Special Report

America's Highest Paying Companies

ThinkstockPhotos-99838970The median income for all Americans was $35,540 in 2013, up slightly from the year before. At a number of U.S. companies, salaries are considerably higher. Based on figures provided by Glassdoor, 24/7 Wall St. examined the 15 highest paying companies in America. At these companies, the median annual compensation is at least four times the nationwide median income.

The companies that pay their employees the most fall primarily into two industries: consulting firms and tech companies. These companies attract some of the nation’s most highly-skilled workers, who demand high salaries to match their expected performance.

Click here to see the highest paying companies in America.

According to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, both types of high-paying companies require very high-skilled workers. However, these workers are highly paid for very different reasons.

Six of the highest paying companies are consulting firms, law firms, accounting firms, or some combination of the three. Chamberlain explained there are barriers to competition in these kinds of companies. It is very difficult to uproot very old firms with relationships cultivated over long periods of time by very experienced employees.

“When you are a consulting firm you don’t have much in the way of machines and other capital,” Chamberlain said. Instead, “you have a little bit of software, you have an office space, but your main asset is the human capital in the heads of your partners.” The value of these types of companies is disproportionately in their employees, and they are highly paid as a result.

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The other nine companies are in the information technology sector, particularly semiconductor manufacturing and its related services. These companies also require very high-skilled workers. However, the shortage of labor in these sectors is the primary reason these companies pay so well. “There is definitely a bidding war in the Bay Area for certain types of positions,” Chamberlain said. While this trend is industry-wide, all of the nine highest paying tech sector companies were located in California.

For instance, the growth in new technologies such as mobile devices has been so rapid it has been impossible for the labor market to keep up. Chamberlain suggested the shortage has been further compounded by restrictive immigration policies like the hard cap on H1B visas, which allow U.S. companies to bring specialty workers from overseas. These polices have put constraints on the supply of workers, further driving up competition.

None of the highest paying companies are in the manufacturing or goods producing industries that would have characterized a similar list several decades ago. The difference, according to Chamberlain, is that many of the jobs provided by the companies currently on this list are very difficult to outsource because they require relatively advanced judgements and non-routine tasks.

While paying high salaries perhaps makes a poor work environment more tolerable, it does not guarantee workplace satisfaction. All but one highest paying company received an overall employee rating greater than 3.2 out of 5, the average company rating from Glassdoor reviewers. CEO approval ratings were also strong in many of these companies, but not universally. More than 80% of reviewers in just six of the highest paying companies approved of their CEO.

To identify the highest paying companies in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median annual salaries in companies provided by Glassdoor. Employee ratings, CEO approval ratings, and the percentage of employees who would recommend the company to a friend also came from Glassdoor. Revenue figures and total headcounts for public companies came from financial filings. When available, company information for private companies was provided by the companies themselves.

These are America’s highest paying companies.

15. TrueCar (NASDAQ: TRUE)
> Median annual compensation: $141,500
> Number of employees: 463
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Santa Monica, CA

TrueCar pays its workers an annual median of $141,500, the 15th highest median income figure compared to other companies reviewed on Glassdoor. The online car data provider had just 463 full-time employees as of the end of last year, a far lower headcount than other high-paying companies. Like other high paying companies, TrueCar operates in the information technology sector, which typically employs highly-educated individuals. A senior software developer, for example, is reported to be paid as much as $166,000 annually. TrueCar went public just last year. It reported revenues of more than $200 million in 2014. However, as payroll is among the company’s larger expenses, the company did not post a profit. Earlier this month, more than 100 car dealerships filed a lawsuit against TrueCar for false advertising, which may present difficulties to the company. Yet, the company’s stock price has been relatively stable since the lawsuit’s announcement.

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14. Synopsys (NASDAQ: SNPS)
> Median annual compensation: $143,000
> Number of employees: 9,436
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Mountain View, CA

Like a majority of high-paying companies, Synopsys is based in California and operates in the high-paying and fast-growing information technology sector. Founded in 1986, it is one of the older companies on this list. One of many chip and Internet companies in the Bay area, Synopsys mainly provides software and services for integrated circuits and electronic systems. When employees are well paid, they often have higher levels of job satisfaction and typically approve of their employers. The median annual salary among Synopsys workers is $143,000, and 94% of workers approve of CEOs Dr. Aart J. de Geus and Dr. Chi-Foon Chan.

13. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)
> Median annual compensation: $143,500
> Number of employees: 53,600
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Mountain View, CA

Google was founded in 1998 and went public in 2004. Today, it is one of the largest companies in the world. The company reported 2014 revenue of more than $66 billion, up nearly 19% from the year before. The company can afford to pay its employees well. The median annual salary of Google employees is $143,500. Google also has among the most users compared to any company. According to the federal government’s Digital Analytics Program, Google Chrome is the most used browser in the world. According to Interbrand, only Apple had a higher brand value than Google in 2014. Google is widely used worldwide as well. More than half of the company’s revenues came from overseas in 2014, also up from 2013.

12. Cadence Design Systems (NASDAQ: CDNS)
> Median annual compensation: $145,000
> Number of employees: 6,100
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: San Jose, CA

Like most of America’s highest-paying companies, Cadence Design Systems is based in California and operates within the tech sector. Specifically, the company helps design and develop tools to build semiconductors. While CEO Lip-Bu Tan had a near-perfect approval rating, only 76% of employees would recommend the company to a friend, one of the lower percentages compared to other high-paying companies. Glassdoor lists a range of jobs at Cadence Design Systems, including technical staff, engineers, consultants, architects, and various management positions. Senior members of the consulting staff and directors were paid the most on average, with some annual salaries exceeding $200,000.

11. VMware (NYSE: VMW)
> Median annual compensation: $145,000
> Number of employees: 18,000
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Palo Alto, CA

VMware is a provider of virtualization infrastructure solutions, offering its clients software and services that improve data management, security, and cloud computing. Across the technology sector, the demand for highly-skilled workers, such as software engineers, is very high, pushing up wages. In addition, as Chamberlain explained in the interview, these workers often require a great deal of time and resource to train. VMware’s employees, and others like them, are thus extremely valuable assets. The median annual salary for people working at VMware is $145,000, high even by tech sector standards. The company posted revenues of more than $6 billion last year, up substantially from 2013, when total revenue was $5.2 billion.

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10. Altera (NASDAQ: ALTR)
> Median annual compensation: $147,200
> Number of employees: 3,091
> Sector: Computer hardware manufacturing
> Headquartered: San Jose, CA

While Altera is a manufacturing company — the only one among high-paying companies — it is very much tied to the technology sector. Based in San Jose, Altera’s more than 3,000 employees produce semiconductor chips for its approximately 13,000 customers. While company workers earn a median annual salary of $147,200, which is among the highest, the high pay has not guaranteed workplace satisfaction. Unlike many other high-paying companies, Altera had a rating of 3.5 on Glassdoor, only slightly higher than the average. In addition, 61% of employees would recommend the company to a friend, and CEO John Daane had an approval rating of just 66%. Both are lower than other high-paying companies. According to The Wall Street Journal, Intel is in talks to buy Altera — its largest purchase yet.

9. Good Technology
> Median annual compensation: $147,500
> Number of employees: N/A
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Sunnyvale, CA

Good Technology reportedly pays its employees median annual salaries of roughly $147,500, ninth highest among companies reviewed. Like many other high-paying companies, Good Technologies is a software company located in California. It specializes in mobile security. However, unlike most of the high-paying technology companies, Good Technology employees do not seem to be especially satisfied despite their relatively high pay. The average employee rating is 3.0, which is both the lowest among the highest paying companies that we reviewed and below the average rating of 3.2 for all companies on Glassdoor. The CEO approval rating of 51% was also the lowest among companies on this list. A review of the qualitative feedback on Glassdoor indicates that the chief complaints by employees are poor work/life balance and a disconnect between upper management and the day-to-day operations of the business.

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8. Mozilla
> Median annual compensation: $147,556
> Number of employees: 1,000+
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Mountain View, CA

Based in Mountain View, California, Mozilla is part of the highly-competitive information technology industry. For example, the company has a history of positioning itself against Google. Last year, Mozilla replaced Google as its default search engine in its Firefox browser. And earlier this month, Google was replaced in all of Mozilla’s service to Turkey. Intense competition also exists in the industry’s job market. Highly-skilled workers are in short supply for the rising numbers of tech jobs, and Mozilla’s high median annual compensation of $147,566 is part of an effort to attract the best people to the company. While salaries are quite high, the overall rating of the company on Glassdoor was just 3.3 versus the average for all companies of 3.2. Also, only 63% of reviewers said they would recommend the company to a friend, one of the lower percentages compared to other high-paying companies. Mozilla is the only company on this list classified as a nonprofit organization.

7. Boston Consulting
> Median annual compensation: $158,463
> Number of employees: 10,500
> Sector: Consulting
> Headquartered: Boston, MA

The Boston Consulting Group is one of several consulting firms among the highest paying companies in America. As Chamberlain explained, rising demand for an industry’s services tends to raise wages in companies operating within that sector. According to the BLS, people pursuing careers as management consultants face steep competition due to the high salaries as well, and employment in the job is projected to grow by 19% between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. At Boston Consulting, a management consultant is paid as much as $150,000 annually. The median for the firm’s more than 10,000 workers is nearly $160,000 annually, according to Glassdoor. Like several other high-paying companies, the high salaries promoted relatively strong employee ratings of the company — a 4.3 versus the average of 3.2 for all companies. In addition, CEO Rich Lesser has a near perfect approval rating.

6. Sidley Austin
> Median annual compensation: $160,000
> Number of employees: 3,359
> Sector: Legal services
> Headquartered: Chicago, IL

Based in Chicago, Sidley Austin was founded in 1866, the oldest founding date compared to other high paying companies. The law firm operates offices in numerous large U.S. cities as well as locations around the world. The company boasts an exceptionally old presence in Asia, with locations running continuously in the area for 30 years. Sidley Austin employs nearly 2,000 lawyers. The average annual salary for an associate attorney is nearly $200,000. The firm pays its counsels the most — an average of $350,000 annually. According to Business Wire, Sidley Austin’s lawyers have a strong reputation for expertise in the energy industry.

5. McKinsey & Company
> Median annual compensation: $160,000
> Number of employees: 19,000
> Sector: Consulting
> Headquartered: New York, NY

McKinsey is widely considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious consulting companies. The median income of employees at the firm is roughly $160,000 per year, fifth highest among all companies reviewed. The company has one of the highest levels of employee satisfaction compared to other high-paying companies, at an average of 4.1. It also has an exceptionally high level of CEO approval rating, with 97% of employees reportedly viewing CEO Dominic Barton favorably.

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4. A.T. Kearney
> Median annual compensation: $160,000
> Number of employees: N/A
> Sector: Consulting
> Headquartered: Chicago, IL

Consulting firms such as A.T. Kearney are generally high-margin businesses where relatively few employees generate relatively high revenues. Only slightly more than 3,500 A.T. Kearney business school students. In addition, as Chamberlain explained, consulting firms’ current employees, with unique and often invaluable relationships formed over years of experience, are usually worth the high salaries. The median annual salary at A.T. Kearney is around $160,000, and the firm pays managers upwards of $255,000 annually, on average. The company’s clients include more than two-thirds of the 500 largest companies in the world by revenue, in addition to numerous government and nonprofit organizations, according to the company’s website.

3. Booz & Company
> Median annual compensation: $162,000
> Number of employees: N/A
> Sector: Consulting
> Headquartered: New York, NY

Consulting firm Strategy&, formerly known as Booz & Company, received a relatively strong overall rating of 3.7 from Glassdoor reviewers versus the average across all companies of 3.2. While this means the relatively high salaries may be paying off, CEO Cesare Mainardi’s approval rating of 60% was low compared to other high-paying companies. In March 2014, Booz & Company and PwC combined to form Strategy&. The company claims to be the oldest strategy consulting firm in the world, as well as the originator of the term “management consultant.”

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2. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX)
> Median annual compensation: $180,000
> Number of employees: 2,189
> Sector: Information technology
> Headquartered: Los Gatos, CA

Netflix reportedly pays employees a median wage of $180,000 a year, making it the second highest paying company among the companies reviewed by Glassdoor. Netflix has experienced massive growth over the past year as it has become one of the leading players in streaming entertainment. Despite the high levels of pay, employee satisfaction is not especially high. With an average employee rating of 3.5, employee satisfaction at Netflix is only the 11th highest on this list.

1. Skadden Arps
> Median annual compensation: $182,000
> Number of employees: N/A
> Sector: Legal services
> Headquartered: New York, NY

With a median annual compensation of $182,000, Skadden Arps is the highest paying company reviewed on Glassdoor. The law firm employs roughly 1,700 lawyers at 23 offices. Skadden Arps attorneys are paid more than $231,000 on average. Not only are the firm’s employees well paid, but they also seem satisfied with the company and its management. The company received an overall rating of 3.9, higher than the average of 3.2 for all companies. In addition, 93% of reviewers indicated they would recommend Skadden Arps to a friend, perhaps unusual for a company with such traditionally high-stress professions. And while just five employees rated CEO Eric Friedman, his approval rating is 100%.

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