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Is Basic Industries A Good Career Path?

logger at work

Yes, basic industries is a good career path. It includes sectors that are showing great growth like mining, chemicals and more. These careers often offer great benefits, wages, and opportunities for growth making them perfect for those looking for a long term career.

Basic industries deal largely with the raw materials that are used in major industries to create a finished product to purchase. 

The basic industry job market is huge. This article will help break down the industry options and some of the jobs available within each.

Don’t want the stress of college or student loans? We have you covered! All the jobs that are skilled trades are noted so you can know which jobs require no degree. But remember, a high school diploma or GED will be required for most jobs listed here.

What Are Basic Industries?

Basic industries also referred to as key industries or sometimes as the materials sector, are those that supply raw materials (basic materials) or products to industries that manufacture secondary or finished goods.

A few examples of basic industries include:

  • copper and aluminum smelting
  • iron and steel
  • milling
  • wood
  • paper
  • metallurgical

These industries often focus on producing products for export rather than for domestic consumption and sales, so it plays a major part on the global stage. Secondary industries use the materials these basic industries provide to manufacture finished goods.

Related: Is capital goods a good career path?

is basic industries a good career path, like being a logger
Loggers at work

basic industries career paths

There are so many sectors in the basic industries field, which means there are a lot of unique opportunities for everyone.

But some of the paths may have a brighter future than others due to changes in environmental rules and regulations. For example, in the not-too-distant future, the oil industry may see some major changes due to the transition away from fossil fuels.

But there are still many other career choices out there that have more stability. 

Below is a list of each of the industry options, prominent jobs, and some salary statistics so you can see what is right for you! 

Agriculture Industry

The majority of the food supply chain comes from the agriculture industry.

This is where we get our meat products, eggs, milk, vegetables, fruit, and grain, which are value-added to create finished food and beverage products.

Most items in the agricultural industry are sold to other businesses for value addition, but some can go directly to end consumers. 

For instance, bread, pasta, cakes, and other grain products originate from a wheat farm; bacon, sausages, and ham originate from a pig farm; and chocolate and coffee originate from cocoa and coffee farms, respectively. 

Excellent basic industries opportunities in the agricultural sector include:

  • Soil and Plant Scientist
  • Food Scientist
  • Animal Scientist
  • Agronomist
  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Commercial Horticulturist
  • Farm Manager (trade career)
  • Agricultural Production Worker

Most of these jobs do require formal education.

Entry-level positions within agriculture that do not require a degree are also an option but may require more manual labor and have lower wages. These might include jobs like an animal caretaker, crop cultivator, picker, and more. 

Metal fabrication Industry

Metal fabrication skills can be lucrative and offer opportunities to build a comfortable life. Understanding the metal fabrication process can have you working in a variety of industries, meaning you will always be able to find a job.

For instance, iron and steel beams are needed when in the construction industry for buildings, bridges, roads, aircraft, and other large construction projects.

A sheet metal company may produce metal from basic steel sections, which is an essential component for automotive products, boat makers, and other types of transportation.

These are some prominent career paths in the metal fabrication industry:

  • Welder (trade career)
  • Tool and Die Technician (trade career)
  • Sheet Metal Worker (trade career)
  • Pipefitter (trade career)
  • Metal Fabricator (trade career)
  • Machinist (trade career)
  • Ironworker (trade career)
  • Field Installers (trade career)
  • Assemblers (trade career)
  • Steel Worker or Metal Worker (trade career)

Fun fact! The material for steel production comes from the oil and gas industry! They will extract the iron ore needed so a steel worker can make the steel that is used for so many finished products. 

Vocational or technical training would be needed for most of these careers. But any job in metal would be a solid career choice. The BLS.gov salary statistics for structural metal fabricators show a median salary range from $42,000 – $55,420.

Of course, the level of experience you have and your location will play a big part in wages. The more job experience you have in trade, the higher the wages you can ask for. 

Chemical industry

The chemical industries create secondary products by transforming inorganic and organic materials using chemical processes.

These basic chemicals – specialty and commodity chemicals – produce all sorts of consumer and industrial goods, ranging from plastic products and perfumes to cleaning products and artificial flavors.

Some of the items produced don’t use chemicals during the production process; the chemical solutions are essential in cleaning and sterilizing the equipment that makes them.

Some basic industry careers in the chemical industry include:

  • Scent Scientist
  • Product or Process Development Scientist
  • Plant Operator
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Material Scientist
  • Flavor Chemist
  • Energy engineer
  • Color Technologist
  • Chemist
  • Chemical Technician
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Biotechnologist

This is an industry that does usually require an advanced education level. A degree in petroleum engineering or a degree in chemical engineering are common requirements.

The trade jobs in this field will typically be factory work like packaging or bottling which are not well-paying in most cases. 

Oil and gas Industry

The oil and gas industry (also sometimes called the petroleum industry) is a major basic industry sand offers some of the highest-paying jobs.

The industry involves the location and extraction of various elements from the earth that can be refined and used to generate energy. Searching for oil and gas deposits is just one example of what this industry does.

They are also key to finding iron ore raw material that is used in the steel industry. 

The one downside to this industry is the uncertainty of the future of oil drilling and drilling operations. With a future that is focused on less fossil fuel use, we can see many jobs in this industry disappearing. 

Some jobs in this sector include:

  • Geoscientist
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Oil Field Worker
  • Offshore/ Oil Rig Worker
  • Mudlogger
  • Hydrographic Surveyor
  • Environmental Compliance Coordinator
  • Engineering or Petroleum Geologist
  • Energy Engineer
  • Finance Specialist and Manager
  • Geoscientist
  • Geological Engineer

Mining Industry

The mining industry is so important for getting minerals and metals that are often used as raw materials in so many of our every day products. For this reason, mining is also considered part of the basic industries as well.

The careers in this industry can range from mining engineer to a mine electrician. This means there is ample opportunity for people of all skills and educational levels. The salaries for those in this field are often much higher than other trade careers, so definitely worth checking it out.

Textile production Industry

Textile production involves converting raw materials such as cotton, silk, linen, and other fibers into thread or yarn used to produce fabric. While creating clothing materials is probably what most think of in the textile industry, there is so much more to it. 

These jobs are located in textile mills and provide products for all sorts of consumer items, including clothes, upholstery, flooring, carpets and rugs, curtains, towels and sheets, furniture, automotive upholstery, cord and twine, industrial belts, and fire hoses.

Some well-paying basic industry textile jobs are:

  • Weaver
  • Textile technician
  • Textile designer
  • Textile converter
  • Print Manager
  • Machine operator (trade career)
  • Illustrator
  • Engraver (trade career)

Some of these jobs may require a degree in apparel or graphic design. 

Related: Is consumer services a good career path?

Utility Industry

The utility sector (also called the energy sector) –includes electricity, heat, and water.

These profitable industries are very much in demand as they are vital for other economic sectors to operate. For instance, agricultural farms, factories, mines, and other facilities cannot operate without electricity, heat, or water.

Some of the most common jobs include:

  • Wastewater Treatment Technician
  • Wastewater Treatment Operator
  • Utility Inspector
  • Utility Engineer
  • Plant Operator/ Technician
  • Field Installer / Technician
  • Wind Turbine Technician

Careers in utilities are often considered blue-collar and will usually require vocational training and sometimes certification.

While there are many solid choices in this industry, it is important to know that some energy sources may be on the decline as we move to more environmentally friendly options. 

Wood and Paper manufacturing Industry

The timber industry is incredibly large and works to provide wood to a variety of manufacturers. Paper and wood production requires workers who can extract the wood and pulp and process it as needed for different products.

Forest products, harvested and taken through a complex manufacturing process, create the finished wood that builds structures, furniture, writing paper, toilet paper, hygiene products, cardboard boxes, consumer packaging, and other wood-based products.

The pulp and paper industry is incredibly large and is filled with opportunities – and will only continue to grow.

The paper manufacturing industry, sometimes called the paper pulp industry,  alone has a market size of approximately $38.1 billion as of 2022. This is just one of the many solid career paths within this sector.

The whole process begins with lumber and pulp production. These intermediate substances then go through more manufacturing processes to produce various products for the end consumer.

For example, creating paper starts with the processing of wood with cellulose (usually from coniferous trees) and continuing to refine it until it becomes paper. 

Well-paying and stable jobs in the wood and pulp industry include:

  • Woodworker (trade career)
  • Stock Preparation Operator
  • Sawyer
  • Pulp Tester
  • Pulp / Paper Mill Operator
  • Pipe Fitter (trade career)
  • Packaging Designer
  • Millwright (trade career)
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Maintenance Machinist

  • Laboratory Technician
  • Envelope Machine Operator
  • Electrician (trade career)
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Digester Operator
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Chemical Analyst
  • Box Manufacturer
  • Barker Operator
  • Logger (trade career)
cotton field

Why do we recommend basic industries?

Economies rely heavily on jobs within basic industries because they contribute significantly to a country’s GDP.

These well-paying jobs also provide excellent employment opportunities for people trained in production and manufacturing to earn a good living.

As long as you have the trade certification and licensing required by law and keep technically updated with the certifications needed in each field, you should have a good career path in the basic industries.

The future of this industry is strong, so if you are looking for stability you have found it.

Another bonus is that the jobs are satisfying and provide real opportunities for growth and promotion, often in one company.

People working in basic industries nevertheless face many challenges. The jobs are strenuous, and the exposure to hazardous materials and conditions is very high. But, because of these conditions, employees in these industries build valuable real-life skills, giving them the expertise and exposure that employers value.

Due to the ever-growing demand for materials to work with, jobs in basic industries provide few downsizing opportunities, making them a good career path for those trained in the industry.

What to expect when working In The basic industries

Jobs in basic industries tend to be challenging.

Here’s just some of what you can expect when you get a job in this sector:

Very technical job

These jobs often require people with high technical skills. Although you’ll more than likely receive on-the-job training, you must keep up with your certifications annually to continue working in your chosen industry.

Hazardous conditions

Hazardous conditions exist in every job but more so in basic industries. Employees face the risk of injury and accidents such as chemical exposure and machine failures. It is essential to adhere to health and safety at all times when working in these jobs.

High physical nature

These jobs are physically demanding. Expect to carry weights, stand, stretch, and bend while carrying out your duties.

How to succeed in the basic industries

Below are some valuable tips to ensure you have the qualities and aptitude to succeed in the basic industries.

Good aptitude

Getting a job in basic industries is not that easy. Competition is stiff, and the training is tough to ensure only the best people qualify. Once you get a job in basic industries, you will succeed by having a good attitude, a proactive approach, and the ability to easily accommodate changes.

These attributes are vital to surviving the everyday challenges these jobs bring.

Adaptability

Basic industries are tightly knit with the economy; if the economy is good, jobs in these industries are plentiful, but the reverse is also true. It helps to be adaptable and constantly update your certifications to survive any economic cycle.

Teamwork

Most basic industries’ jobs require teamwork to accomplish huge tasks. Learning and embracing collaboration shows a sense of discipline and willingness to accomplish a task.

Productivity

Productivity is crucial in any job on this path. Time management and multitasking in busy manufacturing environments are key to succeeding in this industry.

Skills

The more skills you can bring to a job the better. For example, management skills are critical for higher-level jobs, and analytical skills are critical for analysts and scientists. 

With most jobs having great people skills is also an essential skill! Trade careers often require their own unique basic skills depending on the type of job you will be doing. 

Basic industries pros and cons

As with everything in life, there are some pros and cons to careers in this field which are covered below.

Education

No matter what level of education you have, there is a job for you in this industry.

Post-secondary education, whether a certification or college diploma can help improve your job prospects. 

There are many trade jobs that have minimal education requirements. Some jobs may require some technical training, others might require certifications.

Most will require a high school diploma or GED though, so be sure to finish high school! 

There are also many jobs that require a college diploma or more formal education. The degrees of education for jobs in science can range from bachelor’s degrees to Ph.D., so be sure to check the requirements for each job.

Security

In general, working in a job in the basic industries offers more long-term prospects than many other paths because the materials they create will always be needed.

For the foreseeable future, jobs in the industry will be plentiful as the demand for people continues to grow. There are currently more jobs available than people to fill them making it a solid career choice.

Pay + Benefits

Many of the high-paying jobs in the industry do require advanced degrees. These jobs bring a higher annual salary than many trade jobs we have listed. 

But even many of the trade careers offer a decent salary and great benefits that can provide a comfortable life. The average salary for many jobs will depend on the experience level and location, so these should be considered when doing your career exploration.

Salary ranges can vary greatly from company to company depending on your level of experience and training. It is important to interview several companies to explore salary ranges and opportunities for growth.

Physical

Most jobs that fall under this description can be very labor-intensive making it a less attractive prospect for many. Working on oil rigs or on electrical lines that are high up can be scary and risky.

These kinds of physical demands can cause issues with health and wellness.

Economics

Just like any other industry, basic industries can be affected during poor economic times. While they tend to fare better during these times, they are not immune to potential disruptions in the workforce.

Because much of the items produced in this sector for housing, it would have seen some impact in the crash of 2008.

What Do Basic Industries Jobs Pay?

Judging by what these jobs pay, most basic industries careers pay very well. These jobs are often more stable than other industries and usually, come with good benefits.

But as with all sectors, some jobs are better paying than others. 

Below, we’ve outlined some high-paying basic industry jobs and the average median salary statistics*:

  • Agronomist – $72,500
  • Drilling Engineer – $133,044
  • Chemical Engineer – $108,540
  • Electrician – $59,190 (trade career)
  • Forensic Scientist – $60,216
  • Health and Safety Officer – $54,000
  • Metallurgist – $76,456
  • Petroleum Geologist – $106,958
  • Paper Miller – $44,963 (trade career)
  • Pipefitter – $54,106 (trade career)
  • Steel Fabricator – $37,133 (trade career)
  • Truck Driver – $78, 029 (trade career)

The average salary an employee will make will be dependent on location,  experience, and valuable skills you bring to the job. But as you can see, a decent salary is available across all sectors. 

Interested in learning more about what basic industries jobs pay? View our guide to the highest-paying jobs in basic industries to help you see the salary statistics for many of the top jobs.

*Salary statistics are from BLS.gov and reflect the median salary averages. 

companies In The Industry

There are so many companies in the basic industry sector it would be almost impossible to list them all.

But, to give you an idea of the kinds of brands that offer job opportunities in this sector, we have included a list of companies below. These companies combined employ millions of people with all different levels of experience all over the world.

  • Cargill. A company that is well-known in the agricultural and food sectors, and has a presence in more than 65 countries.
  • Chevron. As one of the largest employers in the gas industry, they are a major force and offer a lot of opportunities to job-seekers.
  • Dow Chemical. The creator of a variety of raw materials that are used in many industries. With a global presence, they have a variety of opportunities for job seekers of all levels around the world.
  • DuPont de Nemours. A major player in several industries, DuPont provides raw materials to a variety of manufacturers. Their materials can be found in the automotive industry, industrial industry, consumer products, and electrical components.
  • Glencore International. A producer of metals and minerals, energy products, and agricultural products. They are worldwide and offer a lot of opportunities for those seeking new work opportunities.
  • International Paper. A brand that has a lead in the paper industry as a global producer of pulp and paper products. The items they produce are used daily in our lives in such things as paper towels, tissues, diapers, and so much more. They offer a large selection of trade opportunities from forklift operators to electricians and provide a great benefits plan.
  • Newmont Mining. The mining industry has its fair share of companies as well, with Newmont Mining being one of the most well-known. They produce gold, lead, silver, and copper. They are respected for their environmental practices and employees enjoy fair wages and great benefits.
  • Nucor. Known in the steel industry, they are a leading provider of raw materials. Under their raw materials division, they also provide transportation, materials handling, and other services to those that use scrap metal. With good employer reviews and lots of trade career options, this is a great place to consider working.
  • Sealed Air Corporation. For those who love popping Bubble Wrap, then Sealed Air Corporation is a brand you should know. They produce that magical wrap as well as many other items. They have a variety of careers available and provide great benefits.

Final thoughts

We hope this post has sufficiently answered the question for you!

If the idea of taking a raw product and using it to create a finished functional product sounds interesting, then this is the perfect career path for you.  

With jobs for all education levels and some offering very rewarding careers, basic industries are a career path worth considering. 

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