Is capital goods a good career path? With such a wide range of professions and so many multinational companies to choose from, capital goods can indeed be a great career path for many people. It is an enormous industry and offers a wide range of employment opportunities in various fields, from material handling to computer science.
Due to the machinery-intensive nature of the industry, capital goods enterprises are always up-to-date with the latest technological advancements. As such, the industry offers many exciting career options where you get to work with cutting-edge technology and be a part of major innovative projects.
Also, there are a large number of companies with a global presence in capital goods, and there is fierce competition among them. The high level of competition makes capital goods a very dynamic industry that is constantly evolving and creating new employment opportunities. This involves jobs in a wide range of sectors, from manufacturing and construction to transportation.
In this article, we discuss factors like jobs, salaries, and companies in capital goods that will hopefully help you make an informed decision about whether capital goods is a good career path for you. Let’s start with a quick definition of capital goods.
Simply put, capital goods are things that businesses use to manufacture finished products. Capital goods can include anything from equipment and machinery to industrial vehicles and buildings, such as manufacturing plants.
The purpose of these products is to help create other products or services. They are bought by businesses of different types rather than by consumers or end users. The opposite of capital goods is consumer goods, which are finished products made to be sold to customers. Based on who uses it, the same product can be a consumer good or a capital good.
For example, a mobile phone is considered a consumer good when it is purchased by an individual for personal use. However, the same phone would be considered a consumer good if it was purchased by a call center for business purposes.
Because the industry is so diversified, it provides a lot of job opportunities of various kinds in both blue-collar and white-collar sectors. The industry employs over 6 million people in the U.S. and generates about 13 percent of the total employment in the country. In 2023, there are supposed to be around 1.3 million job openings in different sectors of the industry.
As per the BLS, employment in some production occupations may see a slight decline in the coming years. However, there is expected to be an increase in food processing equipment jobs and machinist and tool and die maker jobs until 2031.
Excluding blue-collar roles like material moving jobs, the professions with the most job openings in capital goods are technicians, designers, engineers, and managers.
Some of the most common managerial jobs in the industry include manufacturing manager, project manager, and supply chain manager. Common engineering job roles other than the basic engineering disciplines like mechanical and archetictal engineer include industrial engineer, manufacturing engineer, materials engineer, and process engineer.
Obviously, there is no one answer to this question. However, the capital goods sector is dominated by large multinational companies, and these big companies generally offer quite competitive salaries.
The compensation they offer is often considerably higher than what other companies offer for similar roles, simply because they can afford to pay their employees more. For instance, the average hourly wage for a warehouse worker at Amazon is $16 while that for a warehouse worker at Boeing (a leading company in capital goods) is $20.
You also get a lot of transparency with these renowned companies, as the salaries they offer for different jobs are usually listed on sites like Glassdoor and PayScale. So, you can be confident about receiving fair pay in these companies.
In addition to the pay, these companies also offer some of the best perks and benefits, which is the reason for many job seekers to choose this industry.
As in any sector, what jobs pay best in capital goods depends largely on several factors other than the profession itself. These include the region (country and city), the company, and your experience and competence at the job. Typically, though, it is professionals from different engineering disciplines who make the most money in the industry, after executives and managers, of course. This is only how it generally is, a sales representative may very well make more than an engineer in the same company.
Nevertheless, here is a list of the 10 best paying jobs in capital goods in the U.S.
(Median Salary - $74,758)
Industrial designers working in a capital goods firm create prototypes for machinery, equipment, tools, and other industrial products. They make sure that the products the firm creates are aesthetically appealing as well as functionally optimal and easy to use.
Industrial designers work with engineers and product managers to incorporate the practical requirements of the product into the design to make the product more and more user-centric and safe to use. They constantly work on mock-ups to assess and improve the designs.
Additionally, they conduct research and explore new raw materials and techniques to bring innovation to their products.
(Median Salary - $60,150)
A computer-aided design technician, or CAD, is a very in-demand position in capital goods today. CADs create technical drawings and models for products using specialized software systems. Some popular software programs include AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS, FreeCAD, and CATIA.
They collaborate closely with architects and engineers to understand the requirement of their initial design and make 2D and 3D models based on them. These models are used for different purposes, from estimating the cost of the project to creating blueprints and installation guides.
They also ensure that design models are in line with industry standards and health and safety protocols. As a CAD, you may also be required to make field visits and surveys and make bills of materials.
(Median Salary - $88,623)
Sales engineers in the industry help promote and sell different kinds of capital goods, including machine parts and equipment, that you need to have specific technical knowledge to pitch. Their basic job is to persuade clients that they can benefit from the products they have to offer.
They perform a variety of other functions involved in selling products to factories, public utility providers, and other industrial enterprises. They provide technical guidance to the sales team and help with product demonstrations, presentations, and developing proposals.
They also perform presales activities like identifying new clients who might be interested in buying the products of their employer. It is also their job to maintain client relationships through ongoing post-sale support.
(Median Salary - $85,936)
With growing levels of automation in manufacturing, robotic engineering is becoming a more and more in-demand profession in capital goods. A robotic engineer designs and develops automated systems used in different parts of manufacturing. These systems work autonomously or with minimal human intervention, thereby, increasing productivity.
Robotics engineers analyze the requirements of the project and develop the software and algorithms to control the robots accordingly. They work on integrating different components, including sensors, actuators, circuit boards, and other hardware, into a cohesive system.
They often need to collaborate with other professionals like mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and computer scientists. They may also need to carry out research and development functions to keep up with the latest automation trends.
(Median Salary - $83,358)
A management analyst works as a consultant and helps organizations improve their efficiency, operations, and overall performance. They may work for a consulting firm and provide their services to different companies, or they may work exclusively for a particular company.
Management analysts analyze the operations of an organization and gather data through research to suggest ways to improve them. They use different tools and techniques to find well-informed solutions to the issues the organization is facing currently. They may include changes in organizational structure, process design, technology adoption, cost reduction strategies, or performance measurement systems.
(Median Salary - $61,690)
A field technician in capital goods is responsible for going over to the site where a machine is or is supposed to be placed and providing technical support. Field technicians are commonly referred to as field engineers or field service technicians as well.
Field technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing machines or equipment at client/customer locations. Setting up infrastructure is a big part of their job, and can include tasks like assembling and configuring machinery, connecting parts, running cables, and ensuring proper functionality.
Providing customer support is another important part of their job. They answer queries, clarify instructions, and guide operators on the proper use and maintenance of the machines. This can include training sessions as well.
Additionally, field technicians also need to perform documentation activities. This includes maintaining accurate records of their service tasks like repairs performed, equipment status, parts replaced, and so on.
(Median Salary - $89717)
In engineering disciplines, petroleum engineers are one of the best-paying jobs in capital goods. These engineers are involved in locating and extracting oil and gas resources from underground reservoirs and processing them out of their crude forms. They may work at an office or a drilling site or a well and are often required to make field visits.
Petroleum engineers specialize in different kinds of machinery used for the extraction and production of oil and gas. They are responsible for designing and maintaining processing facilities, pumps, pipelines, drilling rigs, and other necessary equipment.
They work in close collaboration with other professionals like geologists and geophysicists and analyze data to determine the most optimal and cost-effective methods for extracting petroleum resources.
(Median Salary - $76,858)
Computer components are a big sector in capital goods, and computer hardware engineers specialize in designing and developing computer systems and parts like circuit boards, processors, routers, memory devices, and so on. Their job includes various functions like research, design, documentation, and manufacturing. A big part of your job as a hardware engineer would be working on creating new hardware designs or improving existing ones to keep up with evolving technology. You would also use specialized technology to assess the functionality and verify the reliability of the hardware.
Additionally, hardware engineers create detailed diagrams and technical documentation that are used for reference during testing, manufacturing, and maintenance. They also conduct research to find ways to increase the efficiency of the hardware and bring down manufacturing costs.
(Median Salary - $103,150)
Also known as a manufacturing manager, an industrial production manager is responsible for supervising the manufacturing processes in a plant or factory. They ensure that processes are carried out in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
In addition to supervision and coordination, they also perform a number of other functions like planning, resource allocation, quality control, and cost management. They also ensure all safety measures are followed at all times.
Production managers determine production requirements, assess capacity, and allocate resources like labor and equipment to various production activities. They also maintain production reports, track key performance indicators, conduct inspections, and collaborate with other teams to address production-related matters.
(Median Salary - $121536)
A supply chain manager oversees the logistics involved in production and the delivery of products. They coordinate all aspects of the movement of goods, from acquiring raw materials to the final delivery of finished products to customers.
Supply chain managers work closely with cross-functional teams, including sales and production, to ensure supply is aligned with demand and adequate inventory levels are maintained at all times. Their job also involves selecting suppliers, negotiating contracts, and establishing relationships with vendors.
They closely control the movement of goods and are responsible for selecting appropriate modes of transportation and routes and tracking shipments to ensure timely delivery while minimizing costs.
Additionally, they are also involved in distribution centers and warehouse management. This includes tasks like designing layouts and storage systems and implementing appropriate picking and packing processes.
Most supply chain managers have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or logistics.
This is a list of the top ten capital goods companies in America.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $90,125)
Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the world. It is also a leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense systems, and security systems. Boeing’s product portfolio includes surveillance systems, electronic defense systems, military aircraft, space satellites, launch systems, weaponry, and various support systems.
In addition to America, it has subsidiaries and joint ventures around the world, including in China, Russia, and Canada. The company is most well known for its commercial airplane business and employs more than 142,000 people.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $101,132)
Popularly known as GE, General Electric is a multinational company that operates across various industries, including aviation, power generation, renewable energy, finance, and healthcare. They manufacture a wide range of products like firearms, locomotives, aircraft engines, software, wind turbines, electric motors, and more.
GE has two headquarters, one in New York and another in Boston, and has been a major player in the capital goods industry for a long time. Well-known subsidiaries of GE include GE Healthcare, GE Aviation, GE Power, and GE Research, and the company employs more than 168,000 people worldwide.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $90,096)
Headquartered in Irving, Texas, and commonly referred to as CAT, Caterpillar specializes in making equipment for the construction and mining industries. They focus on producing equipment used for hydraulics and mining. They primarily produce industrial gas turbines, diesel-electric locomotives, and natural gas engines. The sectors they cater to with their products and services at large include construction, resource management, energy, and transportation.
They have a long history of development and innovation in the construction and mining industries and operate in over 180 countries on all continents. They employ more than 107,700 people.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $91,806)
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland Lockheed Martin is one of the biggest companies in the aerospace and defense industry. They work mostly for government organizations and, besides aerospace, specialize in military support, and information systems. They are mostly known for creating air missiles, strike weapons, fire sensors, and other kinds of defense technology.
Broadly, their business is segmented into four parts, which are, missiles and fire control, aeronautics, rotary and mission systems, and space systems. They employ more than 115,000 people.
(Average pay in the U.S. $102,918)
Headquartered in Charlotte, NC, Honeywell International is a multinational conglomerate that operates in various sectors, including, performance materials, building technologies, aerospace, and safety and productivity solutions. They produce a wide range of products for different industries, including specialized products for industrial control, aerospace, industrial automation, and the chemical industry.
They create avionics systems, flight control systems, specialized chemicals, HVAC systems, fire, and security systems, sensing and monitoring devices, personal protective equipment, smart home solutions, and more. The company’s market is spread across over 150 countries, and it employs about 103,000 people.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $103,100)
Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Union Pacific is one of the largest transportation companies in the U.S. It operates primarily in the railroad industry and has an extensive rail network of 32,200 miles in 23 American states. It is a major provider of freight transportation services in the country, serving more than 10,000 customers. The Union Pacific railway network is the largest railway network in the country and links 23 American states.
Union Pacific also manufactures coal products, agricultural products, automotive products, and intermodal products. It employs 30,960 people across the US.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $107,670)
Headquartered in Falls Church, Northrop Grumman is a leading aerospace and defense technology company with a robust global presence. Aeronautics systems, mission systems, space systems, and defense systems are the primary sectors they do business in.
Their product portfolio includes chain guns, autocannons, munitions, rocket launch systems, stealth bombers, electronic systems, aerial vehicles, and more. They mostly work for government and military organizations. They operate in over 25 countries and employ more than 95,000 people.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $60,568)
Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, United Rentals is the largest equipment rental company in the world, with locations in 49 states of the U.S. They provide heavy machinery, vehicles, and related services on a rental basis to customers across industries. This can include things like loaders, excavators, aerial work platforms, forklifts, and power tools.
They also sell used and new machinery and offer flexible renting options that allow customers to rent out equipment on a short-term and long-term basis. In addition to construction, manufacturing, and other industrial firms, their customers include smaller ones like homeowners as well. They employ over 24,700 people across North America and Europe.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $60,000)
Headquartered in Molin, Illinois, Deere, and Company is a leading capital goods company that primarily produces farm equipment. Founded in 1837, it is the oldest company on the list.
Besides agricultural equipment, they also manufacture a wide range of equipment used in construction and forestry. Their agricultural equipment includes products like balers, tractors, planters, harvesters, etc. In the construction equipment sector, they produce a diverse range of machinery such as dozers, excavators, loaders, graders, and compact equipment. Their forestry product portfolio includes feller bunchers, skidders, forwarders, and other specialized equipment.
The company operates in more than 30 countries worldwide and employs more than 75,500 people.
(Average pay in the U.S.A - $100,393
Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Intel is a multinational technology company that specializes in the production of semiconductor chips and related products. It is a very popular brand worldwide and is one of the world’s leading semiconductor companies.
They design different kinds of microprocessors, including those used in personal computers, servers, data centers, and other electronic devices. They also offer a broad range of computing solutions like processors, chipsets, and related hardware and software technologies. Their products are used in different kinds of devices, from laptops and desktops to servers, workstations, and embedded stations.
Intel operates in 46 countries and employs more than 121,100 people.
Just like any industry, working in capital goods comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, though, whether it is a good field depends on what you prioritize. So, let’s quickly discuss the good and bad sides of working in this industry that stand out the most.
The industry is full of renowned, multinational companies, many of which are over a century old. Joining one of these companies can be very fulfilling for someone who wants to be a part of something big. You not only get to work in a huge team but, owing to the global presence of these companies, you can also get to work and live in different countries.
These companies provide top-notch pay and benefits packages, and, as they typically prefer to promote within the organization, you get plenty of career advancement opportunities working for them.
The industry can also be a great option for those who are passionate about machinery and technology. It offers a myriad of jobs where you work closely with technology and are directly involved in creating fascinating machines.
Additionally, as manufacturing is a major part of the industry, it creates a lot of demand for manual workers to work in different settings, from factories to warehouses. Because of this, there are plenty of entry-level employment opportunities in capital goods. You can get a decent-paying job in a state-of-the-art facility with just a high-school education.
In view of the pros discussed above, there is usually high competition for jobs in this industry. This means it may be pretty hard to get a job in the industry, despite the fact that there are plenty of openings.
Many jobs in the industry involve working with moving machines and heavy equipment. This puts workers in this industry at a greater risk of injury.
Also, especially if you work in an unskilled manual role, the increasing trends of automation could pose a threat to your job.
Additionally, at certain jobs, you may be involved in creating items that are detrimental to the environment, which may be against your personal values.
If you have decided that capital goods is the right career path for you, congratulations! You are one step closer to a promising career. Now, the question arises, how do I get a job in the industry?
First of all, you need to make sure that you meet all the requirements for the job you want. Once you have your credentials down, it is time to go job hunting.
As competitive as the industry may be, getting a job in it is pretty much the same as getting one in any other industry. And the same job search tips apply to it:
You might have to wait a while before you find the right job, so be prepared to show patience. You should be open to working internships (even unpaid ones) before you get a job. Working on your interpersonal skills and personality, in general, can be a great help as well.
We hope you have found the answer to the question, ‘’Is capital goods a good career path for me?’’ But, even if you are still unable to make up your mind, it’s okay, there’s no need to rush. Choosing a career is a serious decision that merits serious thought and consideration. So, explore and research as much as you need to before coming to a decision. You might find How to Find Your Passion in Life a useful read.
With so many career options out there, it can be tricky to figure out which one is the right one for you. It is pretty normal to be confused when you have so many options. So, if you are struggling with indecision, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s okay to be ‘’lost’’ as long as you are looking for your way. Hope this article provided some guidance and, best of luck!