For professionals around the country, Denver’s draw is undeniable. The Mile High City offers a distinctive mix of alluring attributes, fusing natural splendor with a flourishing industry. Its active residents enjoy both easy access to outdoor adventure and the cultural opportunities of a major city. True to its roots as a gold rush town, there’s plenty to treasure in modern Denver.
Young people from all corners of the U.S. have taken notice, flooding into the city in massive numbers. Since the turn of the century, Denver and its suburbs have added nearly 780,000 new residents, many of them transplants eager to embark on new careers.
This population boom, fueled in part by strong job prospects, has drawn even more businesses to the Denver area. As a result, the local economy has enjoyed a self-perpetuating pattern of growth that allowed it to rebound sharply from the COVID-19 pandemic. Professionals arrive in search of opportunity, companies come in search of talent, and industries thrive across the city. Indeed, Denver is the crown jewel of Colorado’s recent economic ascendancy, unmatched by all but a few states.
While rising costs of living have slowed growth somewhat in recent years, the Denver economy continues to add tens of thousands of jobs annually. More exciting still, these opportunities are concentrated in cutting-edge industries.
Denver’s tech sector has exploded, attracting both disruptive startups and many of the nation’s most powerful technology companies. The aerospace industry also has a strong Denver presence, with 130 companies currently based in the metropolitan area. And, nearly a decade since its legalization, the recreational marijuana industry now brings hundreds of millions of dollars to Denver’s economy.
These industries are positioned for success in the ever-changing economy. Even as automation and outsourcing threaten other job markets, Denver’s seems primed to thrive for the foreseeable future.
If you like what you hear about Denver, there’s really just one question: how can you capitalize on the city’s attractive opportunities and land a great job there?
If you hope to understand Denver’s employment landscape and pursue a new career, you’ve come to the perfect place. This comprehensive guide will introduce you to the Mile High City’s major industries, covering some of the top employers in each sector.
We’ll also help you take stock of the competition, allowing you to assess Denver’s talent pool and the professionals you’ll be up against when searching for a job. Finally, we’ll provide some guidance and actionable tips to aid your Denver job search, especially if you’re not already a resident.
Whether you’re graduating soon or you’re an experienced professional, Denver may be the ideal place to plan your next career chapter. Opportunity and competition are both abundant, so we’ll help you identify and pursue the city’s most exciting employment options.
Before exploring the dominant industries in Denver’s business landscape, it’s helpful to discuss the city’s employment environment more generally. In good news for all who hope to advance their careers in Denver, the Mile High City is consistently hailed as a great location for job seekers.
Broadly speaking, Denver provides a business-friendly climate, with a central location relative to the rest of the American West. Propelled by a rich reservoir of talented professionals, industry in the Denver area has surged since the turn of the century. Between 2001 and 2017, the GDP of Denver and its surrounding areas nearly doubled.
That growth has been a boon to longtime Denver residents and transplants alike. Since 2010, the Denver area has steadily added jobs, welcoming an ever-greater number of people into the local workforce. Incomes have risen sharply, as well. In 2001, the average per-capita income in the Denver area was $38,734. By 2017, that figure had reached $59,660.
Like many metro areas, Denver was shaken by COVID-19. But thanks to a burgeoning economy fueled, in part, by a growing labor force, the unemployment rate has since fallen to 3.6% — the lowest since February 2020, just before COVID disrupted business operations. What should be attractive to prospective residents is the state's average hourly earnings, which have risen 8% and now sit at $33.85, or $2.12 more than the national hourly average.
These figures should absolutely encourage prospective Denver transplants who hope to secure great jobs, but while employers are eager to hire talented professionals, that doesn’t mean they’re bringing on employees indiscriminately.
As we noted earlier, Denver appeals to qualified individuals across the country. Additionally, local universities are continually producing bright, skilled graduates. Here’s some more information about Denver’s talent pool so that you can get a sense of what you’re up against.
Denver’s Workforce: Sizing Up the Competition
Denver’s workforce is distinguished by its education and training. The surrounding area is home to 11 colleges and universities, in addition to hundreds of occupational and technical schools. Graduates of these programs often remain in Denver after graduation, eager to put down roots in the area they enjoyed as students.
As a result, adults in the Denver metropolitan area are exceptionally well-educated. Nearly 47% possess a bachelor’s degree or higher academic credential. Across the United States, less than a third of adults have a bachelor’s degree. At the state level, Colorado residents are a particularly skilled labor force, ranking second in the country in educational attainment.
Denver’s workforce is especially skilled when it comes to technical abilities, with a talent pool on par with other emerging hubs, such as Austin. Additionally, Denver businesses actively recruit workers from other tech meccas, including Silicon Valley.
Last but not least, Denver’s professionals tend to be young and vigorous. Millennials account for much of the recent population increase in Denver and its surrounding areas. Denver is also one of America’s healthiest cities, and many residents walk or bike to work.
Collectively, these statistics present a talented and energetic workforce with strong credentials. Although labor conditions may be tight throughout the city, you can still expect tough competition for desirable positions.
On the other hand, don’t let the depth of Denver’s talent pool deter you. There are many thriving industries in the Denver area in need of capable employees, and certain sectors may be an ideal fit for your own experience and abilities.
Now that you know a bit more about Denver’s employment figures and workforce, you’re ready for a deep dive into the city’s leading industries.
Denver’s Top Industries and Employers
Denver’s tech scene is the envy of other cities, blooming into a prime location for giants and startups alike. Colorado added more than 3,600 tech jobs in 2021, and the Mile High City enjoyed the lion’s share of these gains. The best part? It's reported that this rate will grow by 3.1% in the next year, or almost double that figure.
Local success stories include SendGrid and Ibotta, homegrown startups that recently struck gold and continue to employ hundreds in the Denver area. Titans like Facebook have also set up shop, eager to attract talented workers outside of the Bay Area. Younger tech companies, such as Slack, have similarly established a Denver presence. If you define the tech industry a bit more broadly, telecommunications is also a major specialty of the Denver area.
For a more extensive introduction to Denver’s tech scene, check out our full article on the subject. In the meantime, here are some key statistics related to Denver’s tech sector:
Colorado is a hub for private-sector aerospace operations, which brings $15.4 billion into the state each year. The Denver metropolitan area is at the heart of all the action and home to many of the industry’s most formidable companies. The sector thrives off graduates from highly regarded local programs, such as the University of Colorado in Boulder’s Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department. Because many companies hope to hire and retain smart professionals, they pay their employees quite well.
If you’re infatuated by all things space-related, the Denver area offers incredible opportunities to break into the field. While many roles are technical and scientific, aerospace companies hire other professionals by the dozen, staffing extensive communications and government relations departments.
Here are some key details related to Denver’s aerospace sector:
21,090 people employed
Average annual salary: $129,730
Here are some of the major employers in Denver’s aerospace sector:
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
Northrop Grumman Corporation
If space travel seems daunting, Denver’s air travel industry offers plenty of intriguing possibilities a bit closer to Earth. The region is a powerhouse for the business of flight, with the bustling Denver International Airport contributing $33.5 billion of economic impact. Several smaller airports also provide alternative landing options and facilitate the movement of goods throughout the region.
Local training facilities support the aviation industry’s presence in and around Denver, including the respected Aviation and Aerospace Science Department at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in air transport, the Denver metropolitan area is home to 20 flight schools. For those intrigued by automated systems and unmanned flight innovation, the Denver area is also a hot spot for the drone industry.
Here are some key facts related to Denver’s aviation sector:
20,140 people employed
Average annual salary: $66,880
Here are some of the major employers in Denver’s aviation sector:
Denver International Airport
Delta Air Lines
Denver’s energy sector is vital and diverse, encompassing fossil fuel businesses and sustainable technologies. Over the last decade, Colorado has quadrupled its crude oil production and doubled its natural gas output. Simultaneously, the state is a leading producer of solar and wind energy. Many Denver-based companies are at the center of these complex and compelling developments.
Many energy businesses hire actively from respected schools nearby, such as the Colorado School of Mines, but smart science graduates from across the country can find excellent opportunities, either in traditional fuel sources or the ever-growing clean energy sector. There are also ample research roles available in federally funded agencies based in and around Denver.
Below are some key facts related to Denver’s energy sector.
Traditional Energy Sources:
28,880 people employed
Average annual salary: $107,410
Sustainable Energy Sources:
22,440 people employed
Average annual salary: $81,630
Here are some of the major employers in Denver’s energy sector:
DCP Midstream Partners
Caerus Oil and Gas
BP Lower 48
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Finance isn’t just an East Coast enterprise. Denver has established itself as a bonafide hub for banking, investing, and insurance corporations. As the largest financial center between Chicago and Los Angeles, Denver’s financial services industry has grown steadily since the Great Recession. In fact, the Mile High City is one of the country’s fastest-growing financial hubs, thanks in part to its friendly corporate tax rate.
For professionals seeking finance roles, the variety of opportunities in Denver is another major draw. Whereas some cities seem to specialize in one segment of financial services, Denver has opportunities in multiple areas.
Below are some key statistics related to three fields within Denver’s financial services sector.
Banking and Finance:
39,720 people employed
Average annual salary: $82,730
29,830 people employed
Average annual salary: $156,770
32,010 people employed
Average annual salary: $76,510
Here are some of the major employers in Denver’s financial services sector:
Janus Henderson Investors
Health Care and Biosciences
As we mentioned earlier, Denver is an especially healthy city, with high rates of exercise and low rates of chronic illness. Serving this health-minded population is a vibrant health care services industry, anchored by two massive medical campuses. The Fitzsimons Innovation Campus devotes 578 acres to care and research, housing the University of Colorado Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Colorado. The Anschutz Medical Campus is the region’s largest academic medical center, contributing more than $5 billion in annual economic impact to the state.
Beyond health care services, Denver boasts a strong biosciences and pharmaceuticals sector. Companies developing medical devices and medicines are flourishing, propelled by an educated workforce and relatively low operating costs. Private and public research facilities also thrive in the Denver metropolitan area, affording job seekers additional opportunities.
Below are some key statistics related to Denver’s health care and biosciences sectors.
222,700 people employed
Average annual salary: $57,070
Medical Devices and Diagnostics:
11,240 people employed
Average annual salary: $76,940
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology:
4,860 people employed
Average annual salary: $94,850
Here are some of the major employers in Denver’s health care and biosciences sectors:
University of Colorado Health
No discussion of Denver’s employment landscape would be complete without an account of the legal cannabis industry, which has developed since Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012. Statewide, the legal marijuana trade now rakes in over a billion dollars annually, and while the emerging marijuana economy has affected many parts of the state, its presence is most obvious in Denver, where cannabis companies occupy more than 14 million square feet of commercial real estate.
Unfortunately, Denver-specific data pertaining to employment in the industry is somewhat limited, as federal policy still prohibits the sale and consumption of cannabis, but anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana-related jobs are abundant and relatively lucrative. Denver’s hospitality industry, for example, has struggled to keep workers from leaving for higher-paying jobs in the cannabis world.
On the state level, Colorado’s Department of Revenue reports 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses and 31,486 industry jobs. Additionally, the department reports 4,723 “indirect” and 7,872 “ancillary” jobs statewide, referring to businesses that support the growth and sale of marijuana products. In fact, many of the most exciting companies in this industry support growers and sellers with key services, rather than producing marijuana products themselves.
Here are some of the major employers in Denver’s marijuana sector.
The Green Solution
Your Denver Job Search: Key Information and Advice
Clearly, each of the industries discussed above demands specific skills and qualifications. Accordingly, the best way to pursue a career in Denver will depend on your chosen field.
That being said, we can provide some tangible pieces of guidance to Denver job seekers, especially those seeking jobs there from afar. Establishing a career is rarely easy, but these suggestions should aid your search and expedite your professional transition.
Develop Skills Desired in Denver
As we noted in our discussion of the Denver workforce, the area hardly lacks sharp college graduates. No matter your chosen field, expect to compete with well-educated applicants who can demonstrate general intelligence. Simply being smart won’t necessarily help you stand out.
That being said, Denver-area employers may be thrilled to see specific, desirable skills on your resume or LinkedIn profile. In a tight labor market, in-demand skills can be your ticket to employment — and help you beat out local candidates.
In the tech sector, this principle is easily demonstrated. Command of rare, complex, or emerging programming languages can distinguish you from other skilled coders, but the same notion holds true in other sectors and roles. From marketing to industrial design, specific skills can lift you above the pack of other applicants. Even if you’re highly experienced, gaining skills is essential to staying relevant.
Start by researching job openings in your desired industry in Denver. Take note of specific skills, tools, and platforms that seem to recur in job postings. Then, search out an online training course or certification program geared toward the skills you seek to acquire. The process may take several hours, but you’ll emerge with powerful credentials.
Emphasize Emotional Intelligence
In addition to specific, functional abilities, employers are looking for “soft skills” in the people they hire. This term refers to interpersonal aptitudes, the nuanced realm of communicating and collaborating with others. While many applicants claim to have great people skills, those who really do distinguish themselves.
Indeed, many companies emphasize “emotional intelligence” when evaluating candidates. While Denver’s talent pool may be deep, bright, young applicants often overlook this area of their professional development. You can stand out by demonstrating sensitivity and maturity.
Here are some ways to show employers that you’re capable of understanding, supporting, and elevating your co-workers.
Talk about your success in terms of collaboration with others. Emphasize the times you gave and received support as you worked toward a shared goal.
Ask a lot of questions, focusing on cooperation. Inquire about what managers and colleagues would expect of you in the position and what successful team members contribute.
Communicate how you handle setbacks and stress as part of your skill set. You don’t need to seem infallible; you need employers to know you can roll with the punches and succeed in the long run.
Make Denver Connections Digitally
Professional connections can support your job search, either by providing sound advice, alerting you to new opportunities, or putting in a good word on your behalf. If you already live in Denver, you can do your networking in person, utilizing industry events, and relevant gatherings. The city has some thriving professional communities, such as the Women of Denver group, which currently boasts thousands of members.
For those looking to relocate, however, forming professional connections can seem a lot more challenging. Sure, digital networking is quite common these days and a powerful complement to in-person schmoozing, but contacting Denver professionals with no prior introduction can seem a bit forward, especially if you’re just an aspiring resident right now.
Thankfully, there are ways to get your foot in the door and make helpful Denver connections through LinkedIn. Beyond your friends and family, perhaps fellow university alumni are currently working in Denver, even in your own industry. LinkedIn’s “Groups” feature is also helpful, allowing you to find and connect with industry peers currently residing in Denver.
Address Relocation – and Framing It as an Advantage
Another challenge faces applicants hoping to move to Denver. How should you address the subject of relocation in your application? You could remove your address from your resume, hoping to avoid the topic until the interview stage, but if your current job and work experience are all in another area, this tactic will hardly be effective.
Instead, it’s probably wise to address relocation directly in your cover letter, stating your willingness and ability to move promptly if hired. If you do proceed to the interview stage, offer to make the journey in person — and present your willingness to relocate as evidence of your enthusiasm.
Discuss how the opportunity is so appealing that you’re willing to make the move, identifying specific benefits the new role would provide. Doing so makes you seem committed and motivated, rather than someone who’s exhausted all local employment options.
Make Your Interest Specific
This tip relates to our last suggestion: when expressing your enthusiasm for the position, tailor your comments to the role and company. Don’t let your desire to move to Denver overshadow your interest in the specific opportunity at hand.
Sure, it’s fine to share your love of the city. Employers know Denver is an attractive location and hope applicants will appreciate all the Mile High City has to offer, but to some companies, that attraction can sometimes seem like a double-edged sword. Do applicants actually want to work for them, or do they just want help getting settled in Denver, only to look for other opportunities soon thereafter?
With any Denver employer, be sure to convey your desire to work for them specifically. Speak to appealing aspects of their business, and you’ll dispel fears that you’re simply using them to make moving easier.
Destination Denver: How We’ll Help You Hunt
In this extensive guide, we hope that we’ve provided plenty of information and encouragement. There’s no doubt that Denver appeals to a wide range of professionals, offering exciting opportunities in multiple industries. While competition can be intense for certain desirable job openings, new possibilities emerge constantly. No matter where you stand in your Denver job search, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Don’t get turned off if an employer turns you down or fails to respond to your application promptly. Many of life’s greatest gifts demand patience, and establishing a new career in a new city probably won’t occur overnight, but with the information you’ve gleaned from this guide and a little persistence, we hope you’ll find options that make your wait worthwhile.
Of course, we’re here to help you find the perfect job as quickly as possible. Our platform excels in terms of quality and quantity, with thousands of appealing, accurate, and up-to-date listings added every month. Because your time is precious, we also provide excellent search tools, helping you tailor results to your precise preferences.
If you’re hoping to launch a career in Denver, Joblist is the place to discover exciting, open positions. Explore our listings today and uncover all the opportunities that the Mile High City has to offer.