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The top industries and employers in the Charleston metro area

We crunched the numbers for you.

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Which industry do you work in?

Photo by @donniewhitaker

Table of Contents

More than 400,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to the Charleston region’s ~$45+ billion gross regional product. But have you ever wondered about the Holy City’s heaviest hitters?

Consider this Charleston Business 101 — your guide to five of our region’s key industries and major employers.

Note: When we say Charleston region, that refers to the Tricounty (Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties).

A boat on the water.

South Carolina’s ports provide the state with a unique economic advantage.

Photo provided by SC Ports

The key industries

Five key industries represent ~76% of the Charleston region’s economy, based on data from the Charleston Regional Data Center. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.

Trade, transportation, and utilities | 66,000+ employees

This industry cluster includes the transportation of people, the movement of goods, and water and power services. The Port of Charleston, for example, offers the deepest harbor in the South Atlantic and provides global access to 150+ countries.

Government | 62,000+ employees

The military, public schools, and public hospitals make up a large portion of the regional workforce. Charleston has a significant military presence in particular with a $12.7 billion economic impact.

Professional + business services | 51,000+ employees

Around 15% of the labor force in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties are made up of professional services. These include legal, accounting, architecture, engineering, management, and office administration.

Leisure + hospitality | 46,000+ employees

With 7.43 million visitors annually, the Charleston region is known for its historic architecture, gardens, food, golf, arts + culture, and miles of beaches. Most international visitors arrive from the UK, Germany, and Canada.

Education + health services | 40,000+ employees

Educational institutions in Charleston improve the quality of life, raise average salaries, and contribute to global economic competitiveness. The region also has several nationally recognized hospital systems and medical centers.

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

The major players

Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious about specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are five major employers — all that employ more than 5,000 workers.

Joint Base Charleston

20,000+ employees | Military | Search jobs

Joint Base Charleston spans three seaports, two civilian-military airfields, 39 miles of rail, and 22 miles of coastline. The mission includes installation support, airlift, and airdrop operations, and training naval nuclear operators.

Medical University of South Carolina

15,000+ employees | Health care | Search jobs

MUSC is the oldest medical school in the South and is SC’s only integrated academic health sciences center serving the state through education, research, and patient care. Patient care is provided at over a dozen hospitals with ~2,500 beds and more than 350 telehealth sites.


7,500+ employees | Aerospace | Search jobs

Boeing is a leading global aerospace company and a top US exporter. The company develops, manufactures, and services commercial airplanes, defense products, and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries.

Charleston County School District

7,000+ | Government | Search jobs

The Charleston County School District is the second-largest school system in SC with schools spanning 1,300 square miles along the coast. This nationally accredited school district serves ~49,000 students in 80+ schools and specialized programs.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare

6,000+ employees | Health care | Search jobs

Roper St. Francis Healthcare is the area’s only private not-for-profit healthcare system with four flagship hospitals and six emergency rooms. Roper is one of the largest private employers in the Lowcountry with nearly 1,000 doctors representing almost every medical specialty.

This information is derived from the most recent data published by the Charleston Regional Data Center and provided by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

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