Special Report

The Most Iconic Job in Every State

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Virginia: Marine engineers and naval architects
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 8.4 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 2,520
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $92,200 (nationwide: $98,730)
> Share of all US marine engineers and naval architects in Virginia: 22.2%

Marine engineers and naval architects are the most iconic job in Virginia. There are about 11,360 Americans working as marine engineers and naval architects, and 22.2% of them are in Virginia.

The occupation’s concentration in the state is largely due to the presence of major defense contractors. Newport News-based Huntington Ingalls Industries, for example, is the largest military shipbuilding company in the United States — it is the only builder of American aircraft carriers and one of only two builders of nuclear submarines.

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Washington: Avionics technicians
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 6.5 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 3,180
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $83,940 (nationwide: $66,970)
> Share of all US avionics technicians in Washington: 14.6%

More than one in every seven avionics technicians in the U.S. work in Washington state. The job generally entails inspecting, installing, and repairing avionics equipment, which can include radar, navigation, radio, and other systems. Boeing, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world, has a nearly 100 acre manufacturing facility in Everett, Washington. The plant employs thousands and produces the company’s 747, 767, 777, and 787 airplanes.

Jobs for avionics technicians are also relatively well paying in Washington. The average annual income for those working in the field is $83,940, nearly $17,000 more than the average annual wage for all avionics technicians nationwide.

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West Virginia: Mining loading and moving machine operators
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 68.2 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 1,370
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $55,970 (nationwide: $53,730)
> Share of all US mining loading and moving machine operators in West Virginia: 32.6%

Mining loading and moving machine operators are 68 times more concentrated in Virginia than they are across the country as a whole. Such workers are integral to the state’s mining industry — an economic pillar in the state.

Large-scale coal mining operations began in West Virginia in the mid-1800s, and since then, coal mining has been a central part of the state’s economy and identity. There are coal deposits in 53 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. Coal from the more than 160 active mines in the state fuel power plants in about 20 states, and some of it is even shipped abroad.

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Wisconsin: Animal breeders
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 8.3 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 260
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $42,260 (nationwide: $46,420)
> Share of all US animal breeders in Wisconsin: 16.1%

Wisconsin has one of the highest concentrations of animal breeders of any state, and 16.1% of all animal breeders in America work in the state. These workers analyze the characteristics of animals to decide which ones will produce the best offspring. In Wisconsin, these considerations are often made in the context of agricultural output.

Wisconsin, known as “America’s Dairyland,” is home to nearly 1.3 million cows across 7,000 farms. Dairy production alone contributes $45.6 billion to the state economy annually. Wisconsin also ranks first in the nation for dairy goats and mink pelts.

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Wyoming: Oil and gas service unit operators
> Occupation’s concentration in the state: 20.2 times greater than avg.
> Statewide employment in the occupation: 1,950
> Avg. annual wage for occupation: $53,840 (nationwide: $51,390)
> Share of all US oil and gas service unit operators in Wyoming: 3.8%

Wyoming is one of the top oil-producing states in the country, so many of the most common professions in the state are in the energy industry — including oil and gas services unit operation, the state’s most iconic job. The state is home to nearly 2,000 oil and gas service unit operators, who control and service machinery used for extracting oil and gas from underground reserves. These workers are 20 times more concentrated in the state’s labor force than they are in the national labor force.

Oil and gas service unit operators tend to have slightly higher incomes in Wyoming than they do on average nationwide. The average annual wage in the occupation is $53,840 in Wyoming, compared to $51,390 across the U.S. as a whole.