In the advanced three-tier economies of the more developed nations, the service (or tertiary) sector has become the largest of the three job markets. As the name suggests, this sector supplies services as opposed to tangible goods. It differs from the other two sectors (the primary sector of mining for raw materials or producing food in agriculture and farming, and the secondary sector of manufacturing goods such as automobiles, equipment, furniture and clothes) in that its offerings are less concrete and tangible. However, it is essential for the smooth functioning of these economies.
In other words, those who aren’t particularly drawn to the sinew-straining labor of hauling raw materials out of the land or seas in the primary sector or manufacturing in the secondary sector have plenty of choices as far as careers are concerned. Some service sector careers, however, are more highly compensated than others.
Let’s take a brief look at the types of jobs and career paths that are available in the service sector. We’ll also explore how those with ambitions for a high-value and fulfilling career in this tier who lack the relevant qualifications can break into the field without sacrificing their existing jobs.
The job options available in the service sector
The jobs and careers that are offered in this vast sector are largely borne of rapid advances in knowledge through technology (especially the rise of near-instantaneous, worldwide communications via the internet and cell phones) during the previous century and the 21st century. The U.S. Census Bureau lists the main areas, in alphabetical order, as:
- Arts, entertainment and recreation
- Healthcare and social assistance
- Information services
- Investment services, including securities
- Professional services
- Warehousing and transportation services
- Waste management
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does provide a fair overview of the multitude of different specialties and skills that the service sector encompasses. The term “tertiary” shouldn’t be taken to imply that it’s a kind of “runner up to the runner up” in importance for advanced economies, however.
On the contrary, it grew dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century, rising from generating less than half of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 1919 to overtaking manufacturing and retail to become the largest contributor to GDP of all, producing approximately 85% of GDP in the U.S. by 2019.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the components of the service sector.
The information technology sector
This encompasses just about everything connected to information and communication technology, computers and software, excluding the actual manufacture of the requisite hardware components.
Social media, for example, extends well beyond the giants of the industry like Meta/Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube to include millions of smaller businesses.
The IT industry also includes online education, which has become one of fastest-expanding industries in the world. It brings together a broad raft of technology experts, along with academics and other educators, to produce interactive learning materials ranging from the elementary and the vocational right to the highest tiers of postgraduate academic study.
The rise of this sector has, in turn, spawned burgeoning demand for credentialled experts who are able to organize, analyze and interpret the colossal amounts of digital data generated by these technologies, Big Data experts, data analysts and data scientists have become crucial for helping large-scale businesses and organizations make informed decisions and plans.
The travel industry
The modern travel industry encompasses a large array of businesses extending well beyond the conventional enterprises associated with this sector, such as travel agents and airline companies. In fact, many of them – such as Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber – didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago.
There is also a populous network of tourist attractions, ranging from art galleries and museums to recreational parks and national parks, all of which require employees to operate them. These include workers with some of the same data and IT skills mentioned above, along with curators, art historians, engineers and other types of professionals.
The CT and MRI scanners that are helping to revolutionize medical diagnostics are manufactured in the secondary sector, but the highly skilled personnel who interpret the results and understand their significance for patients are firmly part of the service sector.
While large numbers of people are employed in some of the more low-skilled and less well-paid jobs in healthcare (working as janitors or healthcare assistants, for example), others take a professional route in the sector to become highly trained clinicians such as physicians and nurses.
Let’s use the healthcare industry to illustrate how people who have firm work and family commitments can get properly qualified to switch careers if they already hold a bachelor’s degree so they can embark on a deeply fulfilling profession.
Online qualifications: the gateway to rewarding careers
To use one service sector profession as an example, the job outlook for nurses is exceptional. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the Registered Nurse (RN) workforce to grow by 12% over just 10 years (from 2018 to 2028). This is more than double the national average rate of 5% for all professions.
How can someone move into a profession like nursing without a relevant qualification? Many well-established traditional universities offer professional degrees fully online. In other words, students who are not in a position to give up employment and family commitments to study in a campus-based program can now gain recognized professional and academic qualifications from their own homes. An Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) online, for example, is designed for people who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-related field but are seeking a career change.
Online study opens the door to high-value professions in the service sector, and although success requires self-discipline and resolve, it’s a viable means for people to complete their studies around their work and family commitments.
Thanks to high-value, accredited online degree programs, many people who feel stuck in a job that appears to be going nowhere can enjoy an opportunity to switch to a far more rewarding and fulfilling alternative in the service sector.
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