Tennessee’s largest occupations and the salaries they earn

New data reveals the latest occupation and wage data for workers in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has compiled the latest data that reveals the largest occupations in the state and the salaries workers in those fields earn.

The five largest occupational groups with median annual wages greater than $20,000 represent one of every two workers in Tennessee. These groups include healthcare practitioners, production occupations, transportation workers, sales occupations, and employees in the office and administrative support. The May 2018 data from Tennessee’s Occupational Employment and Wages Survey (OES) identified the largest occupations in these industries and their wages, including the lowest and highest, paid, for the state and 14 sub-state areas. This largest wage survey in the state, done in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, included 16,800 employers and achieved a 70% response rate of employers in the sample.


Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations

Healthcare practitioners, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, and technical employees, represent 6.6% of all employees with employment of 195.4 thousand workers. The largest occupations include registered nurses (60,360), licensed practical and vocational nurses (24,410), and pharmacy technicians (10,860). Wages listed below are median annual wages.

  • Healthcare occupations require some of the highest levels of education of all occupations, resulting in some of the highest wages.
  • In May 2018, some of the highest-paid workers included internists ($207,186) and pediatricians ($181,744), while dietetic technicians ($23,871), psychiatric technicians ($25,403), pharmacy technicians ($30,511) and veterinary technologists and technicians ($30,613) were at the lower end of the pay scale in this occupational group.

Production Occupations

Production occupations represent the sixth largest employment grouping with the employment of almost 266 thousand in May of 2018, representing 9.0%of total state employment. The largest production occupation was assemblers and fabricators (54.7 thousand).

  • The largest production occupations included first-line supervisors of operating workers (18,480 employees) and inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers (14,060 employees).
  • Along with nuclear power reactor operators, the highest paying productions occupations were power distributors and dispatchers ($71,959) and chemical equipment operators and tenders ($58,509). 
  • The lowest paying production occupations in Tennessee were sewing machine operators ($23,431) and laundry and dry-cleaning workers ($21,056). 

Transportation and Material Moving occupations

The fourth-largest occupation group in Tennessee with 9.4% of employees and slightly over 277 thousand workers was transportation and material moving jobs.  Laborers and freight, stock and material movers (95,200) and tractor-trailer truck drivers (63,030) were the top two occupations.

The highest-paid occupations in this group consisted of airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers ($91,318) and transportation inspectors, ($80,316).

Sales and Related occupations

The second-largest major employment group in Tennessee (9.7%) accounted for 287.5 thousand workers.  The retail salesperson (88,980) and cashiers (76,290) were the largest occupations in employment.

The highest wages in sales occupations were found to be first-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers ($69,990), real estate brokers ($80,017), and sales engineers ($92,252).

On the other extreme, the occupations with significant employment but with the lowest wages included retail sales-persons ($23,072) and cashiers ($20,029).


Office and Administrative Support occupations

  • The occupational group with the greatest percent of Tennessee employment in 2018 was Office and Administrative Support occupations (15.8%) accounting for almost 469 thousand workers.  Customer service representatives (60,960), office clerks, general (58,950) and stock clerks and order fillers (57,190) are the three largest occupations.
  • The occupations with the highest wages within this group were postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators ($58,773), postal service mail carriers ($51,745), and first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers ($51,098).
  • The occupations with the lowest wages in this group were library assistants ($25,572), stock clerks and order fillers ($24,030), and hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks ($21,089).

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