The Southwest region of the United States is a prime destination for cleared candidates seeking a balance between professional opportunities and a high quality of life. Known for its year-round sunshine and diverse landscapes, this area offers a refuge from the high costs and congestion of the coastal regions. The four states making up the Southwest – Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona – provide not only natural beauty but also a booming aerospace and defense industry. Read the full ClearanceJobs Compensation Report for Cleared Candidates in the Southeast and learn more below. 

Compensation Trends in the Southwest 

According to the 2024 Security Clearance Compensation Report, the Southwest saw an average total compensation of $104,208, reflecting a 4% increase from the previous year. While slightly below the overall industry average, the lower cost of living in the Southwest allows for a comfortable lifestyle on a lower salary. Those with intelligence clearances earn over $45,000 more than those with Secret clearances. And with the strong presence of DoD and military branches in the region, 60% of cleared candidates in the region receive competitive compensation. 

The Impact of Experience and Education 

Both mid and senior-level professionals in the Southwest earn $10,000 to $13,000 less than the industry average, but the region’s lower costs of living can offset the lower salaries. However, clearance holders with advanced degrees and certifications can significantly boost earning potential. Those with a master’s degree earn over $20,000 more than their counterparts, while those with certifications earn almost $18,000 more. 

State-Specific Opportunities 

Each state in the Southwest plays a crucial role in national security, with Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico offering six-figure salaries. Texas’s rich aerospace history and New Mexico’s national laboratories and military bases make them attractive locations for cleared candidates. While average salaries in Oklahoma hover around $94,000, the state is emerging as a leader in aerospace research and development. 

Job Market Dynamics 

Despite the benefits, 79% of workers in the Southwest are considering job changes, primarily motivated by higher pay. Organizations need to adopt competitive compensation strategies to retain experienced employees. Those who stay in their current positions earn roughly $12,000 more than job-hoppers.  

The Southwest is a powerhouse for aviation, aerospace, and defense sectors, and boasts over 300 days of sunshine annually. As employers expand and STEM initiatives grow, job opportunities in the Southwest continue to rise, offering a blend of professional growth and a high quality of life. 

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Phoebe Wells is the Public Relations & Partnerships Marketing Manager at ClearanceJobs and loves every aspect of her role. Creating content and working with the CJ team to connect cleared candidates with employers is incredibly rewarding, as the work ClearanceJobs does ultimately supports the mission of the U.S. As the daughter of a veteran and former cleared worker, she knows the sacrifices security and defense professionals make. She is honored to assist them in leveling up their careers. Plus, she gets to work from home in the Adirondack Mountains with her partner and two huskies!