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Is Basic Industries a Good Career Path (with Highest Paying Jobs)

Unlock the earning potential of basic industries, evaluate the appeal of this career path, and identify lucrative opportunities for professional growth.

By 

Synkdup Editorial Team   

|  21 February 2024

Is Basic Industries a Good Career Path

Is basic industries a good career path? Yes, the sector occupies a position of primary importance in the economy, and it can be an excellent option for people who prioritize job security and stability.

The sector is called ‘’basic’’ industries for a reason – it provides other industries with the resources to produce their products and services. You could say the sector is the backbone of industrialization, as nearly all industries rely on  companies in the basic industries sector for the raw materials to manufacture their products.

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Basic industries is a steadily growing sector, and the job opportunities in it are growing at a fast pace as well. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a significant hike in employment opportunities in various segments of the sector, such as agriculture, mining, and construction materials.

The sector includes numerous corporate giants, and at least three of America's biggest companies belong to this sector. Most of these companies offer not only competitive pay and benefits but ample career advancement opportunities as well.

Moreover, the sector also offers a huge number of entry-level jobs in farming, mining, quarrying, and other fields that require very basic or no education. And for many job seekers, the low entry barrier in the sector is a major attraction.

In this article, we try to answer the question, is basic industries a good career path in detail by discussing relevant queries, such as:

What are Basic Industries

Basic industries, also known as primary industries or foundational industries, refer to the sectors of the economy that provide other sectors with essential raw materials and basic goods. Most industries in this sector are involved in acquiring natural resources from the environment and processing them. Examples of these industries are the forestry, farming, mining, and oil and gas production industries.

The raw materials these industries convert into finished products are used in almost all industries. For example, a mining company extracts iron ore from the earth and processes it into usable iron, which is then used in different industries. The same goes for natural gas, oil, and agricultural produce.

Major Segments in Basic Industries

Different kinds of industrial segments can be categorized into basic industries, such as forestry, fisheries, mining, metal production, paper and pulp, chemicals, textiles, and even public utilities. Here are the major segments in the sector and the job roles they offer:

Agriculture

Agriculture is obviously a crucial industry as it provides us with a basic necessity of life – food. Besides that, countless corporations that make food products are directly dependent on the agriculture industry for the raw materials for their products. In addition to crop production, the industry includes livestock farming as well. Due to the essential nature of agricultural products, the industry provides the most job security of all industries. Common jobs in this industry include:

Mining

The mining industry mainly involves locating and extracting natural resources from deposits beneath the earth's surface. For the most part, these resources include coal, minerals, and metals like iron, zinc, and aluminum. The industry also includes the mining of precious metals like gold and silver and precious stones like diamonds. The industry is broadly divided into three segments: surface mining, underground mining, and subsea mining. Common job roles in mining include:

  • Geologist
  • Mining Engineer
  • Aggregate Yard Manager
  • Site surveyor
  • Geotechnical Engineer

Oil and Gas

The oil and gas industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world, and some of the biggest companies in the world belong to this industry. This industry is involved in extracting natural gas and crude oil from the earth and processing them into usable forms. The industry produces various petroleum derivatives like gasoline (petrol), diesel, jet fuel, kerosene, LPG, lubricants (like engine oils, gear oils, and greases), Asphalt, and petrochemicals (fertilizers, synthetic fibers, plastics, etc), fertilizers, solvents, detergents, etc.

Steel and Metal Processing

Metals like iron and aluminum, support the infrastructure of modern civilization. Metals are used everywhere around us, from the beams in buildings and bridges to machine parts in automobiles. The companies in this industry process metals like iron, gold, silver, lead, copper, and so on into usable forms for other industries. Steel manufacturing is one of the biggest industries in metal production. Some job roles in the industry are:

Chemical Production

The chemical production industry is a part of the manufacturing sector and includes companies that synthesize different kinds of chemical products, including basic chemicals, specialty chemicals, and fine chemicals. These are used as ingredients or additives in various products, ranging from plastics and textiles to pharmaceuticals. Basic chemicals are mainly used in consumer products, while specialty chemicals are used mainly for industrial purposes. Specialty chemicals include dyes, pigments, coatings, flavorings, and so on. Fine chemicals are mostly used in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and other high-value applications. Jobs in the industry include:

  • Synthetic Chemist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Petrochemical Engineer
  • Materials Scientist
  • Plant Operator

Timber

Since time immemorial, wood from forests has been used not only in various manufacturing concerns like construction and carpentry but also as a source of energy in the form of firewood. This makes timber one of the oldest segments in basic industries. Enterprises in this segment derive wood from forests, process it into a usable form, and supply it to various industries. In addition to furniture of various sorts, timber is also used for the manufacturing of paper and different paper products. These include writing paper, photographic paper, cardboard, packaging paper, tissue paper and hygiene products, and more. Common job roles in the timber industry include:

10 Best Paying Jobs in Basic Industries with Salaries 2024

Here is a list of some of the highest-paying jobs in different segments of basic industries:

1. Petroleum Engineer

(Average pay in the US - $8,229) - Source: Glassdoor

Petroleum engineering is one of the best-paying jobs in basic industries. This is because these engineers have a complex and critical job that requires deep knowledge of both geology and engineering principles. They locate petroleum deposits and develop safe and effective methods for extraction.

Key Roles and Responsibilities

  • Use various techniques to identify potential oil and natural gas reserves.
  • Design equipment to extract oil and natural gas.
  • Analyze data to assess the depth, size, and other characteristics of the reservoirs.
  • Ensure drilling operations comply with safety and environmental regulations.
  • Design systems to avoid accidents, minimize emissions, and minimize the impact of drilling activities on the environment.

Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering or a related field

2. Agricultural Chemist

(Average pay in the US - $67,160) - Source: Glassdoor

Also known as an agrichemical or agricultural scientist, an agricultural chemist specializes in chemical processes and their application in agriculture. They primarily work to promote plant growth and reduce crop losses. They play a key role in improving food quality and reducing the impact of farming on the environment.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Study soil samples to determine their nutrient content, pH levels, and overall fertility.
  • Develop recommendations for soil management practices like the application of fertilizers, lime, and other substances to promote crop growth.
  • Study the nutrient needs of crops and develop fertilizers to meet those needs.
  • Study pests, diseases, and weeds that hinder crop growth and develop methods for their control.
  • Research and test pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to determine their efficacy.
  • Evaluate the environmental effects of agricultural practices and develop sustainable farming methods.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in agricultural chemistry, agronomy, soil science, plant science, or a related field

3. Mining Engineer

(Average Salary in the US - $80,737) - Source: Glassdoor

A mining engineer designs mines to safely extract oil and natural gas from deposits deep within the earth and oversees the operation of mines and mining processes. They play a vital role in ensuring the environmental sustainability, safety, and economic viability of mining projects.

Key Roles and Responsibilities

  • Create efficient mine layouts by taking into consideration factors like geology, ore quality, and deposit size.
  • Determining the quality and quantity of mineral reserves by analyzing geological data, drilling samples, and other information.
  • Select mining equipment and oversee its operation and maintenance.
  • Make sure that mining processes comply with safety regulations and environmental standards.
  • Address post-mining land use considerations and develop plans for mine site closure and rehabilitation.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in mining engineering, mining engineering technology, or a closely related discipline

4. Metallurgist

(Average salary in the US - $92,149) - Source: Glassdoor

As the name indicates, metallurgists work with metals and alloys. They oversee the extraction of metals and work to convert them into usable products. Conducting tensile, hardness, and impact tests, microstructural analysis, and chemical composition analysis are major parts of their job.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Conduct various tests to analyze the properties of different metals and alloys.
  • Develop and optimize procedures for extracting metals from ores, refining raw materials, and manufacturing metal products.
  • Experiment with different techniques such as smelting, casting, forging, and heat treatment.
  • Establish and implement quality control procedures and analyze data to identify any defects or deviations in materials.
  • Ensure compliance with relevant standards related to materials, manufacturing processes, and workplace safety.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering, materials science, and engineering, or a related field.

5. Geologist

(Average salary in the US - $81,904) - Source: Glassdoor

A geologist is a scientist who studies various aspects of the earth's surface and interiors. In basic industries like mining and construction, they provide critical information about the earth's surface, identify valuable resources, manage geological risks, and promote sustainable practices.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Use various techniques to collect useful data, such as rock sampling, geological mapping, and geophysical surveys.
  • Conduct fieldwork to study and map geological formations, including rock types, mineral deposits, and structural features.
  • Estimate the quantity, quality, and accessibility of mineral resources.
  • Evaluate soil and rock conditions, groundwater levels, and geological hazards like landslides or sinkholes.
  • Use computer-based software and modeling techniques to analyze and interpret geological data.
  • Create 3D models to help make better decisions and optimize resource extraction or construction plans.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in geology or earth sciences or a closely related field.

6. Agricultural and Food Scientist

(Average salary in the US - $52,876) - Source: Glassdoor

An agricultural and food scientist primarily researches methods to enhance the safety and efficiency of agricultural products and establishments. The job primarily involves advancing agricultural practices, developing sustainable farming methods, and improving crop yield.

Key Roles and Responsibilities

  • Study plant genetics and crop physiology and soil science to develop effective strategies for crop cultivation and soil management.
  • Conduct research to optimize planting techniques, fertilization application, pest control measures, and irrigation methods.
  • Work on methods such as organic farming, agroforestry, and precision agriculture.
  • Use techniques of plant breeding and genetics to develop improved crop varieties.
  • Assess the nutritional composition of food products and develop strategies to enhance their nutritional value.
  • Study food preservation methods, processing technologies, and packaging innovations to enhance the efficiency of food manufacturing.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, crop or animal science, or a related field

7. Synthetic Chemist

(Average salary in the US - $81,560) - Source: Glassdoor

A synthetic chemist specializes in creating new chemical compounds and materials. Synthetic chemists use their skills to contribute to the production and development of chemicals, materials, and products that are essential for various sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, specialty chemicals, polymers, and energy.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Optimize reaction conditions and select suitable catalysts for the development of specific compounds.
  • Work closely with engineers and technicians to ensure a smooth transition from small-scale reactions to large-scale manufacturing processes.
  • Collaborate with analytical chemists and quality control teams to perform testing and analysis and verify compliance with industry standards.
  • Explore innovative synthetic methodologies, new reaction pathways, and new materials to enhance various aspects of product performance.
  • Assess the risks associated with chemical reactions, handle hazardous substances, and develop safety protocols.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, or a related field.

8. Oil Rig Worker

(Average salary in the US - $82,739) - Source: Glassdoor

Also known as offshore workers or oil rig operators, oil rig workers work on offshore oil rigs or drilling platforms. They are responsible for various tasks related to drilling operations, production, maintenance, and safety on the rig. It is a physically taxing job and involves working in dangerous conditions. Hence, in the general labor category, it is one of the best-paying jobs in basic industries.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Handle drilling equipment, control the drilling process, and ensure smooth drilling operations.
  • Maintain accurate records of the drilling process.
  • Monitor production levels, control flow rates, and ensure the efficient extraction of oil and gas from wells.
  • Assist in and oversee the assembly of drilling tools.
  • Inspect, troubleshoot, and repair various mechanical systems used on the rig in case of a malfunctioning incident.
  • Take part in safety inspections and ensure compliance with safety regulations.
Basic educational requirements: High school diploma or GED certification

9. Silviculturist

(Average salary in the US - $53,830) - Source: Glassdoor

A silviculturist works in the forestry sector and performs a variety of functions related to the management of forests and woodlands, such as promoting the growth of desired strands, reforestation, and the implementation of sustainable wood cultivation practices.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Formulate forest management plans based on factors such as species composition, growth rates, site conditions, and environmental considerations.
  • Implement strategies to enhance biodiversity and improve soil health.
  • Provide necessary maintenance for trees, like pruning and thinning.
  • Conduct research studies, collect data, and analyze forest-related information.
  • Collect and store seeds for reforestation efforts and oversee the planting and regeneration activities in the forested areas.
  • Assess the health of forest strands and detect issues like pests and invasive species.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in forestry

10. Quality Control Technician

(Average salary in the US - $39,615) - Source: Glassdoor

As the job title suggests, quality control technicians are responsible for ensuring that products meet various quality and safety standards. They make sure products are safe, functional, and meet customer expectations.

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Perform visual inspections, and measurements on incoming materials, work-in-progress components, and finished products.
  • Use specialized tools to assess product quality, such as calipers, gauges, and spectrophotometers.
  • Review and analyze data from inspections and tests and compare results against established standards to identify deviations.
  • Oversee the implementation of corrective measures and provide input to avoid issues in the future.
  • Maintain accurate and detailed records of inspections, tests, and corrective measures, which help track quality trends and identify areas for improvement.
  • Collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, such as production staff and engineers, to improve overall processes.
Basic educational requirements: a bachelor's degree in quality control management or engineering

Also Read: 10 Best Paying Jobs in Capital Goods

What Companies are in the Basic Industries Field

The most notable companies in the basic industries field are in the crude oil, gasoline, or coal business. Basic industries is a major sector in manufacturing-intensive economies, and in the US, it includes multiple corporate giants. Among the largest companies in America, three fall under the basic industries field, namely Schlumberger, ExxonMobil, and Chevron Corp. And as oil extraction is a major sector in the country, it is no surprise that all three of these companies are in the oil business.

Other big names in the field include Monsanto Co. and DuPont de Nemours (chemical companies), and Steel Dynamics Inc. and Vulcan Materials (construction materials companies).

Below is a more detailed list of ten major companies in the basic industries field.

1. Chevron Corp

Headquartered in Ramon, California, U.S.A., Chevron is one of the world's largest oil and gas companies. It is involved in various aspects of the production of oil, natural gas, and petroleum products, and lately, it has also been expanding into renewable sources of energy. The company is a significant contributor to meeting the automobile energy needs of the U.S. and has fueling stations all over the country. It has a prominent presence in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Chevron operates in over 180 countries and employs more than 42 thousand people.

2. Cargill

Every agriculturist in America is familiar with the name Cargill. Headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Cargill is an American multinational company that primarily produces agricultural supplies. It is one of the largest companies in the world in terms of revenue. In addition to the agriculture and animal nutrition segments, it also operates in the food ingredients, financial, and industrial segments. The company's agricultural products include corn, wheat, soybeans, and cocoa. In the food ingredients segment, it offers sweeteners, vegetable oils, proteins, flavors, and functional ingredients. It has a strong presence in over 70 countries and employs more than 165,000 people.

3. ExxonMobil

With its headquarters in Irving, Texas, ExxonMobil is an American multinational oil and gas company. It is a well-known name in the energy industry, and the company has a rich history that spans over a century. It makes a wide range of petrochemical products and operates in almost every aspect of the energy industry. One of the major operations of the company is refining crude oils into various products, such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and lubricants. The company's petrochemicals include ethylene, polyethylene, polypropylene, and other basic chemicals. Currently, the company operates in 38 countries and employs more than 70,000 people.

4. Martin Marietta Materials

Martin Marietta Materials is a leading producer of construction aggregates and heavy building materials. It has its headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, and has a strong presence in the construction materials industry in the country. The company provides essential materials for infrastructure development, residential and commercial construction, and other construction projects. Products in its construction aggregates include gravel, crushed stone, sand, and other items used in road construction, building foundations, and concrete production. Besides aggregates, the company also provides asphalt and ready-mixed concrete for construction projects. Martin Marietta Materials operates in 26 American states, Canada, and the Caribbean and employs over 8714 people.

5. DuPont

DuPont is headquartered in Wilmington, Dellaware, U.S.A, and is a renowned name in the chemicals industry. Though mostly known as a chemicals company, the multinational conglomerate operates in a wide range of industries, including electronics, nutrition, and biotechnology. The company has a wide range of chemical products and solutions that are used in various sectors. Their specialty chemicals often serve as ingredients in different products like coatings, adhesives, electronic materials, and personal care items. They make food and beverage products such as enzymes and other bio-based materials. They also make high-performance polymers and elastomers used in automotive, aerospace, electronics, and industrial applications. They also manufacture a wide range of performance materials like engineering plastics, elastomers, films, and fibers. DuPont has over 23,000 employees.

6. BHP Group

BHP (The Broken Hill Proprietary) Company is a multinational mining company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. The world-leading resources company is involved in the extraction and processing of metals, petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Though Iron ore and copper are the primary metals the company focuses on, it is also involved in the mining of nickel, silver, gold, zinc, molybdenum, and uranium. It operates copper mines across several countries, including the USA, Peru, and Chile. BHP has offshore drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico, Australia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Prominent subsidiaries of BHP include OZ Minerals and Australian Iron & Steel. BHP employs more than 80,000 people.

7. Rio Tinto

Headquartered in London, England, Rio Tinto is one of the world's largest mining corporations. Though the company focuses primarily on extraction, it is also involved in the refining of bauxite and iron ore. The four main business segments of the company are Iron Ore, aluminum, copper, and energy minerals (borax, salt, and titanium dioxide). It is a major global producer of iron and aluminum and operates bauxite mines, alumina refineries, and aluminum smelters in several countries. The Kennecott mine in the US and the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia are major copper mining projects for the company. Prominent subsidiaries of Rio Tinto include Richards Bay Minerals, Pilbara Iron, and Turquoise Hill Resources. The company employs 45,000 people.

8. International Paper

International Paper is the largest pulp and paper company in the world. It is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, and is a global leader in the manufacturing of packaging and paper products. It produces a wide range of paper-based products for various industries and applications. These include pulp products, printing papers, and specialty papers, as well as corrugated containers, folding cartons, and paper bags. The company also makes packaging products for industries such as e-commerce, food and beverage, and provides industrial packaging solutions. It also produces different types of printing paper, including office printing papers and commercial printing papers. International Paper operates in over 24 countries and employs about 56,000 people.

9. Ecolab

Headquartered in St.Paul, Minnesota, USA, Ecolab provides water treatment and cleaning and sanitizing solutions, primarily to industrial customers. The company caters mainly to customers in the manufacturing, commercial laundry, mining, pulp and paper, food and beverage, and chemical industries. It offers water treatment chemicals, pest elimination services, cleaning products, and technologies for various applications. It has a strong presence in North America, Latin America, Greater China, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Ecolab operates in over 170 countries and employs more than 47,000 employees.

10. Newmont Mining Corporation

Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Newmont Mining is an American multinational gold and copper mining company that is the largest gold mining company in the world. The company has a diverse portfolio of mines and projects located across multiple continents. It owns gold mines in various geographical locations, from Australia to the Americas, and currently has 21 mines under development in different places in the U.S. Newmont Mining Corporation has over 14,000 employees worldwide.

How Many Jobs are Available in Basic Industries

The raw materials basic industries companies finish are used in almost all industry sectors, so there is no shortage of jobs in basic industries. The number of jobs that are available can vary significantly from one segment to another, but overall, the sector is rich with employment opportunities in both blue and white-collar jobs.

Moreover, many segments in the sector overlap with other sectors, like public utilities and capital goods, which means diverse employment opportunities in a truly wide range of companies. The overall job outlook in the sector is very promising across the board from entry-level to higher-level jobs. The sector has a huge demand for highly skilled professionals as well as general labor. Whether you are looking for a roustabout job, a trade worker job, or an executive role, the basic industries sector has a place for you.

According to reports by the American Bureau of Labor Statistics:-

The employment rate of petroleum engineers (the best-paying job in basic industries) is projected to grow by 8 percent in the next decade, with over 1,700 openings for the role across the country each year. For the role of mining and geological engineers, about 500 openings are expected to be available each year until 2031.

The overall employment of chemical engineers is projected to rise by a whopping 14 percent and about 2,000 new job openings are expected each year over the decade.

On average, 141,800 new openings for agricultural workers are projected in the coming decade. The employment rate of food and agricultural scientists is expected to grow by 8 percent in the coming decade, and about 4100 job openings are expected to be available each year till 2031.

Overall employment in extraction occupations is expected to grow by 4 percent, and about 252,900 new jobs in the sector are expected over the decade.

What do Jobs in Basic Industries Pay on Average

People working in most segments of the basic industries get a generous paycheque. The sector includes some of the biggest companies in the world, which pay employees quite handsomely while also providing various kinds of benefits.

That said, how much you make ultimately depends on your specific job position, experience, location, and current economic trends. The single biggest factor that determines your pay, though, is your job profile. An engineer, for instance, is always going to make more than, say, a lumberjack.

Oil and natural gas is one of the best-paying industries worldwide. With an average yearly salary of $137,720 in the US, petroleum engineering is one of the best-paying jobs in basic industries, excluding different kinds of managerial positions.

As per salary.com, the average annual salary for white-collar jobs in the mining industry is between $85,250 - $370,134. The lowest annual salary in agriculture is $372,903, while on the high end, it can go up to $500,811 a year. For jobs in the metals industry, the range is $401,075 - $515,081. And for the chemicals industry, it is $24,716 - $821,109.

Various skilled labor jobs in the basic industry pay well too. As per the BLS, the wages in the paper industry are among the highest in manufacturing, with nearly all workers getting paid time off. The average annual pay for a paper mill worker in the US is $48,112.

So, is Basic Industries a Good Career Path For You (Pros and Cons)

Positives

Mining, paper manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, and other segments of basic industries offer all sorts of manual work jobs. They don’t require a specific educational qualification, and you get hands-on, on-the-job training on these jobs. They are physically demanding jobs, but they pay well and are ideal for people with only very basic education, like a high school diploma or GED. Even many white-collar jobs in the sector involve a lot of fieldwork. So, if you want to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, this sector might be a good choice for you.

There are multiple really big companies in the sector. These organizations take good care of their employees, including those in lower positions such as general laborers and tradespeople. If getting a job at a major multinational company where you get great pay and benefits is your definition of choosing the right career path, working in basic industries is a very viable option.

Basic industries lie at the foundation of the economy, as other industries are heavily dependent on them. The best example of the crucial nature of basic industries is the agriculture industry. Many jobs in the sector are essential occupations, so if you are looking for a sense of job security, basic industries is a great choice.

Negatives

However, many jobs in the industry involve working in conditions and with materials that can be hazardous to one's health. Also, many enterprises in the sector, like mining and timber cultivation, contribute heavily to environmental degradation. And if this bothers you, maybe the sector is not for you. Also, a major portion of jobs in basic industries are outdoors, and the sector may not be the best choice for those looking for a desk job.

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