13 Highest Paying Jobs of the Future [2040 Edition]
Humanity has long dreamt of creating tools to make the very idea of work obsolete, allowing us to live a life of peaceful satisfaction. Sadly, this will likely never happen; the nature of work is ever-changing, as we create new problems just as fast as we solve old ones. We also always want more of everything, which doesn’t help.
Work will not disappear, but roles will evolve. Back in my day, professional gamer and Youtuber were not even an option, but those professions now bring millions to the few youths talented and dedicated enough to turn content-creation into a career. Technological innovations, demographic shifts, urbanisation and climate change will ensure that the roles we know today no longer exist in a few decades.
So, what will a kid born today aspire to become in 2040? What paths should ambition parents put them on to ensure they are economically secure for the decades to come? Below are the 13 best-paid options to consider.
Best paid AI jobs in 2040
Ever since OpenAI released ChatGPT into the wild in late 2022, the world has been abuzz with talks of Generative Artificial Intelligence and the future it could create. Capitalism’s fanboys see the technology as a net positive; the logical continuation of the digital world, which has contributed to the creation of untold wealth… for a select few. Sceptics, meanwhile, fear we may be well on our way to create our own doom. Both seem to forget that technology does not appear in a vacuum. It is created. Created by people with jobs, who are paid (well) to do said job.
Training Data Expert
Massive, high-quality training data sets are integral to maintaining the performance of algorithms; the quality of an AI’s output directly reflects the quality of its training input. Modern algorithms are trained on man-made datasets : the articles we write, the images we draw, the videos we make… But future AIs may be trained on datasets created by AIs, purposefully or not. This would, over time, amplify a thousand-fold any mistakes or unethical behaviour that may have been hidden in the “original” training material.
Ensuring that high-quality data is available and used will be the Training Data Expert’s core mission. They will be responsible for curating, updating, and maintaining the training data sets used in AI models, while ensuring its quality and relevance. In essence, make sure data hasn’t been “poisoned”. Where possible, they will also use AI tools to generate new data points, to diversify and enrich training data sets. Doing this without creating “ghosts in the machine” should be particularly difficult.
How to become a Training Data Expert: Get a Master’s degree in Data Science, Computer Science, or a related field
Predicted salary range: $120,000 — $160,000+ a year
Deepfake videos, images and sounds are increasingly becoming easy to make by the general public. Worryingly, companies and governments clearly don’t have the proper tools to fight them. Short of resorting to full-scale authoritarianism, that is… As I’ve been saying for a few years now, it’s only a matter of time before a video emerges of an S&P500 CEO doing something ungodly to a pig. That video will be fake, but it will not matter as social algorithms are tuned to make controversial content spread faster than truths.
Less obviously fake content will also proliferate, and it will be the AI Debunker’s job to not only identify it — evaluate content for inconsistencies, artifacts, and anomalies that indicate manipulation — , but also to effectively inform the public of its “fakeness” — producing compelling evidence to counter false narratives. Will it be easy? No. But will it be worth it? Also no. People like lies that reinforce their existing worldviews.
How to become an AI debunker: Doctorate in computer science, artificial intelligence, data science, or a related field; Media training a plus
Expected salary: $120,000 to $150,000+ a year
AI Immortality expert
With more and more AIs being readily accessible and easily usable, it’s becoming increasingly likely we will soon be using those tools to counteract the loneliness epidemic brought about by social media and other related social technologies. And few are more lonely than those mourning the loss of a loved one. So lonely in fact that they may begin to think about re-creating the voices and personalities deceased loved ones. And who could blame them?
A few start-ups are already working on the technology. When it become matures enough, we will see the rise of a new profession : AI Immortality Expert. Their role will be to develop and implement technological strategies to preserve the “essence” of the dead through advanced AI technologies, enabling individuals to interact with AI recreations of their loved ones (with all the technical issues involved). At the same time, they will need to understand the emotional needs of individuals grieving the loss of loved ones and design AI-based solutions that provide comfort, companionship, and support to help them cope with their loneliness. There’s a lot of money there. Whether that’s “ethical” money… is another story.
How to become an AI debunker: Get two PhDs : one in Psychology, and another in Machine Learning (good luck with that)
Expected salary: $180,000+ a year
Best Paid Smart City Jobs in 2040
In 2050, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities than do today. We’ll need technology to manage these increasingly complex organisms, lest they collapse under their own weight. And we’ll need people to take the new jobs these technologies create.
Urban Air Controller
Flying autonomous vehicles or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will likely start to see the dayin the next couple of years. At first, they will be used to carry cargo, but will soon evolve to transporting passengers (primarily over short distances in urban areas). Positives of such a technology (supposedly) includes faster travel in densely populated areas, economical air travel over short distances, safer operations and lower carbon emissions.
Potential negatives include… over-congested skies, injuries and deaths. We will need someone to monitor, coordinate, and ensure the safe and efficient operation of passenger-carrying UAVs. That’s where the urban air controller comes in, with the following responsibilities : monitoring and control of urban air traffic, safety and emergency response when a crash occurs, traffic management, data analysis to optimize routes, and compliance to evolving regulations. They would be doing a job similar to that of an air controller… but with higher (?) stakes.
How to become a Digital Twin Expert : get a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, air traffic control, aerospace engineering, or a related field
Predicted salary range: $140,000+ a year
Digital Twin Expert
Having smart cities means equipping roads, buses, waterpipes, lights… with millions of sensors and other IoT gadgets. We’ll quickly be able to monitor and control the performance of these everyday objects remotely and in real time. The “digital twins” thus created will support fast decision-making and improve city life : fixing infrastructure before it breaks down, optimizing energy use, finding under-used resources…
Knowing how to set all this up, and how to run it, will be key to the success of smart cities. That’s where Digital Twin Experts come in. They will work to integrate diverse city data sources into a Cloud for real-time analysis, developing automation scenarios where appropriate while ensuring ethical and legal compliance. They will also construct decision-support dashboards for non-automated aspects of city life, facilitating timely responses by decision makers based on defined rules. Additionally, they will likely play a role in managing politicians, emphasizing ethical considerations and alignment with legal frameworks to ensure a “Should we do this?” approach rather than “Can we do this?”
How to become a Digital Twin Expert: Follow one of the many available online courses and start your career with a role at a big integrator such as IBM or Accenture.
Predicted salary range: $120,000 — $150,000 a year
Predictive policing software provider
Remember Minority Report? It’s a 2002 movie by S. Spielberg in which a specialized police department uses AI technology to predict and prevent crimes before they happen. No way that becomes a reality, right? Too dystopian! Except that it is very much already happening, and is likely to become ever-more important as local police forces become stretched thin by a lack of funding (hint: reduced taxes from reduced number of working adult) and are forced to do more with less. The emergence of smart cities surely won’t help.
Far be it from me to say that a Precrime Police Officer would be among the best paid jobs of the future. That’s government work, and that’s usually not a path to wealth (nothing wrong with that!). The money will be in designing predictive police software. And that promises to be a complex endeavour — one requiring the right data, the right predictive models, the right User Interface, the right ethical considerations, the right geospatial analysis, the right relationship with law enforcement… I could go on. The right person in the right place will be sure to secure a juicy government / defence contract. And that pays well.
How to become a Predictive Policing Software Provider: Work in the AI division of law enforcement, then leave to become an entrepreneur
Predicted salary range: $10M+ a year
Best paid Healthcare jobs in 2040
Projected rise in healthcare spending show the average American spending at least $3,000 annually by 2040, up from today’s $1,000 per year. That is, of course, Not Good — and a bad sign even for those of us not free enough to have fully privatized healthcare. Some people might however benefit : workers in healthcare (and insurance, but that’s another story).
Artificial Organ and Augmentation Specialist
A few factors are leading to a growing demand for artificial organs / augmentations. Firstly, the rapidly increasing number of elderly people requiring complex medical interventions to maintain a good quality of life. Secondly… don’t we all wish we could enhance our cognitive and physical abilities beyond what we even thought was possible? I know I would if I could.
Artificial Organ and Augmentation Specialists would meet this growing demand by designing (using the latest material science research), developing, and maintaining artificial organs and augmentations. This means collaborating with a wide variety of stakeholders on a daily basis to create them : medical professionals, engineers, and patients, tailoring customized solutions. Monitoring existing devices is also sure to take a lot of time.
How to become a Artificial Organ and Augmentation Specialist: Ph.Ds is material science, biotechnology, and medical engineering
Predicted salary range: $120,000 — $200,000+ per year
Genetic Engineer / Designer Baby Expert
Artificial Organs and Augmentations are well and good for people born before 2040. But we may soon be able to create a world where that is no longer required, by editing babies still in the womb. If I over-simplify, CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) allows doctors to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops.
In the near future, we can imagine having healthcare professional support families by editing potential diseases and defects away from the bloodline. This would entail having the right knowledge and tools, but also the understanding of the complex ethical implications of such a work. Indeed, if the phrase “designer baby” sounds like a dystopian SciFi movie, trust your instincts.
How to become a Genetic Engineer / Designer Baby Expert: Start with a medical degree… the rest is up to you at this point
Predicted salary range: $1M+ per year
Doctor of Medicine
I’d be remiss if I didn’t add being a doctor of medicine to this list of the best-paid professions in 2040. Sure, the role is difficult and requires years of studies, but it’s all worth it to help people live better, healthier lives. This will never go out of fashion.
I just hope that the automation of certain healthcare tasks leads to better care for people, as opposed to fatter pockets for insurance companies and privatised healthcare institutions.
How to become a doctor: Finish medical school, and complete a residency training program
Predicted salary range: $265,000 — $382,000 per year
Best Paid jobs in 2040 — Realists’ version
While the above is exciting to read about, it may not be a fully realist list. Exciting jobs are rarely the ones that bring in the most money, and we often fall prey to hype. What is true for investing is also true for job-seeking : Boring is Sexy. With this in mind, below are three well-paid, but boring jobs that are sure to be safe bets by 2040.
The main energy challenge of the 21st century is not making energy sustainably. That part is easy. Storing that energy is hard and expensive. This is where new and improved batteries come in. As we try to “beat” climate change, they will become ever-more important by helping to move cars, trucks and the power sector away from oil, coal and natural gas.
Put plainly, whoever manages to produce NextGen batteries cheaply, and at scale, will inevitably become very rich. Manufacturing isn’t fun, but boy does it pay.
Professional coach / Reskiller
Technical skills today do not have a long life-span. Constant reskilling / upskilling is needed. This is mainly the role of companies, but workers will also increasingly look for ways to teach themselves. Salespeople acquiring web development and copywriting skills, marketers immersing themselves in graphic design, and HR professionals delving into AI-powered legal tools to undertake legal tasks… the list goes on
Either way, this is where coaches and “reskillers” come in. As the world becomes increasingly complex, more and more of them will be needed to support workers in their learning journey to stay relevant. It won’t be easy everyday… but it will be a steady paycheck.
Nursing home owner
Ever-increasing life expectancies the world over means we are assured to have a larger senior populations in a decade. This will naturally support a growing demand for elderly products and services. One of these services, is already in short supply : nursing homes.
Creating and operating such and enterprise is pretty much the opposite of sexy. But it is a worthy endeavour. But it’s a worthy endeavour. Today, the average Nursing Home Administrator salary in the United States is $127,688. As automation cuts costs and demand continues to increase, this will only increase, trust me.
Billionaire’s son / daughter
It’s never a bad idea to be born rich. That way, no need to think about salaries. In 2040, being born rich will still be the fastest way to wealth, regardless of whether we live in a technology utopia or dystopia.
Our kids will be born in a complicated world. A hostile world, at times. A warming world, more worryingly. One can only hope they will find their way in this mess and choose a career which will ensure their survival and happiness in the confusing years ahead.
Good luck out there.