Careers

Mark Cuban, Bill Gates and others on what to study if you want a high-paying, robot-resistant job in the future

Numerous leaders across industries agree: Robots are coming for our jobs.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk says technology will replace so many human jobs, people will eventually have to rely on a universal basic income. Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, says automation will make the next few decades "painful" for many people. Research supports their concerns.

But there is a silver lining. These same futurists say professionals, especially young ones who will be more affected by these changes, can stay on top of workforce changes and earn good money by learning certain skills.

To get a high-paying job in the future, business leaders suggest focusing your students in these four areas:

1. Data analytics

Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Ma says that in the next 30 years, artificial intelligence will outpace human knowledge.

"The new wave is coming. Jobs will be taken away," Ma says. "Some people, who catch up [with] the wave, will be rich, will be more successful."

To keep up, Ma suggests professionals learn as much about data as they can. According to his projections for the future job market, skills associated with data and its analysis will become extremely valuable.

"The world is going to be data," Ma says. "I think this is just the beginning of the data period."

Top Google executives agree. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet and Jonathan Rosenberg, adviser to CEO Larry Page, say that data analytics will become increasingly important in workplaces.

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet Inc.

"I think a basic understanding of data analytics is incredibly important for this next generation of young people," Schmidt tells CNBC in a March interview. "That's the world you're going into."

"By data analytics," the executive chairman says, "I mean a basic knowledge of how statistics works, a basic knowledge of how people make conclusions over big data."

2. Science, engineering and economics

Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and self-described futurist, says that people with backgrounds in three things will be the most in-demand going forward: science, engineering and economics.

Workers proficient in those subjects will be "the agents of change for all institutions," Gates tells LinkedIn Executive Editor Daniel Roth.

"I do think of basic knowledge of the sciences, math skills, economics — a lot of careers in the future will be very demanding on those things," Gates says.

Bill Gates
Adam Berry | Getty Images
Bill Gates

"[It's] not necessarily that you'll be writing code," he notes, "but you need to understand what can engineers do and what can they not do."

3. Coding

General Motors CEO Mary Barra say coding is a "core skill" that will only become more important in the future.

According to Barra, who's revamped a company that employs more than 200,000 people and has spent a lot of time focusing on job creation, that's not likely to change. Coding will remain "necessary in every industry," she says in an interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Today, skills like mobile app development, software engineering and Java development are among the 10 most in-demand skills, according to a 2017 LinkedIn survey that monitored recruiting activity on the platform.

4. Liberal arts

While many business leaders encourage professionals to look to degrees related to technology, serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban believes the opposite.

The investor on ABC's "Shark Tank" who's made his billions in technology, says that if he was starting college right now, he would choose philosophy as his major over accounting.

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Dallas Mavericks basketball team, speaks at the 2017 South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Sunday, March 12, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Dallas Mavericks basketball team, speaks at the 2017 South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Sunday, March 12, 2017.

That's because he believes artificial intelligence will automate many jobs involving technical tasks, such as an accountant's. Jobs that rely more on personal judgement, critical thinking and creativity — skills more often associated with a liberal arts degree — are less at risk, he says.

"Knowing how to critically think and assess [situations] from a global perspective I think is going to be more valuable," Cuban said, speaking at SXSW in March, "than what we see as exciting careers today which might be programming or CPA or those types of things."

While liberal arts majors such as philosophy, sociology or English have been deemed some of the worst in terms of job prospects, Cuban says that they will be more valuable in the future, and Google's Rosenberg agrees.

Mahmut Atanur | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

"I think that Mark Cuban is right," Rosenberg told CNBC in a March interview. "We need more traditional liberal arts grads."

Jobs that require strong cognitive abilities and analytical thinking will be more difficult to replace with AI, according to the Google exec. Technology will impact some 60 percent of all occupations, according to a July 2016 report by McKinsey, but jobs that require high levels of creativity or people management are the least at risk.

"I would tell people to follow their passion, even if it's in something that doesn't have an obvious job prospect," Rosenberg says, "but teaches you how to think."

Check out the 20 highest-paying jobs that don't require a master's degree