Every day, millions of workers provide professional and business services that keep American businesses and the economy running. Demand for these services has grown significantly over the last several decades, resulting in fast job growth.
Professional, scientific, and technical services is the largest sector within professional and business services and employed about 1 in every 15 jobs in 2021. These establishments specialize in performing professional, scientific, and technical activities such as advertising and public relations, accounting and tax preparation, computer systems design, architectural and engineering services, and much more. These services typically require a high degree of expertise and training and many of the occupations employed in this sector earned wages above the $45,760 median annual wage for all occupations in 2021.
In this Spotlight on Statistics, we look at employment in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector and the projected employment growth for the 2021–31 decade for some of its detailed industries and top-employing occupations.
BLS produces employment estimates for 17 major industries and approximately 300 detailed industries. Of the 17 major industries, professional and business services had the most employment in 2021—about 21.2 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total economy (excluding the self-employed).
The professional and business services major industry sector is projected to grow 7.3 percent over the 2021–31 decade, which is slightly faster than the 5.5 percent growth projected for total wage and salary employment. Due to its large size, this translates into approximately 1.5 million new jobs over the decade, which is the third-largest projected increase in employment across all major industry sectors.
The professional and business services sector consists of three industries:
The professional, scientific, and technical services industry is the largest of the three, accounting for almost 50 percent of professional and business services employment. It employed about 9.9 million people in 2021.
The professional, scientific, and technical services industry is also projected to grow the fastest of the three, at 10.9 percent, which is much faster than the average for the total economy, and more than twice as fast as employment growth in the two other professional and business services industries. As a result, about 7 out of every 10 new jobs expected to be created in professional and business services over 2021–31 will be in professional, scientific, and technical services.
The professional, scientific, and technical services sector has nine broad industries. The largest among these nine industries is the computer systems design and related services industry, which had an employment level of about 2.3 million in 2021.
For some of these broad industries, BLS produces projections at a more detailed industry level. For example, for scientific research and development services, BLS projects employment for two detailed industries:
Within the professional, scientific, and technical services sector, four industries are projected to have employment growth greater than 12 percent from 2021 to 2031, more than twice the growth rate projected for total wage and salary employment. The computer systems design and related services industry is projected to grow the fastest as well as create the most new jobs among all professional, scientific, and technical services industries—about 455,200. Notable job gains are also expected in the second largest industry, management, scientific, and technical consulting services, which is projected to add about 220,100 jobs over the decade.
Establishments in computer systems design and related services provide expertise in the field of information technology (IT). Businesses in this industry may provide custom services for clients, such as computer programming; writing and testing software; or managing their computer systems.
Employment in computer systems design and related services is expected to grow 19.8 percent from 2021 to 2031, driven by strong demand for IT goods and services. More businesses are offering their goods and services online or using software and online platforms to facilitate business operations. This should generate demand for IT professionals to create custom software solutions and to manage firms’ IT infrastructure.
Moreover, as businesses continue to expand their digital footprint, cybersecurity will become increasingly important, especially as cyberattacks have grown in frequency and severity in recent years.
In addition, the increase in remote and hybrid work will also drive demand for workers to plan, design, test, and operate the infrastructure and services of a remote work environment.
Establishments in veterinary services include licensed veterinary practitioners primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, dentistry, or surgery for animals; and establishments that provide testing services for veterinary practitioners.
Employment in veterinary services is projected to grow 16.9 percent and add 74,200 jobs from 2021 to 2031.
Many American households own a pet, and pet ownership is expected to continue to rise over the 2021–31 decade. That should lead to more demand for veterinary services.
In addition, the introduction of new veterinary treatment options, such as the use of laser surgery, should result in more spending on pet care.
Establishments in management, scientific, and technical consulting services primarily provide advice and assistance to businesses and other organizations on management, environmental, scientific, and technical issues. Employment in management, scientific, and technical consulting services is projected to grow 13.5 percent and add 220,100 jobs from 2021 to 2031.
Businesses will continue to need expertise and advice on how to address complex challenges such as adopting new technologies, incorporating sustainability practices, complying with regulations, managing global supply chains, and more. Sustained demand for consulting services in market research and analysis and management strategy should also support employment over the 2021–31 decade.
Establishments in research and development (R&D) in the physical, engineering, and life sciences conduct research and experimental development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, such as in agriculture, electronics, environmental science, biotechnology, food, health, and other disciplines. Employment in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences is projected to grow 12.7 percent from 2021 to 2031, an increase of 97,100 jobs.
Research and development activities play an important role in addressing global and national challenges and driving innovation and economic growth. Demand for innovations in transportation, defense, information and communications technology, robotics and automation, agriculture, energy, and more will drive spending on R&D services. In addition, as the U.S. population continues to get older and more individuals live with chronic diseases, demand for new medical equipment and devices and biotechnology applications should spur demand for healthcare R&D services.
Let's now look at the types of occupations employed in professional, scientific, and technical services and their projected employment changes.
Computer and mathematical occupations are projected to be the largest group employed in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector by 2031. This is primarily the result of the fast projected growth in computer systems design and related services, in which most of these occupations are concentrated.
Business and financial operations occupations are expected to be the second largest group employed in professional, scientific and technical services in 2031. The share of total industry employment of the business and financial operations occupational group is projected to increase slightly, driven by demand for services such as human resources, project management, and market research.
In contrast, employment of office and administrative support occupations is projected to decline from 2021 to 2031, due in large part to the automation of administrative and clerical tasks through the use of software and other technologies, leading to a lower share of total industry employment in 2031.
Among the top ten fastest growing occupations in professional, scientific, and technical services, six are computer and mathematical occupations, including the top three. Strong demand for cybersecurity services will lead to higher employment of information security analysts. Similarly, data scientists and statisticians will be in demand to develop models and tools to extract and analyze data and present data insights. Other fast-growing occupations—medical and health services managers and epidemiologists—provide healthcare services, including research and development, which are expected to be in greater demand over the projections period.
Among the top ten occupations with the most projected job growth in professional, scientific, and technical services, three are computer and mathematical occupations, three are business and financial operations occupations, two are legal occupations, and two are management occupations. These occupations will provide a variety of vital services to businesses across a range of industries.
Software developers, the occupation expected to add the most jobs in the sector over 2021–31, will be in demand to create software products for organizations.
Demand for legal work is expected to continue to grow as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services, supporting demand for lawyers and paralegals and legal assistants, the occupations with the second and fourth largest projected job increases.
Businesses will need market research analysts and marketing specialists to help understand the needs and wants of customers, measure the effectiveness of marketing and business strategies, and to identify the factors affecting product demand. Similarly, as markets become more competitive, firms will need to use resources more efficiently and organizations will consult management analysts for ways to improve efficiency and control costs.
Lindsey Ice is an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For questions about this Spotlight on Statistics, please email Ice.Lindsey@bls.gov.
The BLS Employment Projections program uses Current Employment Statistics (CES) data as an input for base year industry employment levels. Due to annual benchmark revisions to CES data, some 2021 employment levels shown in the charts and tables have been revised since the release of the 2021‒31 projections in September 2022. All 2021 historical data in this Spotlight are 2021 base year employment levels for the 2021‒31 projections.
See Projections overview and highlights, 2021–31 for an overview of 2021–31 economy-wide employment projections. To learn more about the occupations discussed in this Spotlight, along with hundreds of others, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). Each OOH profile includes detailed information about job duties, wages, job outlook, and more.