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Highest-paying state for 50 different jobs

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Highest-paying state for 50 different jobs

Bartenders in Hawaii earn nearly $20,000 more per year than they would in any other state in the country; likewise for motorboat mechanics. Computer systems analysts earn six figures in New Jersey, and nowhere else. Location, location, location is not 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—even if those states are neighbors.

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. Crossing guards in Alaska, for example, earn more than $54,000, compared with the sub-$38,000 median salaries earned in the next-highest-paying state.

Using 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most recently updated in August 2019, Stacker analyzed 50 occupations across a wide range of industries and pay scales. We then examined median annual wage data to determine the five states that pay the most for each of those chosen positions. 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.

Here are the states that pay the most for 50 top jobs across the country.

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Accountants and auditors: New York

- #1 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $83,250; employment: 110,780)
- #2 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $81,190; employment: 37,370)
- #3 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $76,770; employment: 4,420)
- #4 highest-paying state: Virginia (annual wage: $76,490; employment: 41,230)
- #5 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $76,450; employment: 14,550)

New York City is the beating heart of global trade and commerce—a designation that requires many accountants. They provide financial and tax services to businesses, government agencies, and individuals across the board. The hefty salaries accountants and auditors command in the Empire State are reflected in the recent growth of the industry in the state’s namesake city. There were fewer than 42,000 accountants in the Big Apple in 2010 compared with 52,600 in 2019.

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Fotokostic

Agricultural equipment operators: Michigan

- #1 highest-paying state: Michigan (annual wage: $38,620; employment: 360)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $38,220; employment: 120)
- #3 highest-paying state: North Dakota (annual wage: $37,450; employment: 150)
- #4 highest-paying state: Pennsylvania (annual wage: $36,960; employment: 450)
- #5 highest-paying state: Nebraska (annual wage: $36,760; employment: 870)

Agricultural equipment operators drive, control, and sometimes maintain the massive and complex machines that make modern farming possible. New York ranks #2 in terms of wages for agricultural equipment operators and also comes in second for average farmer salaries, according to Zippia—but the similarities between the two related occupations stop there. Michigan, the highest-paying state for operators, ranks #36 in terms of farming salaries, North Dakota comes in at #17. Pennsylvania ranks #14 and Nebraska is way back at #48.

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Angelo Giampiccolo

Air traffic controllers: Illinois

- #1 highest-paying state: Illinois (annual wage: $150,960; employment: 940)
- #2 highest-paying state: Virginia (annual wage: $150,880; employment: 1,090)
- #3 highest-paying state: New Hampshire (annual wage: $146,080; employment: 440)
- #4 highest-paying state: Georgia (annual wage: $145,770; employment: 990)
- #5 highest-paying state: Texas (annual wage: $142,980; employment: 1,880)

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

- #1 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $54,770; employment: 1,240)
- #2 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $49,350; employment: 360)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $49,030; employment: 70)
- #4 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $48,270; employment: 190)
- #5 highest-paying state: Nevada (annual wage: $47,840; employment: 70)

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. On the opposite end of the spectrum are top-five earners Alaska and Nevada, which employ only 70 animal control workers in the entirety of their respective states.

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Bakers: Alaska

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $33,670; employment: 250)
- #2 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $32,210; employment: 1,460)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $31,140; employment: 5,850)
- #4 highest-paying state: Wyoming (annual wage: $30,660; employment: 270)
- #5 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $30,550; employment: 4,460)

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. Although the sparsely populated state employs just 270 bakers, Wyoming is a leader in the so-called food freedom movement. In 2015, Wyoming became the first state to lift virtually all regulations on the sale of local, homemade foods that don’t contain meat, paving the way for home bakers to cash in on their talent and passion without bureaucratic regulation. Many other states have since followed suit.

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Bartenders: Hawaii

- #1 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $54,470; employment: 3,450)
- #2 highest-paying state: Vermont (annual wage: $36,010; employment: 2,070)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $29,820; employment: 13,630)
- #4 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $29,350; employment: 44,370)
- #5 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $27,850; employment: 17,360)

Bartenders create, mix, and serve drinks, handle inventory and stocking while doubling as servers in many cases. It’s hard to pinpoint why bartenders earn so much in Hawaii, but there seems to be a direct correlation between a state’s cost of living and the wages its bartenders earn—possibly because bartenders rely so heavily on tips, and drinks cost more in expensive states. Three of the 10 most expensive states—New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii—also rank among the highest-earning states for people who sling drinks. Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the country and ranks first in terms of bartender wages.

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Bus drivers, school or special client: Alaska

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $44,630; employment: 1,110)
- #2 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $42,590; employment: 12,960)
- #3 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $41,120; employment: 1,640)
- #4 highest-paying state: North Dakota (annual wage: $40,780; employment: 1,700)
- #5 highest-paying state: Utah (annual wage: $40,480; employment: 2,480)

Not only is Alaska one of the most expensive states in terms of the cost of living, but it’s notorious for its treacherous roads and remote village schools. Those factors likely contribute to the fact that school bus drivers earn more there than anywhere else in the country. Other high-paying states, like Rhode Island, North Dakota, Washington, and Utah, are expensive, cold, remote, or a combination of all three.

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Carpenters: Hawaii

- #1 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $73,600; employment: 5,590)
- #2 highest-paying state: Illinois (annual wage: $69,470; employment: 26,970)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $65,350; employment: 2,110)
- #4 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $58,190; employment: 15,960)
- #5 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $57,240; employment: 26,350)

Carpenters do everything from analyzing blueprints and consulting with contractors to building frameworks and repairing buildings. In Hawaii, where the state recently earmarked $3.4 billion for capital construction projects alone, carpenters are busy, numerous, and well paid. Lawmakers are currently considering a controversial bill that would require general contractors bidding on big construction projects in Honolulu to hire union workers, even if the firm is not a union shop.

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Canva

Chefs and head cooks: New Jersey

- #1 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $66,790; employment: 2,640)
- #2 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $63,810; employment: 1,080)
- #3 highest-paying state: West Virginia (annual wage: $58,570; employment: 340)
- #4 highest-paying state: Pennsylvania (annual wage: $57,500; employment: 3,100)
- #5 highest-paying state: Delaware (annual wage: $57,340; employment: 530)

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 powerhouse in New Jersey, where chefs and head cooks earn higher wages than anywhere else in the country. There are more than 19,000 places to eat and drink in the Garden State, and those businesses account for nearly 350,000 jobs—that’s 8% of the state’s total workforce. In 2018, restaurants in the state did $18.1 billion in sales.

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Chemical engineers: Texas

- #1 highest-paying state: Texas (annual wage: $128,490; employment: 7,870)
- #2 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $125,160; employment: 70)
- #3 highest-paying state: Delaware (annual wage: $117,080; employment: 550)
- #4 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $115,330; employment: 1,430)
- #5 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $114,300; employment: 690)

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, the #1 and #2 biggest oil-producing states, respectively, also pay their chemical engineers the highest salaries.

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Child, family, and school social workers: Connecticut

- #1 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $70,230; employment: 5,370)
- #2 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $63,720; employment: 5,060)
- #3 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $59,570; employment: 1,770)
- #4 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $57,830; employment: 4,480)
- #5 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $55,820; employment: 1,750)

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. Although fewer than 4 million people live in the state of Connecticut, the state has one of the highest concentrations of child, family, and school social workers in the country. No state pays these professionals more.

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Computer systems analysts: New Jersey

- #1 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $103,340; employment: 13,710)
- #2 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $99,590; employment: 67,950)
- #3 highest-paying state: Virginia (annual wage: $98,290; employment: 26,800)
- #4 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $97,180; employment: 1,810)
- #5 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $96,810; employment: 44,030)

Computer systems analysts work with organizations across many industries to study, enhance, and improve the computer networks those organizations rely on. New Jersey is the only state that pays them a median annual wage in six figures. That is likely because of the sheer size of the Garden State’s tech sector. Information technology employs more than 360,000 people in New Jersey—nearly 10% of the state’s private-sector workforce—and contributes $43 billion in wages.

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Crossing guards: Alaska

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $54,230; employment: 210)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $37,500; employment: 9,820)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $37,190; employment: 2,730)
- #4 highest-paying state: Minnesota (annual wage: $36,780; employment: 120)
- #5 highest-paying state: Wyoming (annual wage: $34,630; employment: 190)

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—likely one reason crossing guards there earn so much more than in the rest of the country.

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Curators: Connecticut

- #1 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $66,530; employment: 230)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $66,400; employment: 1,570)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $66,000; employment: 60)
- #4 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $65,620; employment: 120)
- #5 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $63,810; employment: 520)

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

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $116,730; employment: 600)
- #2 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $102,510; employment: 22,240)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $92,820; employment: 6,010)
- #4 highest-paying state: Arizona (annual wage: $89,540; employment: 3,200)
- #5 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $89,380; employment: 3,670)

Dental hygienists review patient records, counsel and screen patients, assist dentists, and perform services like cleaning and polishing. They make so much in four of the five highest-paying states simply because the cost of living is so much higher in those places—all of the states, with the exception of Arizona, are among the 10 most expensive states in the country. Other factors contribute, as well. In Alaska, for example, the state has made a major effort to expand quality dental care to rural, poor, remote, and otherwise underserved regions.

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Editors: Massachusetts

- #1 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $71,730; employment: 3,160)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $70,200; employment: 19,140)
- #3 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $69,550; employment: 3,130)
- #4 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $68,530; employment: 11,060)
- #5 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $67,660; employment: 200)

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. One of the reasons that editors earn such a good living in New York is that New York City has long been an epicenter of global publishing. All of the so-called Big Five publishers—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan—are headquartered in the Big Apple. Massachusetts pay editors the most in the country, which could be related to the caliber of universities in the state that also have major publishing arms. The MIT Press, for example, publishes 30 journals.

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Electricians: Illinois

- #1 highest-paying state: Illinois (annual wage: $79,770; employment: 24,410)
- #2 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $76,440; employment: 1,570)
- #3 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $74,140; employment: 3,570)
- #4 highest-paying state: Minnesota (annual wage: $71,230; employment: 10,780)
- #5 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $70,990; employment: 42,450)

Electricians are tradespeople tasked with installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical equipment, wiring, and lighting in both residential and commercial structures. One of the reasons they earn so much in Illinois is because of the growing popularity of solar energy in the state. According to PayScale, electricians who have skills in solar energy make significantly more, on average, than those who do not.

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VILevi // Shutterstock

Family and general practitioners: Oregon

- #1 highest-paying state: Oregon (annual wage: $205,880; employment: 1,120)
- #2 highest-paying state: Illinois (annual wage: $205,640; employment: 7,970)
- #3 highest-paying state: North Carolina (annual wage: $204,930; employment: 1,850)
- #4 highest-paying state: Alabama (annual wage: $204,560; employment: 700)
- #5 highest-paying state: Texas (annual wage: $204,450; employment: 8,200)

Family and general practitioners are doctors who prevent, diagnose, and treat the most common illnesses and injuries. Less than $1,500 separates family doctors in the highest-paying state of Oregon and the fifth-highest paying state of Texas. Many factors go into physician 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 much less than in the Midwest, where demand is higher and services fewer, including in Illinois. The Southeast—including Alabama and North Carolina—is the #2 highest-paying region, while the Northwest, which includes Oregon, comes in at #3.

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Firefighters: New York

- #1 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $81,240; employment: 11,880)
- #2 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $76,380; employment: 5,590)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $75,200; employment: 7,750)
- #4 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $74,700; employment: 32,910)
- #5 highest-paying state: Oregon (annual wage: $67,820; employment: 3,410)

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 the highest-paid firefighters are concentrated in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

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Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors: New York

- #1 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $54,950; employment: 24,160)
- #2 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $54,770; employment: 11,880)
- #3 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $54,030; employment: 4,690)
- #4 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $53,290; employment: 11,310)
- #5 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $50,920; employment: 8,670)

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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Food scientists and technologists: Illinois

- #1 highest-paying state: Illinois (annual wage: $84,280; employment: 760)
- #2 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $83,770; employment: 290)
- #3 highest-paying state: Florida (annual wage: $83,210; employment: 180)
- #4 highest-paying state: Vermont (annual wage: $82,320; employment: 60)
- #5 highest-paying state: Arkansas (annual wage: $79,980; employment: 190)

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. Both Illinois and Florida are home to between 1,000 and 4,000 food and beverage production centers, making them among the biggest links in the U.S. food chain. 

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Graphic designers: Massachusetts

- #1 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $60,530; employment: 5,680)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $59,840; employment: 21,350)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $58,450; employment: 5,060)
- #4 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $57,050; employment: 820)
- #5 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $56,810; employment: 29,320)

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

- #1 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $37,040; employment: 10,990)
- #2 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $35,020; employment: 10,610)
- #3 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $33,940; employment: 17,400)
- #4 highest-paying state: Delaware (annual wage: $30,350; employment: 1,910)
- #5 highest-paying state: South Dakota (annual wage: $29,840; employment: 940)

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. The salon industry is showing weak growth after years of expansion. 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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Highway maintenance workers: California

- #1 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $54,950; employment: 4,930)
- #2 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $53,190; employment: 2,270)
- #3 highest-paying state: Oregon (annual wage: $51,350; employment: 1,910)
- #4 highest-paying state: Minnesota (annual wage: $50,590; employment: 4,960)
- #5 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $49,870; employment: 2,270)

Highway maintenance workers build, improve, repair, reroute, and resurface U.S. roads and highways. One reason they earn so much in California is because of the sheer volume of roads that crisscross the Golden State. California is home to a whopping 51,326 miles of roadway, much of which traverse difficult terrains like mountains and deserts. In the summer of 2019, the state allocated more than $1.1 billion for California state highway repair.

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Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks: Hawaii

- #1 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $44,790; employment: 2,940)
- #2 highest-paying state: Nevada (annual wage: $31,540; employment: 5,110)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $29,590; employment: 950)
- #4 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $28,650; employment: 3,800)
- #5 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $28,340; employment: 26,840)

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. Las Vegas has more hotel rooms than any city in the country, which is why Nevada ranks so high on the list. 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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Internists, general: Maine

- #1 highest-paying state: Maine (annual wage: $207,740; employment: 170)
- #2 highest-paying state: Tennessee (annual wage: $207,180; employment: 490)
- #3 highest-paying state: Vermont (annual wage: $204,990; employment: 60)
- #4 highest-paying state: Florida (annual wage: $203,050; employment: 1,100)
- #5 highest-paying state: Indiana (annual wage: $202,360; employment: 310)

Internists are physicians who specialize in the internal organs and systems of adult patients. As noted elsewhere, doctors tend to earn more when they work in sparsely populated areas in greater need of health care services. Tennessee is suffering from a shortage of primary care physicians—which includes internists—as are Maine, Indiana, and Vermont.

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Interpreters and translators: Maryland

- #1 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $71,280; employment: 1,120)
- #2 highest-paying state: Virginia (annual wage: $70,780; employment: 2,000)
- #3 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $64,600; employment: 540)
- #4 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $64,460; employment: 3,300)
- #5 highest-paying state: Colorado (annual wage: $59,540; employment: 1,440)

Interpreters and translators facilitate communication between people and groups struggling with communication barriers. One reason they’re paid so well in Maryland is that the occupation is legally mandated. The Maryland Language Access Law 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.

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Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers: Kentucky

- #1 highest-paying state: Kentucky (annual wage: $63,200; employment: 140)
- #2 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $56,880; employment: 730)
- #3 highest-paying state: Wisconsin (annual wage: $54,720; employment: 370)
- #4 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $54,630; employment: 490)
- #5 highest-paying state: Virginia (annual wage: $50,470; employment: 400)

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers source, design, craft, and sell jewelry. It makes sense, then, that those who earn the most in that profession tend to live in hot jewelry markets. Maryland, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Virginia are all ranked with either A+, A, or A- ratings in a recent report from jewelry-industry data and analytics firm Diamond Shades. The report ranked states according to the quality of their jewelry markets, which the study determined by measuring a variety of metrics.

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Lawyers: California

- #1 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $152,930; employment: 82,180)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $144,150; employment: 76,840)
- #3 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $142,100; employment: 18,420)
- #4 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $129,160; employment: 7,270)
- #5 highest-paying state: Texas (annual wage: $127,550; employment: 42,590)

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 California and New York. Thirty-two of the country’s 350 largest law firms are located in California, while 58 are in New York. That’s a little more than one in four major U.S. law firms scattered across just two states.

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Legal secretaries: Massachusetts

- #1 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $56,110; employment: 3,920)
- #2 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $54,500; employment: 1,880)
- #3 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $54,170; employment: 15,440)
- #4 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $53,790; employment: 26,220)
- #5 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $52,350; employment: 2,780)

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: California

- #1 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $78,620; employment: 8,560)
- #2 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $72,690; employment: 2,970)
- #3 highest-paying state: Delaware (annual wage: $71,810; employment: 390)
- #4 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $70,560; employment: 360)
- #5 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $70,060; employment: 530)

Librarians organize, stock, administer and assist with the materials in libraries. In California, funding for school libraries—and the librarians who run them—has ranked among the lowest in the nation, and the state currently provides no funding for school libraries. In Washington, the Spokane Public Schools district recently announced it was eliminating all school librarian positions. 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

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $72,160; employment: 30)
- #2 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $60,220; employment: 90)
- #3 highest-paying state: North Dakota (annual wage: $54,490; employment: 30)
- #4 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $53,220; employment: 710)
- #5 highest-paying state: Illinois (annual wage: $51,230; employment: 830)

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 two of the five highest-paying states for the profession—Connecticut and Illinois—are among the 15 states in the country that even require locksmiths to earn and maintain a license in the trade.

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Magnetic resonance imaging technologists: Washington

- #1 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $92,420; employment: 800)
- #2 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $91,890; employment: 140)
- #3 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $91,660; employment: 3,280)
- #4 highest-paying state: Oregon (annual wage: $90,220; employment: 280)
- #5 highest-paying state: Nevada (annual wage: $86,490; employment: 490)

MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging scanners to capture images of patients undergoing various medical diagnoses. In Washington, the single biggest industry in the entire state is ambulatory health care services, which includes MRIs. Not coincidentally, it’s also the state where MRI techs earn the highest wages.

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Massage therapists: Alaska

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $93,410; employment: 540)
- #2 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $63,710; employment: 4,830)
- #3 highest-paying state: Oregon (annual wage: $62,780; employment: 2,290)
- #4 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $57,740; employment: 1,320)
- #5 highest-paying state: Kentucky (annual wage: $51,360; employment: 710)

Massage therapists provide therapeutic and clinical massages to the soft tissues and joints of their clients. In Alaska, they earn nearly $30,000 more than they would in the next highest-paying state—an astonishing figure even for Alaska, a state with a high cost of living that consistently ranks among the highest-paying states for a variety of jobs. 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

- #1 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $66,580; employment: 80)
- #2 highest-paying state: North Dakota (annual wage: $50,970; employment: 110)
- #3 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $49,870; employment: 400)
- #4 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $48,490; employment: 720)
- #5 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $47,860; employment: 510)

Nearly 10 million people visited Hawaii in 2018, yet another record in a decade of exceptional growth in what has become the island state’s largest industry—tourism. Because it is an island chain, much of that 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 lot attendants: Washington

- #1 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $30,330; employment: 2,700)
- #2 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $29,440; employment: 4,110)
- #3 highest-paying state: Maine (annual wage: $28,790; employment: 110)
- #4 highest-paying state: Vermont (annual wage: $26,410; employment: 130)
- #5 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $25,930; employment: 23,900)

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. It’s difficult to quantify why parking lot attendants are paid the most both in high-population states like California, Washington, and Massachusetts, and in small, sparsely populated rural states like Maine and Vermont, but one thing is certain—people in this occupation face an uncertain future. Thanks to the rise of smart parking technology, parking lot attendants likely will soon fall victim to cheaper, more effective workplace automation, according to Forbes.

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Pediatricians, general: New Hampshire

- #1 highest-paying state: New Hampshire (annual wage: $200,310; employment: 250)
- #2 highest-paying state: Minnesota (annual wage: $199,610; employment: data not available)
- #3 highest-paying state: Missouri (annual wage: $197,760; employment: 240)
- #4 highest-paying state: Wyoming (annual wage: $194,830; employment: 50)
- #5 highest-paying state: Delaware (annual wage: $191,720; employment: 230)

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. In fact, all five highest-paying states are facing primary care doctor shortages.

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Phlebotomists: California

- #1 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $43,980; employment: 12,190)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $39,930; employment: 6,190)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $39,570; employment: 260)
- #4 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $39,040; employment: 2,790)
- #5 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $38,880; employment: 3,420)

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: Rhode Island

- #1 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $55,990; employment: 250)
- #2 highest-paying state: Minnesota (annual wage: $47,810; employment: 770)
- #3 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $46,790; employment: 6,060)
- #4 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $46,770; employment: 1,220)
- #5 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $44,180; employment: 1,030)

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

- #1 highest-paying state: Nevada (annual wage: $97,950; employment: 1,700)
- #2 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $97,610; employment: 20,630)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $96,660; employment: 640)
- #4 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $95,690; employment: 7,560)
- #5 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $94,790; employment: 3,790)

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—and California has more hospitals than any other state except for Texas. In New Jersey, another top-paying state for physical therapists, the single biggest industry in the state is ambulatory health care, which includes physical therapy.

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Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists: California

- #1 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $89,210; employment: 13,560)
- #2 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $85,260; employment: 200)
- #3 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $73,780; employment: 2,790)
- #4 highest-paying state: Iowa (annual wage: $71,630; employment: 740)
- #5 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $70,620; employment: 4,770)

Probation is a system that allows the state to control offenders outside the walls of prisons or jails—all told, 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. Although Rhode Island has among the lowest incarceration rates in the country, the tiny New England state has a huge per capita number of its citizens on probation.

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Public relations and fundraising managers: New York

- #1 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $149,400; employment: 6,190)
- #2 highest-paying state: Virginia (annual wage: $146,400; employment: data not available)
- #3 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $140,060; employment: 370)
- #4 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $137,140; employment: 1,950)
- #5 highest-paying state: Colorado (annual wage: $128,330; employment: 1,240)

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. They make more money in New York than anywhere else in the country, which makes sense when you consider where the industry is concentrated. Four of the five top PR firms in the world are headquartered in New York City.

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Rehabilitation counselors: New Jersey

- #1 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $62,600; employment: 920)
- #2 highest-paying state: Rhode Island (annual wage: $60,250; employment: 560)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $56,540; employment: 290)
- #4 highest-paying state: North Dakota (annual wage: $49,620; employment: 160)
- #5 highest-paying state: Maine (annual wage: $46,940; employment: 260)

Rehabilitation counselors work with clients who are suffering from emotional, developmental, physical, or mental problems to help them live independently. In the state where they’re paid the most, New Jersey, ambulatory health care is the #1 industry. In Rhode Island and Maine, those industries are hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities—all of which could include rehabilitation counselors.

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Sewing machine operators: Alaska

- #1 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $39,810; employment: 40)
- #2 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $33,580; employment: 790)
- #3 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $30,660; employment: 2,530)
- #4 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $29,860; employment: 2,550)
- #5 highest-paying state: New Hampshire (annual wage: $29,560; employment: 380)

Sewing machine operators work on the front lines of the garment industry. Alaska ranks dead last in manufacturing but pays its sewing machine operators more there than they earn anywhere else in the country. That’s because one of the few shining lights in the state’s dreary manufacturing sector is its small but prosperous garment industry, which is growing both in the number of jobs the industry produces and the wages its workers receive.

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Tax preparers: New York

- #1 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $61,880; employment: 4,070)
- #2 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $59,920; employment: 1,600)
- #3 highest-paying state: Colorado (annual wage: $56,690; employment: 1,130)
- #4 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $53,210; employment: 210)
- #5 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $52,020; employment: 10,200)

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

- #1 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $32,970; employment: 11,040)
- #2 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $32,090; employment: 6,220)
- #3 highest-paying state: New Jersey (annual wage: $32,020; employment: 13,380)
- #4 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $31,530; employment: 10,970)
- #5 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $31,500; employment: 5,290)

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

- #1 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $51,520; employment: 1,150)
- #2 highest-paying state: Arizona (annual wage: $47,430; employment: 2,570)
- #3 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $47,160; employment: 1,920)
- #4 highest-paying state: Kansas (annual wage: $46,050; employment: data not available)
- #5 highest-paying state: Wyoming (annual wage: $45,940; employment: 60)

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. Tourism is the #4 largest industry in Washington, generating $21.4 billion in spending and $1.8 billion in local and state taxes.

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Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers: Washington

- #1 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $28,020; employment: 3,890)
- #2 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $25,960; employment: 12,510)
- #3 highest-paying state: Vermont (annual wage: $24,810; employment: data not available)
- #4 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $24,660; employment: 2,490)
- #5 highest-paying state: California (annual wage: $24,430; employment: 15,560)

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 Washington than anywhere else. Since at least the 1990s, Seattle has been known for its massive and sprawling live music scene, which likely contributes to higher wages for this occupation in the state. New York, too, is known worldwide for its live entertainment. The Broadway theater industry alone contributes $43 million to the economy of New York City.

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Waiters and waitresses: Hawaii

- #1 highest-paying state: Hawaii (annual wage: $48,860; employment: 19,130)
- #2 highest-paying state: Vermont (annual wage: $31,880; employment: 5,590)
- #3 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $28,410; employment: 167,250)
- #4 highest-paying state: Washington (annual wage: $27,720; employment: 54,770)
- #5 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $27,020; employment: 66,250)

Tourism is the #1 industry in Hawaii, and it relies heavily on the state’s massive restaurant industry. The state is home to no fewer than 3,665 places to eat and drink, which combined for $5.6 billion in sales in 2018. In 2019, restaurant and food-service positions accounted for nearly 99,000 jobs—that’s 15% of the state’s workforce.

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Zoologists and wildlife biologists: Massachusetts

- #1 highest-paying state: Massachusetts (annual wage: $83,500; employment: 350)
- #2 highest-paying state: Connecticut (annual wage: $77,510; employment: 60)
- #3 highest-paying state: Alaska (annual wage: $74,720; employment: 670)
- #4 highest-paying state: Maryland (annual wage: $72,440; employment: 320)
- #5 highest-paying state: New York (annual wage: $72,290; employment: 370)

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals, their behavior, their environments, and their ecosystems. They make more in Massachusetts than anywhere else; the state trains so many of them. Famous for its network of world-renowned colleges and universities, Massachusetts is home to at least eight higher-education programs for aspiring zoologists and wildlife biologists.

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