smartasset.com (Derek Miller)
August 15, 2017
You probably picture San Jose or San Francisco when you picture tech cities. But with the cost of living in the Bay Area sky rocketing, the generous benefits tech workers receive may no longer feel like a lot. The good news is that tech jobs are booming in places across the country where costs of living are lower but the wages are still high. For the fourth year in a row, SmartAsset looked at these and other factors to find the best cities to work in tech.
In order to find the best cities to work in tech, we looked at data on five different factors. We considered the percent of workers employed in tech, the ratio of the average tech salary to the average salary across all fields, the cost of living, the unemployment rate and average salary for tech workers. Check out our data and methodology section below to see where we got our data and how we put it together.
This is SmartAsset’s fourth annual study of the best cities to work in tech. Check out the 2016 work in tech study here.
Tech in the South – Six of our top 10 American cities to work in tech are in the South. Tech workers in the South tend to be paid much higher than their non-tech counterparts and the cost of living in the region tends to be low, making it a great place to be a tech worker.
High tech Texas – Texas dominates the top section of our rankings with five cities in the top 15. While each Texas city has different reasons for ranking, one common theme is how much higher tech workers in Texas are paid compared to the average worker.
1. Columbus, Ohio
The capital of Ohio is the best place in the country for tech workers. Columbus climbed our ranks thanks to solid scores across the board, without any single metric scoring in the top 10. Columbus’ best score came in the ratio of the average tech wage to the average wage across all fields. In that metric, the city ranked 12th. On average tech workers are paid 1.82 times more than the average worker across all fields.
The city also benefits from being home to one of the largest schools in the county, Ohio State University, which supplies fresh-faced tech workers for local tech businesses. In fact Columbus is one of the best cities for new college grads. The only metric Columbus tech workers may be concerned about is the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for holders of bachelor’s degrees is 2.9%, the fifth-highest in the top 10.
2. Springfield, Illinois
Another state capital, Springfield, Illinois, takes second place. Springfield has the eighth-lowest unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree (1.6%). Springfield tech workers are also well paid. They earn an average of $83,500 per year, which is 69% more than the average salary in the city.
While there are places where tech workers earn more, Springfield combines a high average pay with a low cost of living. The cost of living in Springfield is about 11% less than the national average meaning that $83,500 stretches farther in Springfield than some other places in the country. But readers should keep in mind that Illinois also has some of the highest income taxes in the nation, off-setting some of that low cost of living.
3. Sierra Vista, Arizona
Sierra Vista has the highest cost of living of any city in our top 10. So, what makes it so good for tech workers? First of all, Sierra Vista is something of a tech hub with 5.4% of workers employed in the field. Only 12 other cities in our study have a higher concentration of tech workers in their city. Secondly, working in tech in Sierra Vista is a high paying gig, which offsets the slightly high cost of living. On average tech workers in Sierra Vista make $81,400 per year. That’s 74% higher than the citywide average earnings.
4. Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh (along with Durham and Chapel Hill) is home to one of the largest research parks in the world: Research Triangle Park. Within this research park are campuses for some of the largest tech companies in the country, like IBM and Cisco Systems. The research park is in Raleigh because of the proximity to high-quality research institutions like Duke University, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University.
All those tech jobs in the area mean Raleigh is a great place to work in tech. About 5.8% of all workers in the city work in tech, the 11th-highest rate in the country. Another plus for tech workers is the pay. On average tech workers earn just over $89,000 per year, the second-highest amount in our top 10. However, that paycheck does not go quite as far in Raleigh as it may in other cities. Raleigh has a cost of living only 6% lower than the national average, a relatively high score for our top 10.
5. Dallas, Texas
Dallas rose nine spots from last year’s study to claim the fifth spot. The city owes its rise in our ranks to its improving unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders and the increased salary tech workers earn. Last year our data showed that bachelor’s degree holders had an unemployment rate of 4.1%. That number fell to 3.3% in this year’s study. Compared to last year, tech workers also earn $4,000 more per year on average.
Dallas’ best scores came in the aforementioned tech salary metric. Dallas tech workers are the 21st-highest paid in the country. This city also has a large concentration of tech workers. About 5.8% of workers in Dallas work in tech, the 15th-highest rate in the country.
6. Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville is the tech capital of Alabama. Over 6.1% of workers in Huntsville work in tech, a score only surpassed by one city in our top 25. Huntsville tech workers are also well compensated for their work, especially when you compare the salary to the low cost of living. The cost of living in Huntsville is about 8% less than the national average while the average tech worker earns just under $93,000 per year. Another plus for Huntsville workers is the relatively low taxes in Alabama, meaning workers keep a large chunk of what they earn.
What keeps Huntsville from scoring higher in our ranks in the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders. About 3.6% of graduates with bachelor’s degrees are unemployed, the 126th-worst rate in the study.
7. Richmond, Virginia
Richmond jumped 11 spots from last year. Tech workers in Richmond saw their median incomes rise $3,000 from last year, which lifted the city up the rankings. Other metrics improved, too. Like the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders, which dropped from 3.9% to 3.1%.
Richmond’s strongest metrics were related to tech pay. This city ranked 34th for average tech salary ($86,620) and 20th in the ratio of the average tech salary to the average salary across all fields (1.77).
8. Wichita Falls, Texas
Wichita Falls is a city northwest of Dallas, right next to the Oklahoma border, with a population around 100,000. Of the people who work in Wichita Falls, not too many work in tech (only about 1.39%), but the ones who do are well paid. The average tech worker in Wichita Falls earns 1.93 times the overall average salary in Wichita. That is the fourth-highest score in that metric in our study.
The cost of living is also low in Wichita Falls. Our data shows that living there costs 15.5% less than the national average, giving the city the 12th-lowest cost of living in the country.
9. San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the third and final Texas city to crack our top 10. Like much of the rest of Texas, living in San Antonio won’t require you to break the bank. The cost of living in San Antonio is 14% less than the national average. Tech workers in San Antonio also earn quite a lot. The average salary is $85,760. That’s the 40th-highest average salary for tech workers in the country.
The big downside for San Antonio workers is that jobs may be relatively hard to find. Our data shows that San Antonio has an unemployment rate of 3.9% for holders of bachelor’s degrees.
10. Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines dropped two spots from last year but managed to stay in the top 10. The city scores fairly well in all metrics, without any single metric leading the way. Des Moines’ best score comes in percent of workers employed in tech (3.7%). The city’s worst score came in the ratio of the average tech salary to the average salary across all fields. The average tech worker only earns 65% more than the average worker.