Highest-paying state for 50 different jobs

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March 19, 2021
frantic00 // Shutterstock

Highest-paying state for 50 different jobs

Location, location, location isn’t just a mantra for real estate—labor, too, is assigned a different value depending on where that labor takes place, even for the same job. Compensation for the same occupation can swing by thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars a year and from state to state.

Stacker analyzed 50 occupations across a wide range of industries and pay scales to determine the highest-paying state for 50 jobs. To compile the list, we analyzed 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last updated in April 2020. Then, we examined average annual wage data to determine the five states that pay the most for each of those chosen positions.

Sometimes, salaries are dictated by regions. Neighboring states that rely heavily on tourism, for example, might pay people in that industry more than states that aren’t popular destinations. Other times, variations in salary are industry-specific. Major oil states, for example, tend to pay their chemical engineers much more than the national average. In other cases, spikes and dips in pay seem arbitrary.

The list consists of a wide variety of jobs and identifies the states that pay well for them. Jobs on the list are arranged alphabetically. The analysis does not take into account the cost of living in each state, although cost-of-living dynamics are occasionally discussed because median pay is frequently influenced by how expensive or inexpensive it is to live in a particular state or region.

Keep reading to see which states pay the most for 50 popular top jobs across the country.

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Flamingo Images

Accountants and auditors: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $103,930; employment: 10,660)
- #2: New York (average annual wage: $98,650; employment: 112,030)
- #3: New Jersey (average annual wage: $91,960; employment: 39,820)
- #4: Virginia (average annual wage: $85,720; employment: 42,200)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $83,910; employment: 148,500)

Accountants provide crucial financial and tax services to businesses, government agencies, and individuals. But while accountants in the nation’s capital earn 15.7% more than the average national salary for the jobs they do, D.C.’s higher cost of living actually means accountant and auditor salaries don’t stretch nearly as far as lower salaries in other parts of the country.

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Fotokostic

Agricultural equipment operators: Delaware

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Delaware (average annual wage: $45,020; employment: 40)
- #2: North Dakota (average annual wage: $42,920; employment: 140)
- #3: New York (average annual wage: $40,180; employment: 110)
- #4: Nebraska (average annual wage: $40,010; employment: 1,070)
- #5: Ohio (average annual wage: $39,660; employment: 490)

Agricultural equipment operators drive, control, and sometimes maintain the massive and complex machines that make modern farming possible. While the average wage for these workers is highest in Delaware, a living wage in the state is a full $8,000 higher than what these workers take home in a year.

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Angelo Giampiccolo

Air traffic controllers: Illinois

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Illinois (average annual wage: $136,700; employment: 930)
- #2: Georgia (average annual wage: $134,550; employment: 970)
- #3: Texas (average annual wage: $132,700; employment: 1,890)
- #4: California (average annual wage: $132,510; employment: 2,210)
- #5: Minnesota (average annual wage: $132,080; employment: 580)

Air traffic controllers monitor and manage the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air while communicating with airports and directing pilots. Three of the five states where air traffic controllers earn the highest salaries are also home to airports that rank among the five busiest in the country. The busiest airport in the United States is Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, the second-busiest is O’Hare in Chicago, and coming in at #4 is Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas.

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Animal control workers: California

Highest-paying states:
- #1: California (average annual wage: $53,920; employment: 1,360)
- #2: Connecticut (average annual wage: $52,070; employment: 190)
- #3: Oregon (average annual wage: $51,900; employment: 50)
- #4: Nevada (average annual wage: $51,280; employment: 80)
- #5: Washington (average annual wage: $51,120; employment: 230)

Animal control workers capture, impound, care for, and find housing for stray or problem animals, while also working on animal abuse cases and providing expert testimony in court. They earn the highest wages in California, which is home to the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, one of the largest animal control organizations in the country. The L.A. department alone serves Los Angeles County, as well as 44 contract cities, including 3 million combined residents across 3,400 square miles of Southern California.

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Bakers: Hawaii

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Hawaii (average annual wage: $38,080; employment: 1,480)
- #2: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $35,620; employment: 760)
- #3: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $35,240; employment: 4,300)
- #4: Washington (average annual wage: $35,230; employment: 5,200)
- #5: Alaska (average annual wage: $34,520; employment: 200)

Bakers create, prepare, cook, and decorate baked goods in a range of settings, including in restaurants, on their own as freelancers, in grocery stores, and, of course, in bakeries. Love’s Bakery, based in Hawaii for almost 170 years, closed its doors in March of 2021 due to losses incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bartenders: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $48,290; employment: 5,290)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $39,180; employment: 14,840)
- #3: Arizona (average annual wage: $38,240; employment: 12,900)
- #4: New York (average annual wage: $37,770; employment: 44,970)
- #5: Vermont (average annual wage: $35,590; employment: 2,080)

Bartenders create, mix, and serve drinks, handle inventory and stocking while doubling as servers in many cases. Bartenders in Washington D.C. became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 15, 2021, almost a full year after their livelihoods were stalled due to precautionary shutdowns of bars and restaurants throughout the city.

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Bus drivers, transit and intercity: New York

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New York (average annual wage: $62,060; employment: 18,600)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $57,880; employment: 5,850)
- #3: Alaska (average annual wage: $55,550; employment: 370)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $54,720; employment: 5,190)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $51,700; employment: 30,750)

Bus drivers throughout the state of New York are paid an annual salary of more than $3,000 above the state’s living wage, allowing most workers there to make ends meet with an average yearly wage. The big exception is, of course, New York City, where the average bus driver salary falls far short of what it takes to afford basic food and shelter there.

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Carpenters: Hawaii

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Hawaii (average annual wage: $76,930; employment: 6,170)
- #2: New Jersey (average annual wage: $67,200; employment: 15,150)
- #3: Illinois (average annual wage: $66,720; employment: 26,550)
- #4: Alaska (average annual wage: $66,020; employment: 2,130)
- #5: New York (average annual wage: $65,850; employment: 52,640)

Carpenters do everything from analyzing blueprints and consulting with contractors to building frameworks and repairing buildings. In Hawaii, carpenters are busy, numerous, and well paid. Honolulu lawmakers in 2019 passed a controversial bill requiring general contractors who are bidding on big construction projects there to hire union workers, even if the firm is not a union shop.

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Canva

Chefs and head cooks: Hawaii

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Hawaii (average annual wage: $78,640; employment: 940)
- #2: New Jersey (average annual wage: $76,060; employment: 2,960)
- #3: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $71,230; employment: 300)
- #4: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $65,870; employment: 1,220)
- #5: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $63,190; employment: 4,280)

Chefs and head cooks create menus and dishes; ensure cleanliness and quality control of the workspace, tools, and ingredients; delegate tasks to subordinate cooks and chefs; and, of course, cook and prepare dishes. The restaurant industry is a leader in Hawaii economics, where chefs and head cooks earn higher wages than anywhere else in the country. The state’s reliance on tourism and food service made it particularly vulnerable to COVID-19: By December 2020, a full 15% of Hawaii’s restaurants had closed due to the pandemic.

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Chemical engineers: Texas

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Texas (average annual wage: $150,510; employment: 7,260)
- #2: Alaska (average annual wage: $144,110; employment: 70)
- #3: New Jersey (average annual wage: $126,670; employment: 1,350)
- #4: Delaware (average annual wage: $126,650; employment: 470)
- #5: New Mexico (average annual wage: $122,140; employment: 110)

Chemical engineers are well-educated, well-paid professionals who use both engineering and scientific approaches to analyze, research, develop, and implement chemistry-based solutions to challenges in industries like those that deal with food, fuel, and drugs. The oil industry, however, employs a disproportionate number of chemical engineers. It’s no surprise, then, that Texas and Alaska, two of the biggest oil-producing states, also pay their chemical engineers the highest salaries.

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Child, family, and school social workers: New Jersey

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New Jersey (average annual wage: $68,830; employment: 4,910)
- #2: Connecticut (average annual wage: $68,360; employment: 5,360)
- #3: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $63,310; employment: 1,660)
- #4: Maryland (average annual wage: $61,910; employment: 4,610)
- #5: New York (average annual wage: $60,380; employment: 29,880)

Child, family, and school social workers assist children and their families through times of crisis, intervene in cases of neglect or abuse, and pair at-risk clients with the appropriate social services. The average social worker salary in the U.S. in 2019 was $47,390, putting New Jersey’s average for the same job a full 31% higher. In the #2 slot is Connecticut, which despite being home to fewer than 4 million people has one of the highest concentrations of child, family, and school social workers in the country.

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Computer systems analysts: California

Highest-paying states:
- #1: California (average annual wage: $110,820; employment: 64,260)
- #2: New York (average annual wage: $109,910; employment: 39,860)
- #3: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $109,300; employment: 3,560)
- #4: Virginia (average annual wage: $106,490; employment: 26,310)
- #5: New Jersey (average annual wage: $104,630; employment: 18,510)

Computer systems analysts work with organizations across many industries to study, enhance, and improve the computer networks those organizations rely on. It’s no surprise that workers in this sector come in spades to California, where jobs are plentiful and average earnings are well into six figures.

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Crossing guards and flaggers: Alaska

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Alaska (average annual wage: $76,930; employment: 140)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $45,780; employment: 2,220)
- #3: California (average annual wage: $43,070; employment: 5,980)
- #4: New York (average annual wage: $38,660; employment: 10,860)
- #5: Minnesota (average annual wage: $38,170; employment: 120)

A familiar sight on street corners near schools in the early morning and mid-afternoon, crossing guards control and guide vehicular traffic to ensure the safe passage of children and their guardians on their way to and from school. Although Alaska is the coldest place in the United States, it is making a hard push to encourage children to walk to school, including participating in International Walk to School Day.

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Curators: New York

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New York (average annual wage: $72,420; employment: 1,580)
- #2: California (average annual wage: $69,720; employment: 1,320)
- #3: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $67,990; employment: 560)
- #4: Alaska (average annual wage: $67,190; employment: 50)
- #5: Connecticut (average annual wage: $65,990; employment: 190)

Curators serve as custodians and overseers of cultural heritage institutions like museums. Museums are massive economic drivers, contributing around $50 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, 726,000 jobs, and $12 billion in tax revenue. New York earns a top spot on the list of highest-paid curators because of the significance of the materials they are trusted to maintain. Among the world-class institutions in the Big Apple are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, and the Cloisters.

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Dental hygienists: Alaska

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Alaska (average annual wage: $114,790; employment: 610)
- #2: California (average annual wage: $106,240; employment: 23,320)
- #3: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $102,380; employment: **)
- #4: Washington (average annual wage: $93,200; employment: 6,660)
- #5: New Jersey (average annual wage: $87,270; employment: 6,790)

Dental hygienists review patient records, counsel and screen patients, assist dentists, and perform services like cleaning and polishing. In Alaska, efforts have been ongoing to expand quality dental care to rural, poor, remote, and otherwise underserved regions.

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Editors: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $92,120; employment: 3,250)
- #2: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $88,120; employment: 3,370)
- #3: New York (average annual wage: $87,140; employment: 20,440)
- #4: California (average annual wage: $79,960; employment: 11,700)
- #5: Virginia (average annual wage: $78,070; employment: 3,060)

Editors coordinate, plan, revise, and fact-check content for newspapers, magazines, books, and online publications, as well as for products like manuals, brochures, and trade magazines. Editor salaries in Washington D.C. are the highest in the country, but still don’t make it easy to afford the average two-bedroom apartment, which will run you almost $3,000 a month.

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Electricians: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $79,870; employment: 1,550)
- #2: New York (average annual wage: $79,480; employment: 43,890)
- #3: Illinois (average annual wage: $78,790; employment: 25,400)
- #4: Hawaii (average annual wage: $77,530; employment: 3,080)
- #5: Alaska (average annual wage: $75,350; employment: 1,620)

Electricians are tradespeople tasked with installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical equipment, wiring, and lighting in both residential and commercial structures. Electricians who have skills in solar energy make significantly more on average than those who do not.

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Exercise trainers and group fitness instructors: Connecticut

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Connecticut (average annual wage: $56,240; employment: 5,040)
- #2: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $56,130; employment: 1,330)
- #3: Washington (average annual wage: $55,750; employment: 10,160)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $54,260; employment: 13,560)
- #5: New Jersey (average annual wage: $53,900; employment: 10,640)

Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors assess their clients’ goals and capabilities, design fitness plans and classes, teach and guide clients through their regimens, and evaluate their progress. One reason the highest-paying states for trainers are concentrated in the expensive and wealthy Northeast region is because of the rise of the so-called urban fitness revolution. These states are home to cities where exclusive and pricey “boutique” fitness movements—like SoulCycle and Flywheel—tend to be more common.

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Family medicine physicians: New Hampshire

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New Hampshire (average annual wage: $262,620; employment: 800)
- #2: Alaska (average annual wage: $254,270; employment: 400)
- #3: Wisconsin (average annual wage: $251,710; employment: 1,200)
- #4: Washington (average annual wage: $238,150; employment: 1,170)
- #5: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $237,600; employment: **)

Family and general practitioners are doctors who prevent, diagnose, and treat the most common illnesses and injuries. Many factors go into physicians’ salaries, not the least of which is the primary economic driver of supply and demand. In the Northeast, where populations are dense and medical services are abundant, doctors tend to earn less on average than in the Midwest, where demand is higher and services fewer.

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Firefighters: California

Highest-paying states:
- #1: California (average annual wage: $84,370; employment: 33,780)
- #2: New Jersey (average annual wage: $80,890; employment: 5,780)
- #3: Washington (average annual wage: $76,970; employment: 8,060)
- #4: New York (average annual wage: $75,160; employment: 14,050)
- #5: Nevada (average annual wage: $69,310; employment: 2,020)

Firefighters extinguish fires, but they also serve as life-saving medical first responders, building inspectors, and rescuers. Only 15% of fire departments have three or more stations, and those tend to be in big cities, which tend to be on the coasts. That—along with the fact that vertical firefighting in crowded urban centers is more specialized and dangerous—might explain why most of the highest-paid firefighters are concentrated in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

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SeventyFour // Shutterstock

Food scientists and technologists: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $100,790; employment: 50)
- #2: Maryland (average annual wage: $97,010; employment: 420)
- #3: Illinois (average annual wage: $95,500; employment: 890)
- #4: Ohio (average annual wage: $87,800; employment: 600)
- #5: Connecticut (average annual wage: $87,590; employment: 40)

Food scientists and technologists play a key role in the U.S. food-supply chain by monitoring and maintaining food safety and developing new products and protocols. These workers leverage science to do everything from improving the nutritional value of processed foods to optimizing methods for preserving and distributing food.

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General internal medicine physicians: South Dakota

Highest-paying states:
- #1: South Dakota (average annual wage: $281,590; employment: 220)
- #2: New Mexico (average annual wage: $280,620; employment: 130)
- #3: Wyoming (average annual wage: $273,570; employment: 60)
- #4: North Dakota (average annual wage: $266,540; employment: 60)
- #5: Indiana (average annual wage: $257,270; employment: **)

Internists are physicians who specialize in the internal organs and systems of adult patients. As mentioned earlier, doctors tend to earn more when they work in sparsely populated areas in greater need of health care services. This list of top-five states for internal medicine earnings proves that out, with South Dakota in the #1 slot.

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Graphic designers: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $79,450; employment: 1,420)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $72,200; employment: 5,510)
- #3: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $68,170; employment: 6,330)
- #4: New York (average annual wage: $66,870; employment: 21,090)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $63,710; employment: 29,060)

Graphic designers create visual images, often with the aid of computer software, for everything from newspapers and magazines to government and corporate reports. Since graphic designers work for so many varied industries in so many different roles, it’s hard to pinpoint why they tend to earn more in the Northeast and on the West Coast, but it is likely because of population density and the cost of living. Virtually all of the states where graphic designers thrive are wealthy, heavily populated, or both. The states where they’re paid the least are all rural, sparsely populated, poor, or a combination of the three.

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Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists: Massachusetts

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $43,920; employment: 10,530)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $43,240; employment: 9,390)
- #3: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $42,800; employment: 870)
- #4: Colorado (average annual wage: $37,640; employment: 8,000)
- #5: New Jersey (average annual wage: $37,400; employment: 19,280)

Hairdressers and stylists cut, trim, color, shape, and style hair, while cosmetologists are beauty professionals who style hair, but also perform treatments on skin and nails. Although it’s hard to quantify why beauty professionals earn so much more in the top five highest-paying states, one of the most rapidly expanding segments of the industry is the so-called salon suite, where professionals rent salons, sell products of their choosing, perform their own services, and keep the profits without paying a traditional commission to a salon owner.

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Vadim Ratniko // Shutterstock

Highway maintenance workers: Washington

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington (average annual wage: $54,580; employment: 2,350)
- #2: California (average annual wage: $54,540; employment: 6,480)
- #3: Illinois (average annual wage: $53,650; employment: 7,920)
- #4: Connecticut (average annual wage: $53,070; employment: 2,330)
- #5: Oregon (average annual wage: $52,430; employment: 1,940)

Highway maintenance workers build, improve, repair, reroute, and resurface U.S. roads and highways. In Washington, legislators passed the 2015 Connecting Washington funding package, a $16 billion, 16-year program investing in improving statewide transportation system upgrading and maintaining existing infrastructure. The bill is funded largely by an 11.9-cent gas tax increase.

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Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks: Hawaii

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Hawaii (average annual wage: $46,080; employment: 3,000)
- #2: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $37,630; employment: 1,390)
- #3: New York (average annual wage: $34,710; employment: 10,850)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $31,870; employment: 3,870)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $31,260; employment: 26,560)

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks register and assign rooms to guests, tend to guest needs, make reservations, greet new arrivals, accept payments, and keep records. It stands to reason that they would be paid the best in states that rely on tourism and lodging—and in many cases, they are. Hawaii is one of the 10 most-visited states in the country and ranks first on the list of best-paid hotel and resort clerks.

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Interpreters and translators: Virginia

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Virginia (average annual wage: $75,770; employment: 2,350)
- #2: New York (average annual wage: $72,580; employment: 3,770)
- #3: New Jersey (average annual wage: $71,960; employment: 460)
- #4: Maryland (average annual wage: $68,120; employment: 1,230)
- #5: Maine (average annual wage: $64,430; employment: 120)

Interpreters and translators facilitate communication between people and groups struggling with communication barriers. One reason they’re paid so well in certain states is simple demand. The Maryland Language Access Law, for example, requires state government agencies to provide free interpreters for non-English speakers or those with other communication barriers when dealing with government-related agencies or documents. And in Virginia, where interpreters and translators make the most, the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing fields around 200 requests a month for interpreters.

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Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers: North Dakota

Highest-paying states:
- #1: North Dakota (average annual wage: $69,710; employment: 50)
- #2: Wyoming (average annual wage: $57,750; employment: 30)
- #3: Kentucky (average annual wage: $56,480; employment: 180)
- #4: New York (average annual wage: $55,370; employment: 4,500)
- #5: Pennsylvania (average annual wage: $54,120; employment: 570)

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers source, design, craft, and sell jewelry. The jewelry industry brings in approximately $229.3 billion each year globally and $78 billion in the U.S. alone.

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Lawyers: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $192,180; employment: 30,960)
- #2: California (average annual wage: $173,970; employment: 83,750)
- #3: New York (average annual wage: $168,780; employment: 77,060)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $164,800; employment: 18,750)
- #5: Illinois (average annual wage: $157,010; employment: 31,270)

Lawyers represent their clients in civil or legal proceedings, draw up official documents like wills, and present cases at trial. Given the way legal might is concentrated in the United States, it’s not surprising that lawyers earn the most money in Washington, D.C., California, and New York. Nineteen of the country’s 350 largest law firms are in D.C., 32 are in California, and 58 are in New York.

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Legal secretaries and administrative assistants: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $86,820; employment: 2,990)
- #2: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $63,360; employment: 4,240)
- #3: California (average annual wage: $57,370; employment: 26,710)
- #4: Connecticut (average annual wage: $56,660; employment: 1,620)
- #5: New York (average annual wage: $56,000; employment: 12,320)

Legal secretaries were long a critical support pillar of the U.S. legal system, but new technologies and an influx of independently tech-savvy attorneys have led to a decline in the profession. Legal secretaries continue to flourish in states where lawyers are paid the most. Four of the five highest-paying states for lawyers are also the best states for legal secretaries.

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Librarians and media collections specialists: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $87,250; employment: 1,260)
- #2: California (average annual wage: $78,650; employment: 10,300)
- #3: Maryland (average annual wage: $74,340; employment: 3,330)
- #4: Washington (average annual wage: $73,910; employment: 2,960)
- #5: Connecticut (average annual wage: $72,540; employment: 2,410)

Librarians organize, stock, administer and assist with the materials in libraries. In Washington, the Spokane Public Schools district in 2019 announced a plan to eliminate all school librarian positions in light of a $31 million deficit. Still, California and Washington remain the two highest-paying states for what appears to be a career in crisis.

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Locksmiths and safe repairers: Alaska

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Alaska (average annual wage: $73,690; employment: 40)
- #2: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $63,910; employment: 40)
- #3: Connecticut (average annual wage: $54,500; employment: 150)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $53,900; employment: 520)
- #5: Pennsylvania (average annual wage: $53,360; employment: 440)

Locksmiths service, repair, install, and—in the case of lockouts—open locks and other security devices. Their services remain in high demand—there are over 16,000 home and car lockouts every day. Only one of the five highest-paying states for the profession—Connecticut—is among the 15 states in the country that require locksmiths to earn and maintain a license in the trade.

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Magnetic resonance imaging technologists: California

Highest-paying states:
- #1: California (average annual wage: $97,180; employment: 3,150)
- #2: Hawaii (average annual wage: $96,540; employment: 110)
- #3: Washington (average annual wage: $95,150; employment: 820)
- #4: Nevada (average annual wage: $92,580; employment: 560)
- #5: Alaska (average annual wage: $90,010; employment: 70)

MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging scanners to capture images of patients undergoing various medical diagnoses. In California, health care is among the fastest-growing industries.

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Massage therapists: Alaska

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Alaska (average annual wage: $77,080; employment: 540)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $65,770; employment: 5,060)
- #3: Oregon (average annual wage: $62,130; employment: 2,150)
- #4: Hawaii (average annual wage: $59,770; employment: 1,200)
- #5: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $57,530; employment: 2,540)

Massage therapists provide therapeutic and clinical massages to the soft tissues and joints of their clients. In 2015, Alaska joined the majority of other states in requiring that its massage therapists earn a professional license.

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Motorboat mechanics and service technicians: Hawaii

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Hawaii (average annual wage: $58,690; employment: 80)
- #2: Connecticut (average annual wage: $55,760; employment: 340)
- #3: Arizona (average annual wage: $52,460; employment: 280)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $51,350; employment: 900)
- #5: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $50,940; employment: **)

Because it is an island chain, much of Hawaii’s tourism involves boats—from pleasure cruises and sightseeing tours to fishing charters and watersports. Motorboat mechanics and service techs who maintain and repair those boats are, therefore, the best paid in the whole country.

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Parking attendants: Massachusetts

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $32,800; employment: 4,140)
- #2: Washington (average annual wage: $32,170; employment: 3,130)
- #3: Wyoming (average annual wage: $30,640; employment: 50)
- #4: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $30,270; employment: 2,490)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $29,620; employment: 23,580)

Parking lot attendants assign tickets to cars, direct drivers where to park, locate vehicles, and, when appropriate, drive cars into and out of spots themselves. Thanks to the rise of smart parking technology, however, parking lot attendants are likely to fall victim to cheaper, more effective workplace automation.

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Pediatricians, general: Wisconsin

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Wisconsin (average annual wage: $258,850; employment: 450)
- #2: North Dakota (average annual wage: $258,680; employment: 30)
- #3: Mississippi (average annual wage: $249,270; employment: 130)
- #4: Nevada (average annual wage: $247,360; employment: 90)
- #5: Montana (average annual wage: $245,090; employment: 80)

Pediatricians are physicians who specialize in children, and the specialty is one of the three branches of primary care (the other two are internists and family practitioners). They, too, tend to earn more in small, rural, or remote states with inadequate access to health care—and all five states on the top-five list fit the bill.

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Phlebotomists: California

Highest-paying states:
- #1: California (average annual wage: $45,940; employment: 12,860)
- #2: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $43,820; employment: 220)
- #3: New York (average annual wage: $42,950; employment: 6,360)
- #4: Alaska (average annual wage: $42,100; employment: 240)
- #5: Washington (average annual wage: $41,380; employment: 2,860)

Phlebotomists specialize in drawing blood, and their services are in greater demand now than ever before for two reasons: First, an aging population has created a general health care boom that includes phlebotomists; second, major advancements in technology have dramatically increased the number of tests and diagnoses that can be completed through bloodwork. There’s no specific reason why they earn higher wages in the states where they do, but all of the top five states for phlebotomists are ones with a high cost of living, which tends to lead to overall higher salaries.

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Photographers: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $89,310; employment: 440)
- #2: New York (average annual wage: $65,070; employment: 4,680)
- #3: Minnesota (average annual wage: $60,410; employment: 730)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $59,060; employment: 1,190)
- #5: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $58,460; employment: 280)

Photographers stage, take, and select pictures for events, sporting competitions, modeling and advertising industries, law enforcement, magazines and newspapers, and any other industry or field that incorporates images. Because photographers work across so many varied fields, it’s hard to specify exactly why they earn more in some states than in others. Also, the rise of the gig economy and the proliferation of freelance-service sites has led to a huge increase in the number of photographers who work as independent contractors.

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Physical therapists: Nevada

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Nevada (average annual wage: $108,550; employment: 1,570)
- #2: Alaska (average annual wage: $102,650; employment: 640)
- #3: California (average annual wage: $99,920; employment: 21,730)
- #4: New Jersey (average annual wage: $99,060; employment: 7,860)
- #5: Connecticut (average annual wage: $98,780; employment: 3,930)

Physical therapists work with people recovering from illnesses, injuries, or accidents to regain full use of their affected body parts while reducing their pain. They work in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals; demand for these workers is projected by the BLS to grow 18% between 2019 and 2029.

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Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists: California

Highest-paying states:
- #1: California (average annual wage: $91,760; employment: 13,390)
- #2: New Jersey (average annual wage: $71,420; employment: 2,910)
- #3: New York (average annual wage: $71,280; employment: 4,940)
- #4: Iowa (average annual wage: $69,570; employment: 830)
- #5: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $68,460; employment: 1,140)

Probation is a system that allows the state to control offenders outside the walls of prisons or jails—all told, around 4.5 million Americans are on probation and/or parole. Probation officers are law enforcement agents who monitor, track, supervise, and write reports on offenders.

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Public relations and fundraising managers: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $191,960; employment: 5,990)
- #2: New York (average annual wage: $174,240; employment: 6,550)
- #3: New Jersey (average annual wage: $165,470; employment: 2,100)
- #4: Virginia (average annual wage: $162,630; employment: **)
- #5: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $155,830; employment: 370)

Public relations and fundraising managers work to create a positive image for their clients while also raising capital for their operations through fundraisers, which are frequently tied to public relations (PR) events. People working in PR and fundraising are wise to flock to D.C., where they can make tens of thousands of dollars more than in New York while enjoying more than 50% less in living costs.

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Rehabilitation counselors: New Jersey

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New Jersey (average annual wage: $65,540; employment: 940)
- #2: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $59,710; employment: 520)
- #3: Colorado (average annual wage: $52,390; employment: 1,390)
- #4: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $52,270; employment: 670)
- #5: Vermont (average annual wage: $50,530; employment: 520)

Rehabilitation counselors work with clients who are suffering from emotional, developmental, physical, or mental problems to help them live independently. Employment in this industry is expected to grow by 10% between 2019 and 2029.

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Sewing machine operators: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $36,580; employment: 30)
- #2: Connecticut (average annual wage: $35,790; employment: 650)
- #3: Washington (average annual wage: $34,980; employment: 2,420)
- #4: Alaska (average annual wage: $34,190; employment: 30)
- #5: Minnesota (average annual wage: $33,290; employment: 1,900)

Sewing machine operators work on the front lines of the garment industry. While these jobs are plentiful in the creation of new clothes, they are also in high demand in places like Washington D.C. where there are plenty of hotels seeking to hire sewing machine operators to alter and repair uniforms and guest clothing.

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Tax preparers: New York

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New York (average annual wage: $65,580; employment: 4,200)
- #2: Colorado (average annual wage: $59,940; employment: 1,080)
- #3: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $59,630; employment: 1,540)
- #4: Alaska (average annual wage: $58,890; employment: 210)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $58,700; employment: 8,910)

Tax preparers analyze, prepare, and file taxes for businesses and people. Because of the sheer population of New York, as well as the fact that a hugely disproportionate number of businesses and financial firms is headquartered in New York City, tax preparers make more in the Empire State than anywhere else. There’s another reason for the high salaries: the tax code in New York is especially complicated.

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Tellers: Washington

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington (average annual wage: $35,770; employment: 9,910)
- #2: Rhode Island (average annual wage: $35,610; employment: 1,270)
- #3: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $35,470; employment: 910)
- #4: Hawaii (average annual wage: $34,750; employment: 2,040)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $34,710; employment: 41,140)

Bank tellers handle transactions for customers, like withdrawals, deposits, and transfers. They earn the highest wages in Washington, although not by much. One reason is the sheer size of the state’s financial services industry, which is a powerhouse across the region, not just in Washington. In Washington specifically, the financial industry is a $58 billion juggernaut that employs more than 131,000 people.

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Travel agents: Washington

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington (average annual wage: $55,420; employment: 1,180)
- #2: New Hampshire (average annual wage: $52,980; employment: 230)
- #3: Arizona (average annual wage: $52,010; employment: 2,550)
- #4: Maryland (average annual wage: $51,620; employment: 810)
- #5: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $51,070; employment: 340)

Here, too, Washington State earns the title of the state with the highest wages, this time for travel agents. These professionals plan, prepare, and arrange travel packages, including airfare, accommodations, and any inclusions for their clients.

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Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers: New York

Highest-paying states:
- #1: New York (average annual wage: $32,380; employment: 11,200)
- #2: Vermont (average annual wage: $31,140; employment: **)
- #3: Washington (average annual wage: $30,880; employment: 3,370)
- #4: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $30,710; employment: 2,450)
- #5: California (average annual wage: $29,110; employment: 17,470)

Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers assist patrons at entertainment venues like theaters and halls, and they, like so many other professionals, earn more in New York than anywhere else. New York City’s theater, arena, and concert hall workers were hit especially hard amid closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Waiters and waitresses: Hawaii

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Hawaii (average annual wage: $55,200; employment: 19,500)
- #2: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $49,570; employment: 10,940)
- #3: Washington (average annual wage: $38,750; employment: 55,090)
- #4: New York (average annual wage: $37,150; employment: 160,470)
- #5: Arizona (average annual wage: $36,550; employment: 50,880)

Tourism is the #1 industry in Hawaii, and it relies heavily on the state’s massive restaurant industry. The state had steeled itself for recovery efforts as COVID-19 vaccines became more readily available in the winter of 2021, hoping the tourism industry could be revived before more restaurants were forced to close.

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Zoologists and wildlife biologists: Washington D.C.

Highest-paying states:
- #1: Washington D.C. (average annual wage: $107,770; employment: 80)
- #2: Massachusetts (average annual wage: $91,530; employment: 440)
- #3: Maryland (average annual wage: $81,150; employment: 320)
- #4: Alaska (average annual wage: $80,710; employment: 740)
- #5: Connecticut (average annual wage: $78,510; employment: 60)

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals, their behavior, their environments, and their ecosystems. They make more in Washington than anywhere else, through gigs with the U.S. Department of the Interior or world-renowned facilities like the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

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