Special Report

The Most Iconic Job in Every State

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South Dakota: Soil and plant scientists
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 14.2 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 580
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $60,000 (nationwide: $69,860)
> Share of all US soil and plant scientists in South Dakota: 4.1%

Soil and plant scientists are about 14 times more concentrated in the South Dakota labor force than they are in the national labor force. The unusually high share of people working in the occupation is likely due in large part to South Dakota’s agriculture industry. There are 19 million acres of cropland in the state, and agriculture has a $20.9 billion annual economic impact, accounting for about 20% of South Dakota’s GDP. Corn, soybeans, and hay are the three largest crops in the state by acre of production.

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Tennessee: Musicians and singers
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 2.6 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 2,170
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: N/A
> Share of all US misc. woodworkers in Tennessee: 5.3%

Home to Nashville — also known as Music City — Tennessee’s most iconic jobs are in music.

Musicians and singers are nearly three times more concentrated in Tennessee than they are nationwide.

The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is one of the most famous venues in American music, and has counted the likes Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Paycheck, and Willie Nelson among its members. And for every music legend associated with Nashville, there are hundreds of aspiring artists as well as lesser known session musicians, backup singers, and bar and nightclub performers across Tennessee.

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Texas: Petroleum engineers
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 6.8 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 18,720
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $172,890 (nationwide: $156,780)
> Share of all US petroleum engineers in Texas: 57.4%

There are over 32,600 petroleum engineers in the United States working to develop oil and gas extraction methods — and 57.4% of them work in Texas. Demand for petroleum engineers is driven by the state’s resource wealth. Over 40% of all proved crude oil reserves in the United States are located in Texas, and the state accounts for over 40% of crude oil production in the United States.

Energy giants ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, and Halliburton are all headquartered in the Lone Star State.

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Utah: Continuous mining machine operators
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 9.3 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 1,400
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $61,100 (nationwide: $56,530)
> Share of all US continuous mining machine operators in Utah: 9.6%

Continuous mining machine operation is the most iconic job in Utah. The job entails controlling self-propelled machines that extract minerals and precious metals from the earth. Continuous mining machine operators are over nine times more concentrated in Utah than they are nationwide.

There are about 25,500 active mining claims in Utah. In addition to gold, silver, copper, and lead mines, the state is also home to the only operating uranium mine in the United States.

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Vermont: Fallers
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 4.9 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 50
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $39,450 (nationwide: $49,670)
> Share of all US fallers in Vermont: 1.0%

In Vermont, about 80% of landmass is forested — and fallers, or those who fell trees using axes or saws, are the most iconic workers in the state. Vermont is one of the least populated states in the country, and though there are only about 50 people working as fallers in the state, the occupation is still about five times more concentrated in Vermont than it is nationwide.

The forest products industry in Vermont, which includes fallers, generates about $1.5 billion in economic output annually, supporting other industries including construction, specialty woodworking, and wood heating.