There’s no shame in following a passion, even if it leads you into a field that isn’t growing by leaps and bounds and won’t make you a billionaire. On the other hand, if you don’t know exactly what your passion is, there’s no harm in basing your decision of career path on an industry that is expected to do well in the coming years. Studying some of these sectors may help you find your inspiration for a career or business venture.
Four industries that seem especially promising for enterprising businesspeople are personal care and service, healthcare and medical technology, big data and IT, and green and sustainable building construction. You don’t need to be a doctor or a personal trainer or an architect to get into these spaces. A business degree and an understanding of where the industry is headed are all you need.
Personal Care and Service
If you’re like us, you can’t scroll through your Facebook updates without being bombarded by pictures of your friends doing CrossFit, riding bikes, or running marathons. All of us are becoming obsessed with getting healthy and looking good, and that means this industry that houses health and fitness, cosmetics, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), child care is set to hit new heights. The BLS predicts personal care and service will trail only health care in percent change in employment, with 27%.
One research group said in 2012 it has “never seen” growth like that of the prestige beauty industry — beauty, fragrance, skincare, and makeup products — which grew from $8.6 billion in 2010 to $9.5 billion in 2011 . The entire industry is expected to reach $265 billion by 2017 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4%. Much of the increase will be thanks to rising demand for beauty products in Europe and Asia.
Beauty and fashion are currently awash in new startups that offer apps, services, discount shopping, and more. Beauty social networks and communities like preen.me, Beautylish, and Bloom.com are pulling in millions of visitors and millions in funding. Companies that offer consumers more customized experiences and unique options like modest clothing for women and outfits that can be modified by using hidden zippers in the clothes are also generating buzz.
The recession had little effect on gyms and fitness clubs, and this year revenue is expected to be up to $26 billion. If that sounds like it involves more exercise than you’re comfortable with, the fitness app market might be a better bet. Abiresearch ballparks fitness app sales at $40 million by 2016, up from $12 million in 2010.
Fitocracy is an award-winning example of an innovative approach to fitness. The free, cloud-based service connects exercisers with each other, tracks and shares their progress, and motivates them with rewards like points, badges, and “props” from the community.
Jobs in Personal Care and Service
This industry is tailor-made for self-starters and entrepreneurs. If you’re prepared to carve out your own niche in fitness, you can be the next John Spencer Ellis. Many CEOs with MBAs in the beauty industry end up there by accident, encountering a need in their own lives and launching companies to meet that need. As for child care, a job using your business knowledge in HR, PR, or even accounting is enough to get you in the door so you can learn the industry.
Tips for Thriving in the Personal Care and Service Industry
Brian Wang, Fitocracy’s CEO and co-founder, tells us when you’re getting into an area like fitness, understanding and respecting your audience is crucial.
“You will be entering a fight against every possible excuse a person might come up with for why they don’t exercise,” he says. “Not only that, but you’ll need to delicately handle issues around self-image, self-esteem, body consciousness, and a whole variety of sensitive topics.”
He also cautions against assuming there’s a “one-size-fits-all” approach to fitness, so entrepreneurs should not assume what works for them personally will work for customers. The same could be said for the beauty industry, which caters to customers of practically all ages, shapes, sizes, and lifestyles.
Health Care and Medtech
Despite waves of change the upcoming Affordable Care Act will bring, the outlook for the health care industry is alive and kicking. The BLS projects that of service-providing industries, “health care and social assistance” will see by far and away the highest change in wage and salary employment from 2010-2020, adding 5.7 million jobs. This is a whopping 28% of all new jobs created in the U.S. economy.
One of the biggest drivers of the surge is the fact that Baby Boomers are beginning to hit the age where they qualify as senior citizens. More specifically (and importantly), they’re becoming eligible for Medicare at the rate of 11,000 people a day, and they will continue to do so until approximately 2024. They will be creating a demand for not only more doctors and nurses, but people to run the business side. Together, management and business and financial operations have been the top two fastest-growing hospital positions and show no signs of being displaced.
Another increasingly lucrative division of the health care industry is medtech, or medical technology. These are all the apps and digital and online companies that deal in health-related services. Medical apps alone are slated to be a $26 billion market by 2017.
Jobs in Health Care and Medtech
Even if your goal is to create a health care startup, there’s no better way to see medicine in action than by working at a hospital. MBAs can be had in both health care management and health care administration, which include roles like hospital administrator, health care consultant, private practice manager, health care finance managers, medical and health services managers. While the boom in health care will help the outlooks for all these careers, medical and health services manager jobs are expected to grow exceptionally quickly, by 22% by 2020.
Tips for Thriving in Health Care and Medtech
Brian Dear is the CEO and cofounder of iCouch, a Web-based platform that enables people to have long-distance therapy sessions via video chat. He said the big providers are increasingly trying to mimic startups’ agility and are going after small, niche markets. His startup is “right on the beginning of the wave” of industry growth that’s coming.
“Health care IT is evolving at a rapid rate. Essentially the end user — the hospital user — they’re the ones that are the slowest (to adopt new technology), but the technology is going very, very fast. Health tech is where it’s at. I would say the outlook is very hot. In five years’ time you’re going to think nothing of it of going online and having a doctor’s appointment,” Dear said.
Dear’s first bit of advice for medtech entrepreneurs — that they should focus on building the company first and fundraising second — could probably apply to any field. But his follow-up is that the healthcare industry is “a moving target” and one in which entrants have to know their regulations. He mentioned the issues of clients seeing therapists in other states and individual state laws regarding people who are threatening to commit suicide as just two hurdles that iCouch faces every day.
“If you’re dealing with cross-state medical transactions, you need to know the laws that affect them because No. 1, it’s your business, but No. 2, down the line, investors are going to ask you, ‘What’s the environment of your business going to be? What are the risks?’ Know who the players are, know the regulatory environment; it’s very hard to get right,” Dear says.
Remember the days when a 100 GB hard drive sounded like the most needlessly extravagant electronic device you could buy, and it was priced accordingly? Today, a 100 gig drive sounds quaint when you consider that we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day making transactions, posting pictures, videos, and text files, even driving down the freeway or going to the mall. All this data means money for the people who know how to parse it quickly and effectively to improve business operations, give a better understanding of customers, spot market trends, increase tech security, and more.
In 2010, big data companies saw sales of $3.2 billion. By 2015, market research firm IDC pegs the industry to be pulling down almost $17 billion. The overall IT consulting industry is estimated to fetch $379 billion by 2017, according to research firm Sageworks.
The stock of one standout big data company, Splunk, rose so fast (90%) after its IPO that it tripped a NYSE circuit breaker. Analysts say the company currently has no direct competitor for its analysis of unstructured machine data and project its sales to grow an average of 31% over the next two years. Think Big Analytics is a big data consulting firm that’s drawing a lot of attention and recently secured a $3 million round of funding.
Online medical records are another sector of big data that is primed to explode, with companies like MotherKnows and PracticeFusion racking up millions in investment funding and thousands of users. And don’t forget the $19 billion of stimulus money injected into the industry by President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
If your goal is to create a big data startup that is bought up by one of the big players, you may be in luck. Until then, however, consolidation of the market may make it difficult for a little company to get a foothold. IBM has been gobbling up data firms, having spent over $16 billion in the last eight years on acquisitions and reported plans to purchase Splunk. Oracle and HP have also laid out $1.1 billion and $350 million respectively for search and data analytics companies.
Jobs in Big Data
An MBA in IT opens up many jobs that can help you get a foothold in the big data industry. Database administrator would be an ideal stepping-stone that involves setting up and working with servers, monitoring data storage, and maintaining data integrity. Setting up communications networks as a network architect would be a good way to gain an introduction to data network management. Master all aspects of data and IT and you’ll be qualified to step into the lucrative role of chief information officer.
Tips for Thriving in Big Data
Robert Fitzgerald is the president of The Lorenzi Group, a data analytics firm that specializes in security analytics and computer forensics. He said the biggest hurdles for getting into this relatively new space are “lack of experience, lack of experience, lack of experience.” He advised students to take statistics and economics classics while still in school and to not be choosy about their first job.
“Get ANY role you can. Yes, it will suck. Yes, you are worth more, or at least your degree is. And while you are in that role, in your free time, start analyzing everything. Come up with infographics that are funny, helpful, and interesting. Show them around the office. You will get noticed,” he said.
He also recommended business school graduates volunteer with any startups friends or classmates create to get experience and begin to grow a network of contacts.
Green and Sustainable Building Construction
Construction got walloped in the recession, shedding 2.2 million jobs, or 28% of its labor pool. Some analysts worry that some of these workers may have left the home-building industry for good and labor shortages will begin to crop up as construction takes off. While acknowledging that it won’t return to its pre-recession level even by 2020, the BLS estimates the construction industry will add 1.84 million jobs in the next seven years, making it easily the most promising goods-producing sector. Within that space, green construction seems ready to ascend.
Despite the recession, green building construction grew 50% between 2008 and 2010, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. In April 2012, well-known market research firm IBISWorld released its special report on the 10 fastest-growing industries. Their top pick: green and sustainable building construction, with a projected leap from $103 billion in revenue in 2012 to almost $288 billion in 2017 and a 22.8% increase in CAGR.
As the real estate market returns, there will be an uptick in residential green building, which McGraw-Hill puts as high as $114 billion by 2016. But the biggest opportunities will be in retrofitting existing buildings and converting them to being green. Universities and non-profits in particular will be a fast-growing customer base.
“You can install better (green) assemblies and equipment that may be more expensive than the lowest first-cost version that you could do,” said Steve Stelzer, program director of the Green Building Resource Center, an advocacy and education hub for green building technology, “but then you would be paid back in utility savings and less sick days for inhabitants of the building and better work attitudes because it’s a better building.”
Couple that with the positive impact on their reputations businesses are able to develop by going green, more and more CEOs should be jumping onboard, and it appears they are. A November 2012 survey by Turner Construction Company found 90% of respondents were committed to sustainable operations.
Jobs for MBAs in Green and Sustainable Building Construction
There is a wide variety of careers in which a business student would make a good fit. The sustainable building materials sector will need sales and marketing experts to meet the 11% annual growth it is projected to see through 2017. As more companies go green, they will require marketing and public relations professionals to inform the public on how they’re benefitting the environment. And LEED-certified green building consultants with solid management backgrounds will be in high demand to teach companies about the process of going green.
Tips for Thriving in Green and Sustainable Building Construction
Taking international business courses is advisable, as green construction is a burgeoning industry overseas. Forty percent of all LEED-certified projects were outside the U.S. in 89 countries, as of the end of 2012. Foreign companies will be looking for green building materials and brokers to deliver them.
Also, becoming a member of the U.S. Green Building Council would be a good way to keep up with developments in
the industry, like the ongoing discussion over LEED v4. LEED itself has been experiencing a rash of negative publicity from critics in recent months over its cost and effectiveness, but having a competing certification should help bring membership costs down and encourage more businesses and homes to seek certification for their building projects.
Whether you decide, like Wal-Mart, healthcare is an enticing market, or that since everyone from Amazon to Zappos is getting into big data, you should too, you have some exciting options for putting your business acumen to work. Start building up your knowledge base now, surround yourself with good people later, and the possibilities are endless.