The best places to work in tech don’t include Silicon Valley or New York


Tech jobs are some of the hottest in the country. And the increasingly available opportunities to work in tech deliver high salaries, to boot. But because some of the traditional tech hubs are clustered in the cities with the highest cost of living, like New York or San Francisco, that tech pay may not always go so far. There are, however, plenty of nontraditional tech cities where pay is still high and where workers don’t need to worry about whether or not they can afford their mortgage.

Below we look at five different factors to rank the best cities to work in tech in America. Specifically, we look at data for 190 cities and compare them across metrics like average salary, average cost of living, tech employment concentration, unemployment rate and ratio of average pay-to-tech pay. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together to create our final rankings.

This is SmartAsset’s fourth annual study of the best cities to work in tech. Check out the 2017 version of the study here.

Key findings

  • San Francisco is overrated — For tech workers who want to have the most financially secure future, it is probably best to avoid San Francisco. The cost of living in San Francisco is about twice the national average and the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree-holders is fairly high. However if you are just trying to land a job in tech, and aren’t worried about saving, San Francisco is a good place to look. More than 8% of all workers in San Francisco are employed in tech.
  • Avoid the Northeast — Cities in the Northeast tend to have slightly high unemployment rates and elevated costs of living. The only Northeast city in our top 30 is Wilmington, Delaware.

Data and methodology

In order to find the best cities to work in tech, SmartAsset looked at data on 190 cities. Specifically, we looked at the following five factors:

  • Percent employed in tech. This is the percent of all workers who work in computer and mathematical occupations. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor and is for 2017
  • Average tech salary. This is the mean annual income for workers in computer and occupational occupations. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor and is for 2017
  • Ratio of the average tech salary to the average salary across all fields. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2017 Occupation Employment Statistics tables.
  • Unemployment rate. This is the unemployment rate for holders of bachelor’s degrees. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Cost of living. Data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research and is for 2017.

To create our final ranking we first found each city’s average ranking, giving an equal weight to each metric. Using this average metric, we assigned a score to each city. The city with the best average ranking received a 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a 0.

Tips for finding a home you can afford

  • Consider renting first — When you first move to a place take your time before you buy a home. Renting may feel like a waste of money, but it gives you flexibility that buying doesn’t. If you are not sure how long you will be in a city it can actually make financial sense to be a renter. Buying a saddling a house over a short time span means paying a bunch of upfront costs like closing costs that can wipe out any gains in home value between buying and selling data. SmartAsset’s rent vs. buy calculator can help you with the math to see what makes sense for you.
  • Don’t go overboard on the mortgage — If you are a first-time homebuyer doing the math on how much house you can afford, you may be overestimating if you ignore some of the extra costs that come with owning a home. For example, don’t forget about property taxes. Homeowners pay property taxes which vary in size form state to state. Average property taxes in New Jersey and average property taxes in Illinois are some of the most expensive in the country, for instance. So if you do live in those states, make sure you are factoring property taxes so you know how much home you can afford.
  • Get an expert’s opinion — Your home is likely the biggest purchase you will make in your life, so why take any risks. By getting the opinion of a financial expert you can be sure that when you buy your home it is for the right reasons. If you are not sure where to find one, check out SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool. It will match you with up to three local financial advisors who fit your specific needs.
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