Show Me the Money! Oregon’s High-Wage Occupations

by Kale Donnelly

December 10, 2020

When searching for the right job, the typical jobseeker will ensure that an employer’s criteria match their own checklist – the job’s location, its responsibilities, upward mobility within the company, as well as the education and experience required. But, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What does the job pay?” Deservedly so, because we as Oregonians typically work in order to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Since a heftier paycheck more than likely leads to a more comfortable lifestyle, high-paying jobs are usually met with a fairly competitive pool of candidates. Let’s take a look at some key characteristics of these jobs considered to be “high wage.”
What Is High-Wage?

Occupations considered to be high wage pay more than the state’s median wage for all occupations – an annual salary of $42,307, or $20.34 an hour. Of 805 occupation classifications, 520 are technically considered high-wage. This is merely based off of the median wage for each occupation, but it doesn’t really address how many jobs within that occupation pay above or below that median wage. Out of the nearly 2.12 million jobs in Oregon in 2019, 46% were earning more than that $20.34 an hour figure. But, what does it take to qualify for one of these high-paying jobs?

Post-Secondary Education or Training Is Your Ticket to Higher Wages

Conventional wisdom and societal norms tell us that earning the big bucks is usually a result of more education or training – the higher the degree, the higher the pay – yet that’s not entirely true. In Oregon, 6% of high-wage occupations list a high school diploma or equivalent as a requirement in order to be seen as a competitive candidate. This leaves 94% of high-wage occupations requiring some sort of post-secondary education or training in order to be competitive in securing the job.
Attending a college or a university isn’t the only avenue to obtaining higher earning potential. Taking part in technical, vocational, or any other type of postsecondary training can also greatly increase your chances of earning a larger paycheck. Overall, the acquisition of knowledge, experience, and applicable skills are just as important as education. The combination of all four will help jobseekers secure a competitive advantage in today’s economy.

High-Wage Jobs by Occupation Group

High-wage jobs are woven within every single occupational group and industry in the state. The share of high-wage earning jobs in each occupational group sits on a fairly wide scale – ranging anywhere from 1% to 100% of their total employment levels of 2019.
These numbers echo the narrative of the education requirements above, because the occupational groups with the largest share of high-wage jobs also have the greatest share of jobs that require some form of postsecondary training or education.

Just over 1 million of the 2.7 million projected job openings between 2019 and 2029 will be in high-wage occupations. These figures account for openings due to economic growth, as well as replacement openings due to retirements or major occupational changes. These high-wage openings are opportunities available to anyone with the qualifications to move into a new role, whether they are currently employed or not.


Jobseekers with some amount of post-secondary education or training are much more likely to obtain a high-wage position in Oregon. Those weighing their options for potential future careers, and therefore considering which educational or training programs could get them there, can also consider the sectors with the greatest chance of offering a high-wage position. Chance always favors the prepared in the long run. With determined jobseekers vying for that high-wage opening you have your own sights set on, will you be prepared?

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