What is RPA: An Introduction and Career Possibilities

Is technology killing off all that many jobs? Yes and no. You probably know already that automation has eliminated many manufacturing jobs. And you’ve probably heard by now that 73 million more jobs will likely be lost by 2030. There’s a downside to this, obviously, as people lose jobs, but there are two benefits as well: one, many of the jobs being taken over by automation were tedious manual tasks, and two, automation is creating jobs as well as eliminating them. Many of those new jobs will be in the field of Robotic Process Automation, or RPA.

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What is RPA? 

RPA is the use of technology (i.e., software) that can automate business processes such as interpreting applications, processing transactions, dealing with data, and even replying to emails. In short, Robotic Process Automation automates repetitive, rule-based tasks formerly done by human beings. Lest you think this will be menial tasks, McKinsey reports that up to 45 percent of the activities we do can be automated, and even some of the highest-paying jobs can be at least partially automated, including the work of financial managers, doctors, and even CEOs. 

So back to those jobs and how many we will lose: Forrester Research estimates RPA automation will threaten the livelihood of 230 million or more knowledge workers or approximately 9 percent of the global workforce. However, RPA will also create new jobs as workers train for and move to new roles within their companies. Also, RPA automation will change jobs without eliminating them. McKinsey reports less than 5 percent of occupations can be automated, but about 60 percent can be partially automated to varying degrees. And that’s where the business benefit comes in, as employees can focus on higher-value tasks.

RPA: Automating the Clerical and Repetitive

Unlike AI or Machine Learning technology that is designed to get progressively “smarter,” RPA does the same thing over and over. Just as robots have taken over parts of the repetitive production of cars on an assembly, RPA does the same for the office. Rather than doing manual physical labor as in a manufacturing plant, RPA takes over clerical tasks. It mimics human behavior as it completes routine and repetitive tasks that would have been done by a human before, tasks like entering data, ordering supplies, sending shipping notices, and the like. 

RPA can come in different forms. It can be highly customized for particular types of processes at a business, and therefore easily scaled throughout the organization. It can automate parts of a process, if not the whole process. Or it can be off-the-shelf but designed for a specific industry. 

As with other types of automation, RPA frees employees to do higher-value tasks. For example, retail workers can spend more time with customers. Agents can focus on complicated claims. Doctors can spend more time with patients. Executives can spend more time with staff or investors. With the menial removed from the workday, employees can get more meaningful work done. 

Also, RPA offers employers significant cost savings because RPA doesn’t require a paycheck, sick leave, or vacation time. McKinsey reports the return on investment can be as high as 30 to 200 percent in the first year. Also, RPA makes fewer errors and can speed up processes as well. It is particularly useful in the healthcare, financial services, supply chain management, retail, and manufacturing industries.

And it’s growing. Forrester predicts the RPA market will reach $2.9 billion by 2021, and it’s already in use at large enterprises like Walmart, American Express, GameStop, and AT&T, to name only a few.

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Career Opportunities in RPA Automation

The growth of the industry and widespread adoption of RPA will drive job growth as well. Many types of jobs are available in RPA, including developer, project manager, business analyst, solution architect, and consultant. Also, you’ll find job postings for RPA tech writers, process designers, and production managers. It is a field with plenty of possibilities!

And it pays well. SimplyHired says the average RPA salary is $73,861, but that is the average compiled from salaries for junior-level developers up to senior solution architects, with the top 10 percent earning over $141,000 annually.

Also read: Automation Anywhere: From Daily Life to RPA Software

Getting Started in RPA 

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in RPA, the Introduction to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) course is the place to start. This course will give you an overview of RPA concepts; teach you how to work with RPA tools and workflows using varied data types; help you master Desktop, Web and Citrix Automation; show you how to organize and manage a real-life workflow automation project, and train you on implementing RPA in your organization—or your next job.

No one knows for sure if technology will create as many jobs as it eliminates, whether that technology is AI, Machine Learning, RPA, or something else yet to be invented. The experts and pundits will continue to crunch numbers and make projections, but only time will tell what jobs will look like in the end. However, we do know RPA and other automation-related IT jobs will be plentiful. And that now is an excellent time to start pursuing an RPA career.

About the Author

Shivam AroraShivam Arora

Shivam Arora is a Senior Product Manager at Simplilearn. Passionate about driving product growth, Shivam has managed key AI and IOT based products across different business functions. He has 6+ years of product experience with a Masters in Marketing and Business Analytics.

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