Is Basic Industries A Good Career Path?

Choosing a career path is an important decision that will affect your life for years to come. One option you may not have considered is the industry of basic industries. Basic industries are necessary for our day-to-day living, and the demand for people in this field never seems to dwindle.

Basic industries supply raw materials to manufacturers. Employees in this field work to extract natural resources like coal, oil and gas. Raw materials are then used for energy production or converted into new products. Areas of study that can be beneficial to individuals interested in basic industries include science, engineering and math.

Industries involved with basic materials play a major role on the global stage too. The industry handles more than $100 billion in exports each year, and energy production is a major part of the U.S. economy as well. As demand increases around the world, so will opportunities within basic industries.

Basic industries include companies that process raw materials from natural resources to make them usable by manufacturers.

The industry supplies basic materials to manufacturers. This includes products like paper or plastic that are used for everyday items, including food containers and clothing. Employees in this field work with chemicals, metals and other raw materials extracted from nature by mining, drilling or digging them up out of the ground. Another example of a basic industry is the timber one.

The good news is that you can find a job in this field with just a high school diploma or GED.

In this article, we are going to see why basic industry could be a solid career path, and how to get into them.

A Career in Basic Industries: Smart or Foolish?

Basic industries are never going away. We will always need raw materials to build the products we use every day. But you also accept that we’re living in an increasingly digital world. Look at Facebook’s Meta stuff. People will end up valuing more a paper origami in their virtual home than about making real paper origamis in their actual home. That’s both fascinating and weird at the same time.

Still, the physical world will always be there. Especially since the virtual world doesn’t exist without the physical one. How good is having huge metaverses if we don’t mine copper to build the cables that make the internet exist?

As far as basic industries are concerned, the idea of working in that sector is not for everyone. And if you decide to go into it, then there’s no one-size fits all approach on how to get started and become successful at it.

That said here some things you need to know about this field before starting your new career.

Basic Industries and The Job Market

The basic industry job market is strong and growing. Although, of course, we have to make a distinction. Basic industry is very broad. Some industries are booming and will keep going for a while. Others are dying, and are at risk of disappearing because of legislation.

Even during the downturn of 2008, all sectors lost jobs at a similar rate. Basic industries were not immune to this trend, but they still fared better than most other areas–expanding their workforce by nearly 15% from 2007 to 2009.

With an ever-growing population, the planet needs more resources now than ever. And sure, technology improved our productivity by a lot, but we still need basic materials to keep the economy going.

That’s why work in basic industries is here to stay and will probably continue as a solid career path for some time. So, if you are thinking about what direction your next career move should take, consider whether an industry like basic industries could be right for you.

Basic Industries Careers and Salaries

While education requirements are not high, there are still good salaries to be made within basic industries. This is mostly because people don’t want to work these jobs. With many vacant jobs, employers will pay a premium to those who are up to the task.

The petroleum industry is just one of many within basic industries that is growing. There are opportunities available for nearly every skill level across multiple fields, including oil and gas, mining, construction, manufacturing or wastewater treatment.

The next few years are likely to be the best time ever for workers looking to enter basic industries. With high-paying jobs available with minimal education requirements across multiple fields, now is a great time to get started.

Editor’s note: As an example, the median salary for a derrick operator in oil & gas was $50.280 in 2020. These jobs are extremely lucrative if you’re ok with them. Some people dislike them for ethical reasons, others can’t stand the work hours or environment. This makes them hard to find employees for.

Education to Enter the Field

Many jobs in basic industries only require a high school diploma or GED, which can be an attractive prospect for many people who don’t want the stress of college and student loans hanging over their heads. Plus, some of them can be very lucrative if you have the right mindset.

Most of the jobs will require on-the-job training. You’ll get paid to learn how to do your job, isn’t that cool? Compare it with college, where you’re paying a lot to learn, and you won’t get the practical skills needed. It’s a whole different way of approaching the same problem.

That said, if you’re willing to study and get a degree, your salary is likely to skyrocket too. Taking the derrick operators’ example we made earlier. Consider this: a derrick operator earns about $50k/year. But a petroleum engineer earns almost triple than that ($137.330/year).

Warning: There are caveats about which basic industries you should pick. Take the petroleum engineers example we just gave. It’s probably best to stay away from it if you are looking for something in the long term. Keep reading to find out why.

The Future of Basic Industries

Before getting into basic industries, it’s important to consider that not all industries are going to last forever. Government regulations are getting tighter and stricter–not just in the U.S., but around the world–meaning that there are only so many resources to go around.

Let’s go back to the derrick operator example. Yes, again. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (I don’t blame you, I’m trying to do the same), you know that governments from all over the world want to eventually stop relying on oil altogether. 

If that happens, the derrick operators will see their salaries drop. At worst? They’ll become unemployed and won’t find any job in other sectors if they’re not trained to do so.

But what about oil companies themselves? Sure, there’s a lot of money to be made within them, but should you work for one as an employee?

It’s a tricky question. If you want to maximize your chances of success–and we don’t blame you–then yes, working for an oil company is probably the best way to go about it. You’ll get training that will prepare you for other jobs as well, which is always welcome if starting from scratch isn’t really your cup of tea.

If the market value changes drastically and there is a recession or depression-like environment where companies can’t afford to employ as many people, you could be out of a job.

That’s why it’s important to consider the long-term prospects for your career path.

Basic Industries to Avoid

Not all basic industries make for solid career choices. The main reason for this is because the job market might disappear when legislation makes it impossible to run.

  • Oil drilling, which we’ve already talked about above. Expect oil drilling to become illegal in the not-too-distant future.
  • Coal mining, which has already seen a lot of layoffs in the past few years, and that probably will be banned in a couple of decades.
  • Meat farming, which is also seeing a lot of layoffs because of the rising price of meat. Plus, many people see it in a negative light now. There is space for more humane meat farming, though, so perhaps it can be salvaged. It’s too uncertain at the moment.

If you’re planning on getting into those sectors, we urge you to think long and hard about it before making any rash decisions. If you’re just looking for a job to keep you going for a couple of years, then they are fine choices. But if you’re in it for the long-term, then there are better basic industries for that.

Look where world governments are trying to steer the ship. They are trying to phase out certain energy sources. That means that working with them will probably become obsolete in the next decade.

Immortal Basic Industries

Immortal is the only world to describe these industries. For these to disappear, we’d have to cheat the very laws that rule the universe. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s going to take us a while to get there.

  • Agriculture—this is one of the most basic industries there is. In particular, the entire process from planting to harvesting and then distributing it. Humans will always need to eat, and agriculture can be made more productive, unlike meat farming or fishing. It doesn’t get any simpler than this.
  • Precious metals mining—there’s a lot of gold and silver in the ground, plus most people will always want to own it. The biggest issue with this is that these resources will eventually run out. As in, there will be no more gold, silver, or copper to mine. But realistically, by then (which is decades away for gold—the rarest one) we will probably have figured out a way to mine it from other celestial bodies.
  • Wood farming—Yes, deforestation is a problem. But would it’s a sustainable resource? We can (and should) plant more trees to replace the ones we cut down. We can eventually reach a point that, for every tree we cut down, we plant a new one. This would make the industry 100% self-sustaining. We are already doing so much better in this area than we used to.
  • Clothing materials—This is another basic industry that we can never do away with. We need clothes to cover our bodies and protect us from the elements. Farming cotton or herding sheep for their wool is going to be around for centuries.

If you’re considering basic industries, the best examples are in immortal industries. Industries that can’t disappear without cheating the laws of the universe. If you work in these areas, the long-term prospects are excellent. They’ll likely never go away because people always need to eat and get healthcare when they’re sick or injured.

However, if your goal is to maximize earnings, look at petroleum engineering as an example. It may not last forever, but it’s one of the highest-paying jobs out there. It’s about balancing what you currently have with your short- and long-term plans.

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Conclusions

Basic industries are hit or miss. Some of them will thrive for the foreseeable future. Others are under the government’s scrutiny. The latter ones are at risk of getting closed down by bureaucrats, leaving you unemployed.

But context matters. If you’re a youngster looking for a lifetime career, then those industries should be avoided at all costs. If you’re looking for something with good pay without requiring long years at a college to build up your savings, then they are great choices.

Or maybe you’re a little older and just need a job to put food on the table for a few years. Your situation is the number 1 factor you must consider before picking a job in a basic industry.

There is lots of money to be made here, with fewer people willing to get these jobs, and ever-growing demand of the resources extracted by them.

There are some basic industries that will see exponential growth in the future. And, if you’re willing to upskill in the future, you’re in for a long and rewarding career. If you gain skills that bring real value to your employer, you’ll advance in your job and eventually reach a respectable salary.

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