One of the biggest decisions new college graduates face after earning their bachelor's degree is whether to continue their education with a graduate degree or enter the professional world without one. The Education Data Initiative reports that the average cost of a master's degree is $65,134, so it's important to consider the financial benefits depending on an individual's chosen field of study.

In a metro area like San Antonio-New Braunfels, a graduate degree would mean a resident earns $14,459 more than if they only had a bachelor's degree, according to a new study by SmartAsset.

The average annual income of a San Antonio resident with a bachelor's degree is $57,689, the study says, with graduate degree earners making $72,148 per year.

The average annual pay in San Antonio for someone with a graduate degree is slightly greater than the national average of $72,000. The study further determined that on a national scale, a graduate degree nets individuals $16,000 more per year — a slightly greater increase than in San Antonio.

"Amid the high expenses of education and ever-changing job markets, it’s important to weigh the opportunity costs of a graduate degree with the additional earning potential," the study's author wrote. "A graduate or professional degree nets an extra $484,000 over a career, on average... This assumes a 30 year career in a medium or large metro area."

SmartAsset's study used 2021 U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year ACS S1501 data to determine the income for individuals aged 25 and older with varying professional degrees in 281 of the biggest metropolitan areas.

The Texas city where a graduate degree nets a resident the most amount of money is Midland, with a massive $24,394 difference between graduate degree and bachelor's holders. Average graduate degree pay in the West Texas city is $90,559 versus a bachelor's degree pay of $66,165.

The metro that landed at the top of the national ranks is San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California. A bachelor's degree holder makes an average salary of $102,214 in the area, whereas a graduate degree holder increases those earnings more than $48,000, totaling $150,281.

The full report and its methodology can be found on smartasset.com.

Photo by Courtney Warden

Splashy seafood pop-up docks at St. Mary's Strip wine bar, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From the sea to the Hill Country and lots in between, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Splashy seafood pop-up docks at St. Mary's Strip wine bar. This pop-up has come and gone, and made a big splash. It's back on August 12 for one more pop-up before it starts a residency.

2. Best places to view Perseid meteor shower's peak in Central Texas and beyond. The biggest meteor shower of the year will be most visible the night of Saturday, August 12, until the early morning of Sunday, August 13.

3. A punchy event at one of the world's best vineyards lets travelers make Hill Country wine. At Grape Punch Day, William Chris Vineyards will guide guests on a wine-making journey.

4. San Antonio logs on as 6th best U.S. city for remote workers, Forbes says. The study ranked cities based on the earning potential of remote workers, internet access, living costs, and more.

5. 9 essential things to know about Texas' tax-free weekend 2023. For kids, stocking up on school supplies is one of the only joys of going back to school. For parents who have to pay for them, not so much.


San Antonio logs on as 6th best U.S. city for remote workers, Forbes says

views from my couch

With many companies encouraging — or commanding — remote workers to return to the office in 2023, more and more Americans are seeking employment opportunities that will give them the freedom to work from elsewhere.

San Antonio is (remotely) clocking in as the No. 6 best city for remote workers in 2023, according to a new study by Forbes Advisor. And that'll probably only get better in this burgeoning Central Texas mega-metro.

The study examined 100 U.S. cities and metro areas, and ranked them based on the earning potential of remote workers, internet access, lifestyle amenities, worker friendliness, living costs, and more.

Reliable wifi during office hours is perhaps a remote worker's most important tool. Fast internet speeds coupled with the wide variety of free Wi-Fi hotspots around the city earned San Antonio No. 7 in the category for "cities with the best internet access."

Austin was the only Texas city to outrank San Antonio in the internet access category, earning No. 3 with an average internet download speed of 425.90 Megabits per second (Mbps).

However, San Antonio-New Braunfels reigns as the overall best metro area in Texas for remote workers. And it's been high on similar lists in the past.

"Remote work saves workers time and money on commuting and office clothing, while keeping their morale and productivity levels high," the report said. "Ideally, you’d live in a place with an affordable cost of living, high earning potential, reliable internet connection, low taxes, a low unemployment rate, and various entertainment options."

Elsewhere in Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington was the only metro area to rank in the top 15, while Austin-Round Rock fell way behind into No. 39. Surprisingly, Houston (No. 49) barely made it into the top 50, outranked by El Paso (No. 46). McAllen-Edinburg-Mission ranked No. 85.

The top 10 U.S. metro areas for remote workers are:

  • No. 1 – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida
  • No. 2 – Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana
  • No. 3 – Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa
  • No. 4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • No. 5 – Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
  • No. 6 – San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • No. 7 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
  • No. 9 – Tuscon, Arizona
  • No. 10 – Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

The study can be found on forbes.com.

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

AI could replace 150,000 jobs in San Antonio, new report says

what does the future hold?

There are essential jobs that many feel artificial intelligence could never replace, like first responders, teachers, engineers, and tradespeople. But what about factory workers, accountants, or cashiers? According to the latest Chamber of Commerce study, "Cities Where AI Threatens Employment the Most," – administrative and retail occupations are the most at risk all over the country, and particularly in San Antonio.

Out of the 1,048,960 people employed in San Antonio, 149,860 are at risk of having their jobs replaced by artificial intelligence, the study says. That amounts to 14.29 percent of the potential workforce lost, which is the highest percentage out of the four Texas cities included in the report – including Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

San Antonio ranked as the No. 6 city with the most at-risk jobs out of 50 major metro areas in the U.S.

The study sources its data from the World Economic Forum's (WEF) "Future of Jobs Report 2023," which estimated that about 83 million jobs could be automated by AI as early as 2027. With the rise of AI technology like ChatGPT or Google's Bard chatbot, people are also witnessing a rise in job losses.

"According to WEF, this fast-growing technology could make tasks related to reasoning, communication, and coordinating more automatable in the coming years," the study's author wrote.

A similar study by a UK-based affiliate marketing site estimated that 237,000 jobs in Texas have a high risk of being replaced by AI, and more than a million jobs are considered at "medium risk."

Besides accountants and cashiers, the report claims the professions that are the most susceptible to AI automation include clerks, data entry, and bookkeeping.

"From bank tellers and retail workers, to software engineers and doctors, no line of work or type of business is entirely immune to artificial intelligence," the report continues. "Despite AI’s potential to save employers on labor costs, increase productivity, and spur overall economic growth, it can also lead to the disruption or loss of millions of jobs throughout the next several years."

The 10 cities where AI threatens the most jobs include:

  • No. 1 – Las Vegas, Nevada (161,840 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 2 – Miami, Florida (393,920 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 3 – Louisville, Kentucky (96,420 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 4 – Orlando, Florida (190,000 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 5 – Grand Rapids, Michigan (79,910 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 6 – San Antonio, Texas (149,860 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 7 – Phoenix, Arizona (312,610 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 8 – Salt Lake City, Utah (109,500 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 9 – Detroit, Michigan (261,650 at-risk jobs)
  • No. 10 – Nashville, Tennessee (145,170 at-risk jobs)
Furthermore, the study examined the top three fastest-declining occupations within the 50 metro areas. In San Antonio, the fastest-declining profession is office and administrative support, which has lost nearly 30,000 jobs within the last five years. Following behind are personal care and service-related occupations, and sales occupations. The study says 22,570 personal care jobs and 15,200 sales jobs in San Antonio have been lost within the last five years.

The report does remind readers that artificial intelligence will also present the opportunity for more jobs, citing WEF's estimate that 69 million jobs will be created by 2027.

"Roles such as data analysts, scientists, machine learning specialists, and cybersecurity experts could grow as much as 30 percent within the next five years," the report says. "It’s easy to let the fear of the unknown seep in when it comes to AI, but using AI to your advantage could not only protect your job or business, but it could also help it grow."

The report can be found on chamberofcommerce.org.

Photo by Viacheslav Bublyk on Unsplash

Here's what it takes to be in the top 1 percent of earners in Texas

six-figures of wealth

It's always been said that the rich get richer as the years go on, and those who hold the most wealth are certainly making that phrase a reality. More than a third of the overall wealth in the United States is held by the top one percent of earners, who make about $652,657 a year.

But how much money does a Texan need to make to secure a place in the top one percent of earners in the state? A new study from SmartAsset, published July 17, determined that the answer is not too far off from the national amount, but is still well into the six-figure range: $631,849.

Texas has the 14th highest threshold of income needed for the exclusive classification.

Texas' latest ranking is a four-place drop from an earlier SmartAsset report from February 2023 that put Texas' one percent threshold at $641,400. SmartAsset typically publishes this report annually, but released an all-new report in July when new data from the IRS became available.

The new report further revealed that Southern states have the lowest income thresholds, with six out of the bottom 10 states being located in the Southeast.

"While Northeastern states like Massachusetts and New Jersey have some of the highest income thresholds for the one percent, it takes considerably less income to be considered in the top one percent in many Southern states," the study says.

However, holding onto that much wealth isn't without financial responsibility. Texans who are in that top one percent category have a tax rate of 25.83 percent.

The top 10 states with the highest thresholds to be considered in the top one percent of earners in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Connecticut ($952,902)
  • No. 2 – Massachusetts ($903,401)
  • No. 3 – California ($844,266)
  • No. 4 – New Jersey ($817,346)
  • No. 5 – Washington ($804,853)
  • No. 6 – New York ($776,662)
  • No. 7 – Colorado ($709,092)
  • No. 8 – Florida ($694,987)
  • No. 9 – Illinois ($660,810)
  • No. 10 – New Hampshire ($659,037)
To determine the different income thresholds for every state, SmartAsset used 2020 data from the IRS and adjusted the numbers to be accurate for May 2023.
The full report can be found on smartasset.com.

Hill Country road outside San Antonio is one of the best scenic routes in the U.S., plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Hill Country greatness to absolute escapism, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. This winding Hill Country road outside San Antonio was voted one of the best scenic routes in the country. This is good news for visitors, and bad news for people who want to save on gas.

2. Hill Country winery scores big on list of world's best vineyards for 2nd year in a row. William Chris Vineyards, in Hye, received more well-deserved accolades.

3. Book a nonstop flight out of San Antonio to these 6 summer getaway destinations. Feeling flighty? Here's where you can go without a layover.

4. Barbie movie pops out of the box with existential adventure that's fun for all. Come on, Barbie, let's go have an existential crisis. Here's what our critic thought.

5. Texans spend the 3rd lowest amount of money on energy, new report finds. The average Texan's total energy consumption cost is about $379 a month.

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Amazon goes on holiday hiring spree with 2.6k open positions in San Antonio

Holiday News

Soon the holidays will be here, and that means an influx of seasonal work from Amazon, which is on a holiday hiring spree.

According to a release, the company is hiring 250,000 employees throughout the U.S. in full-time, seasonal, and part-time roles across its operations network.

More than 28,000 of those will be in Texas with nearly half — 13,000 employees — to be hired in Dallas-Fort Worth. (Houston will be hiring more than 5,100, Austin more than 4,100, and San Antonio more than 2,600 workers. Waco gets 1,700-plus new positions, and El Paso, more than 300.)

Those include a diverse range of roles, from packing and picking to sorting and shipping, available to applicants from all backgrounds and experience levels.

Customer fulfillment and transportation employees can earn, on average, over $20.50 per hour for those roles, and up to $28 depending on location. Interested candidates can see hiring locations and open positions at amazon.com/apply.

"The holiday season is always a special time at Amazon and we’re excited to hire 250,000 additional people this year to help serve customers across the country," says Amazon SVP John Felton. "Whether someone is looking for a short-term way to make extra money, or is hoping to take their first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career at Amazon, there’s a role available for them."

According to Felton, a fulfillment or transportation employee who starts today will see a 13 percent increase in pay over the next three years, on top of offerings like pre-paid college tuition and health care benefits on day one.

Jobs in Amazon’s operations network include: stowing, picking, packing, sorting, shipping customer orders, and more, available in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S., with a range of full- or part-time hours.

For anyone interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Amazon, they offer free behind-the-scenes tours to the public at amazontours.com.

Hill Country glamping goes gourmet with new personal chef experience

In-Tents Flavors

Flights to Africa are not cheap right now. The animals may not be the same, but at least San Antonians can make a short drive to a very comfortable safari tent for special-occasion jaunts into the wilderness.

"Why does it look like you're in Africa again?" questioned one of this reporter's friends via Instagram DM. It's true, we'd been in a nearly identical landscape in South Africa last winter. But this was only an hour's drive away. And make no mistake — it's still expensive, but not more so than a upscale hotel room or Airbnb at $450 a night.

Amani, the sole safari tent overlooking a vast expanse at Marble Falls' Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, may pose a philosophical question about what camping entails. If it's being in a remote area, it certainly fits the bill. The tent is situated at the end of a dirt road, off a dirt road. There's practically no chance of seeing even the odd hiker, unless they've taken the incredibly steep trail up the back way and specifically sought out the tent.

The more challenging question, is does camping include a generator? How about a shower, air conditioning, mini-fridge, plush rug, and king-sized bed? Probably not, but it certainly makes it easy to pack up and hit the woods in any weather. And if it's about enjoying nature, it doesn't really get better than being comfortable while doing so — although the noise from the generator, which powers the running water, is a necessary trade-off.

Amani LCRA interiorPhoto courtesy of LCRA

Amazing for honeymoons, girls trips, seniors, or apartment dwellers without much room for storing camping equipment, this is hotel-style travel with the benefit of having absolutely no other visitors in sight. Or earshot. And although the smart interior design gives a glamper anything they'd need to make, serve, and store their own meals (using ingredients from the Marble Falls H-E-B, about 10 miles away), those who want to lean into the luxury may book some gourmet options.

Home chefs who like the idea of remaining separate from the rest of civilization can order a meal prep kit ($55-75 per person, vegan options available) to be delivered to the tent, where they can cook on the grill. The kitchenette, designed with input from a local chef who loved visiting the park before Amani existed, has plenty of grilling tools and dish ware — enough for four people to use even though the space only sleeps two.

More extravagant travelers should seriously consider the most luxurious option: welcoming in a private chef ($300). Chef Cindy Crowe grilled up Amani's first-ever private dining experience on September 16, representing the start of a new partnership between Crowe's company, Bay Kitchens Catering, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the government agency that managers the park and rents out Amani.

In fact, it was Bay Kitchens corporate chef, Jay Hunter, who made recommendations on the kitchenette design. And the park is no stranger to luxury dining outdoors; At one fundraising dinner, part of its "Savor the Outdoors" series, park supporters gathered at long picnic tables along the river at Pedernales Falls State Park to enjoy local foods prepared on cool live-fire rigs. The food was delicious, but the friendly breaking of bread between outdoorsy foodies was the highlight of the evening.

The spirit was similar at Amani, although, of course, much smaller in scale. Chef Crowe set up at the outdoor grill and peacefully, efficiently got to work preparing a meal that looked like it came out of an elite, bustling kitchen. Yet, despite all its sophistication, this meal retained the soul of any campsite meal: a simple grilled trout, a summery salad, and a no-bake dessert.

LCRA Amani private chef dinner troutPhoto by Brianna Caleri

Amani LCRA aerial

Photo courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)

Amani is the Lower Colorado River Authority's experiment in ultra-secluded glamping.

More specifically, the three-course meal — called the "Serengeti Menu" — included a very tender baby greens salad with toasted pecans and feta, sweet strawberries, perfectly soft orange supreme (essentially naked orange segments), and a refreshing peach-pecan vinaigrette. The very lemony trout was served with crispy skin, a healthy sprinkling of chives, and an almost-rustic side of roasted Yukon gold potatoes and Chardonnay and honey-spiked baby carrots. Chef Crowe rounded out the menu with her Key lime cheesecake, which she dressed with a berry compote and torched Italian meringue, for a low-maintenance, high-payoff finish.

Other menus include bourbon and honey-glazed Atlantic Salmon with marble potatoes and broccolini, or a choice of steak cuts with asparagus and a twice-baked potato. Crowe points out that although the menu isn't very limited, she did have to think about what could be cooked without an open flame. (It'd be hard to cook on something other than propane during a burn ban.) Things like twice-baked potatoes and mini cheesecakes are easy to prepare ahead and hit with a finishing touch at the campground.

"It's simple food, still done well," says Crowe. "Even though I'm out here with these beautiful views cooking on a grill you could buy at Lowe's, I still want to put my stamp on the dishes."

Amani is an experiment for the LCRA, according to Crowe and Cheyrice Brumfield, the park ranger and Cherokee grandmother who appeared at my tent in full glam makeup at 10:20 am to get the water turned back on after a repair before I arrived. If Amani — which officially opened its reservations in June according to a publicist — is as successful as the glamping trend of the past few years would suggest, the LCRA plans to bring similar tents to other parks.

Crowe, during her first run-through of this particular catering experience, was not sure how many people would be join in, but she guesses she could accommodate four people. Bay Kitchen Catering also does bridal brunches and even bulk prep for other restaurants, so the scope depends more on what LCRA is willing to host than the volume the catering company is capable of achieving.

Amani LCRAPhoto by Brianna Caleri

A private chef experience is obviously not required to enjoy a stay at Amani, but it certainly elevates the occasion, and could be a nice way to mark a special occasion beyond just staying in a nice room. Amani also offers a cold cowboy pool (basically a large trough for seated dip) that a glamper can choose to heat as a hot tub, an electric bike rental for conquering the very hilly roads and exploring Shaffer Bend's 508 acres, and of course, spectacular views all around the park.

It's as easy to scoff at the extreme luxury as it is to fantasize about it (if you, like most of us, contain multitudes), but what is really special about Amani is that people like Crowe and Brumfield are making it happen. It's not one of a dozen new purchases by an international hotel chain; It directly benefits Texas parks, and it's taken care of by warm, relatable Texans.

Amani and the park's other campgrounds can be reserved at reserveamerica.com. The safari tent has a two-night minimum, bringing the minimum rental cost to $900 before tax and fees. Culinary reservations must be made at least 72 hours before the stay. More information about Shaffer Bend Recreation Area is available at lcra.org.

10 San Antonio chefs go head-to-head in gourmet Burger Showdown

Burger Beasts

San Antonians can argue with friends all day about who has the best burger in town, but nothing lands quite like a head-to-head live victory.

This October, 10 San Antonio chefs are battling for those bragging rights at the Burger Showdown 4.0 — the numeral representing the competition's fourth year running. Hosted by cooking video series Homegrown Chef and Alamo Beer, the event will set all the chefs up under the Hays Street Bridge to serve up their best creations, so San Antonians can make the final call.

If eating 10 sliders seems excessive, think of it as a public service. Not only are visitors selecting the best burger (basically citizen science), but funds raised will benefit the San Antonio Food Bank.

This is the first year that the competition will be judged by a panel alongside the usual fan voters. There will be three judges: Great Day SA reporter Clark Finney; Edible San Antonio co-publisher Ralph Yznaga; and San Antonio Food Bank's director of food sustainability Mitch Hagney.

"The Burger Showdown is always such a great community event and a really fun way to celebrate our incredible chefs while getting out and trying something new and absolutely delicious," said Homegrown Chef founder and local food writer Kimberly Suta, who helped organize the event, in a release. "I like to challenge people to eat all the burgers because it's never been done!"

Chefs plan to bring the following burgers:

  • Chef Joseph Thadeus Martinez of Tributary (last year's 1st place winner) — "The French Onion Burger," featuring a Dean and Peeler smash patty, black pearl onion aioli, gruyere fonduta, and crispy shallots on a sourdough potato slider bun.
  • Chef James Richard Smith of toohotfortabc (last year's 2nd place winner) — "The Blue Mountain Smash Burger," featuring "sweet heat," bacon jam, and veggies on a Far West Texas Cattle Co. smashed beef patty with melted American cheese on a sourdough bun.
  • Chef Diana Anderson of JD's Chili Parlor (last year's 3rd place winner) — "The Italian Job," featuring tomato-basil pasta sauce, white wine and garlic-marinated beef, buffalo mozzarella, zucchini, red onion, and romaine hearts skewered with fried mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
  • Chef Justin Bluhm of STXBBQ — "The Oktoberfest Burger," inspired by beer, meat, cheese and pretzels. It features a beef patty with sliced brisket, house-pickled onions, and smoked beer queso on a soft pretzel bun.
  • Chef Joshua Calderon of Catering by JC — "The Backyard Barbecue Burger," featuring a beef patty, cheddar cheese, onion, cucumber, and iceberg lettuce on a potato roll.
  • Chef Stephen Chavez of FredericksBurgers — "The Bacon Huebner Burger," featuring bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese on a beef patty.
  • Chef Francisco Estrada of Naco — "The Aztec God Burger," featuring black garlic-seasoned beef, epazote aioli, caramelized onions, and huitlacoche.
  • Chef Greg Ferris of Bobbie’s Cafe — "The Texas Tailgate Burger," featuring a beef patty, American cheese, barbecue chips, and a mysterious "'go big or go home' twist."
  • Chef Kaius of The Kaius Experience — "The Texan Black Gold Burger" featuring a beef patty seasoned with Texan spices, topped with aged cheddar cheese, black garlic aioli, roasted jalapeño bacon, and crispy truffle sweet potato sticks, served on a brioche bun.
  • Chef Braunda Smith of Lucy Cooper’s Ice House — The release says, "This Food Network star is known for her burgers and will tell you she can make a burger out of absolutely anything, which is why she wants to surprise you!"

All burgers except those made by last year's first and second-place winners will be made pasture-raised Akaushi beef from local rancher 529meats. Ben E. Keith & Food Related will provide some toppings.

Tickets ($55) to the Burger Showdown 4.0 are available via Eventbrite. Only 25 VIP tickets ($75) will be sold; these guests will be welcomed 30 minutes early and will receive one drink ticket. Email homegrownchefsa@gmail.com, or text or call (210) 725-2339 to order.