Few things are more frightening than a job search. Either you are in a job and contemplating a major change in how you spend your life, or out of work, and desperate to change that. It can be humbling: a group of strangers will look at your resume, take measure of your career, question you during an interview, and decide if you are right for them. And there’s an element of instability to all of this: the interview and final decision is, ultimately, a gut call by hiring managers. You might absorb the bad morning a manager had in traffic.

You can feel powerless in the process… but you don’t have to. We’ve mined the databases here at ClearanceJobs and cross-referenced them with the Department of Labor, and are undertaking a state-by-state tour of the top job markets in the United States. Who is hiring? What do they do? Who is the competition? Here is what you need to know if you live in one of these markets, or are considering a move.

Selling the virtues of Texas is like selling the pleasures of wine. You don’t need to know much to know it’s good, but the more you bring to it, the more you’ll find. Within the long Texan borders are three of the ten largest cities in the United States: Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. (San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, Boston: mere ants next to the vast Texan metropoli!) There are jobs galore there, yes, but also art and sports and food—oh the food! Tex-Mex, barbecue, and even the occasional wayward chef from Louisiana elevates Texas cuisine with Cajun character.

If you want a job in aerospace, defense, intelligence—anything, really, that requires a clearance—Texas is a great place to be. It has a GDP higher than Canada, and more land than France. And there are no income state taxes in Texas, which means as long as you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Here is what you need to know if you want to get a job in Texas.

WHO IS HIRING IN TEXAS

If you’ve been on the job market for more than a second, you’ve seen that few industries are as thirsty for talent as information technology, and Texas is no exception. Hardware, software, and support dominate the list of Texas job openings. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area is sometimes called Silicon Prairie, and for good reason: every computer company you’ve ever heard of—Microsoft to Motorola—has a facility there.

Three of the top hiring companies in Texas are:

Lockheed Martin — We’ve discussed Lockheed Martin‘s fascinating history in a previous entry in this series. They make planes, and have since planes were invented. The headquarters for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company is based at Air Force Plant 4 in Ft. Worth. You’ve heard of their major products: The F-16 and the F-35. The job openings in Texas reflect this in a big way.

Booz Allen Hamilton — The San Antonio-based office of Booz Allen Hamilton employs hundreds and focuses on infrastructure and analytics solutions for medical, environmental, and cybersecurity firms. Job openings include everything from technical writing (poets take note—we’ve discussed that previously) to health data scientist.  

ManTech International Corporation — Governments, as a rule, lumber along, but in a world moving faster than ever before, global superpowers need agility. Enter companies like ManTech, which apply technical solutions to keep the big moving parts of government well oiled. Sometimes that’s providing security services for diplomats. Sometimes it’s building networks for NASA.

Texas job trivia: By miles, the biggest hiring areas in Texas are Dallas-Ft. Worth and San Antonio. The first is a major tech hub, as discussed previously, but why San Antonio? Answer: the U.S. Air Force. The only component of the U.S. intelligence community not headquartered on the east coast is the Twenty-Fifth Air Force. It’s location? San Antonio, at Lackland Air Force Base. Of note: if you want to be a g-man but don’t want to join the Air Force, there’s some good news: the FBI in Texas is actively looking for special agents. Homeland Security is also a major option in the southern half of the state, for obvious reasons.

HOW DO YOU COMPARE?

The ClearanceJobs database of 800,000 job candidates breaks down the Texas cleared workforce like this:

  • Secret: 55%
  • Top Secret / SCI: 28%
  • Top Secret: 9%
  • Not Specified: 3%
  • Public Trust: 2%
  • Intel: 1%
  • Confidential: < 1%
  • Dept of Homeland Security: < 1%
  • Dept of Energy (Q or L): < 1%

The number of Secret holders just jumps out at you. The workforce of Texas is astoundingly different from the east coast, at least with respect to clearances. (Maryland and Virginia are 32% Secret and 56% Top Secret—an almost exact reverse as those seen here.) This reflects a couple of things. Certainly the regions orbiting Washington, D.C., which is itself the heart of American intelligence, are going to lean heavily toward the holiest of holy secrets. The high Secret numbers in Texas also reflect the enormous military presence there. Joint Base San Antonio, Sheppard Air Force Base, Fort Bliss, Fort Hood, Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth—Texas alone could run the board in a game of Risk.

The education numbers of the Texas workforce agree:

  • Bachelors: 29%
  • High School or Equivalent: 23%
  • Associate: 16%
  • Certification: 9%
  • Masters: 16%
  • Doctorate: < 1%

Almost half of Texas job seekers lack baccalaureates. This is stronger than the national average (58% with an associates or lower), and relative to the job openings, certainly reflects all those IT jobs. You don’t need a college degree to do a broad spectrum of jobs in the IT portfolio—field service technicians, support, even managerial roles in government and industry rely heavily on certifications (see DOD 8570 for a listing.) Holding such certifications plus a degree, however, could be a big benefit to anyone entering the market there.

According to the ClearanceJobs database, Texas job seeker experience looks like this:

  • Student (undergrad/grad): 2%
  • Entry Level (<2 yrs experience): 4%
  • Early Career (2+ yrs experience): 9%
  • Mid Career (5+ yrs experience): 28%
  • Senior (10+ yrs experience): 40%
  • Management (Manager/Director of Staff): 15%
  • Executive (SVP, EVP, VP): 1%
  • Senior Executive (President, CEO): < 1%

These numbers are almost identical to Virginia and Maryland. People who move to Texas stay in Texas. This is pretty good news for an upstart: if you are young and hungry, Texas is a good place to begin a career, and because jobs are so plentiful and diverse, you’ll have a lot of room to grow.

LIFE IN TEXAS

Spain, France, Mexico, the Confederacy, the United States have each ruled Texas at one point or another. (They ruled themselves after winning their independence from Mexico—and now you know the famed “six flags” that have flown over them.) If the whole world has fought over this patch of ground, you would think it has got to be good. So is it?

For those with (or interest in starting) families: According to the National Educational Association, Texas ranks second in the nation in high school graduates, and first in the total number of teachers and instructional staff. Still, Education Week gives the state a C- overall (the national score being a C). You’ll want to choose wisely to make sure your kid gets a good education. Enter the Great Schools database, which lets you search schools by name, city, or district.

The unemployment rate in Texas is 4.0% versus the national average of 4.1%. This is the lowest it has been since 2009—companies can’t hire people fast enough. The median home price is $184,112, which, according to Zillow, is over $100,000 cheaper than found in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C., the previous entries in this series. (If you negotiate a transfer strategically, you could essentially give yourself a big raise.) Median rent is $1,495. You can find granular-level figures in the Zillow database.

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David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. He is currently at work on his next book, One Inch From Earth, which tells the story of scientists who study the outer planets of the solar system. He can be found online at https://www.dwb.io.