Professional services jobs are service-sector positions that require some type of special training. People and companies in professional services provide expertise and services to clients and consumers, rather than a product.
Professional and business services is a high-demand industry with plenty of opportunities for qualified job seekers. But is professional services a good career path?
What Are Professional Services?
Professional services is a type of service sector. Specifically, this industry provides the services that help individuals and companies achieve their professional goals. These can be physical services (like designing and maintaining a website) or nonphysical (like a career coach who conducts mock interviews to help you get comfortable talking about yourself).
In most cases, people who work in professional services have specialized training, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a specialized degree. For example, an electrical engineer has a relevant engineering degree as well as a license from the state, while a voice coach may have trained for years as a singer after graduating high school.
What Jobs Are in Professional Services?
There are many jobs in professional services across a variety of fields. Here are some examples of professional services jobs.
Lawyers provide professional services giving advice and guidance on legal matters such as estate planning or starting a business. Some lawyers practice:
- Entertainment law: This is a type of intellectual property law that helps people in the entertainment industry navigate copyright and other legal issues.
- Estate planning: Estate lawyers help people create wills and make plans for their estate should they become incapacitated and when they die.
- Commercial law: Sometimes called business or trade law, lawyers in this area work with people and businesses and help them navigate these kinds of laws.
- Criminal law: These lawyers help those with criminal charges defend themselves.
- Environmental law: This specialty focuses on laws and legislation around the environment.
The financial services field is a broad category of professional services that includes jobs such as:
- Accountants help companies or individuals understand their tax responsibilities and provide guidance on planning for it.
- Investment bankers advise banks on what to buy and sell to help the bank raise capital.
- Commercial bankers work with clients to achieve their financial goals (like helping them with a mortgage).
- Portfolio managers help clients achieve their investment goals.
- Brokers execute transactions between buyers and sellers. This could include stocks, real estate, or other assets.
- Financial analysts analyze financial data to forecast outcomes and guide company decision making.
- Auditors review and investigate business processes to see how accurate they are.
- Wealth managers advise clients on the best strategies to manage their financial portfolio.
Computer engineering is a broad category of professional services connected with nearly every aspect of our digital lives. Some professional services jobs in computer engineering are:
- Software engineers develop the code that helps computers and applications run.
- Cybersecurity engineers keep computer systems safe.
- Web developers design and maintain websites.
- UX designers ensure that our interactions with a digital product are frustration-free.
Data scientists use data to discover patterns, train artificial intelligence, and create models that help key decision-makers choose a course of action.
- Actuaries analyze data to determine and forecast risk.
- Data scientists interpret historical data to predict the future.
- Machine learning engineers use data to train and improve machine learning models.
Other Professional Services Jobs
The above career categories are just the tip of the professional services iceberg. Other job titles in professional services include:
What Do Professional Services Jobs Pay?
With so many roles in professional services, there are large pay ranges within the sector. “The pay will fluctuate based on the market demand for your service, as well as your expertise and reputation in the field,” explains Ryan Miller, director of client success at Employment BOOST, a professional career services and outplacement firm.
According to Glassdoor, the average annual pay range for a person in professional services was between $95,000 and $163,000 for all levels of experience. Someone at entry-level (zero to one year of experience in professional services) might make between $66,000 and $111,000. However, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the average hourly pay for those working in professional and business services in November 2023 was $41.03, which is just over $85,000 per year.
Pros and Cons of Professional Services Careers
Although many details depend on the specific career, there are benefits and disadvantages of working in professional services.
Pros of Professional Services Jobs
Here are some of the pros of professional services jobs.
1. Solid Demand for Professional Services
Many sectors within professional services are essential “and thus will never go extinct,” says business and psychology professor Brandi Baldwin, CEO of Millennial Ventures Holdings, which owns a portfolio of startups.
2. Great Potential for Pay Gains
As a person advances in professional services, they often can charge hourly, particularly if they’ve built an impressive client roster and have a proven track record, according to Miller.
“The nice thing about professional services is that a lot of your success will be based on your expertise, as well as your customer service,” he says. “If you’re the best at what you do, people will usually pay for it.”
Attorney Shavon Jones, chief content officer at legal coaching and training company Sales for Lawyers agrees with that assessment. “Generally, the longer you do this work, the better at it you become and the more you’re worth in the marketplace,” she says.
3. Considerable Flexibility
Once you’ve accumulated experience, several career options await you in professional services.
For instance, you might be able to strike out on your own and establish your own business, such as a law firm, accounting firm, or financial planning firm. Or, if you enter the consulting side of professional services, you can plot your own course, like working in-house at a large company or as an independent contractor.
In addition, Jones points out that new career avenues are opening up in professional services. She cites the expansion by many professional services firms of in-house teams dedicated to business development.
“So, if working as a subject matter expert becomes mundane, there’s the ability to switch from the client-service side to the revenue-generation side, which presents an entirely different challenge,” Jones says.
Cons of Professional Services Jobs
Like any job, professional services careers have their cons, too. Here are a few.
1. Rising Role of Technology
Businesses in professional services are increasingly adopting new software, artificial intelligence, and other types of technology.
For example, professional services firms wanting to cut costs and avoid labor challenges may turn to technology to automate tasks and increase productivity. This can nibble away at job growth for careers in this field.
2. Barrage of Paperwork
In some cases, workers in professional services become bogged down by paperwork. For instance, many employees in the sector complain about spending hundreds of hours cranking out reports that might not even be worth the effort.
3. Education Requirements
According to Baldwin, many workers in professional services must invest in education and training. An accountant, for example, must hold a bachelor’s degree and often needs to be licensed as a certified public accountant (CPA). Similarly, an architect must obtain a bachelor’s degree, qualify for a license, and keep up with continuing education.
This hefty education investment may be a barrier to those wanting to enter the professional services industry.
Professional Services Jobs Outlook
Because professional services are consistently in demand, the job outlook for these careers remains strong year over year. According to the BLS, employment in professional and business services is predicted to grow 7.3% between 2021 and 2031. Put another way, the BLS expects the professional services industry to add 1.5 million new jobs during that time, which is also the third-largest projected growth rate across all major industries.
In addition, workers can often perform professional services jobs from home working remotely. With many companies willing to hire outside their immediate geographic areas, there are ample opportunities for professionals in the field.
Is Professional Services a Good Career Path for You?
If you know, you know, and if you know professional services is a good career path for you, enroll in a free Forage job simulation and start building the skills you need to get the job you want.
But if you’re not sure professional services is right for you, take our career quiz and learn more about career paths in other fields.
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