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Is Capital Goods a Good Career Path in 2023?

A man wondering if capital goods is a good career path

When it comes to careers, you may not have considered working in capital goods. In fact, you might wonder what a career in capital goods is, or even what capital goods are!

Capital goods are items companies use to produce goods and services. The sector covers a vast array of industries and job titles and often has ample entry-level job opportunities. But is capital goods a good career path? This guide will help you decide if it’s the right career for you:

What Is Capital Goods?

Capital goods are the physical things a company uses to create finished products. Tools, vehicles, and machines can all be capital goods. Some examples are:

  • A bulldozer or dump truck that’s used in construction projects
  • Machines that produce processed foods
  • Paint and paint brushes used by a service provider to paint a house
  • Commercial aircraft providing transportation services

This is different from consumer goods in that consumer goods are not used to create another good. Consumer goods are the end product. For example, cars and candy bars are both consumer goods when consumers use them. Both were made with capital goods (parts and machinery), but once you purchase the car or candy bar, you don’t create another product with it. You simply drive the car or eat the candy bar. However, a car can also be a capital good when it’s used by a business. Similarly, a computer used by a family is a consumer good, but it’s a capital good when it’s used by a business.

What Industries Are in Capital Goods?

Because many industries produce capital goods, a career in capital goods can be in nearly any industry. As long as you work for a company that produces something used to create a product or service, you’re working in capital goods. Some industries in the capital goods field are:

  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Farm equipment manufacturing
  • Aviation manufacturing
  • Packaged foods

What Companies Are in Capital Goods?

Well, really any kind of company that produces capital goods! A few well-known companies in the capital goods sector include:

  • Boeing
  • Caterpillar
  • Union Pacific
  • GE
  • Lockheed Martin

What Kinds of Careers Are in Capital Goods?

Because so many industries are in capital goods, there are just as many careers and career opportunities. That said, your job title or career path won’t say “capital goods.” Instead, you’ll work at a company that produces capital goods and, no matter your role, contribute to the bottom line.

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Some job titles are more closely related to the actual production of capital goods than others. For example, you may work in a marketing or sales role at a company that produces machine parts. That means you’re working in capital goods. However, your specific contribution is not creating the parts as much as it is selling the products or drumming up new business. Common job titles at capital goods companies include:

  • Software developer
  • Business development manager
  • Marketing manager
  • Quality Control Manager
  • Research and development technician

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And if you’re wondering what do capital goods jobs pay, the answer is: just about anything!

For example, if you work as a civil engineer, your salary could be anywhere from $60,550 to $133,320 per year, depending on your experience level. But if you work as a business development manager, you may earn anywhere from $103,000 to $178,000 a year.

How Many Jobs Are Available in Capital Goods?

Because the capital goods industry is so wide-reaching and include so many career paths, it’s difficult to give a precise number of jobs openings. Some estimates say that there may be as many as 1.3 million jobs available in capital goods, when you consider the many industries involved in creating capital goods.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a breakdown of “production occupations,” specifically defined as workers who “operate machines and other equipment to assemble goods or distribute energy.” While the BLS includes job titles in both capital and consumer goods industries, overall employment in these occupations will likely decline 2% between 2021 and 2031. However, the BLS also says that despite overall employment dropping, the industry will need to hire replacement workers and projects there will be 989,900 openings each year.

Some job titles can expect to experience growth. Food processing equipment worker job openings are expected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031, with 36,700 openings per year, while machinists and tool and die makers can expect to see employment growth of 2%.

Jobs for industrial engineers, who often analyze and design production processes and facilities for capital goods companies, are projected to grow 10% over the same period.

Moreover, throughout 2022, orders for capital goods have generally increased. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau noted that in October 2022, new orders for nondefense capital goods increased 1.9%. While that may not seem like much, the report also states that capital goods orders were up seven out of the eight previous months. 

Is Capital Goods a Good Career Path?

With such a wide range of job titles, salaries, and industries to work in, capital goods is often a good career path. You can pursue almost any career that interests you and work in a variety of industries. But is capital goods a good career path for you? Here are some of the pros and cons of working in capital goods.

Pros of a Capital Goods Career

The capital goods sector has a massive impact on the economy. As noted above, the government tracks orders for capital goods and this figure is often used as a measure of how healthy the economy and country is. And without capital goods, other companies wouldn’t be able to produce consumer goods, making capital goods a linchpin of the overall economy.

Because so many companies are in capital goods, many entry-level opportunities exist across the field. At most companies, you’ll also find clear-cut career paths with opportunities to grow your skills and move up the career ladder.

And the big capital goods companies are often very stable. While they’re not immune to macroeconomic forces, many companies in capital goods have been around for decades. They know how to weather tough economic conditions and remain strong because it’s likely not the first time they’ve encountered a challenging economy.

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Finally, for some, one of the pros of working in capital goods is that you’re part of a company producing tangible assets, something you can touch and feel. The products are used to help other companies scale their business and be successful, which can be a very rewarding experience.

Cons of a Capital Goods Career

While capital goods companies are generally stable and familiar with many kinds of economic situations, when times are tough, they have to adjust like any other business. That may mean laying off staff or cutting salaries and benefits.

And even though the companies are long-lived, they often stay alive because they adapt and change to and with the times. Depending on the role you pursue, automation and changes in technology may make your job obsolete or reduce the number of open opportunities in the capital goods field.

Another con of working in capital goods is the work might be risky or even physically demanding. While working in the marketing department isn’t usually considered dangerous, if you’re in the engineering department, there may be times you have to go to active construction sites to view or even inspect the work. Or, you may be overseeing a factory or warehouse environment around heavy machinery.

Lastly, capital goods companies are large and often set in their ways. There may be multiple levels of middle and upper management that have to sign off on new initiatives. As a result, change and agility can be slow or, in some cases, may never happen.

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