Best Places for Tech Careers

by Douglas Burger

Thick glasses, high-waisted pants and bad haircuts. The awkward computer nerd is becoming a thing of the past as technology has rapidly advanced and become part of the mainstream. Building on this trend, we sought to determine the best cities for tech careers, using 19 data points across four specific categories. Below you will find our results, as well as a detailed methodology explaining how we arrived at them. 

Best Places for Tech Careers

Here is how 190 cities with qualifying data stacked up in the four separate categories that we studied. In all rankings below, a lower number is better than a higher number.

Overall Rank Metro Area Where to Learn Who's Hiring Where to Live Where to Work
1 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 1 5 177 5
2 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 16 8 165 1
3 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 15 3 183 3
4 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 14 4 179 7
5 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 12 6 176 7
6 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3 18 140 12
7 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 4 19 168 2
8 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 20 7 164 9
9 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 35 11 129 10
10 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 13 2 181 23
11 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 2 19 167 19
12 Austin-Round Rock, TX 44 16 150 11
13 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 29 15 138 27
14 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 40 10 134 29
15 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 10 24 182 16
16 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 46 12 152 20
16 Richmond, VA 7 24 116 42
18 Boulder, CO 36 29 149 6
19 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 18 23 159 24
20 Colorado Springs, CO 27 36 121 20
21 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 26 30 117 34
22 Pittsburgh, PA 5 33 90 56
23 Salt Lake City, UT 53 19 95 43
24 Raleigh, NC 50 37 121 13
25 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 95 9 146 17
26 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 6 14 169 64
27 Columbus, OH 48 41 93 32
28 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 8 47 73 59
29 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 57 31 132 33
30 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 17 52 88 47
31 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 52 38 111 39
32 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 79 45 109 13
33 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 142 1 188 4
34 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 75 35 155 18
35 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 61 28 118 52
35 Trenton, NJ 53 42 189 15
37 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 42 32 175 41
38 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 59 40 73 55
39 St. Louis, MO-IL 64 44 106 36
40 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 80 43 135 20
41 Kansas City, MO-KS 73 48 86 35
42 Rochester, NY 28 69 69 50
43 Tucson, AZ 37 53 104 54
44 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 30 56 9 89
45 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 50 55 119 44
46 Madison, WI 21 79 97 39
47 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 31 68 125 38
48 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 81 39 186 26
49 Fort Collins, CO 53 64 142 30
50 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 24 27 187 85
51 Rochester, MN 25 116 15 24
52 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 11 79 63 67
53 Provo-Orem, UT 67 49 85 63
54 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 122 17 121 58
55 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 71 61 115 46
56 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 32 106 18 51
57 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 117 13 162 71
58 Dayton, OH 82 69 44 61
59 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 78 54 59 82
60 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 84 67 64 62
61 Springfield, MA 9 82 114 76
62 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 144 57 87 31
63 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 124 24 157 69
64 Manchester-Nashua, NH 33 75 184 56
65 Jacksonville, FL 132 34 119 74
66 Syracuse, NY 56 97 7 79
67 Ann Arbor, MI 62 97 128 37
68 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 43 75 35 115
69 Huntsville, AL 158 77 59 28
70 Oklahoma City, OK 125 45 40 101
71 New Haven-Milford, CT 88 71 126 65
72 Santa Rosa, CA 72 66 180 68
73 Charlottesville, VA 41 87 169 66
74 Boise City, ID 93 94 65 59
75 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 164 22 151 87
76 Bakersfield, CA 77 64 108 106
77 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 110 57 162 80
78 Peoria, IL 107 121 28 44
79 Albuquerque, NM 161 61 100 72
80 Lansing-East Lansing, MI 65 124 10 83
81 Lancaster, PA 23 90 126 122
82 Fresno, CA 85 59 77 141
82 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 142 78 49 87
84 Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 65 112 185 49
85 Kennewick-Richland, WA 69 112 80 83
86 Roanoke, VA 34 104 73 124
87 Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA 22 114 31 137
88 Winston-Salem, NC 91 100 49 104
89 Cedar Rapids, IA 58 169 24 47
90 Binghamton, NY 74 152 1 69
91 Knoxville, TN 126 85 47 109
91 Lynchburg, VA 60 108 78 112
93 Reno, NV 178 59 99 93
94 Salinas, CA 90 92 154 93
95 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 163 74 138 75
96 Portland-South Portland, ME 100 100 158 76
97 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 149 86 14 114
97 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 120 87 101 103
97 Wichita, KS 132 95 3 117
100 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 147 83 136 80
101 Fort Wayne, IN 39 148 2 111
102 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 47 164 12 86
103 Burlington-South Burlington, VT 98 133 137 52
104 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 148 50 132 138
105 Barnstable Town, MA 18 116 172 124
106 Columbia, SC 145 89 93 104
107 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 106 107 130 95
108 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 181 92 42 100
109 Norwich-New London, CT 116 119 147 73
110 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 172 51 143 128
111 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 141 73 61 148
112 Lexington-Fayette, KY 150 120 52 89
113 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 179 111 37 89
114 Lincoln, NE 114 135 22 112
115 Springfield, IL 134 150 25 78
116 Wilmington, NC 112 125 110 98
117 Urban Honolulu, HI 156 81 178 107
118 York-Hanover, PA 37 136 166 124
119 Green Bay, WI 63 162 32 118
120 Anchorage, AK 180 84 147 108
121 Fayetteville, NC 101 129 66 129
122 Baton Rouge, LA 181 72 112 140
123 Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL 153 110 152 96
124 Corpus Christi, TX 119 102 20 175
125 Champaign-Urbana, IL 101 166 36 97
126 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 87 134 190 98
127 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 152 63 173 157
128 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL 151 91 105 146
129 Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 121 103 48 174
130 Erie, PA 45 178 6 142
131 Evansville, IN-KY 68 166 20 139
132 Modesto, CA 112 122 145 127
133 Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV 97 151 174 92
134 Stockton-Lodi, CA 82 123 156 147
135 Appleton, WI 92 180 44 102
136 Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 99 154 40 135
137 Eugene, OR 136 139 72 120
138 South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI 70 160 34 149
139 Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN 49 186 27 134
140 Asheville, NC 107 127 54 166
141 Utica-Rome, NY 76 176 16 136
142 Rockford, IL 145 145 26 131
143 Gainesville, FL 167 130 79 120
144 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 107 140 4 172
145 Greeley, CO 89 145 171 123
146 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 111 125 13 188
147 Springfield, MO 129 136 39 153
148 Killeen-Temple, TX 104 147 76 143
149 Columbus, GA-AL 153 153 68 109
150 Amarillo, TX 140 142 17 150
151 Flint, MI 94 171 57 132
152 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 157 97 121 170
152 Salem, OR 128 157 92 119
154 Lubbock, TX 129 138 29 166
155 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 162 105 141 152
156 College Station-Bryan, TX 139 158 51 132
157 Montgomery, AL 173 142 98 116
158 Tyler, TX 135 132 89 158
159 Savannah, GA 155 109 144 158
159 Waco, TX 137 159 19 145
161 Lafayette, LA 187 96 95 176
162 Chico, CA 101 155 81 165
163 Port St. Lucie, FL 171 118 131 156
164 Jackson, MS 183 128 61 160
165 Longview, TX 131 142 71 177
166 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 169 114 161 161
167 Saginaw, MI 105 184 33 155
168 Yakima, WA 86 179 37 178
169 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 138 172 43 151
170 Mobile, AL 184 131 67 171
171 Shreveport-Bossier City, LA 186 140 5 180
172 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 123 164 8 190
173 Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 159 185 46 129
174 Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ 114 181 23 179
175 Macon, GA 168 155 83 166
176 Charleston, WV 175 163 53 162
177 Prescott, AZ 96 177 102 183
178 Spartanburg, SC 166 175 58 154
179 Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 190 161 103 143
180 Laredo, TX 126 173 55 188
181 Johnson City, TN 160 189 29 163
182 Ocala, FL 177 149 113 181
183 Merced, CA 118 168 159 181
184 Florence, SC 174 187 56 169
185 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 165 174 84 186
186 Fort Smith, AR-OK 189 183 11 184
187 Clarksville, TN-KY 170 188 91 164
188 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 176 182 69 187
189 Houma-Thibodaux, LA 188 170 106 185
190 Tuscaloosa, AL 185 190 82 173

Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for:

By using 19 data points, we did our best to document the potential preferences for members of the technology field. Here are four of those data points (number of establishments, median housing cost, median annual wage and patents filed) described in more detail and the top and bottom cities ranked. 

When searching for a job, it’s good to have options. An employee is searching out the right fit in an employer just as much as an employer is searching out an employee. We used the 2012 Economic Census to tabulate the number of professional, scientific and technical services firms in each city. New York, one of the most populous and competitive markets in the world, led the way. 

When one thinks about the tech industry, Silicon Valley comes to mind. Some of the top tech companies (Facebook, Google and Apple, among many others) make their home there. It’s also extremely expensive to live there. Using the U.S. Census Bureau, we looked at median monthly housing costs. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., area almost doubled the national average, checking in at $1,893. 

Wondering how Google and Facebook employees pay those crazy housing prices? Well, they make a lot too. The annual mean wage for computer and mathematical occupations in the U.S. in 2015 was $86,170, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top four in our study clock in at six figures, with San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., leading the way at $125,640.

There’s a trend starting to form here. Technology is innovative, and to document this we looked at the number of patents filed from 2000 to 2013, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Since 2000, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., area has filed almost 9% of all utility patents, which covers the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter.

Trends in the Top 10

There are top earners with few peers at emerging startups and established companies. But the Los Angeles area has the largest number of paid employees (633,648) and the highest annual payroll ($35,143,823).

Inventors call California home but come from all over. Of the top 10 cities, 14.9% of graduates holding tech-related degrees are coming out of Boston, Mass. (compared to 5.9% in Dallas), while a quarter of utility patent grants are in San Jose, Calif.

A higher salary helps with a higher cost of living. Of all 156 cities analyzed in our study, San Jose recorded the highest median annual wage ($125,640) and the highest median gross rent ($1,629/month).

Methodology

To determine the best cities for tech careers, we used 19 data points from five reputable sources and broke them into four categories detailed below. Not all categories were created equal as we thought wages and employers were more important than cost of living. After all, the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations is more than twice the median annual wage for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

Below, we breakdown each statistic and point to its origin. In parenthesis is the category's and stat’s weighting (a higher number represents a higher weight), and those marked with an asterisk are state-based (not city-based).

Where to Learn (2)

1. Best Grad Schools for Engineering (0.5)* U.S. News & World Report (2016)
2. Best Grad Schools for Computer Science (0.5)* U.S. News & World Report (2014)
3. Bachelor's Degree in Computers, Mathematics and Statistics for 25-and-older Population's First Major (1) U.S. Census Bureau (2010-2014)
4. Associate's Degrees in Science, Engineering and Technology per 1,000 18-to-24-year-olds (0.5)* National Science Board (2013)
5. Bachelor's Degrees in Science, Engineering and Technology per 1,000 18-to-24-year-olds (0.5)* National Science Board (2013)
6. Eighth Grade Science Performance (0.5)* National Science Board (2011)
7. Eighth Grade Math Performance (0.5)* National Science Board (2013)

Who's Hiring (4)

8. Number of Companies (Professional, Scientific and Technical Services) (1) U.S. Census Bureau (2012)
9. Annual Payroll of Companies (Professional, Scientific and Technical Services) (1)
10. Number of Paid Employees (Professional, Scientific and Technical Services) (1)
11. Companies Employing Science, Engineering and Technology Professionals as a Percentage of all Companies (1) National Science Board (2012)

Where to Live (1)

12. Commute Time (1) U.S. Census Bureau (2010-2014)
13. Median Gross Rent (0.5) U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
14. Median Monthly Housing Costs (0.5) U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
15. Cell Phone Reliability (0.5) RootMetrics (2015)
16. Cell Phone Speed (0.5)

Where to Work (3)

17. Median Annual Wage of Computer, Mathematical Occupations (1) U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
18. Employment of Computer, Mathematical Occupations per 1,000 Jobs (1)
19. Count of Utility Patent Grants (1) U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (2000-2013)

Experts' Take

← Jeff Winkler is the founder and CEO of Origin Code Academy in San Diego, Calif.

1. In an industry that's moving and changing so quickly, how are educators adapting to prepare their students to enter the workforce?
In a lot of ways, educators' hands are tied -- at least on the professor/teacher level. For example, AngularJS 2 is coming out to the general public sooner rather than later. Depending on the institution where you are an educator, you may have to wait a year at the earliest -- and several years in most cases -- before you are able to include that in your curriculum as an educator. They really don't give the educators a chance in a lot of cases to prepare students for real world experience, just experience with technologies that are a few years old.  

2. Do you think the traditional K-12 education system should integrate technical classes, lessons into its daily schedule?
You are starting to see this conversation take place right now in a very productive way. The parents are really the only ones fueling this discussion, in my opinion, as they are starting to understand the value of ensuring their kids are exposed to coding in some way. So the short answer is yes, they should absolutely include it into the daily schedule, even if they don't end up in tech, it will greatly increase their problem solving skills. 

3. If it's beneficial to them, how should cities aim to attract workers in the tech field? What's important to tech employees?
You can look at cities that are successfully attracting workers now. It can be a chicken-or-egg problem, but if you attract the companies, the labor force will follow. The way you attract employers is showing them that as a city, you value tech and training tech talent, giving them the peace of mind that they won't struggle to fill their hiring needs over the next 5 to 10 years.

4. How is the tech industry changing? Where do you see it in five years?
The tech industry is really just starting. People are starting to realize that their jobs may not be here in 10 to 15 years, so they are starting to become more and more interested in tech almost by necessity. I think innovation as a result will multiply even faster -- and there will be more intelligent people solving more complex problems. And the more people you have on a project, the more innovative the culture will become. There is a lot to be very optimist about in the very near future.

← Michael Paladino is the chief technology officer and co-founder at RevUnit.

1. In an industry that's moving and changing so quickly, how are educators adapting to prepare their students to enter the workforce?
Educators can't know everything about every topic. The educators that I feel have best helped students prepare for the work force have recognized that fact and have utilized industry experts to supplement. In some cases, that involves bringing experts into the classroom. In others, it means getting the students out of the classroom and into a work environment for job shadowing or internships.

2. Do you think the traditional K-12 education system should integrate technical classes, lessons into its daily schedule?
I absolutely feel that technical classes should be integrated into traditional K-12 education. We've seen this work first-hand in Arkansas via legislation that mandates computer science at a state level. Individual programs like Bentonville Ignite have also taught students technical skills and then paired them with local businesses. In many cases, these fields do not require college degrees, and students are able to leave high school and immediately move into high-paying skills-based jobs. Others are able to move on to college and utilize their skills to provide supplemental income.

3. If it's beneficial to them, how should cities aim to attract workers in the tech field? What's important to tech employees?
Tech employees require a few things. It sounds simple, but high-speed internet is a must. If the infrastructure isn't there, tech talent will get frustrated and move on to greener pastures. Amenities are important as well. With the increase in remote work forces, many tech employees can choose to live wherever they want while working remotely. This means cities have to compete with locations with great quality of life. This could mean many things: focus on the arts, bike trails, craft breweries, et cetera. Whatever existing advantages cities have, they should continue to attempt to maximize those to attract top tech talent. Finally, tech talent tends to aggregate together. Grass-root efforts such as programming user groups, entrepreneur meet-ups, and pitch competitions encourage participation and involvement and help tech employees feel like a part of the community outside of just the company they work for. It's important that cities and companies step up to support these efforts through sponsorships, offering up venues, et cetera.

4. How is the tech industry changing? Where do you see it in five years?
Tech is changing across a number of fronts. Interfaces are changing dramatically as bots and voice replace buttons and typing. Users and now IoT devices are creating data at a phenomenal pace providing opportunities for machine learning and data mining to uncover trend-level intelligence and highly individualized personalization. A company's ability to innovate and stay ahead of their competition will increasingly be driven by how rapidly they can take advantage of technology.

Stay tuned as we track down more professionals and academics to gauge their opinions on the best places for tech professionals to live and work.

Have something to contribute? Drop us a line @VP_Careers.

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