Few would be surprised to learn that the Washington area is a haven for lawyers and a wasteland for ship captains, loggers and game wardens.

Less obvious to some, perhaps, is the high concentration of computer programmers in the region, thanks to the blossoming of technology companies in the past decade.

These insights into what people do and what they're paid are presented in a newly published survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It details for the first time occupations and wages in the nation's metropolitan areas.

In a Washington metro area work force of 2.3 million salaried employees, there were 23,380 lawyers, according to the 1997 BLS survey; 79,160 retail salesclerks; 34,920 waiters; 28,640 computer programmers, and 27,310 elementary-school teachers.

Teachers ($33,800 in average annual pay) make twice as much as janitors ($17,030) and less than half as much as lawyers ($80,000) or physicians ($88,250).

While the report doesn't try to explain the significance of these differences, it does provide a check of how pay and occupations in the District and its suburbs compare with nationwide figures. The survey covers some 800,000 U.S. business establishments.

The Washington area has roughly one lawyer and one computer programmer for every 100 employees in the work force, double the percentage in the nation as a whole. The concentration of computer systems analysts is also twice the national rate.

As befits a paper-pushing place, the capital area has a higher proportion of secretaries in the work force than does the nation overall. But its share of teachers and retail clerks is lower. Lawyers, managers and executives, and retail clerks in the Washington area make more money than the average for their occupations nationally, but local teachers do not. The region's computer programmers also make less than the U.S. average, perhaps because that industry is relatively young and fast-growing here.

The largest occupational category is what the BLS calls "general managers and top executives" -- a group whose duties are so diverse or general that they can't be pigeonholed into a particular job function. The Washington area has a larger than average share of these decision makers too.

"It's a sign of the versatility of the work force," says Stephen S. Fuller, regional analyst at George Mason University.

Or maybe the mark of a region with more than its share of people who like telling other people what to do.

The occupational employment statistics are at www. bls.gov/oes/oes data.htm on the Internet.

A Professional Look

Professional and technical workers make up the largest category of occupations in this area -- 29 percent, compared with a national average of 20 percent.

Washington area job classifications

Professional, technical

29%

Clerical

20

Services

15

Sales

11

Production, construction operators

9

Managers, administrative

9

Laborers, helpers

3

Transportation

3

Agricultural

1

Among Top-Paying D.C. Area Jobs

Occupation

Salary

Workers

Aircraft pilots, flight engineers

$95,960

2,830

Judges, magistrates

92,090

280

Dentists

91,020

1,860

Physicians, surgeons

88,250

10,880

Podiatrists

85,430

190

Among the Lowest-Paying

Occupation

Salary

Workers

Fast-food cooks

$12,520

9,400

Personal and home care aides

13,890

2,450

Shampooers

13,990

1,320

Waiters

14,020

34,920

Motion picture projectionists

14,170

90

Among the Most Common D.C. Area Jobs

Occupation

Salary

Workers

General managers and top executives

$68,940

80,610

Retail salespeople (except cashiers)

18,450

79,160

Secretaries (except legal, medical)

28,190

65,930

Janitors, cleaners (except maids and housekeepers)

17,030

46,600

Computer systems analysts

57,860

40,700

Among the Least Common

Occupation

Salary

Workers

Fallers, buckers (logging)

$29,000

30

Ship captains

43,370

30

Hand cutters and trimmers

17,750

40

Fish and game wardens

34,400

50

Hand sewers

20,400

50

NOTE: Some other occupations had too few employees to be included.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1997 survey of Washington metropolitan area businesses.