Job searching is a laborious task in normal times, and if you entered this current period unemployed or are one of many to have lost a job due to COVID-19, time at home can feel especially isolating. While unemployment levels have skyrocketed in the last month, some good news remains. As the world moved into this year, analysts identified a myriad of emerging sectors in 2020 with a bright future —from 3D printing to alternative meat to healthcare— and although the world looks very different than it did four months ago, the healthy projections for many of those industries still stand.
While the short-term growth in some of these industries may be stunted, many are expected to continue their upward trajectory despite the pandemic, creating a wealth of new job possibilities and business opportunities.
Following developing markets is a valuable use of time at any stage in your career, and it’s a very smart strategy while you’re unemployed. While some careers in these industries would require an investment of time and formal education, the career opportunities within the industries run the gamut from founder of a new company to administrative support positions. Below is a list of 10 emerging sectors in 2020 that are undoubtedly worth exploring for their potential career opportunities.
1. Healthier Junk Food
While Americans might be known to much of the world for their love of junk food, contemporary consumers are increasingly seeking out healthy alternatives. In fact, the health and wellness food market is expected to see a growth rate of 5.7% by 2024. While established global companies do drive steep competition in the market, successful new businesses are using everything from insects to 3D printing to carve out a piece of the pie. Founded less than 10 years ago, plant-based “meat” company Impossible Foods is now valued at over $1.2 billion. Consumers are making choices to address weight management, disease prevention and allergen avoidance, making healthy ”junk food” and meat alternatives a strong emerging industry.
2. 3D Printing
One of the most heartwarming stories coming out of current events was the rapid pivoting of 3D printing companies to meet the need for PPE supplies for hospitals around the country. The application of 3D printing technology is ever expanding, from creating strong steel to pet prosthetics. Some possible job prospects include 3D/CAD designer, research and design, and sales and marketing.
3. Programmers and Developers
It should come as no surprise to anyone that jobs for programmers and developers are on the upswing. The applications of technology are increasing and allowing more parts of our daily lives to migrate to the virtual space. The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates a growth rate of 21% between 2018 and 2028. What is novel is that the applications of these technologies span industries from Assistive tech to Mental Health Apps . These new applications are worth keeping an eye on for new career opportunities.
4. Data Processing, Storage and Analytics
Hand in hand with the rapid expansion of virtual applications is the need to aggregate, analyze and disseminate data. According to Forbes.com, Americans used 4,416,720 GB of data every minute in 2019. It is no secret that for companies such as Netflix and Amazon, big data analytics is paramount to their prodigious successes, but small business and government are increasingly reliant on data as well. From improving healthcare and public health to optimizing city planning, data scientists and analysts are in high demand. The business of data processing and storage is expected to be worth $118.22 billion by 2025.
5. Sustainable Consumer Goods
New legislation and growing demands from consumers for earth-friendly products and services has created a robust market for sustainable consumer goods. A report from the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business found that for consumer packaged goods, products marketed as sustainable grew 5.6x faster than conventionally marketed products between 2013 and 2018. The former are expected to grow from $113.9 billion in 2018 to $140.5B by 2023. From reusable beeswax wraps to eco-friendly six-pack rings, young companies are carving out their market share alongside more established companies like fashion powerhouse Gucci.
6. Interpretation and Translation
The fields of interpreting (spoken) and translating (written) are seeing absolutely incredible growth. The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects an impressive 19% growth rate for interpreters and translators (the average growth rate for all occupations is 5%)! Schools, courtrooms and businesses all have the need for translators and interpreters, both in person and remotely. The current pandemic has also shown that in the medical setting, this career can save lives. Worth noting is the fact that second language proficiency can also open doors to a multitude of other positions for which translating is part of the job, but not the entire job. In 2015, bilingual positions represented over 35% of Massachusetts job postings for Bank of America. If you are one of the millions of Americans who are fluent in English and another language, a professional certificate may be all you need to make the leap.
7. Non-Traditional Education
EdTech was disrupting traditional education long before the current global pandemic. In just 8 years, online learning platform Coursera grew to be worth more than $1 billion. The recent rapid pivoting from in-person classrooms to virtual ones meant that educational institutions of all types had to jump headfirst into a teaching format that they may have previously resisted. Both educators and learners are rapidly becoming familiar with and open to new ways of learning. Educational technology institutions such as technical and trade schools and business and computer training centers are seeing growth. According to an article by Seek Capital, the industry is projected to add over 100,000 jobs in the next ten years. From virtual instructor positions to educational support services, there are a variety of opportunities within the non-traditional education industry.
8. Video Conferencing
Seemingly overnight, Zoom became a household name. As our lives become increasingly virtual, video conferencing is the platform on which we hold business meetings, participate in yoga sessions and host bachelorette parties. Of course we look forward to the day when in-person events can resume, but video conferencing was popular before social distancing and will undoubtedly remain. Career opportunities around the platforms range from video conferencing software developer, software training instructor and virtual event planner. IBISWorld saw robust growth in the industry in the last five years and projects a strong future as well.
9. Solar Energy
The solar power industry was developing at an incredible pace pre-COVID-19 and IBISWorld predicts that growth will continue with minimal interruption. Solar energy not only powers companies like Zero Mass Water, which created a $2,000 solar panel that draws drinkable water out of thin air, but also fuels jobs. In fact, the fastest growing occupation according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is Solar Photovoltaic Installer, with a projected growth rate of 63%. For those interested in careers in sustainability, opportunities in the industry include jobs such as R&D, manufacturing, maintenance and sales.
10. Clean Water
Clean water is a public health issue. As we’ve seen with disasters such as the Flint Water crisis, the need for clean water accessibility and technology is undeniable. Clean water is also an investment opportunity. Forbes reports that “investment in U.S. companies addressing declining water quality has grown 25 percent to $50.7 million in the past five years.” While the clean water space has historically been controlled by large corporations like GE and Siemens, more than 150 startups are currently part of the $600 billion industry. Voda.ai is one of those startups, currently using AI technology to assess and monitor pipes to anticipate failure and prevent costly repairs and lost water. Some of the career opportunities that the industry offers include entrepreneur, data analysts, operations professional and researcher.
These ten industries are just a glimpse into many of the areas that continue to grow in spite of, or at times because of, the global pandemic. In fact, Glassdoor published dozens of interpreter jobs in the last month. Jobs and industries that may not have existed ten years ago are now viable career paths, and this is the perfect time to explore them. Many of these opportunities require minimal advanced training that can be accomplished entirely online, such as data science courses from companies like General Assembly and Springboard.
There are many things we can’t explore at the moment while we’re stuck inside, but career opportunities are not one of them. Now is the time to do some research, explore your options and perhaps even take a free course or two to test the waters and potentially ride the wave of one or more of these emerging sectors in 2020.
Thanks to Alexis Orellana of Impact Hub and Cambridge Innovation Center for contributing her research and writing in support of job seekers.