Oregon Labor Market Information System
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The Highs and Lows of Occupational Wages

Published Jul-23-2012

 
Each year the Oregon Employment Department publishes several wage data points (percentiles and means) for each of several hundred occupations. These wages come from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. For 2012, wages are published in the 2012 Oregon Wage Information for 660 occupations covering more than 96 percent of Oregon's payroll jobs. The wage data are also available on our website, www.QualityInfo.org.

Statewide, the median hourly wage is $17.28. The median is the value where half the observations are below and half above. Since the median is not adequate to describe the range found in the occupational wage data, we will look at some of the high-wage and low-wage occupations.

The Highs
 
Some occupations have wages so high that they are above the range of the survey. Among the occupations which do have published wages, engineering managers have the highest median hourly wage at $62.06. Table 1 lists the 26 highest paid occupations from our estimates. These occupations account for 2.8 percent of all jobs. For four occupations - chief executives, physicians and surgeons, general dentists, and specialty dentists - we cannot estimate their wages.

Table 1
Highest Paid Occupations
Occupational Title 2010 Employment 2012 Median Hourly Wage
Chief Executives 1,609 NA
Physicians and Surgeons 7,294 NA
Dentists, All Other 317 NA
Dentists, General 1,100 NA
Engineering Managers 2,603 $62.06
Podiatrists 66 $60.91
Physicists 91 $56.98
Judges and Magistrates 352 $56.29
Pharmacists 3,343 $55.61
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists 1,065 $52.26
Computer and Information Systems Managers 3,356 $51.87
Physical Scientists, All Other 485 $50.47
Materials Scientists 42 $50.24
Optometrists 374 $47.54
Natural Sciences Managers 957 $47.39
Financial Managers 4,504 $47.07
Marketing Managers 2,850 $46.71
Actuaries 145 $46.50
Physician Assistants 708 $46.47
Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software 1,939 $46.28
Electronics Engineers, Except Computer 2,947 $45.75
Compensation and Benefits Managers 195 $45.45
Atmospheric and Space Scientists 94 $44.91
Medical and Health Services Managers 3,184 $44.69
Engineers, All Other 2,167 $44.61
Sales Managers 3,481 $44.02
Electrical Engineers 1,559 $44.02
The Lows
 
Occupations at the low end of the wage scale tend to have high employment levels. Eleven of the occupations shown in Table 2 have more workers than the largest occupation showing pay from the highest paid list. Together, the 26 occupations on this list account for nearly 11 percent of all jobs - five times as many jobs as are found among the highest paid occupations. The lowest paid occupations all have median wages within $1.25 of Oregon's minimum wage ($8.80). Many workers in these jobs are also part time; this makes annual wages even lower than could be expected with full-time work.

Table 2
Lowest Paid Occupations
Occupational Title 2010 Employment 2012 Median Hourly Wage
Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers 4,215 $9.19
Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products 2,660 $9.21
Hosts and Hostesses in Restaurants, Lounges, and Coffee Shops 3,515 $9.24
Cooks, Fast Food 6,548 $9.26
Locker Room, Coatroom, and Dressing Room Attendants 405 $9.26
Counter Attendants in Cafeterias, Food Concessions, and Coffee Shops 9,583 $9.27
Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food 35,123 $9.28
Baggage Porters and Bellhops 318 $9.28
Dishwashers 7,113 $9.29
Amusement and Recreation Attendants 2,821 $9.29
Farmworkers and Laborers for Crops, Nurseries, and Greenhouses 19,631 $9.31
Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers 1,431 $9.36
Service Station Attendants 7,765 $9.37
Packers and Packagers, Hand 7,935 $9.39
Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians 148 $9.44
Transportation Workers, All Other 455 $9.49
Public Address System and Other Announcers 80 $9.50
Cutters and Trimmers, Hand 555 $9.52
Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers 833 $9.56
Parking Lot Attendants 1,204 $9.64
Child Care Workers 5,030 $9.65
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 11,177 $9.66
Food Servers, Nonrestaurant 2,776 $9.68
Food Preparation Workers 10,084 $9.70
Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers 1,519 $10.00
Cashiers 33,427 $10.01
But What About Starting Wages?
 
Let's consider those occupations where the starting wage is at or near Oregon's minimum wage. Focusing on a range of $8.80 to $10.00 per hour for the 10th percentile, a fair proxy in these cases for starting wages, we find these occupations with low starting wages represent just over 25 percent of all jobs. While not all workers in these jobs stay at this wage level, the low starting wage occupations where the median wage continues to maintain this low wage level account for one out of three low starting wage workers.

At the high end of the starting wages, we'll look at occupations with starting wages of $29 or more per hour, or about $60,000 annually on a full-time basis. Starting wages tend to move away from the 10th percentile and closer to the 25th percentile as wage levels increase. So for these higher wage occupations, we select occupations with a 25th percentile wage of $30 per hour or more and then select from that group occupations with 10th percentile wages of $25 per hour or more. The resulting occupations account for just over 7 percent of all jobs. Nearly all of these occupations show median wages of more than $36 per hour - $75,000 annually on a full time basis. In other words, higher wage occupations gain greater separation from their starting wages than do lower wage occupations.