The Growth of New Industries, and the Job Creation That Comes With Them


The Growth of New Industries, and the Job Creation That Comes With Them



Solar Photovoltaic Installer. Virtual Reality UX Engineer. Budtender.

Three jobs that, until the past few years, nobody had ever heard of. And all three are found in industries that either didn’t exist until very recently, or industries that have exploded in size due to recent changes in technology, changes in law, or both. Those industries are Renewable Energy, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Recreational Cannabis.

New and burgeoning industries like these are reshaping the economy, even as established industries – some that have been economic and employment powerhouses for more than a century – are contracting or disappearing entirely.

But how? What impact are these emerging industries having on the economy, GDP, and employment numbers? How do they compare to some of history’s financial heavyweights? And if you’re interested in seeking a job in one of these brand-new, unprecedented industries, what should you expect to be paid? Or, as an employer on this cutting edge, what should you pay to attract, retain, and motivate the best talent?

In this report, PayScale explores the growth and potential of fledgling industries, along with a number of jobs within them, using the rapidly growing cannabis industry as a major example. Thanks to our proprietary, near-real-time database of more than 54 million salary profiles, we’re able to accurately assign a dollar value to jobs and/or skills that, until very recently, didn’t even exist. And many of these same jobs and skills are poised to become some of the most valuable in the new economy.

“Emerging industries are already creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and pouring billions of dollars into the economy,” said PayScale Chief Economist Katie Bardaro. “However, with rapid growth comes a tight talent market, which poses a problem for employers. They will need to know how to compensate these fast-moving, in-demand jobs in order to attract and retain their top talent.”

Solar Energy Job Examples*

Job Title
Assumed Degree
Assumed Years Exp
Median Salary
Atmospheric Scientist
Chemical Engineer
Electrical Engineer
High School

Atmospheric Scientist – Because the efficiency of solar panels is highly dependent on weather, atmospheric scientists study atmospheric and weather conditions of locations being considered for the development of solar power plants.

Chemical Engineer – In the solar power industry, Chemical Engineers design equipment and processes for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing solar cells, and supervise their production.

Electrical Engineer – Electrical Engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical circuitry for solar panels and supporting devices, such as inverters and wiring systems.

Glazier – Glaziers are responsible for selecting, cutting, installing, replacing, and removing glass or glass-like materials. They are instrumental in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of photovoltaic panels and their protective coverings, and of the focusing mirrors utilized by concentrated solar power plants.

Struggling to know what to pay employees in an emerging industry?

When you get compensation right, you attract and retain the best talent.



The fledgling legal cannabis industry is exploding, growing at an incredible rate and creating thousands of jobs as it does so. But the future of this young industry is hazy; Federally, marijuana is still illegal, though federal laws are largely ignored at the state level. But even though recent overtures by the U.S. Department of Justice have cast some doubt on the industry’s future, financial and employment analysts are high on its potential, and perhaps job hunters should be, too.

When Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in January of 2012, government officials in the state may not have realized they were blazing a trail in what is now one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States.

Sales of Legal Cannabis

Six years later, the sale of recreational cannabis is legal in eight states — Colorado (2012), Washington (2012), Alaska (2014), Oregon (2014), California (2016), Nevada (2016), Maine (2016), and Massachusetts (2016) — and medicinal marijuana is legally sold in Vermont and The District of Columbia. Sales of legal cannabis in North America totaled roughly $10 billion in 2017 — a 33 percent increase over 2016 — and the market is expected to reach $24.5 billion by 2021. A recent and telling sign of the industry’s unprecedented growth: In Aspen, Colorado, sales of recreational marijuana overtook sales of alcohol in 2017, $11.3 million to $10.5 million.

All this growth means an accompanying boom in job creation, with the legal cannabis industry expected to create more than a quarter of a million jobs by 2020; that’s more than the expected jobs created by manufacturing, utilities or government jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What’s more, these predictions are based only on existing legal markets; they do not assume other states (and countries) will legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, even though New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire and New Mexico could all potentially legalize recreational cannabis in 2018.

“We find there is an overwhelming interest in working in the cannabis sector,” says Alison McMahon, Founder and CEO of Cannabis at Work, Canada’s leading source of information on cannabis jobs, recruitment services, online industry training, and workplace impairment training.” (Cannabis is on track to become legal nationwide in Canada by July 2018.)

“People see the growth opportunity that comes with cannabis legalization,” says McMahon. “Much like the alcohol industry, people perceive it as ‘recession proof.’”

Another recent and optimistic report predicts that cannabis legalization could inject over a million jobs into the US labor market by 2025 — if it becomes legal nationwide in the United States — and also  generate $132 billion in federal tax revenue.

How will this tax revenue be used? As an example: In Oregon, tax revenue from legal cannabis sales totaled $108.6 million between January 4, 2016, and August. 31, 2017. In October of 2017, the Oregon Department of Revenue announced that it paid out $85 million of that total for schools, public health, police and local governments. Even more impressively, as of July of last year, Colorado had pulled in $506 million in tax revenue since retail sales began in January 2014, with most of that going to public schools.

Despite these astronomic growth expectations, the industry faces some potential buzzkills. Most notably, at a federal level, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I illegal drug in the United States, creating a conflict with the states where it has been declared legal. During the Obama administration, the “Cole Memo” essentially directed federal prosecutors to adopt a “policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.” But recent overtures by Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions – including rescinding the Cole Memo – have some in the industry worried that a federal crackdown may be imminent.

Additionally, some potential job seekers are nervous about the stigma associated with cannabis — that it’s an industry full of stoners, or that future potential employers might share the opinion voiced by Sessions that, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” — and whether working in the industry could derail future job prospects.

Cannabis Workers Future

Rommie Callaghan, Vice President of Human Resources at Privateer Holdings — “a private equity firm shaping the future of the global legal cannabis industry” and a PayScale customer — says she isn’t overly concerned with the possibility of a federal crackdown, a line of thought shared by many, even those in government; according to Rolling Stone, “some governors say there’s starting to be an air of certainty that eventually marijuana will be viewed as the same as alcohol in most every state.” (According to PayScale research, those in the cannabis industry may agree with this rosy outlook, as 68 percent of cannabis workers believe their employers have a bright future. Interestingly, only 59 percent of American workers in general feel the same way.)

As for the stigma associated with the industry potentially damaging her career prospects, Callaghan addresses that concern by comparing the cannabis industry to the alcoholic beverage industry.

“We’re set up like any other above-board business,” she says. “Some people might think we’re stoned all the time, but that’s a misrepresentation. We have a strict policy against working impaired. And it’s not like people who work in a distillery are drunk all the time.”

But Callaghan admits the cannabis industry might appeal more to adventurous job seekers, or those more comfortable with risk, which is how she categorizes herself.

“If a future employer didn’t hire me because of (my experience in the cannabis industry), it would probably be an indicator that they didn’t share my values, and the job likely wouldn’t be a good fit anyway,” she says.

Cold War Organics, a fertilizer company specializing in products specific to the growth of cannabis, is an example of a business that was created to support the cannabis industry without being directly part of it, and it and similar companies benefit from expanding legalization.

“We’re in a green rush right now,” explains Paul Sachs, the company’s President and Technical Liaison. “During the gold rush, very few of the miners made money. Really, the people who made money were selling the picks and shovels. That’s what I’m doing, with fertilizer.”

As he’s a manufacturer of fertilizer and not a grower of cannabis or cannabis-based products, nothing Sachs sells is illegal under federal law. But he’s acutely aware that if the federal government were to crack down on the cannabis industry, Cold War Organics’ business would suffer. Still, he remains optimistic about the industry’s potential.

“I never thought I’d see cannabis legalized within my lifetime. But attitudes have really changed. It seems to me, with the number of states that have changed their laws, it’s a movement that’s just going to keep growing.”

Jody Hall, founder and CEO of Seattle’s Cupcake Royale and cannabis edibles company Goodship, sees her early entrance into the cannabis market as an opportunity to shape the industry as it evolves.

“We’re doing business in the wild west of weed, and things change frequently,” she says of her experience. “If you’re in this business, being able to adapt to change is paramount.”

“It’s a grind to be sure, but we also have a unique opportunity to have a seat at the table during this incredible renaissance, shaping the future narrative of how we enjoy marijuana in our culture and bringing a positive story to this conversation. I truly believe marijuana allows us to connect to our better, more present and creative selves, and this feeds our soul. This is the path that Goodship is taking, building an aspirational brand on top of a really amazing product.”

Cannabis Job Examples*

Job Title
Assumed Degree
Assumed Years Exp
Median Salary
Marketing Director
Retail Store Manager
High School

Marketing Director – Marketing Directors hold ultimate responsibility for an organization’s marketing activities, and oversee the development and implementation of a marketing strategy. This can mean developing product marketing or overall brand strategy; overseeing campaigns, events, and public relations; guiding the day-to-day activities of the marketing team; and more.

Retail Store Manager – Retail Store Managers are in charge of the daily operations of a retail location and maximizing its revenues. Typical duties might include monitoring sales performance and ensuring sales targets are attained, recruiting new employees, maintaining inventories, scheduling employee shifts, driving local marketing efforts, and more.

Horticultarist – Responsible for year-round propagating, grooming and maintenance of plants, Horticulatrists in the cannabis industry are the workers who grow and care for the cannabis plants themselves. Their duties can include ensuring plant health, proper soil nutrition, optimal environmental conditions, and pest management.

Budtender – Much like bartenders in the alcoholic beverage industry, budtenders are knowledgeable about cannabis and related products, and thrive on providing great customer service. Budtenders are the most-likely point of contact with customers, and their responsibilities include helping customers to select which cannabis products to purchase.

Considering a job in an emerging industry?

Find out what your skill set is worth.


Dawn of the Solar Energy, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality Industries

The renewable energy industry is seeing similar growth in revenue and job creation. In 2016 , “solar employment expanded … 17 times faster than the total US economy“, and employed “ just under 374,000 people.” But like recreational cannabis, the solar industry faces a number of hurdles.

In January of 2017, the Trump administration announced a 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells, a move that the Solar Energy Industries Association said would result in “the loss of roughly 23,000 jobs in the solar industry this year, as well as the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars of investments.” The tariffs will likely make solar power less competitive with other sources of energy, like coal, gas and oil — industries that had a combined work force of slightly more than 187,000 in 2016 — and consequently result in slower hiring in the U.S. (The coal industry is home to a workforce that’s actually shrinking; between 2011 and 2016, the industry lost nearly 60,000 jobs, a 44 percent decline.)

In 2016 , “solar employment expanded 17 times faster than the total US economy”, “and employed just under 374,000 people.”

In fact, the growth of the young solar industry is being restrained by the political efforts of some of the biggest energy and utility companies in the United States, companies that compete with solar and other renewable energy sources. Over the past six years, these organizations spent $673 million dollars to influence climate policy at both the state and federal levels of government.

As reported in Politico:

“Politics may be the biggest roadblock to change. America’s infrastructure was built for a world powered by the combustion of 300-million-year-old carbon, and its pipelines, smokestacks and gas stations all produce revenue for influential interests that see a green new world as a financial threat. Those interests have powerful allies in President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress.”

Despite these obstacles, due to the dropping costs of solar power generation — in 2016 it became the cheapest source of electricity, about 50% the price of electricity produced from coal in certain markets — the laws of economics suggest the solar industry’s growth can only be restrained for so long.

The Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (AR) industry is also growing at an incredible rate, with some experts estimating worldwide revenues to increase by 100 percent or more over the next four years, and others reporting that “spending on products and services related to AR and virtual reality will grow more than 100 percent annually, jumping from $11.4 billion (in 2017) to $214 billion in 2021,” according to Forbes.

An even-more rapid growth of the industry might be predictable based on the growth of job listings by VR and AR companies.

As reported in Forbes, online job board saw a massive uptick in VR and AR jobs listed between 2014 and 2016 alone.

The company saw about 2 virtual reality job postings per 1 million job ads in 2014, as compared to 18 for every million jobs currently—an increase of about 800%. Among job seekers, job search per million has gone from about 1 VR job search per million in 2014, to 19 VR job searches per million—an increase of 1800%. “It’s still relatively small, in the scheme of things,” says senior vice president, Paul D’Arcy, “but everything that gets big starts with small numbers and a high rate of growth.”

Virtual and Augmented Reality Job Examples*

Job Title
Assumed Degree
Assumed Years Exp
Median Salary
Principal Virtual Reality Engineer
3D Virtual Reality Artist
Visual Effects Artist
Virtual Reality Editor

Principal Virtual Reality Engineer/Principal Software Architect – The Principal Virtual Reality Engineer is an experienced software designer who leads a team of developers to create elegant, functional Virtual Reality software. They oversee the entire design process, from conceptualizing and creating goals and guidelines to quality control and post-release troubleshooting, maintenance, and updating.

3D Virtual Reality Artist – A 3D Virtual Reality Artist’s job combines creative skills with knowledge of relevant software. This person uses specialized design and drawing software to create computer images of people, buildings, and/or objects that can be manipulated and viewed from all sides as separate, standout elements.

Visual Effects Artist – Visual Effects Artists create pre-rendered Virtual Reality effects. Their job entails designing and implementing effects to have the maximum dramatic effect while understanding and working within the product’s technological limitations.

Virtual Reality Editor – Much like a film or video editor, a Virtual Reality Editor ensures a virtual reality experience is polished, engaging, and meets the specific needs of its audience.

New Money: Skills and Jobs in Emerging Industries

While they’re growing at an incredible rate, given that the cannabis, solar power, and virtual and augmented reality industries are so young, many of the skills needed to succeed within them are also very new, and finding prospective employees with experience in these fields can be challenging.

“In the future, job titles will be obsolete,” predicts Bardaro. “Instead, jobs will be represented by a bag of skills, as this will truly quantify what it is you do. The emerging industries are already ahead of the game, as they focus on the requisite skills for a job rather than the title itself.”

Potential workers in the cannabis industry might have experience gleaned from elsewhere in horticulture or farming, knowledge applicable to the growth of cannabis. Programmers in the AR and VR industry might come from other areas of tech, and can apply their skills to world building or other aspects of virtual reality. Employers in emerging fields might have to cast a net over a number seemingly disparate industries to find what the people they need.

Hall, whose first business, Cupcake Royale, is a cupcake bakery and cafe, was able to tap into her established network of bakery and confection experts when hiring for her cannabis edibles company, Goodship.

“It’s been more difficult finding folks who are product experts on the inhalable side,” she says. “People who are truly passionate about extraction methods, various form factors – oils, flower, concentrates – who also have a great business acumen or marketing aspect to layer on.”

Another issue introduced by these emerging industries and jobs: What do you pay someone in a line of work for which there is little or no historical precedent?

In some cases, the skills associated with a particular job may be reflected in a similar job in a completely different industry. An editor with experience in film or television who moves into virtual reality uses comparable skills, so a comparable salary may be appropriate, depending on location, company size and other factors.

PayScale’s software products and compensation professionals account for this type of situation.

Says Bardaro, “PayScale enables employers to price jobs in emerging industries by collecting and reporting compensation data for thousands of skills and specialties, such as Virtual Reality for jobs ranging from Marketing Manager to Software Developer.”

The Road Ahead

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

So said the late physicist Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds in human history.

As new technologies, and cultural and political shifts reshape our economy – and world – we can expect new industries, jobs and skills to continuously emerge. At the same time, we shouldn’t be surprised to see longstanding industries and accompanying jobs fade into irrelevance, or disappear completely.

Both employers and employees should be prepared for these changes, and prepared to grab the opportunities presented by emerging industries and jobs. In some instances, we might be able to adapt using knowledge and experience from similar, already-existing types of work. In other cases, we might be required to learn completely new skills, or gain knowledge of completely different expertise.


Job titles were priced for these particular industries using PayScale’s proprietary compensation model. We selected job characteristics that were representative of positions and organizations, and kept the descriptions as general as possible when pricing these jobs. The model produces a pay range for each position conditional on the criteria provided (most notably industry, but also including level of education, years of experience, number of employees in the organization, and more) using the information from PayScale’s database of over 54 million salary profiles to create industry-specific wage rates. We report the median (or 50th percentile) of the conditional range.