As with many other categories, your salary and career options can vary dramatically depending on where you are. That is true on a national level as well as a state level; especially if that state is North Dakota. With our “oil boom” in full swing in the western part of the state, I wanted to see just how the numbers compared for Grand Forks versus the oil regions to the west when looking at the same career fields.
The chart below was compiled using the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You will notice that I have compiled numbers for the state as a whole and then broke it down for Grand Forks compared to the far western part of the state. Keep in mind that the information did not allow me to focus on only the oil producing regions in the west. As a general comparison for the two sections, however, I think it gives a great overview.
The first thing that will probably stand out, is that the average weekly salary of Grand Forks County ($734) is slightly less than half of the average weekly salary of Williams County ($1,473), which is the hub of the oil producing region. To put that on yearly salary terms, that is $38,168 for Grand Forks compared to $76,596 for Williams. At a quick glance, that does not seem to coincide with the numbers from the chart below, given that the average salary for the far west is given as $43,110 which is nowhere near the Williams County average above. It must be remembered, however, that there are counties in the far west that are not making near the same as Williams, such as Golden Valley with a weekly average of $637 which calculates to an annual salary of $33124.
According to Job Service, the statewide weekly average for all of North Dakota is $872, which multiplies out to $45,344 for the year. This is higher than the $38,870 from the chart below which is based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A couple of possibilities that may account for this discrepancy are that the Job Service numbers are more recent by a year and the fact that many people will not work a full 52 weeks, which is the multiplier I am using to calculate the annual amounts for the Job Service data. According to Job Service, average weekly wages increased by 6.3 percent over the last year. This is an average annual increase of $2,856.
I would like mention a few interesting observations of the data.
- Of the 22 major career categories used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary in the far west is higher for 11 of them, exactly half. That means Grand Forks actually pays more for many jobs.
- The largest pay differences are for the Architecture & Engineering field, Construction & Extraction and Transportation & Material Moving. Of course, the salary in the west is higher for these positions.
- The largest discrepancy in data between the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Job Service comes in the salaries of jobs related to oil extraction. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the average between $50 – $64,000, depending on the job, whereas Job Service gives the range as $94- $106,000, when multiplied out.
I will end with a few quotes from a recent article written by Larry Oakes for the Star Tribune that I found very interesting.
- “…dormitory style ‘man camps’ that have sprung up across the booming oil patch to help house the influx of an estimated 35,000 workers.”
- It would have been impossible for the region to handle all the workers without temporary cities known as man camps or crew camps. Officials estimate up to 20,000 workers are living in such camps, scattered across 17 counties.”
- “Recruits from Minnesota, Texas and both coasts keep arriving, reversing a long population decline. Schools are rushing to hire more teachers. Towns are adding more cops.”
- “The state’s most recent figures show 16,435 job openings, 48 percent more than a year ago.”
- “North Dakota went from producing 110,000 barrels of oil a day in the fall of 2006 to 444,000 barrels a day today. It is expected to pass California and Alaska to become the second-highest oil producing state, behind Texas.”
- “Experts say the industry could conceivably pump between 4 billion and 24 billion barrels of oil out of the Bakken… They say there appears to be enough oil to support drilling 48,000 more wells in North Dakota during the next 20 years and give the region a large role in allowing America to achieve energy independence.”
- “If drilling continues as projected, western North Dakota will have 45,000 wells within two decades, each with a life expectancy of 30 years or more, supporting 45,000 long-term jobs. That’s in one corner of a state with 647,000 people.”
- “Williston is straining at the seams. The population grew from 12,500 to around 20,000 in the past five years.”
|OCCUPATION CATEGORY||AVERAGE SALARY||PERCENT OF TOTAL JOBS|
|Total||North Dakota: $38,870
Grand Forks: $37,640
Far West: $43,110
|ND: 371,630 total workforce
GF: 37,640 total workforce
FW: 46,670 total workforce
Ex.: Chief Executives, managers for sales, marketing, finance, etc.
|North Dakota: $88,010
Grand Forks: $85,780
Far West: $93,250
|Business & Financial Operations
Purchasing agents, management analysts, accountants, loan officers, etc.
|North Dakota: $55,100
Grand Forks: $57,370
Far West: $53,750
|Computer & Mathematical
Computer programmers, software developers, statisticians, etc.
|North Dakota: $55,030
Grand Forks: $54,550
Far West: $49,510
|Architecture & Engineering
Architects, surveyors, various engineering fields, drafters, etc.
|North Dakota: $68,450
Grand Forks: $54,860
Far West: $111,900
|Life, Physical & Social Science
Various scientists, urban planners, geological and petroleum technicians, etc.
|North Dakota: $53,080
Grand Forks: $53,330
Far West: $52,460
|Community & Social Service
Substance abuse counselors, social workers, school counselors, etc.
|North Dakota: $40,230
Grand Forks: $39,220
Far West: $37,900
Lawyers, judicial law clerks, judges, court reporters, etc.
|North Dakota: $70,220
Grand Forks: $57,730
Far West: $48,360
Police officers, security guards, firefighters, fish and game wardens,
|North Dakota: $38,060
Grand Forks: $43,520
Far West: $36,070
|Education, Training & Library
Teachers, college professors, librarians, farm and home management advisors, etc.
|North Dakota: $42,290
Grand Forks: $49,780
Far West: $38,180
|Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports & Media
Graphic designers, florists, interpreters, photographers, coaches, radio and television announcers, producers, directors, etc.
|North Dakota: $33,570
Grand Forks: $35,150
Far West: $27,500
|Healthcare Practitioners & Technical
Surgeons, physical therapists, chiropractors, dentists, veterinarians, etc.
|North Dakota: $59,630
Grand Forks: $63,810
Far West: $57,300
Home health aides, nursing aides, dental assistants, pharmacy aides, etc.
|North Dakota: $27,010
Grand Forks: $25,390
Far West: $27,630
|Food Preparation & Serving
Chefs and cooks, dishwashers, waiters, bartenders, etc.
|North Dakota: $20,430
Grand Forks: $19,850
Far West: $20,920
|Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance
Janitors, tree trimmers, housekeepers, maids, etc
|North Dakota: $23,970
Grand Forks: $24,110
Far West: $23,770
|Personal Care & Service
Hairdressers, funeral attendants, tour guides, amusement and recreation attendants, etc.
|North Dakota: $23,950
Grand Forks: $23,250
Far West: $27,280
Cashiers, insurance agents, sales representatives, travel agents, telemarketers, etc.
|North Dakota: $31,790
Grand Forks: $27,430
Far West: $35,470
|Office & Administrative Support
Tellers, customer service reps, payroll clerks, receptionists, police dispatchers, mail carriers, etc.
|North Dakota: $30,350
Grand Forks: $30,050
Far West: $30,730
|Farming, Fishing & Forestry
Agricultural workers, agricultural inspectors, ranchers, farm laborers, etc.
|North Dakota: $29,330
Grand Forks: $29,680
Far West: $25,890
|Construction & Extraction
Carpenters, tile and marble setters, electricians, construction supervisors, oil derrick operators, oil drill operators, oil roustabouts, etc.
|North Dakota: $43,660
Grand Forks: $40,730
Far West: $48,730
|Installation, Maintenance & Repair
Electronic equipment installers, security systems installers. Computer repairers, mechanics, appliance repairers, etc.
|North Dakota: $44,220
Grand Forks: $40,710
Far West: $49,350
Meat packers, equipment assemblers, machinists, welders, cabinetmakers, machine operators, jewelers, etc.
|North Dakota: $35,750
Grand Forks: $35,790
Far West: $39,900
|Transportation & Material Moving
Pilots, drivers (trucks, buses, taxis), air traffic controllers, parking lot attendants, etc.
|North Dakota: $36,040
Grand Forks: $31,870
Far West: $43,860
Darrel Casperson, Career Resource Educator