Much has been made in recent years about the exorbitant cost of living in tech meccas like San Jose and Silicon Valley and rightfully so.
The horror stories — from paying $750 a month to occupy a poltergeist-ridden attic or $400 to live inside a wooden box — are well documented and often mesmerizing.
Perhaps the only positive byproduct of the Bay Area’s absurdly high living costs is that it’s forcing talented techies to look elsewhere for work, sprinkling the rest of the country with intellectual seedlings that are starting to blossom. That’s one of the major take-aways from a recent Business.org study comparing the salaries of tech workers in cities across the country.
San Jose and San Francisco still remain the top spots on the site’s list of best-paying cities for techies in 2019, according to the business research organization. But the study reveals that smaller metro areas — cities like Provo, Utah, and Omaha, Nebraska — are becoming mini tech hubs where tech workers can find salaries that are double, sometimes triple, the average salary of the state.
“The rising cost of living and working in areas such as Silicon Valley, plus the increasing demand for technology companies is empowering entrepreneurs to launch successful businesses outside of the traditional hubs while still giving them the ability to pay higher than average salaries, allowing workers to live more comfortably in those areas,” said Micah Pratt, marketing manager at Business.org. “Take Wichita, Kansas, for instance, where the average tech salary is still almost $20,000 more than the cost of living.”
To choose their top cities, Business.org looked at 100 metro areas across the U.S. and pulled the most recent available data (primarily from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) on their tech salaries. Researchers then compared the average salaries in each metro, and the list was born.
Researchers considered salary data on a wide range of jobs in the computer and mathematical science industries, including: computer and information research scientist, computer systems analyst, information security analyst, computer programmer, software developer, web developer, database administrator, network and computer systems administrator, and many others.
Some key findings:
— In Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, the average tech salary in 2018 was $111,110 — 70% higher than other occupations.
— Nationwide, tech salaries are an average of 66 percent higher than other occupations.
The highest percentage of tech salary growth was in El Paso, Texas, where tech wages grew by 11.09 percent — from $65,000 to $73,000. The average salary for other occupations in the area is $39,000.
— The area with the greatest salary difference between tech and other occupations is Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Techies average $87,000, which is 87 percent higher than the area average of $45,000.
— While tech salaries are double the average state salary in most cases, there are some cities that saw a decrease in tech salaries year-over-year. Chicago saw a 10 percent decrease in tech salaries in 2018 compared to 2017, potentially the result of an influx of qualified candidates, according to Business.org.
— San Jose offers the top tech salary in the U.S. with an average tech worker earning $117,701 annually. While that number may be appealing on paper, researchers say, it’s crucial to keep the cost of living in mind. Midwest cities typically have a lower cost of living and, therefore, they add, a tech employees salary will go much further.