Advice

Is Capital Goods a Good Career Path?

You may not have heard of capital goods before but you've definitely interacted with it. Keep reading to learn more about the industry, average salaries, and its job prospects.

Michael Yan Leila Le
Published: (Updated: ) - 5 min read

Photo by Daniel McCullough / Unsplash

The capital goods industry is one we’ve all interacted with, but often don’t know much about. Read more to find out about job availability in capital goods, what earnings can look like, and whether it's an industry that offers a solid career path.

What companies are in the capital goods industry?

The world of capital goods covers a broad range of businesses that supply other businesses with raw materials and physical assets rather than selling consumer goods. The best way to understand what these companies do is by looking at some of the biggest in the industry, all with over 10,000 employees:

Caterpillar Inc

One of the most recognizable companies in capital goods, Caterpillar, or CAT as it’s more commonly referred to, specializes in making heavy machinery for the construction industry. You’ve probably seen their big yellow machinery on a construction site before, but they also produce equipment for mining, gas turbines, and hydraulics.

CAT spans over 190 countries and with that, offer careers in everything from legal and accounting to industrial design. According to their website, they encourage employees to have multiple skills and move between “job functions or locations”. In other words, they can offer a career path that isn’t static. There are opportunities to stretch not only in terms of where you work but what kind of work you do for them.

Boeing

As one of the largest aerospace companies in the world, Boeing produces commercial jetliners and defense products for businesses in over 150 countries. Because of this, Boeing is able to offer employees the chance to work on large, international projects. What those projects can cover depends on the section of the company you look at.

Boeing has three main business units: commercial planes, global service, and finally, defense, space, and security. What they do within these units is vast. Beyond their commercial aircrafts, they make space satellites, military aircrafts, and electronic defense systems. As such, they have job opportunities in cybersecurity, manufacturing, and multiple other industries.

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Union Pacific

Though not quite the international company that Boeing and CAT are, Union Pacific is a classic example of a well-regarded North American company that spans multiple states. Known primarily as a railroad company, they connect over 23 states in the USA and link up to Canada and Mexico's rail systems.

Beyond this, they also produce agricultural and automotive products, coal, and chemicals. We’ve chosen to mention them especially because of the recognition they’ve received for their inclusive hiring practices in recent years, including an award from the Disability Equality Index for being of the best places to work in 2022. Like many companies in capital goods, they’re an old, established one. It doesn’t however mean that their workplace is outdated.

Deer & Company (John Deere)

The company behind the "big green tractor," Deere & Company produces construction, forestry, and agricultural equipment and engines under the brands of John Deere, Hitachi, and Timberjack. The company offers its products through more than 4,000 dealers in about 160 countries. John Deere & Co. was founded by John Deere in 1837 as a one-man blacksmith shop. Billions have been spent on acquisitions to grow the company; it acquired Yanmar America for $1.5 billion in 2007 and K-West Equipment for $46 million in 2008.

Honeywell International

Honeywell International is an American multinational conglomerate company that produces a variety of commercial and consumer products, engineering services, and aerospace systems for a wide variety of customers, from private consumers to major corporations and governments. The company operates four business units, known as Strategic Business Units – Aerospace, Building Technologies, Performance Materials & Technologies, and Safety & Productivity Solutions.

Jobs in Capital Goods

As you’ve likely gathered by now, the jobs in capital goods vary as much as the companies do. We’ve only mentioned three so far but there are so many others, including 3M, United Rentals, Siemens, and many others.

Almost all of them will have legal, sales, and accounting departments, but they also offer more unique positions for those with a degree in engineering such as quality control inspectors, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers and even environmental engineers. It’s this variety of opportunities available in capital goods that make it such a promising industry for a career path.

How many jobs are there in capital goods?

Because of how many different industries represented in capital goods and the scale of them, current estimates suggest that there are roughly 1 to 1.3 million jobs available in capital goods.

The growth of capital goods as an industry tends to depend on the global economy and international supply chains. As supply and demand chains fluctuate, so too does job availability but generally, it’s an industry ripe with opportunity.

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What do jobs in capital goods pay?

There’s almost no way to answer this question accurately because of how varied the jobs are in capital goods. An IT intern will for example earn very differently in comparison to a senior aeronautical engineer. However, what can be noted is that many of the bigger companies, like the ones mentioned, tend to offer competitive benefits packages. Many also offer training and are invested in upskilling their employees, which can be hugely valuable.

The best-paying jobs in capital goods tend to be those with the most seniority and that require years of experience and qualifications – not just a bachelor's degree. Traditionally that includes engineering positions, principal researchers, and directors for departments such as quality management.

Does Capital Goods Offer a Good Career Path?

Many of the capital goods companies we see today are large, legacy businesses that work across multiple states or even countries. If working in big teams and having the option of moving elsewhere for work is important to you then yes, capital goods may offer a great career path. These large organizations tend to offer long-term employment and the opportunity to grow not just in terms of seniority earning potential, but with regard to skillsets too.

In organizations such as CAT, there’s room to move beyond your initial qualifications and diversify your career across multiple functions. At a place like Boeing, it’s the scale of the work available that may expand your career path. Many of their projects are global and if being a part of something big like that is an exciting concept then there again, capital goods may be the place for you.

Capital goods offer a range of career opportunities across different geographical contexts, but whether this makes sense for your career path is still a personal matter. The most important aspect to consider with capital goods, or any career path, is what you value.

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So, what's the consensus on capital goods?

Capital goods is a growing industry with a variety of positions available that suit all kinds of interests and qualifications. With competitive benefits packages and earning possibilities, it has the potential to offer a great career path. We say “potential” because ultimately it depends on you and your interests.

If you’ve already started looking at the thousands of capital goods jobs, we have several resources to help you through the process. The real question is, are you going to build aircrafts or railroads?

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