Investigating Diverse Career Choices: What are the Hot Jobs for African Americans?


Employment options in the general market are coming under much scrutiny with businesses being shuttered by the economy and major corporations seeking government funding to stay afloat.

African American employment opportunities have historically been diverse due to cultural and social as well as economic considerations.  The choices that African-Americans have had over the years have been dictated not primarily by their achievements or abilities, but the circumstances of their environment.

During the height of the Civil Rights movement, African American employment could boast more local business owners, teachers, factory workers and domestics because those were the opportunities available and African American had to service their own within the community because they were not welcomed in business establishments outside of it. 

African American employment opportunities within the professional circles including medicine, law and accounting were rare due to a variety of discriminatory practices and the long standing “good ol’ boy network.”   Those who “made the grade” became the real celebrities of the African American community as acknowledgment that you could “achieve it, if you believed it” despite the odds.

            African American employment within the government ranks was also a challenge despite having “equal protection under the law” due to the same discriminatory practices exercised in the private sector. 

While there are many trailblazers of note including Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Charles Drew, giants who helped to dispel many of the stereotypes that hampered the expansion of African American employment, there are still remnants of those images and misinformation today that places African American employment options into specific categories that feature only physical or comical attributes.

Having a hit comedy series and leading a league in scoring is not a bad career choice, but it should not be considered the only career choice for African Americans.  The fields of science and math are ripe with opportunities that could boost African American employment and dispel existing myths that people of color are only qualified to crack jokes or score points.

Engineers, doctors, professors, researchers, scientists, computer technicians and architects are in high demand with great salaries and their jobs provide less stress on the body and long term financial gains in addition to the achievements related to the position.  The African American community needs to encourage not only diverse African American employment, but entrepreneurship as well in which to provide as diverse career pool as possible.

“President Obama and the current economy have given African Americans a new opportunity to gain employment through various methods including contractual hiring, short term projects and job creation,” notes Terry Allen, a nationally recognized small business consultant.  “African Americans can be in a good place for a bad time. By this I mean that there is an incoming surge of appointments in my office of highly skilled displaced workers with the desire to take their talents and began the process to become entrepreneurs.” 

Allen, who serves as the director of a not for profit small business center in Dallas, was instrumental in the creation of 198 jobs in 90 days.  “Both our communities and local workforce has fallen victim to the distressed economy, however,  the good news is that this new economic landscape can be a prime opportunity for those seeking to become owner managed businesses who can hire from a new, highly talented and very connected workforce.”

             Many of the social issues that have impacted African American employment are not as prominent as they were in the past, but many of the racially motivated remnants still exist that often generate challenges against the competency of the applicant and their access to the technology and the opportunity. 

“A technically savvy displaced employee can  benefit in three ways including qualifying for assistance from the stimulus package; tapping into funds set aside to close the digital divide;  or  creating a company and hiring 20-25 other highly skilled individuals,” states Allen. “That African American entrepreneur then impacts the employment in their community and opens the door for more opportunity. The needs in the community have been heightened by the downturn in the economy so opportunity has grown accordingly.” 

African American employment options must incorporate as wide a range of opportunities as possible so that everyone gets a chance to spread their intellectual wings and fly.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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