Asked about a pressing issue in his field, one veteran web developer gave ValuePenguin a three-word answer: "Mobile, mobile, mobile." He wasn't being cute. The new-era developer is no longer just developing websites for your desktop and laptop computers. They, or specialized professionals like them yet to be categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, have already been charged with coding their way into the world of smartphones and tablets. It makes sense then that demand is high for developers in many American cities. But life can still vary city to city. That's where we come in.
Best Five Cities for Web Developers
Of the 243 cities reporting data, these five earned our best score, comprising the factors of median salary, cost of living and location quotient. Speaking of salary, the 121,020 web developers employed in the U.S. in May 2014 earned $68,670 on average, or an hourly wage of $33.02, according to the BLS.
1. San Francisco, Calif.
It should come as no surprise that the biggest city (San Francisco) next to the biggest home of technology (the Silicon Valley) should be No. 1 in the hearts and minds of web developers. Overcoming the country's highest cost of living -- it's 100 percent more expensive to live here than it is in the average American city -- San Francisco is one of seven California cities in the top 25 (full list below). Go figure that trade groups like the International Web Association and the HTML Writers Guild as well as the World Organization of Webmasters are based in Pasadena and Folsom, respectively.
Statistical region includes San Mateo and Redwood City
2. San Jose, Calif.
A short drive south of San Francisco, San Jose -- flush with tiny startups and giant corporations -- is home to the second-best city in the nation for web developers. It pays America's highest annual average salary ($106,580) to developers. Some examples of just how concentrated the tech talent is in the Valley: Apple Inc. (Cupertino), Google (Mountain View), Facebook (Menlo Park), Oracle Corporation (Santa Clara) and Cisco Systems (San Jose).
Statistical region includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara
3. Seattle, Wash.
The third of three cities to post a single digit in our scoring, Seattle made it this high, in part, because of its top-five location quotient, a metric that points to the demand for a developer's services in the city relative to other professions. It's helped too by having Bellevue University, a top choice for aspiring developers, within its metro region.
Statistical region includes Bellevue and Everett
4. Washington, D.C.
The nation's capital has the third-most developer jobs (4,850) in America, trailing only the usual suspects: New York City (7,140) and Los Angeles (4,710). There are many full-time developers here that also have as many freelance assignments as they can handle. "The exciting thing about the D.C. web development market is that big data and open government are being embraced by all government agencies," John Carroll told ValuePenguin. "This creates many interesting and challenging projects that will utilize all of your design and programming knowledge and build your skills at the same time." An example of just that, a recent Carroll creation, is this data exploration tool.
Statistical region includes Arlington, Va., and Alexandria, Va.
5. Bethesda, Md.
The only mid-size city to sneak into the top five (population breakdown below), Bethesda scored well in each statistical category we analyzed. Also comprising the metro regions of nearby Rockville and Frederick, Bethesda beat out the more populous Baltimore-Towson, Md., combo (No. 8). It helps being only a 27-minute metro ride from D.C.
Statistical region includes Rockville and Frederick
Although we adjusted for population in our rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small city to a large one. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: cities with populations less than 100,000 people, midsize cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 500,000. Here are our findings:
Top 100 Cities for Web Developers
Here's our complete list of the best 100 cities to live and work in for web developers:
Cost of Living
|San Francisco, CA||$95,600||3,380||3.48||200||5|
|San Jose, CA||$106,580||2,590||2.97||187||7|
|New York, NY||$79,900||7,140||1.48||168||47|
What’s It Like Working in… ?
4. Washington, D.C.
"The unique thing about this market is the plethora of government contracts that are in constant need of web developers. There are so many opportunities that if you are flexible, you can try many different environments until you find the right fit.
"My routine varies from day to day. In my position now, I spend a good part of the morning taking edit requests from the many content producers and stakeholders for our website. In between, I am building website redesigns or concepts for new site functionality. Then in the afternoon and often well into the night, I continue this work and switch over to the many paid and volunteer freelance projects I work on." -- John Carroll
7. Boston, Mass.
"Boston is smaller relative to San Francisco or New York, so the technical crowd is tighter and it's easier to know a lot of other developers.
"Kick off the day with a session of coding. I will typically check email later in the morning, before getting back to a short coding session before lunch. During lunch, I'll check on email again and catch up on some non code related tasks. Following lunch, I will get in another block of coding time and finish the end of the day catching up on email and non-coding tasks, including taking an inventory of what I should jump on the following morning." -- Mike Munroe, co-founder of Greenfield
8. Portland, Ore.
"Being a web developer in Portland is unique because there are not a lot of places on earth that are so densely populated with such a gifted group of people. I've never felt part of a more diverse and colorful group in my life - even as a flight attendant. Every person I've talked to that does development in Portland has an interesting story for how they came to be a developer, what inspires them and what they want to learn. It's a very welcoming group of people - it's not all old guys with pocket protectors!" -- Maigen Thomas, developer at Unigo
25. Los Angeles, Calif.
"I was primarily based out of the Pittsburgh region until just recently. I think in Pennsylvania, my clients were more the industrial types; people like janitorial companies, plumbers and mechanics. Here in L.A., my clients have been almost exclusively artist types, authors, musicians and creative individuals. So I guess what's really kind of cool about where I'm living now and also what's unique, is that I'm dealing more with people who kind of reflect myself as a person. I love being creative. I was in a band for a long time, I've written a novel, and so it's easy for me to instantly mesh with a new client who is an author or musician, or somebody working in the creative industry here in LA.
"I code usually from 10 p.m. at night until about 8 a.m., depending on how much work I have on any given night... I'm not one of those guys who guzzles down energy drinks in order to code for long periods of time. I actually just go without anything until I can't take it anymore, then I usually break for an hour, shower, eat, watch a TV show and then get back to work. That's pretty much every single night for me as a web guy.-- Derek Vasconi
31. Denver, Col.
"The truth is that it doesn't really matter what city I'm in, although people with Drupal talent are in high demand in the Denver area.I love that I am able to work remotely and that the skill is in high demand.Since I'm a freelancer, I have pretty good flexibility in my schedule. I also happen to work remotely essentially 100% of the time. So my daily routine is really dictated by what projects I have agreed to take on at that point in time. My main client I'm supporting right now has check-in meetings Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 10 am. Based on my assigned tasks and the priorities of the different tasks I choose what my focus for the day is going to be and how many hours I'm going to spend on that particular client." -- Marc Isaacson
38. Philadelphia, Pa.
"This is a huge up and coming 'tech city.' Like many cities, there are tons of meetups for various tech and development groups, but the great thing about Philly is that the overall community is relatively small. I really got to know people in the same web development field, which makes it really helpful when I have questions or if I need to just bounce ideas off people not in my company.
"Generally, I’ll try to get in to work a little early and go through some web development blogs such as Smashing Magazineto see if there’s anything new and exciting going on in the development world. I’m constantly trying to learn new technologies, so if I’m not listening to music, I’m listening to courses on Coursera or other online classes that deal with computer science. I try and take on some extra 'R&D' projects, so I’ll usually leave work and jump right back on the computer." -- Joe Zeoli, senior designer at Miles Technologies
59. Orlando, Fla.
"-Orlando’s web development industry is just beginning the booming expansion. Getting to be atthe ground level of that expansion is an incredibly unique and rewarding experience." -- Jeanie Orejarena, developer at Lightmaker
"Orlando is one of the biggest tech hubs in the south that I know of. It's no Austin, New York City or Silicon Valley, of course, but there's a large, thriving (and growing) community of technologists and startups here, and it's really exciting to be a part of it.
"The first half-hour to hour of my day is dedicated to replying to emails, looking at bug reports and automatic error reports that are generated whenever anything goes wrong on our web site. After that, I'll spend a few minutes looking at articles on HackerNews or any of the programming-related email newsletters that I receive. If I see any interesting articles -- new technology to learn, tutorials -- I save them for later reading using an app called Pocket. In the evenings, I'll read through these articles, and this helps keep me current with web technology, which these days moves at a breakneck pace." -- Skyler Slade, co-founder at Tandem
217. York, Pa.
"In York, I get to work with small- to mid-size businesses, which means I often work directly with the clients and have access to the decision-makers. In larger markets, there is often more middle management to interact with, which can make the creative and development process more difficult. Also, in York, there is an unusually diverse marketplace which means we have an opportunity to work on projects for a wide array topics and industries.
"When I’m deep into a build, it’s just me and the code. When I’m between builds, or juggling multiple builds, all sense of routine is out the window." --George Migash, lead developer at Gavin Advertising
237. Fresno, Calif.
"Our city is unique in that it is fairly large, yet we still often maintain a small-town feel. It’s not uncommon for us to develop really good relationships with our clients.The tech industry here is also booming, so we see clients with a need for serious technology both in their local infrastructure and their online presence.
"I always start my day off by working on high-priority projects such as making sure I have a good supply of hot fresh coffee, besides the morning coffee I don’t have much of a routine. My day is mostly dictated by the needs of our clients. If there’s a web site down, that’s where my attention goes. If there’s a software bug preventing a client from conducting business, that’s where my attention goes. If there’s a high-priority project we need completed, that’s where my attention goes. In general my day revolves around coffee, immediate client needs and then projects." -- Max Sullivan, developer at ARTCO by J
"I think one of the bigger challenges in Fresno is to see ourselves on par with the bigger cities. I Learned early on about studying and following nationwide trends, having studied the outreach teams for Harvest Crusades and the marketing strategies of Disneyland. There’s always a common denominator to reach for every market, and it’s my job to see those trends and to apply them to our clients. For lots of developers (and clients) here who have never lived in a big city, it’s sometimes a struggle to see that reaching a global audience via the internet from our little corner of the world is a possibility. It’s not necessarily a struggle that’s unique to Fresno, but it is one that is a challenge to overcome with our clients. Another not-just-limited-to-Fresno challenge is that a good amount of the end users don't update their technology. Compared to people in the Silicon Valley who are constantly updating their phones and software, we have some end users who still rely on the AOL browser and Internet Explorer 6. So while we’re trying to push ahead with technology for our clients, we also need to keep in mind that some of their audience is not as up-to-date on technology as we are." -- Darryl Dote, designer at ARTCO by J
Unranked. Peekskill, N.Y.
"My city is a fast-growing, small community that has businesses that rely on local search to display their services and products. It's a town on the beautiful Hudson River that's a mixture of restaurants, bars, and an artist community. They all depend on each other for success.I'm working with my chamber of commerce to make sure they are all listed correctly with Google Maps and optimize their websites so that search engines can crawl and index them correctly.
"Wake up between 5:30 a.m. and 7 am; start going through emails, and if there's time read a web development related book or newsletter; be at my computer between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. to start communicating with clients. Hopefully, by 10 a.m., I start writing code. I work until at least 5 p.m." -- James Sacci, creative director at ProWeb Innovations
These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.
1. What can web developers earn in the city?
We ranked the best cities for web developers based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.
2. How affordable is it to live in this city?
Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 188, such as Honolulu, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 88 percent more expensive compared to the average city.
3. What is the location quotient for web developers in the city?
A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of web developers in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a web developer’s services.