Yes, Idaho. You may ask yourself, "How can this be? Don't potatoes grow themselves?" Well I'm not going to answer that question, you and I both know that potatoes come from the grocery store.
The annual mean wage of an Idahoan chemical engineer was $102,620 in the May 2008
- This is a 15% premium over the national average of $88,760
- The runner up to Idaho was Washington D.C. with $101,550 followed by California with $99,200.
- Nebraskan chemical engineers were among the hardest working in the U.S., making an annual mean wage of $67,060
We can attribute much of the wage discrepancy to factors that are specific to each state, such as the cost of living. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research (and with help from a CNN website salary comparison tool), a $51,254 salary in Omaha, Nebraska has approximately the same buying power as a $100,000 salary in San Francisco, California. Other reasons for wage discrepancies include differences in the types of industry found in each state. For example, Boise, Idaho has become a center for semiconductor manufacturing and other high tech products, whereas other states have industries that have had less success in the recent past (such as the auto industry in Michigan).
How you define a chemical engineer can have an effect on the data as well. Here's how the Department of Labor defines Chemical Engineer:
Design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, and pulp, by applying principles and technology of chemistry, physics, and engineering.
As you can see this definition will include those chemical engineers working in oil refineries (but not the lucrative upstream oil sector), which explains the high average salaries for Louisiana ($96,380) and Texas ($95,350) despite relatively low cost of living.
Another interesting piece of data I stumbled upon was that the total number of chemical engineers in the U.S. was only 31,020 in 2008. If you find this estimate to be surprisingly low, that makes at least two of us. This number likely excludes those ChEs who decided to work elsewhere besides refineries and chemical manufacturing plants. The states with the most chemical engineers were Texas, Ohio, and California with 5,250, 2,030, and 1,620 engineers respectively. The highest paid ChEs not only enjoy a high standard of living, but quite a bit of elbow as well (120 ChEs in the entire state of Idaho).
All statistics were collected from the U.S. Government Department of Labor website. If you would like to find more statistics about employment, commodities, or practically anything else be sure to visit the DOL website or Fedstats.gov for more information.