The Highest (and Lowest) Paying Jobs in Metro Areas

Wages vary greatly based on job types and where workers live. Review new data showing pay for hundreds of occupations based on metro area.
by | April 2, 2014 AT 6:00 PM
Surgeons and anesthesiologists (the highest-paid professions last year) performing a facial surgery at Seattle Children's Hospital.
Surgeons and anesthesiologists (the highest-paid professions last year) performing a facial surgery at Seattle Children's Hospital. Thomas James Hurst/Seattle Times/MCT

Surgeons in the Atlanta metro area earn about $251,000 per year on average, one of the highest salaries across all metro areas nationally. By comparison, the region’s fast food cooks, dishwashers and cashiers all make an average of less than $20,000, not including tips.

Data published Tuesday by the Labor Department shows this and other examples of just how much wages vary, both based on job types and where workers reside. We’ve compiled the new metro area data with estimates for hundreds of job types in the data tool below.

Nationally, the highest-paying jobs are mostly found in the health sector.

With an average annual salary of $235,000, anesthesiologists were the top earners of any published job classification type last year, according to Labor Department estimates. Surgeons were not too far behind at $233,000, followed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons (dental specialists), who earned $219,000.

For chief executives managing public and private organizations, last year’s average pay was $178,400 (median pay was $171,610).

There aren’t many public sector jobs high up on the list. A few occupations with more public employees do earn six-figures salaries, though. Those teaching law and health specialties at colleges and universities earned six figures on average. Air traffic controllers also recorded average salaries of $118,650.

On the low end of the pay scale are employees who receive tips, which are not reflected in the Labor Department’s estimates.

Many job classifications in the service industry earn average wages of about $20,000, and in some cases, even less. Fast food workers, in particular, received the smallest average paychecks last year at just under $19,000.

While wages vary across metro areas, the difference in pay is far greater for some jobs than others. Advertising sales agents in Danbury, Conn., earned average wages of more than $96,000 last year, for example, but those in Lake Charles, La., took home an estimated $27,410.

Area Wage Data

Select a metro area to display 2013 wage data by job classification:

Learn About Tableau

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics

Interpreting the Data:

  • Wages shown do not include tips and overtime received.
  • While estimates for all occupations are generally not available at the metro area level, most job types are published.
  • For definitions describing listed occupations, please refer to the BLS Occupational Profiles page.
  • Survey estimates cover nonfarm full-time and part-time wage and salary workers, current as of May 2013.
  • Some data fields were not reported for select occupations.