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Which Cities Pay HR Professionals the Most?

Where do HR people make the most money? We went looking for the data to find out.

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
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It’s the new year, and a lot of people will be looking around at new jobs—maybe even new cities to live in.  With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at salary data for HR professionals across the US to see what cities pay the most (and the least).  On a side note, title matters a lot and we’ve previously found that PeopleOps make more money than HR across almost any level/geo.

One of the greatest aspects of HR jobs is that they can be found everywhere. Across industries and across the country, companies depend on HR to keep business running smoothly. But where is the best place to look for a job in HR? While a lot of this depends on your own personal preference, understanding the salary differences for HR jobs in different cities can help you make a more informed decision about where to look for an HR job.

With data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we mapped the average annual salaries for five different HR jobs across 50 cities to help you figure out where your HR job is most lucrative. Here’s what we found.

compensation benefits managers mean salary

Compensation and Benefits Manager  

High: San Francisco, CA: $171,560

Low: Little Rock, AR: $81,570

Mean: $132,860

Compensation and Benefits Managers are in charge of planning and overseeing the development of an organization’s pay and benefits structures. They work strategically with executives to ensure an organization’s compensation planning is aligned with business objectives. With the highest mean salary of all five of the HR jobs that we analyzed, it is clear businesses are putting at high premium on workers who can fulfill these duties.

With a mean wage almost $50,000 above average, San Francisco has the highest pay for compensation and benefits managers, with New York taking the second slot. Philadelphia, Denver, and Washington D.C. are other cities where the average salary is far above the mean. Little Rock is the city with the lowest average salary, while New Orleans, Charlotte, and Louisville also have lower wages for this position.

Of the five HR positions reviewed, compensation and benefits managers have the highest mean annual wage. However, this group also has the widest salary range with the highest and lowest salaries varying by nearly $90,000.

HR Manager Mean Annual Salary

HR Managers

High: San Francisco, CA: $163,050

Low: Little Rock, AR: $86,140

Mean: $126,700

While the title of HR Manager can be associated with a variety of duties and responsibilities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the term as an all-encompassing label for those involved in directing the administrative functions of an organization.

HR workers at this level coordinate an HR team and serve as a link between an organization’s top executives and its employees.  

San Francisco boasts the highest pay for HR Managers, but New York City comes in a close second with an annual mean wage of $162,010. Washington D.C. and Denver are also not too far behind. The lowest pay for HR Managers occurs in Little Rock, where the average salary is about $40,000 below the national average. Boise and Cheyenne account for the only other data points below $100,000 for this position.

Training Development Manager Mean Annual Salary

Training and Development Manager

High: New York, NY: $161,750

Low: New Orleans, LA: $76,500  

Mean: $121,730

Responsible for directing programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of an organization’s employees, training and development managers are a key part of their HR team. Other essential duties of a training and development manager include analyzing the effectiveness of training programs and aligning training.

The highest paid training and development managers can be found New York City, with an average salary that is $40,000 above average. Washington D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, and Houston are also in the top tier of salaries for this position. New Orleans stands apart with the lowest average salary for training and development managers, but Boise, Tulsa, and Wichita are clustered near the low end as well.

HR specialist mean annual salary

HR Specialist

High: San Francisco, CA: $87,240

Low: Little Rock, AR: $53,920

Mean: $66,790

Serving in a lower management capacity, HR Specialists are those involved in carrying out the day-to-day operations of an HR department involving hiring, employee relations, and compensation planning.  

For this category, San Francisco offers the highest wages, with Washington D.C. and Boulder as close contenders. Little Rock takes the bottom slot again, followed by Oklahoma City, Cheyenne, and Jacksonville.

HR Assistant mean annual salary

HR Assistant

High: San Francisco, CA: $52,400

Low: Richmond, VA: $31,760

Mean: $41,620

HR Assistants are the entry-level HR workers who handle more repetitive administrative tasks and take direction from upper management. Of all five HR jobs analyzed, HR assistants have the lowest mean salary as well as the narrowest salary range.

For this employment category, San Francisco takes the top spot again with Richmond is at the other end of the spectrum. With average annual salaries of $49,130 and $48,080 respectively, Washington, D.C. and Boston are at the high end of the salary scale while cities like Billings ($32,590), Salt Lake City ($32,720), and Charlotte ($36,210) can be found near the bottom.  

What the Data Tells Us

While factors such as cost of living may have an impact on salaries, it is significant to note that certain cities offer notably lower salaries across the board. Little Rock, for example, has the lowest salary for compensation and benefits managers, HR managers, and HR specialists and is in the lower half for the other two jobs. Smaller, inexpensive cities like Cheyenne, Boise, and Salt Lake City tend to have lower salaries across all three levels of employment as well. While they never fall to the lowest salary position, even some larger cities like Jacksonville and Charlotte have salaries that are consistently on the low end of the scale.

On the flip side, certain cities offer consistently higher salaries. For example, San Francisco offers the highest salary for four out of the five positions. New York and Washington, D.C. also offer high salaries across the board, with New York reaching the top salary for training and development managers. Boston, Seattle, and Denver also offer competitive salaries for HR workers in all five positions. While the cost of living in these cities does tend to be higher, the significantly larger salaries show that these locations are developing a deeper understanding of the value of HR talent. With such a high premium placed on HR Talent, there may be a great opportunity to jumpstart your HR career in one of these cities.

Ultimately, money isn’t everything. If you love your job and your city, you shouldn’t be too concerned about finding the most profitable place to be. However, if you are in HR and are thinking about relocating, keeping this information in mind could definitely be beneficial for you and your career development.

If you're interested in finding a new, cutting edge HR role, look no further than our People Operations job board. There you'll find information about open roles, job descriptions, where to apply, and more.

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
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Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2023, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

Featured in: Entrepreneur Harvard Business School Yahoo HR.com Recruiting Daily Hacking HR Podcast HR ShopTalk Podcast Employer Branding for Talent Acquisition (Udemy Course)

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