Whether it's to compete for top talent, adjust for a higher cost of living or meet union standards, some cities compensate workers better than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paid electricians worked in Trenton, N.J., in 2012, while elementary, middle and high school teachers working in Nassau, N.Y., earned more money in 2012 than teachers in other parts of the country.
Among U.S. News' Best Jobs of 2014, these 10 coastal cities consistently offer the highest salaries.
[See: The 100 Best Jobs.]
1. San Francisco. This city has a vibrant cultural community and plenty of technology, construction, health care, business and social services opportunities. According to Bob Linscheid, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, "It's a world-class city. There's not anything that is not present. There's a diverse population and workforce and outstanding sports teams." According to the BLS, database administrators, nursing aides, patrol officers, blockmasons and brickmasons, and bookkeeping, accounting and audit clerks earned higher salaries in this city than their counterparts did in other cities in 2012. That year, database administrators in San Francisco made $96,390, which is almost $20,000 more than the national average for this position.
According to Sophia Koropeckyj, managing director at Moody's Analytics, "San Francisco has the highest minimum wage in the country, and there are a lot of financial institutions with strict regulations, so there is a lot of demand for support occupations." Koropeckyj also says given the area's high cost of living, employers pay higher wages in San Francisco to compete with other employers.
2. San Jose, Calif. According to the BLS, Web developers earned more working in San Jose than in any other U.S. city. They brought home $90,760, which is almost $25,000 more than the average pay for this occupation in 2012. Koropeckyj says the concentration of tech companies in the area drives demand for top talent seeking top salaries. "Sometimes [tech companies] will poach each other's workers," she says.
Matthew Mahood, president and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, wrote in his Economic Forecast for 2014: "In 2013, the Software Publishing, Internet Publishing, Web Search Portals and Big Data companies carried the load of job creation. Professional and business services have been clicking right along, recently becoming the fastest growing sector, followed closely by the construction industry."
Customer service representatives, lawyers and pharmacy technicians also earned higher salaries in San Jose than in other cities.
3. New York City. The Big Apple is a strong financial hub with a high cost of living. The BLS reports that financial sector jobs like accountants, sales managers and operations research analysts garnered large paychecks in this city in 2012. Accountants made an average of $91,240, almost 30 percent more than the national average for accountants that year. Koropeckyj says sales managers and operations research analysts function in support roles of corporate operations headquartered in New York, while accountants are in high demand to aid corporations seeking to comply with financial sector regulations.
4. Nassau, N.Y. Nassau is a good place to work in social services and construction. According to the BLS, plumbers, cement masons and concrete finishers earned top salaries in this city in 2012, as did elementary, middle and high school teachers. Elementary school teachers in Nassau made $95,420, which is $39,290 more than the national average. "Nassau-Suffolk has the highest state and local taxes, particularly property taxes, which support public education," Koropeckyj says, adding that New York state has powerful labor unions and the highest unionization rate in the country. This, coupled with the high cost of living in Nassau, ensures higher wages for the area's plumbers, cement masons and concrete finishers.
5. Vallejo, Calif. Health care professionals are in high demand and are highly compensated in Vallejo. The BLS reports that surgical technologists who worked in Vallejo in 2012 earned more than their counterparts in other U.S. cities. Surgical technologists earned about $30,000 more than the average salary for this profession. Koropeckyj says the concentration of medical centers in Vallejo drives salaries and employment.
6. Bridgeport, Conn. Bridgeport has a thriving banking and financial sector. According to the BLS, estheticians, computer systems analysts, compliance officers and financial analysts earned higher salaries working in Bridgeport in 2012 than their peers in other parts of the country. According to Koropeckyj, the affluence of nearby Stamford, Conn., partially contributes to the higher paychecks, at least for estheticians, since the Stamford's residents are able and willing to pay for skin care services. She also says Bridgeport's concentration of hedge fund firms and investment banks contributes to the high salaries for financial analysts and compliance officers.
7. Oakland, Calif. In 2012, epidemiologists and phlebotomists working in Oakland earned higher paychecks than their counterparts in other U.S. cities. Epidemiologists earned an average salary of $120,540, which is almost $50,000 higher than the average pay for this profession. Koropeckyj says Kaiser Permanente, a big employer in Oakland, may have sourced some of the high salaries.
[Read: The 9 Top Jobs for Work-Life Balance.]
8. Trenton, N.J. The capital of New Jersey has a booming construction sector with skilled labor workers earning higher wages. According to the BLS, electricians in this city earned more than $25,000 over the average pay. Koropeckyj says electricians in Trenton are likely to belong to a union and therefore earn union wages.
9. New Haven, Conn. Located between Boston and New York, New Haven pays construction workers well. The BLS reports that in 2012, glaziers in New Haven earned $80,180, which is more than $35,000 higher than the average pay.
10. Norwich, Conn. According to the BLS, Norwich paid its medical secretaries, veterinary technologists, veterinary technicians and restaurant cooks higher-than-average salaries in 2012. For example, medical secretaries took home $46,590, which is a little more than $13,000 over the national average for this job. Koropeckyj says global research and development operations of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer in the Norwich area may contribute to the high medical secretary salaries.
Editor's note: U.S. News released the Best Jobs of 2014 in January 2014. The rankings are partially based on salary data from May 2012 that was collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS has since updated its salary information to reflect salaries from May 2013.
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