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20 Jobs that Don’t Exist Anymore

Humans are constantly inventing and innovating, so it makes sense that the way we live and the world around us is also constantly changing. Change or progress can sometimes mean that jobs that existed in the past don’t exist anymore. Either we just don’t require that function any more, or we’ve developed alternatives.


Here are 20 examples of jobs that don’t exist anymore


Carriage Makers


These skilled craftsmen used to make the carriages towed by horses, but were replaced by automobiles and trains.


Slubber Doffers


Usually children, they worked in textile mills and removed the empty bobbins from the looms all day.

Jobs that don't exist anymore - black and white photo of young children working in a factory
Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration


Pin Setters


Before bowling alleys became automated in the 1950s, it was the job of young teens to run out and reset the pins after each bowler’s turn.




Also known as human alarm clocks, these workers were around from 400BC until after the industrial revolution. Their job was to head out each morning and knock on their paying customers’ doors or window using a baton or long stick to get the occupants up in time for work each day.


Lamp Lighters


Before electricity was invented and commonly available, they were needed to go around and light the street lamps by hand every single day.


Switchboard Operators


Originally replacing telegraphists, these workers connected callers to the number they wanted to connect with right up until the 1960s.

Jobs that don't exist anymore - black and white photo of operators at a switchboard
Source: CultureXchange


Resurrectionists or “Body Snatchers”


Had the gruesome job of (illegally) digging up recently buried bodies for anatomists to use for medical research.




Were the people responsible for operating film projectors in cinemas, including changing the film reels when they saw cues on screen. Modern day projectors are digital and operators just need to press play or set a timer.




Worked on the railways before automated systems were created. They did a variety of jobs that ensured that trains ran on time without having accidents.


Camera Film Developers


Digital cameras as we know them today only became popular in the mid-to-late 1990s. Before then, most cameras contained film that needed developing before you could see the images. Some film developers are still around today, but most photographers who use camera film process their images themselves in darkrooms.

Jobs that don't exist anymore - undeveloped photograph film


Lift Operators


Up until the 1970s you’d often be met in a lift by an operator who might have to manually open and close the doors, control the speed of the lift, and announce what or who was located on each floor as the car approached it.


Linotype Operators


Responsible for operating the Linotype machines that revolutionised the printing and factory industries worked between 1886 right up until the late 1960s. They had to accurately type each line of text that formed the metal strips for printing.


Human Computers


This was the name give to the people who performed complex calculations before computers and calculators took over the roles. Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan are three Human Computers whose secret work enabled NASA space expeditions between 1940 and 1960.


Clock Keepers


Their job was to track time using basic maths skills to ensure the accuracy of clocks and other time keeping devices.




Read aloud to factory workers, keeping them entertained during their long and boring shifts.


Aircraft Listeners


Before radars were invented, listeners manned the acoustic mirrors which detected the sound and direction of approaching enemy aircraft.

Jobs that don't exist anymore - black and white photo of a man using an acoustic mirror




Used to collect the milk from local dairy farmers and deliver it to the doors of their customers.


Dunny Men


Would collect “nightsoil” from the old-fashioned outhouse dunnies which have now been (thankfully) replaced by modern sewerage and septic systems.




For centuries before the invention of printing, this was a job that required some education. Scribes would have to copy text word for word to duplicate books and historical documents.


Video Store Employee


Up until about 20 years ago VHS videos and DVDs were how most people enjoyed watching a movie outside of the cinema. With the onset of digital on-demand and streaming services, the good old video store that used to be in every suburb is no longer.

Jobs that don't exist anymore - image of an employee in a video store


It’s not necessarily a bad thing


When you hear about jobs that don’t exist anymore, it’s easy to think it’s something negative, and it’s often reported that way in the news too.

But often it can be a good thing, as you won’t have to do some of the more repetitive, tiresome, labour intensive, or downright unpleasant jobs that you might have been offered years ago.

Remember too that when some roles are no longer required, a whole new suite of careers may be created along with the latest developments and changes to our lifestyles and environments.


Keep looking ahead


There are lots of people whose job it is to look at all the information and statistics to make predictions about the growth or decline of different jobs.

It’s a good idea to keep up to date with the latest news and statistics – it could be really helpful when you’re considering future careers. The results might also influence your subject selection at high school, as well as which pathway you choose once you leave school.


Find out more about the future of work


If you’d like to learn a bit more about what changes to the workforce might look like in the next 5 to 10 years and beyond, here are a few blogs you might like to read:

We’ll also let you know in our weekly Job Spotlights the anticipated future growth and where the jobs are most in demand.

The National Skills Commission produce lots of reports and information about Australia’s future workforce. They also have a really handy tool called NERO that you could keep your eye on – you can sign up to receive updates every few months too.

The Labour Market Insights website also provides lots of useful information about careers and their predicted growth.


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