Growth of Abstract Job Tasks by Cathy Sandeen

Following my last post on what I called “nexus careers,” I did a little more exploration. I found an interesting article by MIT Economist, David Autor and his colleagues. They have developed a scale for measuring the nature of job tasks including manual tasks, highly routine tasks, and tasks that require a high level of abstract thinking.  For the complete presentation go here

From this and related articles, the following graph caught my attention.

Autor, et al. Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2003

Trends in Job Task Content

Since 1980, the percentage of abstract job tasks in the US has increased steadily. In terms of education level, those with college degrees or more are employed to a greater degree in higher paying jobs that emphasize abstract tasks.

As I observed previously, a broad education that develops general abilities and transferable skills in critical, abstract, and creative thinking is an asset today.

Practical skills also are essential these days, but they are not always sufficient in and of themselves.  Individuals who have broad general knowledge and who have supplemented that with practical skills, often through rigorous professional certifications, will be well positioned to succeed in the future.

UCLA Extension Certificate Programs

Some options for expanding your knowledge and skill set. 

Certificate programs

Leadership programs

Custom corporate onsite programs



One response to “Growth of Abstract Job Tasks by Cathy Sandeen

  1. Pingback: Now (at last) Admissions for the 21st Century by Cathy Sandeen | Cathy Sandeen

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