Professional Services Spotlight

The Professional Services Industry in the United States


The United States is the world's most desired location for professional services firms. In today’s integrated global environment, businesses find it critical to access the talent, institutions, business processes, and client base offered in the United States. Additionally, the educational and research infrastructure present in the United States is an important asset for domestic and international professional services firms.

In 2017 (the latest data available), the U.S. professional services industry comprised about 1.18 million firms, up from 1.16 million in 2016. The industry employed 9 million Americans in 2017, up from 8.9 million in 2016. The industry achieved combined annual revenues of $1.76 trillion in 2017, a 2.1 percent increase from 2016.

The world’s leading professional services companies locate in the United States to serve the large and dynamic U.S. corporate sector. The United States features a transparent, stable regulatory environment, strong intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, and a reliable judicial system. Together with a highly skilled workforce and intellectual leadership from the boardroom to the classroom, the United States generates a greater and more stable demand for professional services than any other country.

Industry Subsectors

Accounting: Firms in this subsector generated $175.4 billion in revenue in 2017 (a 4.4 percent increase from 2015). Firms provided payroll services, financial auditing services, tax preparation services, and other consulting services for individuals and corporate clients. In 2016, the industry was comprised of over 130,000 firms and employed 1.2 million professionals. 

Architectural services: This subsector accounted for more than $67.7 billion in revenue in 2017, with a majority of that revenue generated from non-residential construction. This sector includes firms primarily engaged in planning and design of residential, institutional, leisure, commercial and industrial buildings and structures. As with engineering firms, many architectural firms are small niche companies that complement the work of larger U.S. firms that have a more global footprint. In 2016, the industry was comprised of 21,600+ firms and employed 170,400 professionals. 

Engineering services: This subsector posted $234 billion in revenues in 2017 (a 1.4  percent increase from the prior year). Industrial and manufacturing engineering contributed most significantly to total revenue. Other contributors included commercial and institutional architecture, transportation infrastructure, and power generation and distribution activities. The subsector includes firms primarily engaged in the design, development, and utilization of machines, materials, instruments, structures, processes, and systems. Engineering services include the preparation of feasibility studies and preliminary and final plans and designs; the provision of technical advice and assistance during the construction or installation phase; and the inspection and evaluation of engineering projects. The industry was comprised of 60,200+ firms and employed over one million professionals in 2016.

Legal services: Legal services generated $292 billion in revenue during 2017 (a 1.6 percent increase from the prior year). Firms in this sector provided a variety of legal services including litigation support, general corporate services, plaintiff and defense work for individuals and companies, patent agent services, paralegal services, and process serving services. In 2016, the industry was comprised of more than 185,300 firms and employed nearly 1.1 million professionals.

Management consulting: This subsector accounted for $254.5 billion in revenue during 2017 (a 1.2 percent decrease from the prior year). Firms provided consulting services in administrative and general management; human resources; marketing; process, physical distribution, and logistics; environmental; and other scientific and technical services. In 2016, the industry was comprised of nearly 171,100 firms and employed over 1.2 million professionals.

Prepared in collaboration with the International Trade Administration's Industry & Analysis Unit (I&A)

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Industry & Analysis (I&A) staff of industry, trade and economic analysts devise and implement international trade and investment strategies to strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. By combining in-depth analysis with the International Trade Administration’s industry relationships, I&A devises initiatives to unlock export and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, represent the interests of U.S. industry in trade negotiations, and publishes research on global opportunities for U.S. companies.