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Healthcare, technology jobs at top for pay, opportunities

Oh, those poor CEOs. They are constantly under fire for their exorbitant salaries. Well, maybe in the other 49 states, but not in Mississippi. In fact, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, CEO salaries as of May 2006 barely cracked the top 10.

However, one should not feel too bad for the “big boss.” After all, the average salary for CEOs in 2006 was $111,580, placing them ninth on the list of Mississippi’s highest-paying occupations — 10th if you add in surgeons, whose salary data was not available but almost certainly was higher than CEO pay.

Why “certainly?” Because healthcare providers and medical-related professions easily top the highest-paid list. Of the 12 occupations in Mississippi that paid six-digit annual salaries in May 2006, nine are healthcare or related providers, and that does not include surgeons.

Good medicine

The top-paying position in Mississippi in May 2006 was obstetricians and gynecologists, and by a hefty margin, too. Ob/gyn providers brought home $186,150 annually, and only internists, general ($179,140), family and general practitioners ($169,240) and pediatricians, general ($164,150) were close. Psychiatrists ($137,100), anesthesiologists ($136,910 ), dentists, general ($131,240) and physicians and surgeons, all others ($115,150) round out the top eight.

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners ($108,120), optometrists ($98,790), podiatrists ($94,980), dentists, all other specialties ($94,980) and pharmacists are also near the top.

After healthcare and CEOs, engineering positions are well represented. The highest paid are nuclear engineers at $104,610, followed immediately by mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers at $101,420. Engineering managers pulled down $96,650 annually, while engineers, all others made $80,560, aerospace engineers made $77,430 and marine engineers and naval architects made $75,880. Chemical engineers had to “settle” for $73,190.

If CEOs are often criticized for their high-end salaries, lawyers are not far behind. Yet, they, too, are surprisingly down the list. Attorneys averaged $82,000 annually in 2006, ranking them 23rd. By comparison, securities, commodities and financial services sales agents made $88,740, placing them 20th on the list.

Scientists are the other group that make a strong showing, led by physicists ($97,570, 14th on the list). Geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers ($78,790), physical scientists, all others ($78,340) and hydrologists ($76,860) all easily make the top 30.

A few professions have to rank as something of a surprise. Natural sciences managers made $88,550, ranking them 19th. Airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers made $81,900, almost $6,000 per year more than aerospace engineers. Postsecondary education administrators made $78,760 and air-traffic controllers brought down $75,450.

Are you hiring?

Of course, all these salaries are meaningless if one cannot find the work. When looking at the fastest-growing occupations in terms of the number of positions that are expected to be added from 2004 through 2014, healthcare-related fields do well again, but take a back seat to computers.

Of all the general categories on the MDES list, computer and mathematical occupations is the most impressive in new jobs openings over the 10-year period at 30.7%. By comparison, healthcare practitioners and technical occupations are expected to grow at 24.8%.

Under computers/mathematical, the group with the highest expected job growth is computer software engineers, applications at 55%, followed by computer software engineers, systems software (47.6%) and network systems and data communications analyst (45.5%). Network and computer systems administrators (39%), database administrators (35.7%), computer specialists (31.3%) and computer support specialists (30.1%) also are strong. (Computer hardware engineers fall under the category of engineers and architects, and those jobs are expected to grow at a 40% clip.)

Not any of the high-earning healthcare positions listed earlier make the list of fastest-growing occupations, but their “helpers” dominate the list. As example, home health aide positions are projected to grow at an amazing 56.5%. Other high-ranking positions include physician assistants (42.9%), occupational therapist assistants (40%), medical assistants (39%), physical therapist assistants (35.4%) and pharmacy technicians (33.5%).

As with the salary list, the fastest-growing occupation ranking contains a few surprises. Entertainment attendants and related workers, all others is expected to grow at a rate of 35%. And there is projected to be a need for 32% more railroad conductors and yardmasters over the 10-year period.

The old saying about statistics comes into play in this ranking. Some professions have eye-popping projected growth rates — that is until one reads the fine print. For example, air cargo handling supervisor positions are projected to grow by 100%. There were 10 in Mississippi in 2004, and 20 are expected to be needed in 2014. That’s adding one job annually over the decade.

And there is gaming service workers, all others. That position is also projected to grow by 100% — from zero in 2004 to 10 in 2014.

There are, unfortunately, many occupations that are projected to drop over the 10-year period, most of them due to “competition” from technology/automation. As example, the number of farmers and ranchers are expected to fall 12.3%. Other positions with falling numbers include meter readers, utilities (-43.9%), railroad brake/signal/switch operators (-37.5%), credit authorizers/checkers/clerks (-34.8%), mail clerks and mail machine operators, except Postal Service (-33.8%), file clerks (-32.9%), telephone operators (-27.8%) and order clerks (-19.4%).

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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