Best Cities to Start a Tech Career 2016
Technology has brought about countless transformations in nearly all areas of society -- and we're still barely brushing the surface. Tech is going to continue reshaping our lives in unprecedented ways through new advancements in computer power, data storage and bandwidth; there's hardly any area of modern life that it does not touch.
Employees who can readily adapt to constantly shifting business landscapes and technologies are well poised for jobs in tech and related fields.
- In May 2015, the median annual wage for information technology and computer-related professions in the U.S. was $81,430 -- or 125 percent higher than the national median wage of $36,200 for all jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports
- In all, according to the BLS, high-tech industries employed nearly 17 million workers in 2014, or roughly 12 percent of the total U.S. workforce
But which city is the best for people in tech? There are a number of cities throughout the U.S. that offer tech grads strong job prospects and solid earning potential. The following are the top 30 cities in the country for tech workers based on the sector’s number of jobs, median wages, cost of living, commute times and a host of other factors.
For more detailed information on how we built our final rankings, check out our methodology below.
The 30 Best Cities for Tech Workers
#1 San Francisco
The City by the Bay continues to outshine Los Angeles as a hotbed for tech employment -- and tech investment. San Francisco led all cities for venture capital investment in 2015 with an incredible $21 billion in 942 venture capital deals, more than three times the next major metropolitan region. That said, San Francisco also ranks close to last among the 77 metro areas included in our study for its lengthy commute times and ultra-high cost of living.
- Median earnings for tech workers: $92,878
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 942
- Average commute time: 30 minutes
Austin's low unemployment and high concentration of technology-related businesses make it an ideal prospect for tech workers seeking stable and long-term employment. Tech companies currently located in Austin include industry giants Dell and IBM, as well as Rackspace, LegalZoom and Oracle. Nearly 12 percent of the total workforce in Austin was employed in a technology-related field in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $73,955
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 99
- Average commute time: 26 minutes
The mile-high capital of Colorado scores highly in nearly every category related to the technology industry, from the large number of businesses to above-average earnings. Additionally, investors poured more than a half-billion dollars into the coffers of high-tech businesses in the Denver region in 2015.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $76,448
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 51
- Average commute time: 27 minutes
#4 Colorado Springs
The second-largest city in Colorado has plenty to offer to tech workers (and outdoor enthusiasts), with approximately 10 percent of Colorado Spring's workforce employed in the tech sector. Tech workers in Colorado Springs earned median annual salaries just under $80,000, and the area's cost of living ranks near the top third among the metros included in our rankings. More than 30 Fortune 500 companies are located in the area, and big businesses in the region include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Comcast, Verizon and Hewlett Packard.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $79,701
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 2
- Average commute time: 22 minutes
#5 San Jose
Few lists of "Best Places" for tech workers would be complete without including San Jose, CA. More than 28 percent of the workforce in San Jose is employed in a technology-related field in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Silicon Valley leads the country in highest median wages for tech workers at more than $105,000 annually -- a good thing, since San Jose ranks close to last among the 77 major metropolitan areas included in our analysis for cost of living.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $105,554
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 379
- Average commute time: 26 minutes
#6 Washington, D.C.
Government isn't the only game in town in the nation's capital. More than 14 percent of the workforce in Washington, D.C. was employed in high tech in 2014, the third-highest concentration of tech workers among the metro areas counted in our rankings. While the area ranks second behind San Jose for median annual earnings in the technology sector at nearly $93,000, D.C. scores poorly for its lengthy commute times and high cost of living.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $92,878
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 111
- Average commute time: 34 minutes
Beantown was a hotbed for tech investment in 2015, with investors putting up more than $5.5 billion for 428 venture capital deals. Median annual earnings for tech workers in Boston were just above $80,000, but the area ranks 71st among 77 metro areas for its high cost of living. In the period from 2012 to 2022, Massachusetts is expected to add more than 365,000 computer-related jobs.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $80,697
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 428
- Average commute time: 30 minutes
#8 San Diego
Sun, surf and ample technology jobs -- who could ask for more? San Diego is the home of telecommunications giant Qualcomm, and the city ranks 10th out of 77 metro areas for its high concentration of businesses in the high-tech industry. The city also saw 100 VC deals worth a total of $1.1 billion in 2015.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $78,791
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 100
- Average commute time: 25 minutes
#9 Los Angeles
It can be easy to equate California's technology industry with Silicon Valley, but like San Diego, Los Angeles has been growing as a hub for tech organizations and investment. LA had 293 venture capital deals worth roughly $4.9 billion, and the city scores the highest among 77 major metropolitan regions for its wide range of diverse cultural attractions, sporting events and performing arts centers. Tech workers in LA earned median annual wages just over $76,000 in 2015, and metro area unemployment was favorable at just 4.8 percent.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $76,363
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 293
- Average commute time: 29 minutes
The tech hub of North Carolina scored second overall behind San Jose for its high concentration of tech workers, and sixth for percentage of local businesses in high-tech industries. Nearly 16 percent of all businesses operating in Durham were involved in technology or computer-related enterprises. Combine that with a favorable cost of living and rich local culture, and Durham remains a potentially attractive option for tech grads.
- Median earnings in computer, engineering and science jobs: $65,649
- Number of local venture capital deals in 2015: 22
- Average commute time: 23 minutes
The largest city in Oregon has been known as "Silicon Forest" since the 1980s, thanks to its high concentration of technology companies. Microprocessor and hardware giant Intel is the largest tech company operating in Portland, with five campuses located in the area. Portland also offers an eclectic and vibrant nightlife scene including a deep history in craft beer brewing that dates back more than 100 years.
Seattle has roots in tech that run long and deep. Microsoft may be the most well-known company to plant its flag in the greater Seattle region, with more than 8 million square feet of office space at its Redmond campus, but the city is also home to Amazon and the engineering offices of heavyweights like Apple, Twitter, Yahoo, Electronic Arts, Salesforce, eBay, Facebook, Hulu, Groupon and Google. Nearly 10 percent of Seattle's workforce is employed in high tech as of 2014, and the city ranks fourth in our study for its high median salaries for tech workers. Seattle saw 110 venture capital deals in 2015 worth a total of $1.1 billion.
Almost 11 percent of the workforce in Provo was employed in the tech sector in 2014, which ranks it sixth overall in that category for the 77 metropolitan areas included in our study. Provo also scores high for its number of technology companies (which includes home-automation company Vivint and genealogy leader Ancestry.com) and low overall unemployment (3.3 percent). Although median annual tech wages are lower than other major metropolitan areas, Provo scores well in cost of living (14th), and statewide projected job growth (third).
#14 Salt Lake City
Salt Lake is home to offices for Electronic Arts, Adobe and Twitter, with more tech companies expected to set up shop in Utah's largest city in coming years. This is potentially due to the state's low taxes and business-friendly regulatory climate recognized by Bloomberg in 2012 and Forbes in 2014. Utah is expected to add 132,308 computer-related jobs from 2012 to 2022, and metro area unemployment was 3.6 percent as of March 2016, several tickets below the national average for that month of 5 percent.
More than 25 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, and while many of these companies aren't necessarily in the tech sector, they still employ thousands of technology workers. Nearly 7 percent of all businesses in the region were tech companies, ranking 13 out of the 77 metro areas in our analysis. Minneapolis also scored favorably in length of commute time, unemployment and cost of living.
Phoenix has become a hotbed for tech in recent years, earning it the label "Silicon Desert." The city is home to offices for Shutterfly, Uber, GoDaddy and Yelp, among other booming companies.
Almost 7 percent of the North Texas city's workforce is employed at a technology-related business. From 2012 to 2022, the state of Texas is expected to add more than 890,000 computer-related jobs.
Baltimore is home to a number of fledgling tech companies, like Blackboard and Fixt, that are attracting the attention of investors. There were 41 VC deals in the city in (year), worth a total of $445 million. Additionally, the 2015 median annual salary for tech workers in Baltimore was nearly $85,000.
Raleigh's Research Triangle Park is one of the biggest research parks in the world and home to IBM and Cisco, as well as dozens of biotechnology and life sciences companies. Nearly 10 percent of Raleigh's workforce is employed in the tech sector.
Philadelphia's tech sector generated 115 venture capital deals totaling $516 million in 2015. The city is also expected to add more than 330,000 computer-related occupations in the period between 2012 and 2022.
Omaha scores well for prospective tech employees due to its low commute times (20 minutes, second-shortest overall in our ranking), unemployment (3.5 percent, eighth overall) and cost of living. (14th out of 77)
Tampa is part of Florida's High Tech Corridor, which is home to businesses focused on agritechnology, aerospace and aviation, digital media, information technology, nanotechnology and sustainable energy, among others. Tampa makes the list for its low cost of living, but loses points for a relatively low median annual salary for tech workers compared to other cities in the rankings.
Atlanta's high concentration of technology firms places it seventh out of 77 metropolitan areas, and the state of Georgia is expected to add more than 330,000 computer-related occupations from 2012 through 2022. That said, having the highest metro area unemployment among all the cities in our ranking kept Atlanta from the upper half of the list.
Albany is the heart of New York's Tech Valley, which spans more than 250 miles from New York City up to the Canadian border. Dozens of smaller tech companies call the Albany region home, and as a whole, New York is expected to add more than 566,000 computer-related jobs from 2012 through 2022.
#25 New York City
Media, high fashion and tourism may be some of the Big Apple's main economic drivers, but technology also plays a large role in the city's economy with companies like Foursquare and Squarespace calling the city home. New York ranks first for commuters who don't drive and dead last out of 77 cities for commuters who do drive -- so take the train.
More than 5 percent of all businesses in Chicago are related to technology endeavors, which ranks 22nd out of the 77 cities in our analysis. Tech organizations headquartered in the city include Groupon, Basecamp and CareerBuilder.
More than 7 percent of the workforce in Madison was employed in the technology sector in 2014. The city also scores favorably for its low commute time, low unemployment and large number of restaurants per capita.
#28 Kansas City
The longtime home to big businesses such as Russell Stover Candies, H&R Block, Sprint and Hallmark, Kansas City also boasts a robust and growing technology sector. Seven percent of the city's workforce was employed in a technology-related occupation in 2014, and 5 percent of Kansas City businesses were engaged in high-technology enterprises in the same year.
Technology workers looking at Houston face strong job prospects coupled with above-average median annual wages ($82,210). Additionally, the city is home to a major Microsoft office, not to mention the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA's center for manned spaceflight training and technological research.
Orlando may be known worldwide for its numerous theme parks, but the city is more than just Disney and Universal Studios. Technology-related companies add more than $14 billion to Orlando's economy annually, the Orlando Tech Association reports.
We ranked 77 U.S. cities on 10 different factors related to technology, the local economy and quality of life. Each city was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified.
- Workers in the high-tech industry, County Business Patterns, 2014: 15%
- Commuting patterns, American Community Survey, 2014: 10%
- Average commute time, American Community Survey, 2014: 5%
- Unemployment rate, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2016: 10%
- Median earnings for employees in Computer, Engineering and Science Occupations in each MSA, American Community Survey, 2014: 15%
- Cost of Living Index, Council for Community and Economic Research, 2015: 10%
- The number of colleges, universities and professional schools per 100,000 residents, U.S. Census Population Estimates, 2015; County Business Patterns, 2014: 10%
- Entertainment, based on the number of performing arts, spectator sports and related industries; restaurants; and bars per 100,000 people, U.S. Census Population Estimates, 2015; County Business Patterns, 2014: 10%
- The number of venture capital deals and total amount of money invested, National Venture Capital Association, 2015: 5%
- The average projected growth rate and projected number of job openings state-wide for computer occupations, 2012-22; Projections Central, 2014: 10%
2016 Technology Industry Outlook, http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/technology-industry-outlook.html
Computer and Information Technology Occupations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
"The high-tech industry, what is it and why it matters to our economic future," Beyond the Numbers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016, http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-5/the-high-tech-industry-what-is-it-and-why-it-matters-to-our-economic-future.htm
Intel Anchors Oregon's Economy, Intel Corp., http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/corporate-responsibility/intel-in-oregon.htmlAbout Us, Orlando Tech Association, http://orlandotech.org/about/
Table S0801: Commuting Characteristics by Sex, American Community Survey 2014 5-Year Estimates, Accessed May 3, 2016, http://www.census.gov/acs/www/data/data-tables-and-tools/subject-tables/
Table S2401: Occupation by Sex and Median Earnings in the Past 12 Months (In 2014 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) for the Civilian Employed Population 16 Years and Over, American Community Survey 2014 5-Year Estimates, Accessed May 3, 2016, http://www.census.gov/acs/www/data/data-tables-and-tools/subject-tables/
Census Explorer: Definition of Tech Jobs, U.S. Census Bureau, 2013, http://www.census.gov/censusexplorer/
County Business Patterns: 2014, U.S. Census Bureau, Accessed May 6, 2016, http://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2014/econ/cbp/2014-cbp.html
Current Population Estimates, U.S. Census Bureau, Accessed May 2, 2016, http://www.census.gov/popest/data/index.html
Cost of Living Index: 2014 & 2015 Section 2 Annual Average, Council for Community and Economic Research, Accessed May 3, 2016, https://www.coli.org/
Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas: March 2016, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed May 3, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/web/metro/laummtrk.htm
"U.S. Venture Capital Investment Spanned 133 MSAs in 2015," National Venture Capital Association, January 27, 2016, http://nvca.org/pressreleases/u-s-venture-capital-investment-spanned-133-msas-in-2015/
Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, Accessed May 3, 2016, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
"Salt Lake City's Lure," Bloomberg, March 21, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-03-21/salt-lake-citys-lure
"Utah Heads The Best States for Business 2014," Forbes, November 12, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2014/11/12/the-best-states-for-business-2014/#7b3ad6f74ad5