Idaho paid top median wages for 11 occupations in 2022

Idaho may not have the highest overall wage rates in the nation, but 11 of the Gem State’s in-demand occupations command premium pay levels above those of all other states. High wages compared with other states, however, indicates these occupations in Idaho are in demand and employers are having to raise wages to attract the level and skills of workforce they require.

Occupations offering the first or second highest median wages for all states

Of the over 600 occupations in Idaho where wage data is publicly available, Idaho pays the first- or second-highest annual median wages by state for 11 specialized job titles. Idaho is ranked No. 1 in median wages for airline pilots, motor vehicle electronic equipment installers, and forest and conservation workers.

Idaho’s median wages are second highest in the nation for physicists, mining and geological engineers, electrical and electronics drafters, mining machine operators, hearing aid specialists, mail sorters, and logging equipment operators and log graders/scalers. All these occupations pay wages higher than the average U.S. median.

Table: 11 occupations with highest annual wages in IdahoThis group accounts for about 2% of total occupations in Idaho and less than 1% of total statewide occupational employment as of May 2022. Annual earnings for these select occupations vary within a wide range of $51,000 for forest/conservation workers to over $200,000 for airline pilots/copilots/flight engineers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational and Employment Wage Statistics for May 2022 (OEWS), the annual median wages of all occupations in Idaho ranks 41st nationally at just over $40,000, which is 14% lower than the U.S. annual median wage of $46,000. Approximately 24% of Idaho’s occupations in 2022 paid median wages above the U.S. national average, and 84% of those occupations paid higher than Idaho’s median wages for all occupations.

Where these occupations are concentrated throughout Idaho varies as widely as the occupations themselves.

Airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers

The majority of Idaho’s airline pilots are based in the Boise metropolitan statistical area (MSA). According to the 2022 airport flight statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Boise accounted for 76% of Idaho’s 31,000 annual passenger flights and 82% of its 2.7 million airline passengers.[1] Despite offering the nation’s highest wages, Idaho still has a lower concentration of airline pilots compared with total employment than the national average.

Job postings snapshot: The number of job postings (left axis) for pilots in 2022 was significantly higher than from 2017-2021 The number of hires per posting, however, (right axis) has decreased considerably from averaging six monthly hires per posting in 2017 to a time series low of fewer than three monthly hires per posting in 2022.

Graph: Airline pilot job posts and hires 2017-2022Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Forestry occupations: forest and conservation workers, logging equipment operators, and log graders and scalers

The highest majority of Idaho’s forest and conservation workers, logging equipment operators, and log graders and scalers are located in nonmetropolitan areas of northern and north central Idaho. Although farming, fishing and forestry occupations make up only 1% to 2% of total employment in this rural region, the concentration of workers is four to five times higher than the national average. For specific forestry related occupations in northwestern Idaho’s nonmetropolitan areas, forest and conservation workers have an employment concentration 30 times the national average.  Fallers number over 100 times the national average and have the highest location quotient amongst all the nation’s nonmetropolitan areas. The concentration of logging equipment operators is 10-15 times greater than the national average, and log graders/scalers show a concentration of more than 40 times. Over the past 18 months, Dec 2021 – May 2023, Idaho averaged 222 monthly farming, fishing and forestry job postings and 2,100 monthly hires, or nine hires for every unique job posting.

 Job postings snapshot: The number of job postings (left axis) in 2021-2022 for each of these forestry occupations were at elevated levels compared with 2018-2020. The number of monthly hires per posting (right axis) has been on a downward trend, with steep declines and often for multiple years.

Graph: Forest and conservation workers job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022

Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Graph: Logging equipment operators job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022

Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Graph: Log graders and scalers job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022

Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics


Idaho’s physicists are concentrated in the Idaho Falls region but make up a very small group of overall state employment, estimated at fewer than 100 positions statewide. Around 60% of physicists hold a doctoral or professional degree, with the remainder having a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. Using Lightcast job posting data for the past 18 months (Dec 2021 – May 2023), Idaho had a monthly average of six physicist job postings compared with only three monthly hires — one hire for every two unique postings. Potentially, this means Idaho only located suitable, qualified candidates for half of the state’s postings for any given month in 2022, and the other half of the state’s postings went unfilled.

Job Postings Snapshot: The number of job postings (left axis) for physicists has remained relatively constant for the past few years, but Idaho consistently has more average job postings than monthly hires. In four of the past six years, from 2017-2022, Idaho’s average monthly job postings have exceeded monthly hires for this occupation as the ratio of hires per posting was below 1.0. From 2019-2020 was the only time period in the series where monthly hires matched (2019) or exceeded (2020) job postings.

Graph: Physicists job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022

Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Hearing aid specialists

Hearing aid specialists are most likely to be found near the Idaho Falls, Boise and Coeur d’Alene MSAs.  Educational attainment for this occupation often includes a vocational school certificate, on-the-job experience, apprenticeship or an associate degree. Hearing aid specialists administer hearing tests and help customers select the proper hearing equipment and ensure a proper fit. Some hearing instrument specialists may continue on a career path as audiologists, which requires a doctoral degree. Idaho requires all hearing aid dealer and fitters to be licensed with the state in accordance with statute 54-2905. This occupation has a bright outlook for growth as an aging population results in additional demand for hearing health care services. Currently, there is not a hearing instrument specialist college program within Idaho, although programs are offered in Washington.

Job Postings Snapshot: The number of job postings (left axis) for hearing aid specialists has been slightly elevated from 2020-2022, but postings have dropped from a monthly average of four hires per posting in 2019 to fewer than one in 2021-2022.

Graph: Hearing aid specialists job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022

  Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics


Mining occupations: mining/geological engineers and continuous mining machine operators

Mining occupations have recently been in demand in southwestern and eastern Idaho. Educational attainment for mining and geological engineers often includes a minimum of a bachelor’s degree while continuous mining machine operators typically require a high school education and on-the-job training. Mining and geological engineers conduct surveys to assess potential mining sites. Continuous mining machine operators, however, are in demand where mines currently exist, and they use specialized equipment to load ore, rock and sand onto conveyors.

Job Postings Snapshot: The number of job postings (left axis) for mining and geological engineers increased sharply in 2022 to 39 postings, more than double the 14 postings in 2021 and more than the combined postings for the three-year period of 2017-2019. At the same time, average monthly hires decreased from three in 2017-2018 to only one in 2021-2022. Similarly, postings for continuous mining machine operators have increased in the past three years, while average monthly hires have not risen as fast. Demand by employers in these two mining occupations has increased significantly in a short time period while hiring in general has lagged.

Graph: Mining and geological engineers and conservation workers job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022

  Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Graph: Continuous mining machine operators job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022  Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Electrical and electronics drafters

The majority of electrical and electronics drafters are located in the Boise MSA with some additional recent demand centered around Coeur d’Alene. Educational attainment is often achieved at an associate or bachelor’s degree completion level with local programs available at multiple postsecondary institutions in Idaho. Drafters focus on creating wiring and/or circuit board assembly diagrams and layout drawings for installation and upkeep of electrical equipment.

Job Postings Snapshot: The number of job postings (left axis) for electrical drafters increased sharply in 2022 to over 160 postings, compared with the range of 50 to 80 postings per year from 2018-2021. From 2017-2022, average monthly postings exceeded monthly hirings by a ratio of at least three to one. In 2022, monthly average postings rose to 35 — more than 20 times the average monthly hires of just two. In 2017, approximately 0.2 hires were made for every job posting and that ratio declined even further to less than 0.1 hire per job posting in 2022. This demonstrates the disparity between supply and demand for these workers. Despite offering one of the top median wages of all states for this occupation, Idaho continues to have a shortage of electrical and electronics drafters.

Graph: Electrical and electronics drafters job postings and hires in Idaho, 2017-2022  Source: Lightcast Job Postings Analytics

Why does median wage comparison matter?

Higher wages in a region are often correlated with employer demand for a particular skill set. Employers do not raise wages to be charitable but use it as a tool to attract and retain the workforce they need. If there are a surplus of employees in a region for a particular occupation, wages in that occupation will likely be stagnant or even decline as employers are able to attract talent at lower rates. However, when an adequate supply of labor is unavailable to meet local employer demand, the employer will resort to lifting wages to attract employees.

Despite Idaho median wages above the national median in these occupations, regional employers demand remains, and a larger or more skilled workforce is desired than is currently being supplied locally.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics assigns codes – standard occupational classification (SOC) codes – to all occupations. Each occupation in Idaho is placed within one of 22 major groups. The following table lists the broader occupational groups and provides wage information about occupations within those groups. Forty percent or more of occupations in Idaho that pay above the U.S. average median wage fall in these four groups:

  • Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
  • Farming, Fishing and Forestry Occupations
  • Architecture and Engineering Occupations
  • Installation, Maintenance and Repair Occupations

Table: Occupational groups in Idaho - wage data

* Standard Occupational Classification

 For more information about wages in Idaho, view the Idaho Occupational and Wage Survey 2023 report or find the wage dashboard at

[1] Data Elements (, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 799-5000, ext. 3849

This project is 100% funded by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of an Employment and Training Administration award totaling $695,785.