Startups

Who makes $200K? Here are the Pittsburgh industries with the most high earners

Pittsburgh is an eds and meds town, but tech is becoming a top contender for high salaries, too.

Downtown Pittsburgh.

(Photo by Flickr user Paul McCarthy, used via a Creative Commons license)

The highest earning industries in Pittsburgh have changed a lot in the last 10 years.

In the past decade, Pittsburgh cemented its transition from an industrial and institution-centered town to one with a diversity of economic drivers across tech, real estate, medicine and more, and the city’s top earners reflect that change.

That’s according to census data compiled by Technical.ly defining the industries producing the most workers who earn at least $200,000 across multiple cities. See the full series here.

While we’ve reported on how the tech industry has influenced these income trends, which is well known for its higher entry-level incomes, the top-earning industries lend insight to how that growth happened, and what might come next.

One important note about this data is that some of the companies that we broadly think of as “tech” have overlap with other industries. For example, a fintech company might be listed under banking, or it might be listed under computer systems design. Same deal for a biotech startup — is it medical or tech? Those are questions we don’t necessarily have the answers to, so it’s best to keep that context in mind.

We collected this data with the help of a data journalist and defined high earners as those making over $200,000 in salary alone annually, which is the threshold required to become an accredited angel investor. (Check out the methodology on GitHub.)

Here are Pittsburgh’s top industries for those earning salaries of $200,000 or more in 2009:

Pittsburgh’s top-earning industries in 2009. (Table by Technical.ly)

Medical hospitals was the highest earning industry that year, thanks in no small part to the multiple healthcare systems set up here like UPMC, Allegheny Health Network and more. Also topping on the list were higher education institutions and legal services — again, no surprise given the number of universities concentrated here and the typically higher salaries of lawyers.

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Note tech, or Computer Systems Design and Related Services, at #10.

Now here’s that same data 10 years later:

Pittsburgh’s top-earning industries in 2019. (Table by Technical.ly)

Industries related to medicine and education remain at the top, but real estate made its way into the top 10, as did oil and gas extraction, likely due to the increased use of fracking in the region over the past decade. The tech industry — that’s Computer Systems Design — moved up in ranking too, becoming the seventh most likely place to find employees earning over $200,000, going from 2.47% in 2009 to 2.73% in 2019. That makes sense, given what we know about the massive growth of the industry and arrival of big tech companies here in recent years.

When we spoke to tech community members on this increase earlier this year, they told us that these higher salaries for tech workers are good news for the city’s economy, but a key to achieving equitable success is making sure that pathways to those high salaries are open to everyone, from bootcamp grads to career changers and more.

But beyond tech, one somewhat puzzling appearance in the top 10 is that of museums, art galleries and historical sites, given that Pittsburgh didn’t gain any major newcomers in that industry since 2009. However, if nonprofits like the Richard King Mellon Foundation are included in this, then that might offer an explanation, given the massive grants it’s given in the past decade, suggesting financial success of the organization (and execs).

Coming in 11th place for 2019 is the pharmaceutical industry, which makes sense given what we’ve seen in the life sciences realm. Maybe the recent IPOs and other company successes will be enough to push it into the top 10 for the next round of data.

Anything surprising to you from this data? Let us know so we can explore if for a future story: pittsburgh@technical.ly.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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