Employment & Salaries by Occupation

Posted on 04/12/2016 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin’s average annual salary for all occupations in 2015 is $48,560, about 3% above the national average, and the median salary is $37,330, also about 3% above the national median.

  • Salaries are slightly higher in Dallas and Houston, while San Antonio's median annual salary is 10% below the national median.

  • Among the major classes of occupations, median annual salaries in Austin range from $19,630 for food preparation and serving occupations to $102,610 for management occupations.

  • Three of Austin's 10 largest occupations have median annual salaries over $60,000.

New data released March 30th by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides estimates of 2015 employment and salaries by occupation. No publically accessible source of salary data is more comprehensive than this survey. Estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program are available for the nation as a whole and for over 500 other areas. Over 800 occupations are covered in the survey, with over 600 of those available for the Austin MSA. The OES survey is sent to more than 600 Austin-area employers every May and November and is vital as the foundational data needed to quantify pay and employment for occupations.(1)

Austin’s average annual salary for all occupations in 2015 is $48,560, about 3% above the national average, and the median salary is $37,330, also about 3% above the national median. Among the 50 largest metros, Orlando has the lowest median annual salary—$30,520 (16% below the national median)—and San Jose has the highest—$58,900 (63% above the national median). Austin’s median salary ranks as the 24th lowest among large metros. Dallas ranks 23rd, with a median annual salary that is also 3% above the national median and Houston ranks 22nd with a salary that is 4% higher. San Antonio, with a median annual salary of $32,601 (10% below the national median and 13% below Austin’s), ranks 48th.

It is important to note that these average and median salaries in different labor markets are driven in part by the differences among areas in occupational composition, establishment, and occupational characteristics. Simple pay comparisons calculating the ratio of the average pay for an area to the entire U.S. in percentage terms does not control for interarea differences in occupational composition and other factors which may impact pay relatives. The BLS formerly produced occupational pay relatives that controlled for such differences to isolate the geographic effect on wage determination. In 2010, the last year of this data published, Austin’s all occupations pay relative was 6% below the nation.

Among the major classes of occupations, median annual salaries in Austin range from $19,630 for food preparation and serving occupations to $102,610 for management occupations. About 5% of workers in Austin (41,970) are employed in management, while twice that are employed in food preparation and serving (10% or 97,040).

For each occupation group, the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey offers salary data for numerous individual occupations. Within “management,” for example, 34 unique occupations are reported. There are 56 unique occupations in “office and administrative.” For each occupation, hourly wages and annual salaries are available as averages and by percentile (10th, 25th, 50th or median, 75th, and 90th). A complete set of OES data for Austin and the U.S.(2) is in an Excel file here.

Based on the median salary of $153,520, architectural and engineering managers are the highest paid management occupation in Austin (excluding chief executives), followed by marketing managers at $147,130. Based on average salaries, architectural and engineering managers also lead ($161,530), followed by computer and information systems managers ($154,320).

Among these three management occupations, architectural and engineering managers have a pronounced edge—average and median salaries for computer and IS managers and marketing managers are 4%-5% lower. Wage distributions for these occupations are comparable for architectural and engineering managers and computer and IS managers (a 50%-51% difference between 25th and 75th percentile wages). However, for marketing managers, there is a 64% difference between 25th percentile and 75th percentile workers, and for the next best-compensated managers, sales managers and financial managers, the difference between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile is much greater—107% and 98% respectively.

Within computer occupations (nearly 60,000 jobs), the most remunerative occupations in Austin are computer network architects ($120,220 average salary), information security analysts ($102,170), and software developers ($100,690 for systems developers and $95,850 for applications developers). Applications software developers is the largest computer occupation in Austin (nearly 12,000 jobs). An entry salary might be about $48,310 based on the 10th percentile, the median is at $99,420, and earnings range to $143,940 for the top 10%. In San Jose, the 10th percentile of applications software developers earn $97,020 and median salary is $141,230. The 90th percentile salary is not estimated because it exceeds $187,199. San Jose's average salary for applications software developers is 54% higher than in Austin. The greater difference is at entry levels. San Jose’s 10th percentile salary exceeds Austin's by 101%, the 25th percentile salary is 66% higher, while the median and 75th percentile salaries are only 41%-42% higher.

For all computer and mathematical occupations, Austin's median salary is about 64% of San Jose’s median. This happens to be just about the same as the differential between the metros' median salaries for all occupations (63%), however, the difference varies substantially for other classes of occupations. For food preparation and serving occupations, the median annual salary is 19% higher in San Jose than it is in Austin. For protective service occupations, the median salary is almost the same in Austin and San Jose.

In the engineering field (nearly 25,000 jobs in Austin), petroleum engineers earn the largest salaries by a wide margin. In Austin, they average $156,280 in annual salary, or a median of $128,280. These are levels close to the occupation’s salary nationally. However, there are not a large number of such jobs in Austin.(3) Dominate engineering occupations in Austin include computer hardware (1,990), electrical (2,880) and electronics (1,930) engineers, as well as electrical and electronics engineering technicians (3,640). The median salary for computer hardware engineers is $103,710, about 7% below the national median. Both electrical and electronics engineers earn in excess of national rates. The median salary in Austin is 3% greater for electronics engineers ($101,400) and 19% higher for electrical engineers ($111,140). Electrical and electronic engineering technicians (3,640), earn a median salary of $67,750, about 11% above the national median.

Sales and related occupations, which employ nearly 101,000 in Austin, have an average salary 10% above the national average and a median salary that is 17% above the national median. No other occupation group in Austin exceeds national salaries to this degree.

Retail sales persons are nearly a third of this group (over 31,000) and their salaries are only 6%-7% higher in Austin. Cashers (18,240 or 18% of the group) exceed the national rates by 3% (average salary) or 9% (median salary). Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, which are divided into two types (“technical and scientific” and “except technical and scientific”), account for over 13,470 jobs in Austin, but their salaries are 1% to 16% below national rates.

Although not relatively large occupations, a few sales classifications such as parts salespersons, real estate sales agents, sales engineers, and “sales and related workers, all other” exceed national rates by the widest margins and can be contributing the 10%-17% positive differential for sales occupations in Austin. Austin’s real estate agents (1,420) have an average salary of $76,520 and a median salary of $43,370—those rates are 31% and 51% above national salaries for the occupation.

Construction and extraction occupations (37,810 jobs in Austin) and life, physical and social sciences occupations (9,360 jobs) are the two occupation groups with the greatest negative differentials between Austin and national salaries.

Construction and extraction occupations pay 18% less in Austin than nationally. For the largest occupation, construction laborers (7,830), Austin’s average salary is $27,680 compared to $36,550 (24% lower). The median is $26,990 here, compared to $31,910 (15% lower). The next largest occupation, supervisors (4,210), earn much closer to national rates—the average salary is $63,940 (4% lower) and the median is $62,070 (only 1% lower).

Life, physical and social science occupations earn an average salary of $58,760 (17% below the national) or a median salary of $62,160 (16% below).

Location quotients are a useful byproduct of the survey’s employment estimates. The location quotient (LQ) represents the ratio of an occupation’s share of employment in a given area to that occupation’s share of employment in the U.S. as a whole. For example, an occupation that makes up 10% of employment in a specific metropolitan area compared with 2% of U.S. employment would have a location quotient of 5 for the area in question.

For the major occupations groups, Austin’s highest location quotients are computer and math (2.11) and architecture and engineering (1.67). However, given the outsize influence of the University of Texas, it turns out that, among individual occupations, graduate teaching assistants have the largest LQ (5.9). The occupation accounts for 4.9 of every 1,000 Austin jobs. The state and federal presence in Austin also means that the next largest LQ (4.9) is held by tax examiners/collectors and revenue agents.

The OES survey is a semiannual mail survey measuring occupational employment and wage rates for wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments in the United States. OES estimates are constructed from a confidential sample of 1.2 million establishments. May 2015 estimates are based on responses from 6 semiannual panels of 200,000 establishments each collected over a 3-year period. Combining multiple panels of data reduces sampling errors, particularly for small geographic areas and occupations. Wages for the current period need no adjustment, however wages for the previous panels are adjusted to the current panel’s reference period using wage movements from a BLS program called the Employment Cost Index.

Wages and salaries in the OES survey are straight-time, gross pay, exclusive of premium pay. Base rate; cost-of-living allowances; guaranteed pay; hazardous-duty pay; incentive pay, including commissions and production bonuses; and tips are included. Excluded are overtime pay, severance pay, shift differentials, nonproduction bonuses, employer cost for supplementary benefits, and tuition reimbursements. “Employees” are all part-time and full-time workers who are paid a wage or salary. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.


(1) The better the response rate of Austin employers included in the confidential sample for the OES survey, the better the representation of occupations published for the metro. Not obtaining the statistically required 75% response rate limits the information that can be published. None of the major Texas metros met the BLS response standard in the May 2015 panel according to staff at the Texas Workforce Commission. At the Chamber, questions about occupational compensation and labor availability are among the most common that we receive from local and potential employers. The same data also helps local school districts and community colleges adjust their programs to train future workers based on local needs.

(2) The U.S. data in this Excel file is a complete set of the “cross-industry” estimates corresponding to what is reported for metropolitan areas. At the national level, additional data is available, including industry-specific estimates.

(3) According to this survey, the number of petroleum engineers may be 230. However, it should be noted that employment estimates in the OES survey can have extremely high error statistics and this is one of those. The survey provides relative standard error (RSE) statistics for the employment and wage estimate for each occupation for an area. In general, for the Austin MSA, a relatively small portion of the wage estimates will have a large RSE, however the employment estimates for individual occupations (as opposed to occupation groups) are dominated by substantial RSEs.


Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective