Florida lands just out of the top five for overall security clearance compensation. With average total compensation for cleared employees at $89,179, it is the sixth highest paying state for cleared professionals. However, most individuals don’t move to Florida for the compensation alone. While Mickey Mouse may be a draw for some, for most, it comes down to stretching your dollar further with the cost of living benefits and fulfilling the national security missions. The sunshine is of course, another great perk.

Florida is a defense industry epicenter with more than 20 military installations and three unified combatant commands. Florida is also home to the Space Coast, Kennedy Space Center, and 663 miles of beaches. Florida is one of the top states for space and defense systems manufacturing and aerospace products and parts manufacturing. And the state isn’t a one city wonder when it comes to defense job opportunities—from Tallahassee to Miami and Orlando in between, defense professionals have a diversity of opportunities to choose from in Florida, and competitive salaries to earn. With renewed emphasis on space, Florida’s Space Coast is primed to take advantage of new contracting opportunities and new dollars moving into Florida’s defense contractors. Florida is also a hub for modeling, simulation, and training (MS&T), so both the highly technical and creatives can find a comfortable home in the sunshine state.

Compensation by Clearance Level

Mirroring responses in the rest of the country, Intel clearances pay top total compensation in Florida ($106,318). Top Secret security clearances saw the highest pay increases, however, with a 6% increase between 2008 and 2010, with average total compensation of $97,598. It’s unclear why Department of Homeland Security clearance salaries took a 20% dip, but with only 3% of the state’s respondents holding DHS clearance, fluctuations in compensation could be due to changes in experience or industry.

Florida Compensation by Clearance Level

Compensation by Career Level

Florida respondents at every career level received increases of 5% or more. Mid-career professionals (those with five or more years of experience) had the biggest compensation increases, 12%. Managers had the highest overall compensation, $116,286. Compensation steps up with years of experience, with entry-level professionals garnering salaries of just $50,300, and management professionals reaching six-figure salaries.

Florida Compensation by Career Level

The Lure of the Sunshine State and Which Jobs Are Paying

It’s not always easy to find pine forests, marshlands, and cultural hubs, as well as cleared jobs in the same space, but in Florida, that’s exactly what’s available. With University of Central Florida and Disney investments, robotics and technology focused degrees have been in growth mode. UCF has a vested interest in national security efforts remaining a local endeavor, creating a pipeline of talent in the MS&T career track. The model is replicated with NASA on the Gold Coast, as well as with SOCOM and CENTCOM in Tampa. While the pots of money are dispersed, it creates a wide variety of product lines that meet different needs throughout the defense industry.

President of the Jacksonville NDIA First Coast chapter and Founder and CEO of Orion Solutions, LLC, Rick Brown explains, “…you cannot discount the lack of state income tax and the benefits of our lower cost of living.  Compared to DC, which is where I spent a lot of time, a 10% lower actual compensation equates to about a 15% pay raise!  Gotta love Florida!”

With emphasis on aerospace and the needs for engineers to keep America’s space program running, it’s no surprise Systems Engineers earn top salaries in Florida, with average total compensation of $117,746. Management professionals are the next highest paid, including project managers and team leads. Between the combatant commands and more than 20 military installations, there are a number of leading defense contractors and military programs operating in Florida—and those programs need managers to keep them on time and within budget. IT positions round out the top five highest paying jobs in Florida, with IT-Software ($109,354), IT-Technical Writing ($106,725), and IT-Security ($99,430) all garnering top pay. With the government’s continued shift to automation, simulation, and artificial intelligence, both demand and top salaries for IT professionals in Florida is expected to continue.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.