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Ten Wild Jobs That Didn't Exist Ten Years Ago

The job market is changing fast.
A startup-looking guy in a VR headset drinking coffee and looking very confused.
Composite by the author via capondesign

Robots are coming for our jobs, and the work left over for humans is getting worse and paying less. Changes in technology and culture over the past decade have created jobs your high school guidance counselor could never imagine in their wildest dreams. Meanwhile, the safe, traditional jobs like lawyering and doctoring come with ever-increasing price tags and fewer career prospects.

Unless the post-work utopia theorists are raving about comes around soon, picking your career is one of the most important choices of your life. You might as well make it one that’s fulfilling and cuts a decent paycheck. Here are ten interesting careers we found that didn’t even exist ten years ago.


Pop Culture Pop-Up Bar Designer

Washington DC’s Drink Company was founded eight years ago, and has gained notoriety for completely redesigning its space with pop culture-inspired designs every few months, from the GoT PUB, to the Christmas-fied Miracle on 7th Street, and the Rick and Morty-themed Wubba Lubba Dub PUB. More and more selfie-friendly spaces are drawing in young people seeking perfectly-curated Instagram feeds. These temporary spaces require designers like Matt Fox, Drink Company’s Special Projects Director. His job consists of ideating concepts with his team, purchasing materials, and executing the design on deadline and on budget. The necessary skill set for a pop-up bar designer includes using CAD software to lay out different designs and spreadsheets to keep track of the inventory and timeline. Fox stresses that background and training aren’t as important as passion and problem solving skills, but training in carpentry, theater, and set design are a plus.

VR/AR Designer

The first Oculus Rift prototype debuted in 2012, birthing a $2.2 billion virtual reality industry. Many are still struggling to appeal to a mass market, but enough companies have cracked the code that there are plenty of jobs in VR design, whether they’re for game developers, architects, or Facebook’s impending social VR push. The basic skills for this field include experience with game design software like Unity and Unreal Engine, but Winslow Turner Porter, III, co-founder of New Reality Co. and producer of award-winning films like Giant and Tree, says concepting tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, AfterEffects, and Premiere are just as important. “You’ve got to be able to wear multiple hats,” he says. It’s not just designing a product, but presenting it to coworkers and clients. VR designers rarely work alone, so good communication skills are a must.


Listings for jobs in the VR industry recommend formal education in Interactive Design, Game Design, Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, or UX Design, or a portfolio demonstrating equivalent skills.

Meme Scholar

Tenure-track positions in the academics biz aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but according to Assistant Professor James Cohen, founder of Molloy College’s New Media program, there’s more demand than ever for meme scholars. He recommends a majoring in cultural studies or studying visual culture, media studies, political science, or sociology to prepare for writing peer-reviewed papers like his 2017 Communicating Graphically: Mimesis, Visual Language, and Commodification as Culture. The same year, meme scholars from Roma Tre University, University College London, Telefonica Research, and the Cyprus University of Technology teamed up to write Kek, Cucks, and God Emperor Trump: A Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and Its Effects on the Web .

Cohen cites demand for papers like these and new institutions like Fordham University’s Digital Technology and Emerging Media program as signs that the academic world is taking meme scholarship seriously. “It’s like academia suddenly woke up and was like, ‘Ooohh—memes aren’t just funny,’” he told VICE. Judging by the extensive Twitter and Reddit threads creating and unpacking the memes of the week, there’s no lack of extremely qualified potential applicants.


Snapchat Visual Designer

Snap, Inc. (formerly Snapchat) was founded in 2011. Less than a decade later, the way people use social media has been entirely changed by its mobile-only, ephemeral, wacky design. Making visuals for Snapchat requires versatility, a creative mind, and the ability to turn around compelling images on a newsroom schedule. Jacqueline Lin, Art Director for Snapchat Discover at VICE, divides the responsibilities into two categories: creating individual Snaps, and developing new and interesting storytelling formats. Experience with motion graphics and animation software, Adobe AfterEffects and Photoshop are required. Experience editing video in Premiere and typography design are a plus. Lin recommends a degree in animation, motion graphics, graphic design, communication design, or film and video to pursue this job.

Cannabis Lab Technician

Jobs like testing cannabis for safety and potency have been around since medical pot was legalized in the 90s, but as the market for legal weed skyrockets there is more and more demand for consumer-facing weed testing at companies like the San Diego-based company PharmLabs, LLC. Founder and CEO Greg Madoff says he requires technicians to have a Masters or a PhD in biology or chemistry, plus two years lab experience. They start off doing wet work, analyzing bud and oils for THC, CBD, and terpene levels, purity, and potency. Since the cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing in the country, Madoff tells VICE there will only be more jobs like these.

Commercial Drone Pilot

The military has had drone pilots for a couple of decades, but unmanned aerial vehicles have soared into the commercial space over the last decade. DJI, the Chinese company that owned three quarters of the commercial drone market in 2017, is only 12 years old. Over the past decade, drone photography has become integral to the art and film industries, but more fields are finding use for talented drone pilots—like the Earth Science Agency in Colorado, which recently posted a listing for a drone pilot to help out with geological surveys. The biggest requirement to apply is a license to pilot a drone, though some require experience with particular aircraft and camera models, mapping software, and photo and video editing tools.


Commercial Drone Repair Technician

Beyond jobs for pilots, there are a number of positions for maintaining and repairing fleets of drones for organizations that rely on them. Like an IT position for drones instead of laptops, a drone repair technician must diagnose, document, and repair anything that’s wrong with the devices. The barriers to entry for these positions are low, if you’ve already got the mechanical and electronic skills: a high school education or equivalent bench tech experience, and good communication skills.

Cryptocurrency Product Manager

In late 2017, Bitcoin’s value spiked, generating the most attention cryptocurrency has received since it hit the market in 2009. People have been hoping to get rich on crypto since the beginning, and the few that did last year have inspired a whole market of businesses throwing everything they’ve got into Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and providing services for crypto enthusiasts. Less than three percent of Bitcoin addresses are home to more than a single Bitcoin, though so HODLing might not be the smartest way to cash in on the trend. Like the gold rush, there are prospectors looking for money in the ground, and businesses looking for money in the prospectors.

Companies betting on crypto need product managers, marketers, analysts, app designers, programmers, and community managers to serve the people who are betting their time, capital, and labor on crypto. But according to job sites like Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, they pay in cash.


Artificial Intelligence Researcher

While artificial neural networks have been conceptualized since the 80s and the term machine learning was coined in 1959, AI took off in a big way when Google released a paper and a fun tool called DeepDream in 2015 that gave the idea a trippy visual identity. Since then, Google search traffic for AI jobs has more than doubled and interest in machine learning has tripled. According to a representative, job postings that reference AI and machine learning skills have increased more than 2,000% on ZipRecruiter since January 2016. The most intuitive AI are for things like making Google’s image search algorithm or Alexa’s voice recognition software better, and some companies are using the technology to help identify cancer earlier, or bake pastries more efficiently.

AI jobs are very skilled labor, often requiring a Masters or PhD in computer science, automation, or machine learning. Fluency in standard programming languages like Python, Java, and C++ are a must, as is familiarity with deep learning frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch. However, entry-level positions like this internship at the autonomous vehicle company Telenav are a great place to get started in the field.

Uber Driver

Disgraced former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp started the company in 2009, giving birth to the app-controlled car service industry. The industry is still developing—as of August, Uber is still not profitable—and despite reports of rampant mistreatment, the number of rideshare service drivers is growing. So why be an Uber driver? Well, some think that's what all jobs will be in the future. Might as well get used to it. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

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