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Is Basic Industries a Good Career Path?

What do basic industries jobs pay

What are basic industries?

Basic industries are industries that create basic materials used by other industries in manufacturing. This includes extraction – oil and gas, mining, and timber. Basic industries also refers to fishing and agriculture, including food, animals and other crops. It also includes processing and chemical synthesis of metals, cement, paper, plastics and other chemicals used to manufacture pharmaceuticals and other products. Is basic industries a good career path for you? There are many factors to consider.

The oil and gas industry is divided into three main sections: upstream, midstream and downstream. Upstream refers to companies that discover and produce oil and gas. Midstream refers to companies that transport, process and store oil. Downstream companies are refineries that convert oil to products suitable for the public to use – for example, gasoline.

The mining industry extracts precious minerals that are integral to metals production and other major industries. 

Steel is another industry that is integral to other industries, because it is used in the construction of buildings, bridges, vehicles, and other structures that are necessary for society to function. 

The chemical industry transforms raw materials into chemical solutions for use in other sectors. These chemicals are divided into two categories: specialty chemicals and consumer chemicals. Specialty chemicals include dyes, paints, pesticides, and even printer ink. Consumer chemicals, or chemicals that consumers use every day, include detergents, soaps and other cleaning products.

Many industries in this category cause serious environmental damage through carbon emissions, pollution, habitat destruction and resource depletion. Irresponsible practices in these industries can also exacerbate serious social problems in developing countries. For example, mining of valuable minerals such as diamonds in conflict-stricken areas often funnels money into the hands of warlords, perpetuating the violence. Slave labor is also an issue in areas where human rights are not strongly protected.

How many jobs are available in basic industries?

Basic industries, also referred to as primary industries or the primary sector of the economy, account for 30 percent of all jobs in the United States. There are around 24,504,000 jobs available in basic industries in the United States, with an expected growth rate of 2.7 percent by 2030. 

As of 2021, 173,070 people worked in the mining industry, while 348,500 people worked in the paper manufacturing industry and 106,440 people worked in the oil and gas industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What companies are in the basic industries field?

Top companies in the primary sector include:

  • Chevron Corporation
  • Dow Chemical Company
  • PPG Industries, BHP Group Limited
  • Procter & Gamble Company
  • Cargill
  • International Paper
  • Rudolph and Sletten
  • Schneider Electric
  • Ecolab
  • DuPont
  • Masco Corporation
  • Sealed Air Corporation
  • Newmont Mining Corporation

BHP Group Limited is an Australian mining and petroleum company that mines coal, copper, iron and nickel. BHP employs 39,210 people worldwide.

Procter and Gamble is the world’s largest consumer goods company, earning $76 billion in revenue in 2021. They employ 95,000 people and provide goods for about five billion consumers every year. 

Dow Chemical Company, headquartered in Midland, Michigan, is one of the world’s largest chemical producers. Dow Inc. manufactures adhesives, sealants, plastomers, monomers, optical materials, silicones and polymers. Dow Inc. employs about 54,000 people in 160 countries 

DuPont is a top producer of construction, energy and automotive materials. It is the parent company of Styrofoam and other brands. Dupont earned 20.4 billion in revenue in 2020 and employs around 34,000 people.

Ecolab is an American multinational corporation that develops technology and provides services in water treatment, purification, cleaning and hygiene. Ecolab also provide pulp and paper manufacturing services. Ecolab employs 50,000 people in over 170 countries.

PPG is one of the largest chemical companies, employing 50,000 people and raking in over $17 billion in sales in 2021. 

What do basic industries jobs pay

What do basic industries jobs pay?

There is a range of salaries in primary sector jobs. Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operators for Surface Mining make $49,850 per year on average. Underground mining machine operators make $60,290 per year. Extraction workers earn between $40,000-50,000 per year. (All figures in this section from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2021 estimates.)

A chemical engineer in oil and gas extraction, meanwhile, makes an average $130,000 per year on average. A chemical engineer in the mining industry averages $127,220 per year, while a chemical engineer in petroleum and coal products manufacturing averages $112,670 per year. Drilling engineers, who oversee the operation and execution of natural gas and/or oil drills, make upwards of $100,000 per year. 

In agriculture, management positions such as farmers and ranchers offer an annual salary of $78,440. Agricultural engineers make $87,350. Agricultural and food scientists make $79,970 per year on average. Agricultural Technicians make $44,850. Agricultural workers make $32,450 per year on average. Farmworkers and laborers make an average of $31,440.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that farming, fishing and forestry occupations earn $34,730 per year while their supervisors make $54,450 per year. 

An agronomist, or a professional who provides guidance on soil management, fertilizers, irrigation and the like, makes upwards of $60,000 per year on average. A horticulturist, or an expert on cultivating plants, fruits and vegetables, makes around $40,000 per year on average. 

A petroleum geologist, who studies the earth’s surface to locate oil and gas makes $100,000 per year on average. 

A metallurgist, or metal expert, who may work in the processing sites of mines, makes more than $100, per year. A steel fabricator, a highly specialized job which converts steel into steel products, makes over $40,000 per year. Steelworkers, who build structural elements for buildings out of steel, make more than $50,000 per year on average.  

A synthetic chemist, who develops new chemicals, earns more than $80,000 per year on average. 

What are the best paying jobs in basic industries?

Tech jobs are among the highest paid jobs in the primary sector. For example, software developers in the paper manufacturing industry earn on average $102,190 per year. Engineers in the paper manufacturing industry earn on average $95,310 per year. (All figures in this section from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2021 estimates.)

In the oil and gas industry, computer and information analysts can earn a median salary of $125,450. Computer network architects in the oil and gas industry can earn $128,960 per year on average. 

In the mining industry, software developers earn a median income of $95,990, while computer systems analysts earn $102,360 on average. Mining and Geological Engineers, including Mining Safety Engineers, earn $100,450 per year on average. 

Is basic industries a good career path for you?

The primary sector produces materials that are integral to the economy. These basic industries are not subject to the vagaries of economic fluctuations, because our daily lives are so dependent on them.

Jobs in the primary sector can be quite lucrative if they involve tech or engineering. However, miners and extractors have dangerous jobs. Extractors and agricultural workers have physically demanding jobs that make half the salary or less of an engineer or software developer. 

In fact, the average salary in the manufacturing sector is around $52,000. The average salary in the agriculture industry is around $48,000. The average salary in the mining industry is close to $49,000. However, though the average salary may be in the middle range, these jobs are highly skilled, and therefore in demand. Another upside to to these jobs is that many do not require advanced degrees.  

Another upside to working in these industries is that in the United States, they are often protected by unions, such as the United Steelworkers union. United Steelworkers not only include steelworkers but also aluminum and other metals, plus rubber, oil and chemical plant workers, pulp and paper industry workers, and forestry workers. 

On the other hand, these jobs usually require a high degree of skill because they are dangerous. Basic industries laborers, like miners, extractors and loggers, are subject to high-risk environments. The work is also very physical. Laborers in agriculture, oil refinery and mining have physically demanding jobs that may take a toll on their bodies over time. 

What’s more, you might consider the future of these industries. As companies try to become more sustainable, mining and extraction might become archaic industries. On the other hand, some industries in this sector will always be around, such as agriculture and food safety. 

The paper and pulp industry is also growing and will continue to thrive. It is responsible for creating many products that consumers use daily, such as packaging, tissues and hygiene products. 

If you have reservations about working for a company that has a negative impact on the environment, basic industries may not be the career for you. The primary sector creates byproducts and pollution that are hazardous not only for workers but also for the surrounding communities. 

Working in this industry you will be exposed to hazardous environments, particularly in the mining industry. Mines are potentially hazardous because they often catch fire, expose workers to poisonous dust or toxic gasses and carcinogens, are hot and humid, noisy, and various other risks like the potential for collapse.

Industries that rely on the continued use of precious natural resources are less sustainable. Communities and the environment are harmed by overfishing, deforestation and the use of large amounts of pesticides. That said, there are many interesting careers available in basic industries, from agronomist to petroleum geologist to metallurgist, so it is up to you to figure out what you want to pursue and how it will align with your personal morals.  

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Tonie Leatherberry was at Deloitte for nearly three decades where she was the principal architect of The Board Leadership Forum and the NextGen CEO Academy, each of which has had a meaningful impact, ultimately placing more than 70 Black leaders into executive-level and board roles. As Chair Emeritus of the Executive Leadership Council, she created the Chairman’s Council of Academic Achievement to address achievement gaps for students of color in America’s educational systems, and as President of the Deloitte Foundation, the mission was to drive initiatives to develop future leaders through education. She is a passionate leader who has devoted much of her professional life to creating opportunities for women and people of color. Tonie is Lead director for Direct Digital Holdings, and a Board Director at Zoetis Inc. and American Family Insurance.

Cindie Jamison was elected Chair of the Darden Restaurants Board (NYSE: DRI) in September 2023, having served as a Director since October 2014 as part of a complete Board replacement slate through Starboard Value’s proxy fight. Since 2013, she has also served on the Office Depot Board (NASDAQ: ODP) where she Chairs the Audit Committee and is a member of the Compensation Committee. In May 2015, she joined the Big Lots, Inc (NYSE: BIG) Board, and became Chair in May 2022. In May 2023 Cindie stepped down from the Tractor Supply Company Board (NASDAQ:TSCO), a position she has held since 2002, where she was Chairman of the Board, after serving as Lead Director, and Chair of the Audit, Compensation & Corporate Governance Committees. Cindie joined the Board of Save the Children in February 2024.

David Chun, Founder and CEO, Equilar, Inc., has led Equilar since its inception to become one of the most trusted names in the corporate governance community. David has been recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential Players in Corporate Governance” by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Disruptor Award by 2020 Women on Boards and Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business. David speaks publicly on corporate governance and board diversity matters, including events hosted by The Conference Board, Deloitte, EY, HR Policy Association, KPMG, NACD, NASDAQ, NYSE, The Society for Corporate Governance and Stanford’s Directors’ College. Prior to founding Equilar, David was a Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, a global investment bank that has since merged with Credit Suisse. Before DLJ, David was a management consultant with Bain & Company and also Kenan Systems, a telecom software developer acquired by Lucent Technologies. David serves on the boards of the Commonwealth Club of California, PGA Reach, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG). He is on Nasdaq’s Center for Board Excellence Advisory Board and Catalyst’s Women on Board Advisory Council. David is a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), Past Chair of the SF Bay Chapter, a founding member of the Council of Korean Americans (CKA) and a former board member of the Wharton Center for Entrepreneurship and the Asian Pacific Fund Community Foundation of San Francisco.

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Priscilla Sims Brown serves as President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank, a full-service bank, lender and investment manager with a century-long commitment to advancing positive social change. Amalgamated Financial Corp., the holding company for the Bank, is the first publicly traded (NASDAQ: AMAL) financial institution to be a public benefit corporation. Priscilla guides Amalgamated Bank in championing social responsibility through values-based banking, customer-centric services, and mission focused lending, serving individuals and organizations, including climate groups, foundations, labor unions, advocacy groups, political campaigns, and other socially responsible businesses, who care that their deposits are put to work for good. Priscilla is also dedicated to addressing environmental and social justice issues at Amalgamated Bank. More than 60% of the Bank’s lending and select balance sheet investments are high-impact through affordable housing, nonprofits, and climate solutions. Named one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking in 2023 by American Banker, Priscilla has been featured in The New York Times, TIME Magazine, PBS, and CNBC Changemakers, among others.

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Myra Biblowit is the President Emeritus of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the nation’s highest-rated breast cancer research organization with a mission focused exclusively on funding the world’s most promising research. Myra took the helm as BCRF President in 2001 and, after 22 years, retired in April 2023. During Myra’s tenure, BCRF funding enabled breakthroughs in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, metastasis, and survivorship. Myra was widely recognized for leading one of the most impactful, financially efficient, and transparent nonprofits in the United States. Prior, Myra was Vice Dean for External Affairs at NYU Medical Center where she headed the Development, Alumni Relations and Public Relations departments. Previously she led the capital campaign as Senior Vice President of the American Museum of Natural History. Earlier, Myra served as Executive Vice President of the Central Park Conservancy. Myra is a member of the Board of Directors of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, the Housewares Charity Foundation and the Historic House Trust of New York City. She is a member of the New York Women’s Forum, the Yellow for Pink National Council, Extraordinary Women on Boards and serves on the Advisory Board of Project Hope for Ovarian Cancer Research & Education.

Truett Tate is Chairman of a number of Boards, including Reference Point, TLC Lions, Thinkably and the recently retired Chairman of QBE, NA. Truett Tate is also Director of the DEVClever board. Truett has a long and esteemed global executive history including most recently as CEO of ANZ USA, Europe, Japan, Korea and the Middle East. Immediately prior, he was Group Executive (and Board member) at Lloyds Banking Group, responsible for Wholesale & International Banking (Including Global Wealth and International Retail) across the United Kingdom, the Americas and worldwide and prior spending 27 years at Citigroup where he held a variety of senior roles including corporate banking business across each of its regional geographies. Truett’s long board history includes Virgin Group, Ten Group, the BITC, BAB Inc along with many other charitable and academic organizations. A speaker, guest lecturer, philanthropist and professional coach/mentor, Truett has seemingly bottomless energy and passionate interest in a safer, more just, more humane and more sustainable world.

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Janice Reals Ellig

Chief Executive Officer

As the head of the Ellig Group, Janice is dedicated to increasing the placement of women and diverse candidates on corporate boards and in C-suites by 2025. Janice joined the legacy firm in 2000 and became Co-Chief Executive Officer in its transition to Chadick Ellig in 2007; she assumed sole ownership of the company as the Ellig Group in 2017 with a new focus on Reimagining Search. Prior to her career in executive search, Janice spent 20 years in corporate America at Pfizer, Citi and Ambac Financial Group, an IPO from Citibank, where she was responsible for Marketing, Human Resources, and Administration.

Heralded by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of “The World’s Most Influential Headhunters,” Janice is often consulted for her expertise and her commitment to gender parity, inclusion, and diversity. She frequently appears at speaking engagements and as a media guest, and she has penned multiple articles for outlets such as Directors & Boards, Directorship, Corporate Director, The Huffington Post, and Forbes.com. Janice also co-authored two books: Driving The Career Highway and What Every Successful Woman Knows, acknowledged by Bloomberg Businessweek as “the best of its genre.”

A tirelessly active member of the industry and champion of her causes, Janice is Founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative and its signature event, Breakfast of Corporate Champions. Since 2011, Janice continues to spearhead this event to honor companies committed to board diversity and to encourage CEOs to sponsor board-ready women for the Women’s Forum database. (LINK: www.womensforumny.org).

Janice is personally committed to several NFP organizations: Board Director of the National YMCA and Past Chair of the YMCA Board of Greater New York; Trustee of the Actors Fund and Committee For Economic Development (CED); Incoming Chair, University of Iowa Foundation; Women’s Forum of New York Past President and Chair of the Corporate Board Initiative; member of the Steering Committee, US 30% Club and The Economic Club of New York.

In recognition for her many philanthropic activities, Janice received the University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 and the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) Eleanor Raynolds Award for Volunteerism in 2008. Named one of the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews, she was also a recipient of the Channel 21 Award In Excellence for her contribution to “Excellence in the Economic Development for Women.”

“Listening to our clients’ needs, learning their business and understanding their culture is how we present the best talent and provide  a competitive advantage. We place candidates with the character, competencies, commitment, (intellectual) curiosity and courage to make a difference. Our goal is always to go beyond the expected and deliver valuable advice, measurable results and great talent!”

– Janice Reals Ellig

  • Champion of gender parity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Industry expert, speaker, and author
  • Founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative
  • Committed board and committee member and philanthropist

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