The Emerging Professional, Scientific, and Technical Sector


Although the professional, scientific, and technical industry sector makes up only 6% of the U.S. workforce, it was responsible for 10% of national job growth from 2010 to 2012. In addition, the broad industry (NAICS 54) grew by 6% in the past two years, which illustrates our nation’s march toward a more technical, STEM type workforce. There are over 9.2 million jobs in this industry, which is driven by sub-sectors like computer system design services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

The Industries

In this post we’d like to give you a better picture of the top sub-sectors that are driving the professional, scientific, and technical sector. To do this, we’ve selected 16 six-digit industries that fall into this sector. Each one is either:

  1. A big employer (offices of lawyers or engineering services),
  2. Showing impressive % growth since 2010 (media buying or translation and interpretation services), or
  3. Adding a lot of jobs (computer systems design or custom computer programming).

We have included the 2010 and 2012 job totals, change, % change, and top occupations that staff each industry. Many of these sectors can be thought of as “specialists” that generate their income by providing consulting or professional services to their consumers. NOTE: We have not included every sub-sector of NAICS 54 on this list.

NAICS Code Description 2010 Jobs 2012 Jobs Change % Change Top Occupations
Source: QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees & Self-Employed - EMSI 2012.3 Class of Worker
541512 Computer Systems Design Services 726,989 815,729 88,740 12% Software Developers, Computer Systems Analysts
541511 Custom Computer Programming Services 697,318 768,093 70,775 10% Software Developers, Computer Systems Analysts
541611 Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services 487,428 544,976 57,548 12% Management Analysts, Services Sales Representatives
541330 Engineering Services 911,012 947,188 36,176 4% Civil Enginners, Mechanical Engineers
541613 Marketing Consulting Services 207,357 234,470 27,113 13% Management Analysts, Market Research Analysts
541712 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology) 440,152 463,887 23,735 5% Medical Scientists, Biological Technicians
541211 Offices of Certified Public Accountants 415,253 436,074 20,821 5% Accountants, Bookkeeping Clerks
541810 Advertising Agencies 200,344 214,083 13,739 7% Advertising Sales Agents, Public Relations Specialists
541380 Testing Laboratories 147,147 160,565 13,418 9% Chemical Technicians, Chemists
541214 Payroll Services 151,406 164,762 13,356 9% Accountants, Bookkeeping Clerks
541711 Research and Development in Biotechnology 141,037 148,561 7,524 5% Medical Scientists, Biological Technicians
541614 Process, Physical Distribution, and Logistics Consulting Services 105,799 112,025 6,226 6% Management Analysts, Business Operations Specialists
541110 Offices of Lawyers 1,256,437 1,260,717 4,280 0% Lawyers, Paralegals
541930 Translation and Interpretation Services 25,534 29,794 4,260 17% Interviewers, Interpreters and Translators
541830 Media Buying Agencies 12,510 15,336 2,826 23% Advertising Sales Agents, Public Relations Specialists
541360 Geophysical Surveying and Mapping Services 17,409 18,898 1,489 9% Surveying and Mapping Technicians, Architects
Total 5,943,133 6,335,157 392,024 7%


  • Computer systems design and custom computer programming services are the clear leaders and have added a ton of jobs — 89,000 and 71,000 jobs respectively, representing 12% and 10% increases. Software developers and computer system analysts are key occupations for these two sectors. If you are looking for a job, these are fantastic occupations and industries to focus on.
  • While not a large sector, media buying agencies has the fastest % growth (23%) since 2010. This translates to nearly 3,000 new jobs in an industry that employs 15,000. From a talent perspective, advertising agencies (which grew by nearly 14,000 new jobs, or 7%, since 2010) is similar to media buy agencies. Advertising sales agents and public relations specialists are two common occupations that should be in demand across these two sectors.
  • The biggest sector on this list is offices of lawyers. It employs 1.26 million, but has had zero job growth since 2010.

These are the big “E’s” on the eye chart, but other sub-sectors are also worth noting. Research and development (research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences and research and development in biotechnology) as well as testing laboratories are showing good growth. Together they have added 45,000 new jobs since 2010. They all employ medical scientists, biological and chemical techs, and chemists.

Industries related to business operations also appear to be thriving:

  • Offices of certified public accountants (436,000 total jobs, 21,000 new jobs in two years, 5% growth)
  • Payroll services (165,000 total jobs, 13,000 new jobs in two years, 9% growth)
  • Process, physical distribution, and logistics consulting services (112,000 total jobs, 6,000 new jobs in two years, 6% growth)
  • Administrative management and general management consulting services (545,000 total jobs, 58,000 new jobs in two years, 12% growth)


Before we take a closer look at the actual occupations, let’s consider how these jobs are distributed. Using Analyst, we filtered for which states have the highest concentration of the 16 sub-sectors. Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia have by far the highest concentration of these industries. These three geographies are also the only areas that we would call “highly specialized” for these jobs, which means that the concentration of professional, scientific, and technical jobs is more than 60% greater than the national average, and is actually getting closer to twice what a typical region has. After that, we see that Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, New Mexico, and California have concentrations between 1.2 and 1.59, which means the jobs are 20-60% more concentrated in these states (the national average equals 1.0).

The other states’ concentrations are closer to or (in most cases) below the national average. Why are most states below the national average? Good question. This is because the states with higher concentrations have such a huge number of these jobs: they throw off the average. This is a great illustration of “clustering.”

Now, if your state doesn’t have a high concentration of these jobs at the moment, fear not. Quite a few states out there have shown some pretty impressive growth for these industries over the past two years. In particular, North Dakota (17% since 2010), Delaware (13%), Georgia (12%), Utah (11%), Vermont (11%), New York (11%), Washington (11%), and South Carolina (10%). A lot of states have shown moderate growth and just a handful have actually declined.

Finally, here are the large MSAs with the highest concentrations (1.2 and up). The San Jose and Washington, D.C. MSAs have concentrations more than twice as high as the national average. See the table for more detail:

MSA Name 2010 Jobs 2012 Jobs Change % Change 2012 Avg. Annual Wage 2010 National Location Quotient
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 374,638 391,991 17,353 5% $124,495 2.85
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 99,801 109,231 9,430 9% $157,425 2.55
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 167,627 187,350 19,723 12% $133,194 1.88
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 192,212 207,628 15,416 8% $127,130 1.79
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 119,558 132,099 12,541 10% $95,774 1.61
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 99,262 102,426 3,164 3% $112,513 1.61
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 81,553 87,155 5,602 7% $102,484 1.50
Raleigh-Cary, NC 32,701 35,499 2,798 9% $89,675 1.48
Baltimore-Towson, MD 81,539 87,509 5,970 7% $102,246 1.44
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 49,224 55,773 6,549 13% $102,732 1.42
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 505,778 551,933 46,155 9% $121,856 1.38
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 159,168 165,037 5,869 4% $110,591 1.36
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 124,980 142,268 17,288 14% $95,338 1.27
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 144,338 154,709 10,371 7% $110,109 1.26
Kansas City, MO-KS 53,424 58,580 5,156 10% $90,296 1.25
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 227,237 238,150 10,913 5% $108,363 1.24
Columbus, OH 48,404 52,078 3,674 8% $90,348 1.23
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 90,243 101,010 10,767 12% $100,138 1.18

The Occupations

So what jobs are we talking about? We’ve mentioned a few already, but you’ll see a list of the top occupations for the 16 aforementioned sub-sectors below. These are jobs that we could consider “emerging” as these sectors continue to thrive. Note: The growth of these occupations isn’t quite as high as we’ve seen for some of the sub-sectors. This is mostly because the occupations are staffed across other industries that aren’t growing quite as much (or not at all).

For this table, we’re including the occupations from our previous table, their total employment (across all industries — not just the ones above), their 2010-2012 growth, average hourly wage, and typical education level:

Occupation Total Employment, 2012 2010-2012 Growth Avg Hourly Wage Avg Ed Level
Computer Systems Analysts 527,350 5.0% $38 45% Bachelor's
Software Developers and Computer Systems Analysts 996,902 8.0% $44 50% Bachelor's
Management Analysts 727,348 5.0% $36 41% Bachelor's
Services Sales Reps 710,385 2.5% $25 38% Bachelors
Civil Engineers 269,908 1.4% $37 57% Bachelor's
Mechanical Engineers 253,033 6.5% $38 52% Bachelor's
Biological Technicians 75,167 1.6% $19 37% Bachelor's
Accountants 1,273,877 3.7% $30 56% Bachelor's
Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks 1,859,752 2.5% $17 39% Some College (no degree)
Medical Scientists 104,396 7.0% $37 64% Doctoral
Busuiness Operations Specialists 1,004,963 1.2% $30 33% Bachelor's
Lawyers 768,596 0% $51 97% Professional Degree
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 269,061 2.7% $23 34% Bachelor's
Interviewers 228,666 2.8% $15 35% Some College (no degree)
Interpreters and Translators 68,895 8.2% $22 30% Bachelor's
Advertising Sales Agents 186,417 1.4% $22 47% Bachelor's
Public Relations Specialists 233,604 3.5% $26 56% Bachelor's
Surveying and Mapping Technicians 51,896 0% $20 37% Some College (no degree)
Architects 110,512 0% $33 52% Bachelor's


  • All but four of the 18 occupations are dominated by a workforce that has attained at least a bachelor’s degree. The only jobs where this is not the case are bookkeepers (39% have some college, no degree), medical scientists (64% doctoral degree), lawyers (97% professional degree), and surveying and mapping technicians (37% some college, no degree).
  • Translators and software developers have the highest growth percentage (8.2% and 8.0%, respectively) since 2010. They are followed by medical scientists (7%) and mechanical engineers (6.5%).
  • Lawyers, architects, and surveying and mapping techs did not experience any growth since 2010.

Here are a few helpful definitions if you’d like to explore some of these jobs further:

  1. Computer systems analysts – Analyze science, engineering, business, and other data processing problems to implement and improve computer systems.
  2. Management analysts – Conduct organizational studies and evaluations, design systems and procedures, conduct work simplification and measurement studies, and prepare operations and procedures manuals to assist management in operating more efficiently and effectively.
  3. Biological technicians – Assist biological and medical scientists in laboratories. Set up, operate, and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment, monitor experiments, make observations, and calculate and record results. May analyze organic substances, such as blood, food, and drugs.
  4. Medical scientists – Conduct research dealing with the understanding of human diseases and the improvement of human health. Engage in clinical investigation, research and development, or other related activities. Includes physicians, dentists, public health specialists, pharmacologists, and medical pathologists who primarily conduct research.
  5. Interviewers – Interview persons by telephone, mail, in person, or by other means for the purpose of completing forms, applications, or questionnaires. Ask specific questions, record answers, and assist persons with completing form. May sort, classify, and file forms.
  6. Advertising sales agents – Sell or solicit advertising space, time, or media in publications, signage, TV, radio, or Internet establishments or public spaces.
  7. Surveying and mapping technicians – Perform surveying and mapping duties, usually under the direction of an engineer, surveyor, cartographer, or photogrammetrist to obtain data used for construction, mapmaking, boundary location, mining, or other purposes.


So, quick summary:

  • Though it is small, the professional, scientific, and technical sector is responsible for a greater and greater share of jobs.
  • The jobs tend to be more concentrated in specific areas, namely Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.
  • The jobs tend to be associated with four-year degrees.
  • The industries tend to be more highly specialized — meaning, they add value and do a lot of consulting work based on that expertise.
  • Business operations, logistics, software, scientific research, and engineering are the major areas of focus.

Data and analysis from this report came from Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market tool. Please contact Rob Sentz ( if you have questions or comments. Follow us @desktopecon.

Lab technician photo by Bigstock.