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By Martha C. White
April 7, 2015

It’s no surprise that working in a big city like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles means you might earn more, but as it turns out, where you live can affect how much you earn pretty much anywhere in the country. In other words, if you’re not happy with what you make, think about switching cities rather than careers.

TheLadders.com crunched the numbers to see just how big of a difference location can make in your earnings potential. It identified 21 jobs with salary gaps of 98% or higher as well as the highest- and lowest-paying average salaries by city.

The top-paying location for nine of the 21 jobs is San Francisco, and three others are in two more California cities, Monterey and Sacramento. “San Francisco’s booming technology sector has created an unmet demand for particular skill sets, forcing companies to compete for these scarce talent resource and pushing up top tier salaries,” says Shankar Mishra, vice president of data science at TheLadders.

San Francisco is also a notoriously expensive place to live, of course. Longtime residents have protested what they see as an intrusion by big tech companies like Google pushing rents higher and clogging the streets with private shuttle buses for employees.

Many of the jobs with the biggest gaps are in marketing or communications, but almost every field turns up somewhere on the list, from tech to law to financial services to healthcare. In fact, a technology job tops the list. Information security officer jobs have the biggest gap identified by TheLadders at 139%. Workers in Boston make an average of $113,000, but people doing the same kind of job in Miami only pull down an average of $47,000.

In terms of dollars, the job with the biggest gap — a whopping $91,000 — is an enterprise account manager. People with this job make an average of $168,000 in Baltimore, but earn a comparatively paltry $77,000 in Milwaukee. (It’s kind of a vague title, but generally, it refers to a professional who sells and manages telecommunications or technology services to corporate clients.)

Once again, resurgent tech boom is a driving force behind this trend, Mishra says. “Big players in the technology industry are influencing the top end of salaries quite a bit, and the impacts aren’t just on tech-specific roles, but for other functions too,” he says.

For instance, this is why so many jobs in marketing and communications show up with big variations in pay and command much higher salaries in cities with strong high-tech sectors like San Francisco and the Silicon Valley area.

“Demand for most of the top-paying jobs in this field is being driven by the technology sector,” Mishra says. “To contrast, demand for these kinds of jobs is much lower in cities like Little Rock or Charleston,” he says. Those two Southern cities had the lowest average salaries for director of marketing and director of communications positions, respectively.

Two legal jobs — associate general counsel and associate attorney — made the list, and the results are similar. These positions pull down top salaries in the nation’s capital, while the lowest pay for both is in Louisville.

“The excess of lawyers combined with a lack of demand in Louisville has suppress their median salaries,” Mishra says. “The presence of the federal government in D.C. generates enough demand to keep pushing the top end of salaries in this field even higher.”

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