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Best Jobs in Virginia 2013

By Kyle Kensing

Engineering and technical careers will offer the most rewarding job opportunities in Virginia in 2013, according to state and national labor data.

Virginia enjoys job market growth that's well ahead of the national curve. It ended the year with a 5.4% unemployment rate, which is more than 2% ahead of the nation’s average. That rate is expected to improve another 1.66% every year until 2020, according to the Virginia Labor Market Information (LMI), an online service of the Virginia Workforce Connection (VWC).

Virginia’s labor force also enjoys some of the better wages around the country, particularly in professional fields. Some ranked in’s top 7 jobs of 2013 even exceed six digits.

A 3.2% annual growth in Virginia’s professional, scientific and technical services industry could account for more than 100,000 new jobs in the coming years, the VWC reports.

Buoying the state’s job market is its high percentage of employees in tech fields associated with its maritime industry. Virginia is the second most active state employing marine engineers and naval architects, trailing only Texas. The Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads metropolitan area is one of the Eastern Seaboard’s most active coastal hubs.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. is Virginia’s fourth largest employer overall, and second most active in the private sector. HII’s Newport News location is an international headquarters for ship building, and a potential destination for marine engineers and naval architects in the commonwealth. The U.S. States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports those pursuing a career in this field should seek accreditation from ABET (formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

The commonwealth’s sizable military presence, including the world’s largest naval base at Norfolk, impacts Virginia’s job market as well. In fact, the VWC reports the U.S. Dept. of Defense is the state's largest single employer, while the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Defense ranks at No. 12.

A wide variety of careers are offered through these outlets, many relating to informational technology. Government jobs in northern Virginia near the nation’s capital supply many of these positions, and some are among the highest paid in the commonwealth.

Software engineers account for nearly 0.9% of the state’s entire labor force, the BLS estimates. Opportunities in the field are abundant around Virginia, and pay is competitive – at a median of $111,480 per year, only California pays software engineers more on average. In addition, computer and information systems managers in Virginia earn an annual mean salary nearly $25,000 above the national median.

Another of the premier positions in the commonwealth, both for growth and salary, is management analyst. Virginia employs more management analysts per capita than any other state other than California. At a BLS estimate of $97,020, management analysts in Virginia also make more than the five highest employment states for the profession, except New York.

As with other regions around the country, healthcare in Virginia is a proven outlet for job seekers. VWC estimates a 35.4% increase in health industry employment by 2020. Demand for registered nurses especially is expected to swell in the coming years, per BLS estimates.

Using state and federal statistical data and the Jobs Rated rankings, here are the best jobs in Virginia for 2013:

  • Marine Engineer and Naval Architect

    BLS National Salary Median: $79,920
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $92,690

    Virginia is one of the highest employing states for this career field in the country. Its maritime traffic is among the heaviest on the continent, particularly along the Atlantic coast.

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  • Management Analyst

    BLS National Salary Median: $78,160
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $97,020

    Management analysts provide consultation and advisement to businesses on efficiency practices. The inherent value of this job is reflected in BLS growth projections – a 22% employment increase around the country is expected -- outpacing the national growth average.

    Management analysts in Virginia are among the most handsomely paid in the nation. The commonwealth’s mean salary exceeds the national median by almost $20,000 a year.

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  • Software Engineeer

    BLS National Salary Median: $90,530
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $111,480

    Virginia is among the highest employment states for software engineers. The field is approaching a full percentage of the state’s entire work force, but the abundance of software engineers does not negatively impact salaries, which are among the very best in the nation.

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  • Registered Nurse

    BLS National Salary Median: $64,690
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $65,710

    The need for registered nurses in Virginia outpaces availability. As the commonwealth grows, hospitals will need more staffing. This is a trend reflected throughout the nation, with estimates that the field will expand by 26% in the next seven years.

    With Virginia’s population expected to grow by 800,000 per VWC estimates, the area’s demand will only continue to rise.

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  • Accountant/Auditor

    BLS National Salary Median: $61,690
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $74,340

    Accountants and auditors have some of the best state employment numbers in Virginia. The field accounts for over 0.9% of the commonwealth’s overall workforce. Wages rank among the nation’s most competitive here, registering just behind neighboring Maryland for a spot in the top five.

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  • Computer and Information Systems Manager

    BLS National Salary Median: $115,780
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $140,980

    In Northern Virginia, industry is often closely tied to federal activity in Washington, D.C. Whether government-operated or private sector, the need for state-of-the-art computing security in this region is of the utmost importance.

    Computer and information systems managers in Virginia often face tasks of added security significance, thus are offered considerable compensation.

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  • Administrative Services Manager

    BLS National Salary Median: $77,890
    Virginia Annual Mean Salary: $89,910

    Implementation of strategic guidelines for a company rests with the administrative services manager. This jack-of-all trades career requires acumen in customer service, technology and marketing.

    Virginia employs administrative services managers at a moderate level compared to other regions around the country, but has some of the most competitive average salaries in the field.

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