Experts warn that it would be wrong to assume that today’s money-spinning vocations such as banking, law or stockbroking will remain the best paid jobs of the future.
In 10 to 20 years’ time the chances are that our jobs and the way we work will be very different, if predictions by leading futurologists are any guide.
Job titles that do not exist now, such as a “vertical farmer” or a “body part
maker”, could be mainstream professions, in much the same way that social
media consultants have emerged in the past five years.
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“All of these [ideas] spring from trends,” said James Bellini, a leading futurologist. “Britain’s population is ageing, and an older population will need different health care, for example.”
Mr Bellini posited the idea of an elderly well-being consultant, who specialises in personalised care for older patients, or a memory augmentation surgeon who helps counter memory loss.
He also saw big changes in farming as food resources became scarce, with genetically modified crops becoming common and crops grown vertically in areas resembling multi-storey car parks to save space.
Ian Pearson, a futurologist who wrote You Tomorrow, sees job growth in the field of augmented reality, where the real world is overlaid with computer-generated images.
“When you look at a building it’s constrained by planning laws, but in cyberspace you can make it look however you want,” he said.
“A company with a high street presence could make their shop look like Downton Abbey, or set it in a post-nuclear apocalypse environment.”
Mr Pearson also argued that the better technology gets, the more people will have to focus on their “human skills” to survive in the workforce.
“As computers get more intelligent, the work that will take over will require human skills like leadership, motivation and compassion,” he said.
Karen Moloney, a futurologist and business psychologist, agreed. “The world will divide into those who understand technology and those who don’t,” she said.
“Those who can program will create the world we live in, so I would say get yourself into that field. If you can’t, find yourself something to do that is hyper-human, which computers can’t do, such as entertainment, sport, caring and personal services industries.”
Ms Moloney suggested job titles such as a haptic programmer, who uses the science of touch to develop products and services, and, more controversially, a child programmer. “If we continue to avail ourselves of what science makes possible, in 30 years’ time you could sit down and in theory design the child you want,” she said. “It is biologically feasible, if ethically abhorrent.
“We spot weak signals on the horizon that may or may not grow into something. You’ve got to have a bit of imagination to create a future for yourself.”
Whatever professions may emerge in future, economists, recruitment specialists and futurologists agree that the way we work will change considerably.
James Callander, managing director of recruiter FreshMinds, said the current trend of moving jobs more frequently would only gather pace.
“If you wind back 20 years, people had a job for life,” he said. “Nowadays, most graduates leave their first job within three years. People are moving more, and that will accelerate in future.”
Even the notion of a job might sound fixed in future, according to Mark Beatson, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.
“You’ll still see people working for one company their whole life, but others will move around more often,” he said. “People will move between assignments and it will be about how these blend together in a sequence of roles.”
Mr Beatson said people with good levels of education were still likely “to be best placed in the workplace”.
However, education should be more about how you learn, rather than for knowledge itself.
“If your child’s career is derailed for whatever reason and people do need to
re-skill themselves, it will be easier if you have a good education and are
in the habit of learning,” he said.
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• Digital architect: Designs a selection of virtual buildings for advertisers and retailers to market their products
• Home carer: Helps care for elderly people in their own homes
• Elderly well-being consultant: Specialises in holistic and personalised care for the elderly
• Body part maker: Creates living body parts for athletes and soldiers
• Nano-medic: Creates very small implants for health monitoring and self-medication
• Vertical farmer: Farms crops upwards rather than across flat fields to save space
• Waste data handler: Disposes of your data waste in a responsible way
• Climate controller: Manages and modifies weather patterns
• Avatar manager: Designs and manages holograms of virtual people
• Memory augmentation surgeon: Helps preserve and improve memory in an ageing population
• Time broker: Handles time banked by customers in lieu of money for goods or services
• Personal branding manager: Develops and manages your personal brand
• Child designer: Designs offspring that fit parental requirements
• Omnipotence delimiter: Reins in our belief that anything is possible and we are all-powerful
• Personal medical apothecary: Provides a bespoke range alternative therapies.
• Haptic programmer: Develops technology around the science of touch, such as gloves that make your hand feel warm, or wrapped in velvet.
Best paid jobs of today
Source: Office for National Statistics Job title Salary 2011-2012 change
1. Chief executives and senior officials £120,830 -3.8%
2 Brokers £98,924 -15.2%
3. Marketing and sales director £82,866 -3.2%
4. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers £77,906 12%
5. Financial managers and directors £74,709 -10.2%
6. Production managers and directors in mining and energy £72,587 27.3%
7. Legal professionals £70,731 -0.2%
8. Information technology and telecommunications directors £70,393 6.4%
9. Financial institution managers and directors £69,890 3.3%
10. Functional managers and directors £69,879 -5.6%