Future jobs in demand: graduate career prospects for the coming years

What jobs will be in high demand in the future? See our three sets of predictions on the graduate jobs of the coming years.

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The perennial graduate job interview question ‘ Where do you see yourself in five years ’ now lends itself to a more flexible answer than ever before. Technological advancements and changing consumer behaviours mean that the jobs most in future demand will be found in almost any working environment.

Will you be making a 30-minute business trip to Australia via a newly opened space port? Or will you, perhaps, be commuting to a green office space via self-driving buses? Or maybe you’ll be rifling through the wreckage of one of the beforetime’s abandoned cities, desperately striving to avoid the attention of your supper-mutant overlords?

The reality is that no one can truly predict what the future jobs market will look like. In 1995, for example, Robert Metcalfe, the co-inventor of ethernet, famously predicted that the internet would catastrophically collapse in 1996. Similarly, in 2007, Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft CEO at the time, said that the iPhone would never obtain a significant share of the telecommunications market.

There is no way to be 100% certain of what future jobs will be in demand, but there are usually three good indications of what can be expected:

Below, we take a look at some examples from each of these categories:

2021 saw a record amount of £29.4bn pumped into the UK tech scene, more than a twofold increase compared to the year before, coupled with a 50% increase in the number of vacancies advertised for tech-related roles. Shifting consumer priorities can also shine a light on where graduates may find opportunities in the future. Greater awareness of the effects of climate change and the steady move away from high streets and into the home for products have paved the way for stellar growth in younger markets.

We sum up where we think the future jobs market of science and tech is heading:

Food technologist

In recent years the UK meat-substitute product market has generated steam with estimates placing 2021 revenue at over £4bn, more than double the figure for 2017. Vegan food products have not only found their way into the freezers of supermarkets, but also into the kitchens of household fast-food chains – in 2021 ‘plant-based meat’ producers Beyond Meat secured a UK contract with McDonald’s. You might make an enemy of livestock farmers, but ditching the steakhouse for a vegan restaurant on your next meal out could have a sizeable impact on your employment prospects.

Among the jobs likely to continue to be in demand are:

  • food technologists , who are responsible for developing and maintaining the processes that create new types of food
  • food scientists , who examine the microbiological, physical and chemical properties of food to make sure it is safe (and tasty)
  • flavour chemists, who concoct or improve new flavours in food, either to enhance the original taste or alter it completely.

Graduates seeking to enter these fields will need a related degree, such as food science, nutrition, biology or chemistry. You can read this article to learn about how to get a job as a food technologist . Or head to this page to find out more about food-science roles and other graduate roles related to the above degrees .

Cybersecurity expert and DevOps engineer

In an era of GDPR compliance, ever-increasing state surveillance and the looming prospect of cyberwarfare with hostile foreign powers on the horizon, protecting your business is going to be an increasing concern.

Among the jobs likely to be sought after now and in the future are:

Graduates with a computer science or software development background or extensive experience in coding will be highly sought after. Check out our information technology advice to find out more about these roles.

Well-being and fitness instructor

The 21st century gave birth to the love child of technology and fitness – the fitness-tech industry. There’s now an electronic product or service for almost all physical activities that were once simple outdoor pleasures. And a myriad of mobile apps and fitness wearables have also come to be, tracking our every step and calorie.

While the usual host of engineering and IT positions will likely take the forefront, being able to blend STEM experience with qualifications in fitness, sports coaching and sports science will open up opportunities for future jobs. Among the roles within the wearable/sports tech companies are:

  • sports scientist
  • technical sports scientist
  • health and fitness coach.

Check out our job descriptions of sports coaching or sports development for more information:

Future jobs according to the government – the fundamentals

Back in 2014, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills put together a report, entitled Careers of the Future, highlighting jobs that the authors felt provided an exciting mix of opportunity, reward and long-term potential. They drew on a wealth of government data and expert advice for the results. Their findings still hold true today and there are three examples below:

Care worker

The UK population of over-75s is set to increase from 5.4 million (according to the ONS in 2018) to 9.5 million in 2037, which has boosted the already high demand for social care jobs. In response to this, the government’s 2021 plan for health and social care will see over £500m invested into developing the sector’s workforce over the next three years, including increased support for recruitment, training and retention of care workers.

Graduates wishing to go into this industry will likely need a qualification that meets the Health and Care Professions Council standards or will need to undertake a postgraduate qualification to match. There are other routes in for school leavers.

Take a look at the related advice on targetjobs below:

Nurses are always in high demand, and that demand is expected to grow massively, but any career in medicine requires a longer, more defined approach to study. See the job descriptions below for more information or visit our healthcare sector:

Engineers and programmers

2020 highlighted a shortfall of approximately 37,000 to 59,000 engineers. This built on 2017 stats that showed that as well as the ‘traditional’ engineering disciplines, such as mechanical and electrical engineering, there has been increasing demand for specialisms in data science, machine learning, automation and robotics. Similarly, recent trends show a rising demand for developers, programmers, cybersecurity engineers and DevOps engineers to work with emerging technology in IT.

Take a look at our advice on engineering and IT careers to find out more about graduate roles in these areas:

Teachers

Someone is going to have to teach all these engineers and care workers what they need to know. The third largest predicted increase behind care workers and nurses, teachers are already highly sought after.

You can find out all you need to know about becoming a teacher from our advice on careers in teaching and education .

Future jobs in demand: the press’ take – quirky and dystopian

Depending on which newspaper you read or television channel you watch, the future is going to be a very different place. Whether you’re chowing down on sustainably sourced food and going to your day job as an in-house artist at a vape store for four days a week, or are painting your house with the St George’s flag and munching on a good old-fashioned roast dinner as you discipline your chimney sweep via a sternly worded letter, there are stories from all angles in the last year that make the careers market look very different indeed.

Professional video gamer

By 2024, revenue from esports (professional video games) is expected to reach more than $1.6bn (£1.2bn). Tournament prize money now often exceeds $1m in the big leagues and some of the best players in the world are believed to earn salaries of well over $5m each year. While there are a few staple games that are played worldwide in competition, the number of those released with an intent to become the next big esport is always increasing. Both the US and UK now show ‘live’ esports on television, and on a grander scale, esports will make their debut at the Asian Games in September 2022. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is also considering giving esports a slot at future games.

But how does one progress to professional video gamer? Many of the current generation (few over 30 years of age) have put in the practice to ‘git gud’, but more and more universities are including esports modules in video game design courses, starting esports teams or even creating a brand-new undergraduate degree in esports. There are now a handful of UK universities, including Staffordshire and Chichester, offering degrees in the subject, with a focus on the business of esports, covering everything from organisation to regulation, marketing and culture.

If you're interested in working with video games, why not take a look at our guides on working as a video game developer: Can I get a job in video games? and How to get a job in game development .

Slave to a robotic master

Automation is expected to wipe out the jobs of approximately 800 million global workers by 2030 (according to a report by consultancy McKinsey), but the good news is that about 20 million of those will be able to transfer to another skilled role.

If you think that white collar careers are safe, then think again. Paralegals, lawyers, mortgage brokers, journalists, accountants, general office staff, drivers and more are all thought to be at risk of losing jobs to automation. Bartenders, doctors and teachers, among other professions that require human interaction, are expected to suffer lower losses. That said, 2018 saw a burger joint in California employ a fully automated ‘burger flipping robot’ and a 2019 exhibition at the Barbican in London showed off an entirely robotic bartender mixing drinks.

More recent developments point to data science and technology having already evolved to a state where it may be cheaper and more effective to replace doctors with software power. This year, an artificial intelligence (AI) programme created by University College London (UCL) to analyse heart MRI scans was introduced into a select few NHS hospitals. The AI programme can complete a scan analysis in just 20 seconds – roughly 39 times faster than a human doctor can. As such, much of humanity will soon become devoted to maintaining the few robots that cannot maintain themselves, except for the programmers, who will lead the war of resistance.

Chief happiness officer

Assuming we are only left with the jobs that the robots are too smart to do, the world is going to be a more depressing place than it already is. 2019 saw the UK drop down the global ‘workplace happiness’ rankings to tenth place, sitting two points below the global average.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Mental health and well-being are being talked about more publicly in workplaces and it has been shown that mindfulness meditation can influence certain conditions such as depression. This increased awareness led to an odd phenomenon at US companies a couple of years ago – the appointment of chief happiness officers (CHOs).

The role of a CHO was to assess the well-being of the team and work with staff and external experts to create a ‘happy’ environment for employees. This could be done via a system of perks, environmental or cultural changes, educational sessions or alternative therapies. Should it be the boom employment in the post-human future, a qualification in human resources or psychology is recommended.

There are also a number of happiness/wellness schools that purport to offer qualifications in different fields (please do common sense research into the authenticity of such establishments and the true viability of such a career pathway – targetjobs does not advocate risking your entire future on a ‘happiness diploma’).

The above article was last updated in May 2022 and is designed to inform and entertain. We never recommend using the predictions of strangers on the internet to determine an accurate vision of the future. Instead, make your career choices based on your own passions, skills and aptitude, and use the articles on targetjobs.co.uk to inform those decisions and make the best applications you can.

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