campaign challenged every stereotype but resonated with its audiences worldwide. It was raw but also thought-provoking and inspirational.
Most importantly, it was something new and original.
Since then, the brand has been on a continuous upward trajectory when it came to its product development and its subsequent marketing campaigns.
How was this possible?
The creative minds that came together to brainstorm were regular people who used their education as a backdrop to enter this industry.
They may be regular but they can balance creativity with constraint. Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona and an emeritus professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains in a searing New York Times op-ed:
“In short, ChatGPT and its brethren are constitutionally unable to balance creativity with constraint. They either overgenerate (producing both truths and falsehoods, endorsing ethical and unethical decisions alike) or undergenerate (exhibiting noncommitment to any decisions and indifference to consequences). Given the amorality, faux science and linguistic incompetence of these systems, we can only laugh or cry at their popularity.”
10. Culinary arts
This is an unlikely contender.
Automation may be heavily involved in the packaging, manufacturing and even the creation of ingredients itself (think lab-grown meat), but much less so in high-end restaurants.
“It’ll probably be a very long time before we see a Michelin star robot-chef,” says Robot Wars’ judge Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of AI and robotics at the University of Sheffield told The Guardian.
“Apart from the AI creativity gap, great cooking involves a subtle understanding of ingredients and delicate cooking that would be enormously challenging for robots. Placing fragile foods on plates would be incredibly slow.”