Energy Sector's Strength Means Jobs in Houston

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Houston has always been one of the centers of the energy universe. Increasingly, it's becoming a financial powerhouse, too. That's good news for job seekers.

The Greater Houston Partnership forecasts job growth of 2.6 percent this year. Although that's lower than last year's growth, it's still stronger than the national average of about one percent.

Many Wall Street firms and foreign banks, who already have a strong presence in the city, are hiring people in investment banking, financial analysis and energy trading, says Eric Nielsen, managing director of Korn/Ferry International's Houston office.

"The bottom line is that it's as good of a market as it's ever been," Nielsen says. "This is where the money is for energy investors."

Many big financial firms have openings in the city, including Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers. Small and mid-sized firms are also hiring. Recruiters have seen their business jump this year, Nielsen says: Korn/Ferry's is up by about a third.

Top-level investment bankers are commanding salaries of $150,000 to $250,000, with their total compensation hitting about $2 million to $6 million, he says. Associates can expect compensation of $300,000 to $450,000 and vice presidents are getting $450,000 to $600,000.

Demand is being fueled by rising oil prices, which is encouraging increased investment in companies that make alternative fuels. In addition, Houston is a hub for energy trading. Though the markets dropped off following Enron's collapse, they're making a comeback and need people with training to meet the demands of both energy companies and hedge funds.

In addition, senior level bankers often need to hire new teams of execution and analysis specialists when they switch jobs, since they're usually precluded from soliciting staffers from their former employers when they move.

Anyone relocating to Houston from either the East or West coast will be surprised by how affordable homes are. There also are loads of great restaurants and a lively cultural scene.

Although the city offers an escape from cold winters, it comes with a price: Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures topping 90 degrees, even late at night.

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