Robots vs. Humans: 20 Small Business Jobs That Cannot Be Automated

Personal ProductivityRobots vs. Humans: 20 Small Business Jobs That Cannot Be Automated

Automation is making its mark on a number of different industries. But there are still some jobs that require a human presence. So even as larger companies may be automating jobs, there are some jobs and tasks that cannot be turned over to machines. Here are 20 different jobs at your small business or that you could start a small business around that in most cases CANNOT be automated.

Jobs that Cannot Be Automated


Machines don’t have the ability to see things in the same way humans do. So any job that requires creating something aesthetically pleasing, from clothing lines to interiors to websites, is best left to actual human designers.

Artisan Chef

Automation in the restaurant industry continues to expand. But if you’ve got a restaurant where you make unique or custom dishes, that’s not something that can really be automated. You need an actual chef who can create unique taste combinations and experiment to find the best recipes and processes.

Garbage Collector

There are plenty of manual labor jobs that can’t be automated as well. Garbage collecting, for instance, isn’t repetitive work. So it requires humans to evaluate and pick up various items.


Gardening is another job that requires an actual human perspective, since each garden or property is likely to require different things.

Security Guard

Security and public safety workers are also not in danger of losing jobs to automation any time soon. Sure, you can use technology to give security workers better access to your building or property. But you still need an actual person to evaluate and address any potential issues.

Construction Worker

It’s also probably best not to trust machines alone with things like constructing buildings, bridges and other structures. Actual construction workers are able to evaluate obstacles and use human problem solving skills to complete these projects satisfactorily.


Likewise, architects need to be able to visually evaluate and design different structures. So it’s not something a machine can really take on.


Whether you’re a publisher or a business owner looking to hire a copywriter, it’s important to have an actual human who understands language patterns and nuance behind any written work that you put out into the world.


Research is also something that’s best left to professionals. If you’re hiring a researcher, you need someone who can gain a deep understanding of what to look for and put together a comprehensive analysis of relevant data.


Robots also aren’t able to evaluate sounds to the degree that it would take to really compose or write music.


If you’re looking to fill a job that involves teaching, instructing or training in any way, that’s also something that really requires a human employee. Humans have the ability to convey information in a way that others are more likely to understand, as well as reframe that information, demonstrate processes and answer questions.

Retail Salesperson

There are some parts of the sales process that can be automated. But if you’re looking for help with in-person retail sales, a real salesperson can offer shoppers input on things like color, fit and quality where automation cannot.


Mobile and web programmers are in high demand at a lot of small businesses. And it’s a job that requires a lot of creative problem solving best left to an actual human.


Consultants are responsible for helping individuals or businesses address various issues. So it requires you to be able to address each problem or obstacle individually, not something that’s easily automated.

HR Professional

You can certainly automate certain parts of the hiring process. But actually evaluating and interviewing candidates is best left to a human being who can understand nuance and communicate clearly.

Skilled Trade Worker

Plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other skilled trade workers are also safe from automation for the foreseeable future. These jobs require technical skill and problem solving abilities that require an actual human touch and reasoning skills.


Engineers specialize in solving complicated problems in various fields. So it’s not a job that you could easily do through automation, though there are plenty of tech tools that can help real engineers get the job done.


Photography requires a strong eye for balance, color and other visual factors. So if you need visually pleasing photos for your business, you should hire an actual human to take those photos.


Therapists help people work through a variety of different issues or concerns. So strong problem solving skills are a must.


Any time you need to hire someone to manage employees, your best bet is to go with an actual human. Automation isn’t able to evaluate performance and communicate as effectively.

Robot, Worker Photos via Shutterstock


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. This is ridiculous. Once AI has equivalence to the human brain (which is still years out, but coming and soon) then robots will be able to do anything humans can do. It is a lie with no basis to assure people as long as they do something sort of creative like the jobs you list above, their work will never be automatable. It reflects deep ignorance about the topic by the author.

  2. No doubt companies will try to use robots to automate some of these jobs. Computers can definitely play music, but not with feeling. They can write, but not like a human. And while you could try to use robots as salespeople, I personally wouldn’t want to buy from them. There are some questions they definitely could not answer.

    The customers of companies will impact how much gets automated by how much automation they will accept. IBM actually thought they could get the mainframes to trouble-shoot problems and order parts. Then they thought customers were going to be willing to plug those parts into a mainframe that is live with 440V running through it.

    I honestly can’t see that ever happening because even after 23 years at IBM, hot plugging parts into a running computer was still not something I was comfortable with but maybe if someone had no idea what could potentially happen maybe they might be willing. I know I checked, double-checked, triple-checked to make sure I about to pull the part that supposedly had power removed. When there are multiple parts exactly the same, getting the wrong one could crash the machine, damage other parts, or even zap the person doing it.

  3. I find that anything that needs the power of creativity is better done by humans. it is still impossible to replace humans when it comes to working.

  4. I have to agree on this. Not all jobs can be done by robots. Creative industries are in need of the human mind and imagination.

  5. Real Estate agents would be another field where their job could not be automated. I think any jobs where they provide a service, robots would not be able to perform!! Great Article!

  6. Annie Pilon, this is a great article. We are in a world where challenging human being is impossible. Without human brain Robots can’t be manufactured/programmed. Mentioning my words in a creative way: We will have to program something that can make robots think ‘How can Human being do everything in this world?’ And answer for this will ‘Earth is made for Living things’