Which U.S. states pay out the most (on average) to tech pros? The latest Dice Salary Survey provides some answers. In what should come as no surprise, states with big tech hubs such as California and New York reliably delivered high average salaries; but states like Oregon and Minnesota also offered big average paydays to tech pros. Let’s run down the list:
YoY change: 1.4 percent
It goes almost without saying that Silicon Valley is the nation’s premier technology hub, home to tech giants such as Facebook and Google. But as we head into the end of the decade, a huge question is emerging: can Silicon Valley (and the Bay Area ecosystem as a whole, including San Francisco) maintain that dominance?
Any number of pundits will tell you that geographical location doesn’t matter anymore; that, thanks to a combination of ultra-fast internet and cloud-based resources, a tech company can spin up pretty much anywhere in the country and enjoy success, provided it’s powered by the right ideas and people.
But location does matter. Companies within tech hubs benefit from a deep pool of local talent, universities to pipeline that talent, venture capital funding from that office down the road, and places where tech pros can gather to share ideas and expand their personal networks. In light of that, Silicon Valley isn’t going anywhere; nor is Los Angeles, which has benefitted from the presence of well-funded companies such as Snapchat (although it seems that folks aren’t using the “Silicon Beach” moniker for L.A. as much as they used to).
Thanks to this concentration of tech firms (and the corresponding need for talent), salaries in California topped $105,953 last year, up 1.4 percent from the year before. And if you specialize in machine learning, artificial intelligence (A.I.), or other, in-demand skill-sets, you can make far more.
YoY change: -2.6%
Massachusetts is home to yet another mature, iconic tech hub: The area around Cambridge (which features MIT and Harvard). Those schools have evolved with the times; for example, MIT is opening a new college for artificial intelligence (A.I.), which will open in the fall of 2019, and Harvard has always served as a tech-talent pipeline.
As a bonus of sorts, Massachusetts is within relatively easy access of other East Coast tech hubs, including New York City and Washington, D.C. That’s great for tech pros in Boston and the surrounding areas who may need to venture to those other cities to secure talent, funding, and more—although it doesn’t help local efforts to keep tech pros (especially new grads) in the area.
YoY change: 7.2 percent
Despite the recent government shutdown, the federal government remains an enticing place to work for many tech professionals who are interested in public service. In addition, government jobs tend to provide a consistency you simply can’t find in the startup world, and federal agencies need tech pros of pretty much every stripe, from network engineers to Web developers.
Washington, DC is also home to a number of tech companies, including federal contractors. No wonder average salaries have increased 7.2 percent over the past year.
YoY change: 4.4%
Virginia participates in the same tech ecosystem as Washington, DC, and benefits from the same combination of government spending and contracting. In addition, Northern Virginia is host to major firms such as Microsoft and Amazon, which have a substantial datacenter presence in the state. Over the next few years, as Amazon scales up its proposed “HQ2” headquarters in Crystal City (right across the river from DC), expect demand for certain kinds of highly specialized tech pros to only increase.
The Seattle area has a very mature tech scene, thanks to Amazon and Microsoft. It also hosts major satellite branches of major tech firms such as Facebook (Oculus, the company’s VR subsidiary, has an office there). While that growth has led to some local issues (for example, there’s much hand-wringing over Amazon’s impact on homelessness and affordable housing in downtown Seattle), it’s made the city attractive for tech pros with the right combinations of skills (as well as companies that want to hire them).
YoY change: 2.9%
New Jersey benefits heavily from New York City’s tech ecosystem; for tech pros who don’t want to spend a fortune on an apartment in Manhattan or Brooklyn, there are always towns in Jersey where you can secure a house with an actual yard.
YoY change: 3.3%
Year after year, Minnesota has remained a consistent presence on these kinds of lists; going back to mid-2015, for example, it topped topped Dice’s list of the fastest-growing states for tech jobs, with year-over-year workforce growth of 8.36 percent. Cities such as Minneapolis-Saint Paul boast a combination of startups and major corporations, as well as a healthy pipeline of local talent.
Minnesota (as with other states in the Midwest and South) has a notably low cost of living, which attracts tech pros leery of the high prices you find in places like California and New York. Your $99,000 goes a lot further here than in other states.
YoY change: -6.6%
For years, New York City fought aggressively to attract tech companies of all sizes, even branding itself as “Silicon Alley” in an attempt to attain marketing parity with Silicon Valley. For example, former mayor Michael Bloomberg told Stanford’s graduating class in 2013 that New York City offered all the same benefits as the Bay Area… plus stuff to actually do at night aside from going “to the Pizza Hut in Sunnyvale.”
New York City succeeded in its mission, although many of its citizens are debating the cost. When Amazon announced that it would plant one of its “HQ2” headquarters in Long Island City, a neighborhood across the East River from Midtown, it sparked a massive amount of pushback from a community anxious about the strain on local resources.
But that sort of debate hasn’t stopped Amazon, Google, and other firms from adding local jobs at a steady clip. Meanwhile, outside of New York City, the state government is trying to make areas such as Central New York most hospitable to tech firms, with very mixed results.
YoY change: 6.5%
Oregon is the beneficiary of several tech-industry trends at the moment. A recent LinkedIn study named it a prime destination for folks fleeing San Francisco in search of better cost of living; and a 2018 study by Zippia placed it ninth among the best states to launch a startup. The state’s combination of schools, well-funded startups (Puppet being arguably the most notable), and really good friggin’ coffee make it a great destination for tech pros.