IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pay for top jobs varies widely by city

Computer and information systems managers earn more in San Jose than any other U.S. market. That makes sense, given the concentration of high-tech firms in Silicon Valley.
/ Source:

Computer and information systems managers earn more in San Jose than any other U.S. market. That makes sense, given the concentration of high-tech firms in Silicon Valley.

Geography can explain a lot about pay. Financial managers do better in Bridgeport, Conn., and nearby New York City than anywhere else. That stands to reason, since New York is the nation's financial capital.

But not all of the highest-paying, upscale jobs are found in the nation's largest metros, according to a new Bizjournals study.

For example:

  • Greensboro, N.C. — highest average pay for dentists at $189,560.
  • Worcester, Mass. — highest average pay for family doctors at $176,370.
  • Dayton, Ohio — highest average highest pay for optometrists at $161,930.

The Bizjournals study compared the average salaries for 20 high-paying occupations in 75 major metropolitan areas, using raw data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Detailed profiles of all 20 occupations covered by the study can be viewed here. And what the 20 occupations pay in the 75 metros begins here.

The study refutes the stereotype that high-paying jobs are concentrated in the nation's largest metropolitan areas.

Tiny Albany, N.Y., for example, outperforms New York City in five categories. The typical Albany surgeon earns 8 percent more than his or her counterpart in the big city 150 miles to the south. Albany offers higher salaries than New York City for chemical engineers, college administrators, dentists and family doctors, too.

The study demonstrates the importance of comparing cost-of-living differences between two markets.

Chemical engineers in Los Angeles earn 3 percent less than workers in the same field in New York City. But it costs 9 percent less to live in suburban Orange County, Calif., than on Long Island, according to That means the typical chemical engineer actually gets more for the buck in the Los Angeles area.

Bizjournals focused on 20 occupations that offer high wages to sizable pools of employees. Each job fits into the top 10 percent of the national pay scale, as well as the upper half in terms of total employment.

The study group consisted of America's 75 largest metropolitan areas, ranging from New York City with 18.8 million residents to Greensboro, N.C., with 680,000. The group's total population was 182 million, about 60 percent of the national total.

All figures used in the study were collected last year by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau's occupational profiles can be accessed at

San Jose has the highest salary levels in seven of the 20 categories. They are: chief executives, computer and information systems managers, electrical engineers, industrial production managers, lawyers, marketing managers, and sales managers.

Bridgeport-Stamford is the only other metro to lead more than a single category. It is No. 1 on five pay scales: construction managers, financial managers, general and operations managers, public relations managers, and securities and financial services sales agents.

The 20 occupations covered by Bizjournals' study are concentrated in the managerial, financial, technical and medical fields. All but one category is led by a metro with an average salary above $100,000. Electrical engineers are the exception, topping out at $94,330 in San Jose.

The most competitive categories are chief executives and surgeons, where the average salaries for all metros reach six figures. San Jose leads chief executives at $179,720, while Charlotte is first for surgeons at $195,150.