The Highest Paying Industries in Oregon: Six Industries that Offer Six Figure Incomes

by Christian Kaylor

November 10, 2020

The average annual wage in Oregon in 2019 was $53,890. However, a handful of large industries pay about twice that much to their employees. These are sectors of the economy where businesses pay very well and employ highly technically skilled workers. Experience in software development, semiconductor manufacturing, financial management or utility maintenance can lead to a lucrative career in Oregon.

High wages are not the only thing these firms have to offer. All of these industries have enjoyed job growth in Oregon over the last several years, though the utilities, high-tech manufacturing and financial industries have grown relatively slowly. Meanwhile, the software and management of companies sectors have experienced rapid job growth.

Whether its high tech, high finance or high power electrical transformers, these are the industries in Oregon that offer the highest wages.

Software and Computer Systems Design

Two related industries have enjoyed the fastest job growth among high wage sectors: software and computer systems design. The 30,000 workers in these industries earned an average wage of $118,000 in 2019. 

The bulk of the employment here is in occupations with high annual wages: software developers ($104,260), database administrators ($93,810), and computer programmers ($80,760). Some of the higher-wage occupations include computer network architects ($112,110) and information research scientists ($134,510).

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this sector is its rapid employment growth. From 2010 to 2019, employment grew by an impressive 55 percent in Oregon. It’s also worth noting that more than 60 percent of employment here is in just two Portland area counties, Multnomah and Washington.

Utilities

There are 9,100 workers employed at the more than 400 utilities in Oregon. In 2019, these workers earned an average wage of $97,000. Most of these utilities are small and publicly owned. Some of the larger utilities in Oregon include Portland General Electric, Northwest Natural Gas, and the Bonneville Power Administration.

About half of all employment in Oregon utilities is in private-sector firms with the rest in federal and local government. The private side of the utility sector is growing relatively slowly in Oregon with just 200 new jobs in the last nine years, a job growth rate that is much slower than the overall Oregon economy. 

Maintaining utility infrastructure requires highly technical skills. Some of the most common occupations in utilities paying high annual wages to folks with the appropriate skills are electrical power-line installers and repairers ($95,430); power plant operators ($84,640); electrical engineers ($90,510); and electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay ($94,790).

Semiconductor and Electronic Components

Oregon is home to the famous “Silicon Forest”. Here, 30,000 workers earn an average wage of $137,000 a year working at semiconductor and electronic component manufacturers. The majority of the employment in Oregon is in Washington County.

More than a hundred high-tech manufacturers operate in this sector. These companies include some world-famous brands: Intel, Tektronix, Oracle, HP, and FLIR along with many others. Employment in this large industry grew 18 percent between 2010 and 2019.

The high-tech manufacturing industry employs a range of workers who design, engineer and produce cutting edge products that apply the latest scientific discoveries. Some of the most common occupations in the semiconductor and electronic components manufacturing industry include electrical and electronic equipment assemblers ($36,380), semiconductor processors ($40,580), electronics engineers ($96,120), and software developers ($104,260).

Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers

Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers are firms that arrange for the sale of goods owned by others, generally on a fee or commission basis. They act on behalf of the buyers and sellers of goods. This includes agents and brokers as well as business to business markets that facilitate wholesale trade. In Oregon, these are mostly small firms, with the large majority having fewer than 10 employees. Several of these firms trade wood products.

This sector employs 7,500 Oregonians earning an average annual wage of $85,400. More than half of those working in Oregon are in the Portland area. Though this industry pays well, Oregon has seen little or no job growth from 2010 to 2019.

The most common occupations in this industry are related to sales and finance: sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products, ($71,760); sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products ($105,440); sales managers ($127,030); and financial specialists ($84,340).

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments

Industries in the securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities group are establishments that are primarily engaged in one of the following: underwriting securities issues or making markets for securities and commodities; acting as brokers between buyers and sellers of securities and commodities; providing securities and commodity exchange services; or providing other services, such as managing portfolios of assets; providing investment advice; and trust, fiduciary, and custody services.

There are over a thousand of these firms in Oregon, employing 5,990 workers. Though a relatively small industry, the average wage in 2019 was an impressive $137,000 a year. Job growth has been moderately strong in the past few years, growing by 28 percent from 2010 to 2019. Some of the best known firms in Oregon in this sector are major financial firms with branches in Oregon: Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, and Wachovia. There are also some local investment firms and public pension management companies included.

Managing lots of money, not surprisingly, pays pretty well. Common occupations include managing and securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents ($72,520); personal financial advisors ($113,830); financial analysts ($89,840); and brokerage clerks ($51,160).

Management of Companies

The management of companies sector comprises: establishments that hold the securities of companies and enterprises for the purpose of owning a controlling interest or influencing management decisions; or establishments that administer, oversee, and manage establishments of the company or enterprise and that normally undertake the strategic or organizational planning and decision making role of the company or enterprise. Establishments in this sector perform essential activities that are often undertaken, in-house, by establishments in many sectors of the economy. By consolidating the performance of these activities of the enterprise at one establishment, economies of scale are achieved.

The sector includes some of the most famous companies in Oregon. These are firms that require highly skilled talent to manage corporate operations. Some of these companies have a national or even international brand that is based in Oregon including: Nike, Daimler Trucks, Columbia Sportswear, Kroger, Stash Tea, Dutch Brothers, and McMenamins. This is a large and fast growing industry. More than 47,000 people worked in this sector in Oregon, which grew by an impressive 35 percent in the past seven years.

This industry employs lots of folks with the technical skills necessary to manage a company, occupations relating to finance, logistics and software. Occupations such as: accountants and auditors ($73,180); bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks ($43,240); financial managers ($122,380); and computer systems analysts ($94,690).


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