Where Are The High Paying Jobs?

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2010-08-129

With serious unemployment besetting the nation today, you may wonder where the demand for employees are. In fact, if you’re about ready to pack up and leave your town, you may be just as interested in finding out where the high paying jobs are. But before you do that, some research is in order. You may want to ask yourself if a new job elsewhere is really worth the move. What kind of factors should you consider? Cost of living, salary and benefits (which should be taken together), school district and real estate property values. If you’re still interested in where the job demand is, then perhaps the data presented below may help!

I actually stumbled upon some great charts from The Atlantic and the Creative Class. I hope they don’t mind it if I feature them here.

The first one is this chart based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (or BLS), which shows how a particular geographical area compares to the national norm. The baseline here is 100.

high paying jobs
Image source: The Atlantic

Looks like the relative pay in Silicon Valley tops the chart.

Where Are The High Paying Jobs? All Jobs Considered

Now if you check out these additional interesting charts, you’ll infer a few more facts that confirm what’s common knowledge — the East and West coasts will grant you the highest salaries overall.

top wages

This is how things look at the general level. What about jobs in three separate categories? Below, we check out how things stack up for service jobs, blue collar jobs and creative jobs.

Locations for High Paying Service Jobs

The numbers are further sliced and diced to show you what job income you can expect if you’re looking for work in the service sector (typically lower skilled jobs)… You can click on any of the charts to enlarge the images and get a better look.

service job wages

Here is how the top areas ranked for average pay:

#1 Bridgeport-Stamford — $40,935
#3 San Francisco — $39,822
#4 San Jose — $39,469
#5 Greater New York — $38,514

Locations for High Paying Blue Collar Occupations

Blue collar occupations, such as those in construction, transportation or manufacturing, offer fatter paychecks in certain geographical locations. You’ll see that Alaska has some of these top jobs for the working class. This was something I would expect, given that it’s a hot spot for natural resources. But then again, the SF Bay Area also tops the list here for average income:

blue collar job wages

#1 Fairbanks, Alaska — $52,247
#2 Anchorage, Alaska — $50,785
#3 San Francisco, California — $47,757
#5 Oakland, California — $45,087

But I am speculating that Silicon Valley pay is this way primarily because of cost of living factors.

Locations for High Paying Jobs in the Creative Sector

What I find personally encouraging is that the “creative jobs” pay well and the highly skilled workforce is quite well compensated here in Silicon Valley. The career I have is primarily creative and in one way, this shows that I am just in the right spot.

creative job wages

The jobs in this category include those in engineering, technology and science, as well as in business and law. Some other white collar jobs are in the arts, media, entertainment and design as well as education. Here is a list of how the places ranked (for average wage):

#1 San Jose, Silicon Valley — $101,575
#2 Greater San Francisco — $95,472
#3 Greater New York — $90,101
#4 Greater Washington, D.C. — $89,712
#5 Bridgeport-Stamford — $87,747

Why Silicon Valley Is Not All That

But wait! Before you pack up and jump in your car to head West, remember how much we gripe about a ton of things here in California. Sure, the extra income here seems sweet (along with the mild weather, pleasant sunny skies 90% of the time and beautiful coast/beach areas), until you bring that up against other matters, such as the high cost of living, bankrupt educational system and sky-high real estate prices. And don’t forget the potential for wildfires and earthquakes, though you’ll find disaster zones anywhere you go anyway.

I certainly love it here, but it’s a bit of a pressure cooker. While I “had it good” for a while, working in the software engineering industry (as you can see in my Silicon Valley job history) and being around to enjoy the dot com bubble and real estate boom, it’s a lot more mellow around here now, with prices still steep and the California unemployment rate still at record highs.

The picture is a lot different for me now that I’m an online entrepreneur. I’ve mentioned to others how living here is not easy for a full time blogger and website owner, given the cost of living; but on the flipside, the business opportunities here are numerous and always exciting. The enjoyment I have for running and managing an online business is definitely a big factor as to why I keep at this work, but I’ve also got to be practical and weigh this against opportunity cost. Alternatively, my “job” or career today as a full time blogger is considered location-independent, so technically, I should be able to pull up roots and live elsewhere. This is a pipe dream for now, but can always be an option for us to consider one day.

I sometimes fantasize about the kind of lifestyle we could live on our current income — what we earn can certainly go so much farther elsewhere! But it’s not that easy when you’ve got family roots here, plus it’s hard to argue against fantastic weather and networking opportunities in the creative fields. So I’ll just have to see how it goes.

Copyright © 2010 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe August 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Yeah, the salary information for California comes with that huge caveat: very high income tax, very high home prices, very high gasoline prices, etc. etc.

We moved from the Silicon Valley to Washington State, where my new employer matched my Silicon Valley salary. Washington State has no income tax and its home prices, although high, are not even in the same galaxy as Silicon Valley home prices. I basically got a massive raise.

I definitely miss all the nonfinancial benefits of California, and there are too many to list, but the Silicon Valley paycheck is actually pretty, pretty pathetic for most people. In spite of being paid well.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 12, 2010 at 4:02 pm

There are some nice suburbs in the U.S. right now that sport 4,000 square foot homes for $300,000. Same thing here would cost around $1,500,000, conservatively. And the property taxes! Imagine paying them forever…. I look at it more as a tax on enjoying the weather. 😉

Joe — I am, of course, terribly envious. 🙂 But I’m afraid that I am falling victim to “the grass is always greener” syndrome. I should just take more vacations!

Big-D August 13, 2010 at 7:38 am

SVB. I think you are off on the prices of houses. I am in a nice Suburb of Indianapolis (which is the 12 largest city in the US BTW), and I have a home with 4 BR, 3 BA and 3000 sq ft and 1500 rec room basement for $208,000. The city I live in has the best public school system in the state, and for several years has been ranked as one of the best cities in the country to live in. If I go to some of the other not so posh suburbs, I can get even better prices.

The Biz of Life August 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

Those locations where the difference between take home pay and cost of living is the highest…. that is where I want to live.

Gal @ Equally Happy August 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

I don’t know. I realize we pay a lot more to live here in the valley but I also recognize the opportunities it gives me are hard to find anywhere else. The valley’s culture, economy, entertainment possibilities and weather make it worth the premium. Then again, I don’t have kids yet, so that might change.

bb August 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

For the same reason, I deleted the voice mail from a Google recruiter two days ago. Even if I make over $100K there, I still have to be a house slave. That’s not too good when I want to build a family, have a life, and think about early retirement.

doctor S August 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Love the charts. Never knew there was really “Creative Sector” in our world’s industry but it definitely is moving in that direction. The top paying locations don’t surprise me, but like everyone else mentioned, the cost of living in those places really can offset it.

Was there any info as far as what we could expect INTERNATIONALLY? Would be very interested in that, we could spend a few months discussing that!

Len Penzo August 13, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I found this to be a very interesting post! I think The Biz hit the nail on the head: if you are looking for financial nirvana, it rests where the spread between salaries and cost of living are greatest. If I had to guess I would say, off the top of my head, that might be in one of two places:

1. Huntsville, AL (lots of high tech jobs supporting the space industry, among others)
2. The Research Triangle area of North Carolina

Then again, maybe I am way off base. 🙂

All the best,

Len Penzo dot Com

Kris Winn November 8, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Even though this post is a bit dated, I find that a large portion of the information is still very relevant. In addition, since I am a former resident of Silicon Valley myself, I can appreciate the “Silicon Valley is not all that” commentary as well.

Great post!


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