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 AreaWhere to LearnWho's HiringWhere to LiveWhere to Work

1

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH151775

2

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA1681651

3

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA1531833

4

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO1441797

5

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD1261767

6

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI31814012

7

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA4191682

8

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA2071649

9

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX351112910

10

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA13218123

11

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD21916719

12

Austin-Round Rock, TX441615011

13

Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA291513827

14

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX401013429

15

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA102418216

16

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI461215220

16

Richmond, VA72411642

18

Boulder, CO36291496

19

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ182315924

20

Colorado Springs, CO273612120

21

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI263011734

22

Pittsburgh, PA5339056

23

Salt Lake City, UT53199543

24

Raleigh, NC503712113

25

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA95914617

26

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC61416964

27

Columbus, OH48419332

28

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN8477359

29

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC573113233

30

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI17528847

31

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN523811139

32

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC794510913

33

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV14211884

34

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA753515518

35

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX612811852

35

Trenton, NJ534218915

37

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA423217541

38

Cleveland-Elyria, OH59407355

39

St. Louis, MO-IL644410636

40

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT804313520

41

Kansas City, MO-KS73488635

42

Rochester, NY28696950

43

Tucson, AZ375310454

44

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY3056989

45

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA505511944

46

Madison, WI21799739

47

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY316812538

48

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT813918626

49

Fort Collins, CO536414230

50

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA242718785

51

Rochester, MN251161524

52

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA11796367

53

Provo-Orem, UT67498563

54

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL1221712158

55

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA716111546

56

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA321061851

57

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL1171316271

58

Dayton, OH82694461

59

Ogden-Clearfield, UT78545982

60

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA84676462

61

Springfield, MA98211476

62

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL144578731

63

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL1242415769

64

Manchester-Nashua, NH337518456

65

Jacksonville, FL1323411974

66

Syracuse, NY5697779

67

Ann Arbor, MI629712837

68

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI437535115

69

Huntsville, AL158775928

70

Oklahoma City, OK1254540101

71

New Haven-Milford, CT887112665

72

Santa Rosa, CA726618068

73

Charlottesville, VA418716966

74

Boise City, ID93946559

75

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV1642215187

76

Bakersfield, CA7764108106

77

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN1105716280

78

Peoria, IL1071212844

79

Albuquerque, NM1616110072

80

Lansing-East Lansing, MI651241083

81

Lancaster, PA2390126122

82

Fresno, CA855977141

82

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN142784987

84

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA6511218549

85

Kennewick-Richland, WA691128083

86

Roanoke, VA3410473124

87

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA2211431137

88

Winston-Salem, NC9110049104

89

Cedar Rapids, IA581692447

90

Binghamton, NY74152169

91

Knoxville, TN1268547109

91

Lynchburg, VA6010878112

93

Reno, NV178599993

94

Salinas, CA909215493

95

Birmingham-Hoover, AL1637413875

96

Portland-South Portland, ME10010015876

97

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC1498614114

97

Memphis, TN-MS-AR12087101103

97

Wichita, KS132953117

100

Charleston-North Charleston, SC1478313680

101

Fort Wayne, IN391482111

102

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL471641286

103

Burlington-South Burlington, VT9813313752

104

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL14850132138

105

Barnstable Town, MA18116172124

106

Columbia, SC1458993104

107

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA10610713095

108

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR1819242100

109

Norwich-New London, CT11611914773

110

New Orleans-Metairie, LA17251143128

111

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC1417361148

112

Lexington-Fayette, KY1501205289

113

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO1791113789

114

Lincoln, NE11413522112

115

Springfield, IL1341502578

116

Wilmington, NC11212511098

117

Urban Honolulu, HI15681178107

118

York-Hanover, PA37136166124

119

Green Bay, WI6316232118

120

Anchorage, AK18084147108

121

Fayetteville, NC10112966129

122

Baton Rouge, LA18172112140

123

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL15311015296

124

Corpus Christi, TX11910220175

125

Champaign-Urbana, IL1011663697

126

Vallejo-Fairfield, CA8713419098

127

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL15263173157

128

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL15191105146

129

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX12110348174

130

Erie, PA451786142

131

Evansville, IN-KY6816620139

132

Modesto, CA112122145127

133

Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV9715117492

134

Stockton-Lodi, CA82123156147

135

Appleton, WI9218044102

136

Kalamazoo-Portage, MI9915440135

137

Eugene, OR13613972120

138

South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI7016034149

139

Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN4918627134

140

Asheville, NC10712754166

141

Utica-Rome, NY7617616136

142

Rockford, IL14514526131

143

Gainesville, FL16713079120

144

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA1071404172

145

Greeley, CO89145171123

146

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX11112513188

147

Springfield, MO12913639153

148

Killeen-Temple, TX10414776143

149

Columbus, GA-AL15315368109

150

Amarillo, TX14014217150

151

Flint, MI9417157132

152

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL15797121170

152

Salem, OR12815792119

154

Lubbock, TX12913829166

155

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL162105141152

156

College Station-Bryan, TX13915851132

157

Montgomery, AL17314298116

158

Tyler, TX13513289158

159

Savannah, GA155109144158

159

Waco, TX13715919145

161

Lafayette, LA1879695176

162

Chico, CA10115581165
163Port St. Lucie, FL171118131156
164Jackson, MS18312861160
165Longview, TX13114271177
166Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL169114161161
167Saginaw, MI10518433155
168Yakima, WA8617937178
169Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC13817243151

170

Mobile, AL18413167171

171

Shreveport-Bossier City, LA1861405180
172Brownsville-Harlingen, TX1231648190
173Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA15918546129
174Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ11418123179
175Macon, GA16815583166
176Charleston, WV17516353162
177Prescott, AZ96177102183
178Spartanburg, SC16617558154
179Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS190161103143
180Laredo, TX12617355188
181Johnson City, TN16018929163
182Ocala, FL177149113181
183Merced, CA118168159181
184Florence, SC17418756169
185Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC16517484186
186Fort Smith, AR-OK18918311184
187Clarksville, TN-KY17018891164
188Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH17618269187
189Houma-Thibodaux, LA188170106185
190Tuscaloosa, AL18519082173

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.

Best vs. Worst Most Tech Companies

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.

Best vs. Worst Housing Costs

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.

Best vs. Worst Annual Salary

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.

Best vs. Worst Patents Granted

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

Top 10 legend

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).

Annual Payroll of companies

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.

% of utility patent grants vs. % of BA degrees in tech related fields

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).

average wage vs. average rent

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 headshot
← 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 headshot
← 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 meetups, 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.

Comments and Questions