Working in Atlanta: Innovative Job Sectors in the ATL What you need to know about the newest job opportunities in the metro area.
Don’t let this city’s patina of laid-back Southern charm fool you into thinking the pace of progress here is leisurely. For job seekers flocking to Atlanta, the real appeal isn’t the beauty of the place or the welcoming charisma of the Atlantans you’ll meet. For those on the hunt for opportunity, the beauty of Atlanta lies in the innovative job markets you’ll find, spurred on by a bustling economy that’s committed to technological advances in many industries.
FILM AND TELEVISION: Show Biz, Southern-Style
Atlanta is home to a television and film industry rivaling the glittery prosperity of both Hollywood and The Big Apple. Don’t be surprised to turn a corner in the Intown or Buckhead neighborhoods only to find yourself rubbing elbows with A-listers like Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Eddie Murphy or Clint Eastwood; all traveled to Atlanta recently for independent and network film and TV projects. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as of fall 2019, about 120 movies slated for TV or streaming are in production in Atlanta.
An Offer They Can’t Refuse
At first glance, Atlanta might seem an unlikely place for a burgeoning film and TV market to take root. But industry insiders and local government leaders anticipated the region’s potential back in 2008, citing the convenience of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (the largest international airport in the U.S.), the area’s user-friendly weather and a lower cost of living than other entertainment hubs. Not only that, but the region’s huge variety of camera-friendly locations—like modern and historic neighborhoods, swamps, mountains, sandy beaches, big-league sports arenas, concert halls and more than two dozen picturesque rivers—offer scenery to fit virtually any script.
Additionally, the State of Georgia offers huge tax incentives to entertainment production companies around the world to entice them to come here to film. The result has been an influx of production companies looking to take advantage of everything the city has to offer. The tax-incentive plan became a win-win for local workers too, with savvy business owners in the entertainment industry snapping up those with skills in construction, filmmaking, acting, writing, directing, casting, consulting and post-production services. Businesses offering transportation, equipment and catering also are in high demand, not to mention hospitality businesses like restaurants and hotels, beauty and fashion consultants, real estate professionals and even security personnel.
Training Tinsel Townies
Faced with this explosive growth, Georgia-based entertainment-industry movers and shakers and local governments realized that a lack of workers was soon going to become a problem. They came together in 2014 to address the need for trained workers, forming the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance, an advocacy group for local productions. Other organizations, like the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, work to identify high-demand job opportunities and assist local schools with training students to meet those needs.
What’s more, area community colleges and universities that transform film/TV/digital newbies into a skilled employee base have tailored entire degree programs to provide the experienced workers that industry professionals seek. For instance, the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia offers coursework in entertainment and media studies, where students not only gain a broad understanding of the industry’s history, but also boots-on-the-ground experience in screenwriting, producing, directing and post-production. And the Georgia Film Academy offers on-set internship opportunities and classes to students registered at any one of the academy’s partner state colleges and universities.
Salaries in Atlanta’s entertainment industry, though, remain slightly lower than those in Los Angeles and New York City, even though the number of jobs might be more plentiful in Atlanta. For instance, according to national job recruitment website Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a production assistant in Atlanta is approximately $42,000 annually, while the average in Los Angeles is about $43,282 and in New York City is higher still at $45,118. Keep in mind that Atlanta offers a lower cost of living than both of those cities, though, meaning that a lower salary can go further.
INTERNET OF THINGS: Making the Connection
Another job sector experiencing exponential growth in Atlanta is aptly named the Internet of Things. Wireless mobile interconnectivity, a concept foreign to average Joes just a decade ago, has transformed the lives of almost every person on the planet—not to mention the job market itself. According to Wiki.com, the Internet of Things (referred to as IoT) is “simply the network of interconnected things/devices which are embedded with sensors, software, network connectivity and necessary electronics that enables them to collect and exchange data, making them responsive.”
This technology has transformed how and where we conduct our lives, allowing us to hang out anywhere in the world and virtually watch a movie, speak with a doctor, look in on the babysitter or check whether an Amazon delivery arrived. Devices now ubiquitous in our society—like wirelessly connected smart TVs, interactive doorbells and even exercise bikes wirelessly connected to online fitness classes—suddenly seem impossible to live without. Additionally, IoT is used in an array of major industries, from shipping to healthcare and beyond.
Come and Build It
Naturally, the labor market fueled by these innovations has exploded. The need for workers trained to create and produce hardware, write software and manufacture communication infrastructure has skyrocketed. In fact, Forbes recently named Atlanta one of 5 U.S. Cities Poised to Become Tomorrow’s Tech Meccas. As a result, jobs with such titles as Solution Developer, Cloud-Enablement Manager or Platform Architect pepper the online job posting boards for communications and manufacturing companies all over Atlanta. The city also is now home to IoT.ATL, a consortium of IoT thought leaders in metro Atlanta that is designed to spotlight the innovation that is going on in the area. And forward-looking schools like Georgia Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies offer degrees for budding techies looking to fill that void.
The preparation needed for IoT careers appears to be worth the effort, with average salaries in the industry in the six-figure range, according to job placement website Indeed.com. Small and large businesses everywhere are hopping onboard the IoT bandwagon, recognizing that consumers expect “smart” features on everything from toothbrushes to automobiles. That pressure to innovate has given rise to events like the Industrial IoT World Conference 2020, set to take place in Atlanta next fall, allowing business owners to connect with global industrial innovators. Organizers for that particular event explain that the benefits for businesses that embrace IoT technology “are decreasing downtime, improving safety and maximizing profit.” And they need an educated labor force to do it.
BIOSCIENCE: Healthcare Heyday
Healthcare isn’t just the subject of presidential debates and news headlines—it’s big business, too. Atlanta is home to a plethora of medical and bioscience-related institutions, from the National Institutes of Health to internationally recognized hospitals and clinics offering world-class care. As healthcare organizations struggle to meet the demand for innovative products and services, they cast a wide net, searching for employees with hands-on experience and technological know-how.
Biotech Job Opportunities
The growth of local bioscience think tanks and manufacturers was prompted, in part, by the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), which facilitated a huge investment from the state to partner with research universities and the business community to foster bioscience research. Currently, Atlanta employers seek talent in the medical devices and diagnostics field, testing labs, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, surgery and medical research. Scientists in these fields engage in state-of-the-art activities like developing new vaccines for humans and animals, conducting drug trials, manufacturing medical devices and creating new technologies that detect disease.
According to Maria Thacker Goethe, president and CEO of Georgia Bio and executive director of the Georgia Global Health Alliance, Atlanta is poised to set the bioscience world on fire.
“This is an exciting time to be part of the life sciences community in Atlanta. It’s a fast-growing and resilient hub for the bioscience and med-tech industries, which boast a $21.8 billion contribution to Georgia’s GDP and some of the highest salaries in any industry. With one of the largest university systems in the country, Georgia provides companies large and small with a well-educated, skilled workforce for a wide range of companies, from research, testing and medical laboratories to digital health companies. I anticipate the opportunities in the health innovation sector to grow rapidly.”
Whether you picture yourself studying at a top-notch research institute to pursue a cure for cancer or you prefer speedy training aimed at an entry-level job as a lab tech, Atlanta’s the place to find those opportunities. Atlanta Technical College, for instance, offers certificates that can be achieved in two semesters’ time. Many schools have embraced opportunities to partner with bioscience companies in Atlanta to provide hands-on lab experience too. According to Atlanta Tech’s website, “In [the] biotechnology program, students earn a two-year associate of applied science degree, which can lead to jobs in bio-manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and research or environmental labs.”
According to Georgia Bio’s 2019 “Life Science Industry in Georgia: Economic Trends and Impact” report, the average pay for a worker in the bioscience field in metro Atlanta is $74,184. Professionals in research and development earn an average of $90,994, pharmaceutical and manufacturing workers earn $103,424 and surgical and medical instrument manufacturing pros take home $104,122 annually.
CONSTRUCTION AND HOUSING: Putting a Roof Over Their Heads
All this growth is a good thing for job seekers, and it stands to reason that it’s good for the housing industry, too. And while the home construction industry certainly isn’t new in Atlanta, it undoubtedly can be considered one of the hottest markets today in terms of job opportunities.
“Homebuilding and real estate development will be a driver of Georgia’s growth,” Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers explained at the most recent University of Georgia Economic Outlook event. “Job growth, improving demographics and the limited supply of older homes will boost new home construction.”
Judy Mozen, president of Roswell-based Handcrafted Homes, Inc., has a unique perspective on the increase in demand for housing in Atlanta, having been in the industry for over 40 years.
“The home construction and remodeling business is booming in greater Atlanta. We’ve seen the demand for home improvement and construction ebb and flow, and we’re very happy to experience such a surge in demand,” she says. “However, with that demand comes a challenge to attract and retain high-quality, skilled workers.”
Mozen continues, explaining that the construction industry seeks not only knowledgeable and seasoned professionals, but also a diverse array of new talent who can embrace technological advances in the industry.
“We value older workers who can bring years of experience to the table,” she says. “But I want younger workers to know [that] we need digitally savvy employees who enjoy the creative challenge of designing and building beautiful homes. I encourage anyone who is interested in this field to give it a try.”
And it’s key to note that salaries in the field are impressive. Salary.com reports that the average pay for a construction project manager hovers around $100,000. A welder can bring home $80,000, and a virtual designer can make around $70,000 annually. And those salaries are sure to stay steady thanks to metro Atlanta’s booming economy and ever-growing industries.
Acting in the Atl
Actor Brian F. Durkin, currently starring opposite Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson in Netflix’s “The Highwaymen,” moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles in 2010. He acknowledges the opportunities available to him in Atlanta were pivotal in building his career. Far from an overnight success, Durkin paid his dues for nine years in Los Angeles, moving there after college to study acting.
“My wife and I decided we wanted to raise our kids in the South, and I knew that the film industry was huge in Atlanta, so we moved to Sandy Springs,” he says. “That’s when things started to really turn around for me.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for this rising star…and to consider the local film and television industry if you have your own sights set on making it in this arena. After all, Atlanta is now known as the “Hollywood of the South.”
Did You Know?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected devices that are embedded with sensors, software and network connectivity that allows them to collect and exchange data.
Atlanta isn’t just a hub for the creation of IoT innovations—it’s also a locale where these incredible solutions are being used every day. In fact, according to IoT.ATL, these are just a few of IoT technologies that are being applied in metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia:
The Georgia Department of Transportation is spending $18 million to upgrade all 9,500 traffic signals with smart signal software, which will provide insights into the causes of accidents.
Delta Air Lines was the first carrier to install RFID readers for cargo tracking to keep its operations running smoothly for passengers.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport features a network of thousands of sensors that are designed to help passengers avoid wait times, find available parking, locate dining and shopping, report conditions at the airport, request wheelchair assistance and more.