Wednesday, January 30, 2008

America's Top-Paying Industries

IT, Finance Lead the Way in 2008
Kristina Cowan

As Americans set goals for work in 2008, some are gearing up for a job hunt. With many expressing concern over finances, searching for gigs in top-paying industries is a smart move.

According to an analysis of Labor Department figures by Laurence Shatkin, a career information expert, the highest-paying industries are computers/information technology, science, finance, energy, and the federal government.

The IT Momentum

Specifically, jobs in software publishing (annual median salary: $72,350); computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing (annual median salary: $68,710); and computer systems design and related services (annual median salary: $66,130) top the list. These salaries far outpace the median annual salary for all occupations: about $30,400.

John Estes, vice president of Robert Half Technology, a California-based IT staffing firm, says the high salaries reflect a resurgence in the industry since the dot-com crash. Rapid innovation is helping drive the resurgence, he notes.

"The speed of innovation in products is one thing that keeps IT people in such demand, to the point where it's difficult to keep up with the pace of innovation and technology change," Estes says.

The Wonder of Wall Street

Financial-services jobs also offer sturdy paychecks. The top-paying jobs are in securities and commodity exchanges (annual median salary: $58,740); securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage (annual median salary: $57,550); and other financial investment activities (annual median salary: $55,340).

One of the major factors driving large salaries for financial workers are the massive bonuses enjoyed by some on Wall Street (which aren't included in the salary numbers above), says Brian Drum, president and CEO of New York City-based Drum Associates, Inc., a global executive search firm. Drum says the figures from the Labor Dept. sound fair -- depending on where workers live.

"It would be very hard for anyone to live on those salaries in New York City," he says. In some parts of the Midwest the salaries would provide an OK -- not great -- living, according to Drum.

Getting Scientific

Scientific research and development services offer lucrative options (annual median salary: $62,640). "From carbon nanotubes to vaccines, workers in the scientific research and development services industry create today the technologies that will change the way people live and work in the future," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2006, workers in scientific research and development services averaged 38.5 hours per week, compared with 33.9 for workers in all industries.

Powerful Possibilities in Energy

Energy-sector work can provide robust salaries, particularly in pipeline transportation of crude oil (annual median salary: $56,770) and electric power generation, transmission and distribution (annual median salary: $55,110).

Heeding the Call of Uncle Sam

The federal executive branch (annual median salary: $58,370) poses another possibility. "Why not consider working for Uncle Sam? There are over 2.7 million federal civilian employees, of whom half are now eligible for regular or early retirement," according to the 10th Edition of "The Book Of U.S. Government Jobs: Where They Are, What's Available & How To Get One," by Dennis V. Damp. "Over a million jobs must be filled as baby boomers say so long to their federal careers."

More Top-Paying Industries

* Aerospace Manufacturing (Annual median salary: $55,060)
* Wired Telecommunications (Annual median salary: $54,880)
* Internet Service Providers & Web Search Portals (Annual median salary: $54,820)
* Motor Vehicle Manufacturing (Annual median salary: $53,750)
* Internet Publishing & Broadcasting (Annual median salary: $53,070)

Kristina Cowan has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues.

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