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Unusual Jobs That Are Abundant in the 30 Largest Metro Areas


Many cities have a reputation for being filled with a particular type of professional.  Picturing New York City, for instance, some people may conjure up an image of Wall Street with its highly paid financiers. San Francisco, on the other hand, is known for its programmers. Washington, D.C. is the city of political scientists, of course, while in Los Angeles, you can’t walk down a city block without running into an actor. At least, those are our common assumptions. These matters may be fun to ponder, but they’re not as trivial as they might seem. For people looking to make a move or a career switch, it’s imperative, for the health of their savings accounts, that they know what jobs really are most common in their new city.

Below, we look at data on the 30 largest metro areas to find which occupation is disproportionately represented in a particular place relative to its prevalence in other locations nationwide. Specifically, we looked at a metric called location quotient. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together to create our list.

Key Findings

  • Creatives in large metro areas – The high rates of creative or creative-adjacent occupations in the largest metro areas stood out. More than 10% of the metro areas in this analysis had their highest location quotient in a creative or creative-adjacent occupation.
  • Some results are more surprising than others – You may have been able to predict that New York has lots of fashion designers compared to other locations around the country. Likewise, Boston is predictably loaded with biochemists, and Houston is dominated by the oil industry. But did you know about the thriving musical instrument repair business in Pittsburgh or about the large number of shampooers in Baltimore?
unusual jobs that are abundant

Fashion Designers – New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ

New York leads the way with 6,500 fashion designers, out of a total of 19,000 across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On average they earn nearly $90,000 per year in New York. While fashion designer is New York’s highest location quotient occupation, the metro area with the highest location quotient for fashion designers is actually Los Angeles. Fashion designers are 7.31 times more common in New York compared the national average but 7.37 times more common in Los Angeles. In fact, the third most popular place for fashion designers is also near LA in Anaheim.

Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance – Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA

If you want to start a career as a makeup artist, there is no better place to be than Los Angeles. In fact, there is almost nowhere else to be. Of the 3,540 or so makeup artists in the country, 1,750 of them are in LA. New York is the city with the second-highest rate of makeup artists relative to the national average. The main takeaway from the first two blurbs is if you want to work with these types of creatives, LA and NYC are the places to be.

Airline Pilots, Copilots and Flight Engineers – Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

Atlanta‘s Hartfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest in the world, so the city attracts a lot of pilots, copilots and flight engineers. In total, Atlanta has 6,720 pilots, copilots or flight engineers, or 2.57 per 1,000 jobs. On a national level, people working in this occupation earn more $161,000 per year.

Semiconductor Processors – Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ, Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

Across the largest metro areas in the country, the processing of semiconductors is a relatively popular job. In fact, it is the most common job relative to the national average in three different metro areas: Dallas, Phoenix and Portland. On average, semiconductor processors don’t earn a large sum. On a national level, semiconductor processors earn just under $39,000 per year.

Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers – Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

The Denver metro area is dominated by its mountains. Not only do people here love hiking and exploring them but many of the metro area’s jobs are based around the mountains. For example, across the country, only 6,150 people are employed as mining and geological engineers. Denver has the most at 410, giving those in this occupation a location quotient of 6.62. That means the rate of mining and geological engineers relative to total employment is 6.62 times higher in Denver than the national average. The occupation with the second-highest location in Denver is cartographer.

Shampooers – Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

If you’re looking for a good hair-washing, Charm City is the place to be. More than 13,000 people work shampooing and rinsing customers’ hair, according to BLS data. In Baltimore, the rate of shampooers is more than five times higher than the national rate. Unfortunately, this job does not pay much, and Baltimore shampooers make less than the national average.

Private Detectives and Investigators – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Are residents in Tampa less trusting of their neighbors than the average American? Data from the BLS suggests that is a plausible theory, or they are simply more likely to pay for a private investigator when they have questions they want to be answered. In fact, no metro area comes close to Tampa in its concentration of private detectives. BLS data shows that there are more than 1,700 private detectives in Tampa, or 1.34 per 1,000 jobs.

Concierges – Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

Concierges play an important role in the hospitality industry. And if you know anything about Disney World, you will know the hospitality industry plays an outsized role in its success. So it is not much of a surprise that concierges feature prominently in Orlando. Only one other metro area, Kahului, Hawaii, has a higher location quotient of concierges.

Textile Winding, Twisting and Drawing Out Machine Setters, Operators and Tenders – Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

Much of the American textile industry was shipped overseas in the late-20th and early-21st centuries. But it is still going fairly strong in North Carolina, specifically in Charlotte. There are more than 1,600 people in Charlotte employed in this profession, or 1.38 per 1,000. If you head south to Dalton, Georgia you will find 84 people employed in this profession per thousand jobs, or a rate 388 times the national rate.

Captains, Mates and Pilots of Water Vessels – Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL

Water vessel pilot or captain is the occupation with the highest location quotient in Miami. Depending on your knowledge of water vessels, you may be surprised to hear there are nearly 36,000 people employed in this profession nationwide. Miami has just short of 4,000 of them, the most of any location in the country. That gives captains, mates and pilots of water vessels a location quotient of 3.46 in Miami.

Multimedia Artists and Animators – San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA

Picture this: It is not software developers with the largest location quotient in San Francisco. It’s actually animators. There are about 1.38 animators here per 1,000 jobs, a figure 6.6 times the national rate. The average animator here earns just shy of $95,000 per year.

unusual jobs that are abundant

Data and methodology

To complete this study, we looked at data for the largest 30 metro areas in the country measured by jobs. We then found the occupation with the highest location quotient in each of those metro areas. Finding the location quotient shows how prevalent a job is in an area versus the national average. For example, take New York and fashion designers. New York has 0.97 fashion designers for every 1,000 jobs. At the national level, there are 0.13 fashion designers per thousand jobs. That means New York has a location quotient of 7.31 for fashion designers (0.97/0.13=7.31).

Tips for Hitting Your Savings Goals

  • Create a budget – Even if you’re making good money as a shampooer in Baltimore or an animator in San Francisco, without a budget, you can’t make sure you’re limiting your spending and building your savings. Budgets can be fun, too. Once you split your monthly budget into different categories, you can spend on the things you love guilt-free. We recommend the 50/30/20 budget. According to its tenets, you should spend 50% of your income on needs like housing, 30% on entertainment and 20% of saving.
  • Get the best advice – If you want your savings to last and grow all the way until retirement you will need more than just a budget; you will need a long-term strategy. If you are not an expert on managing finances or investing it may make sense to hire a financial advisor. To find the right financial advisor check out SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool. It will match you with up to three local financial advisors who fit your specific needs.

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