Assessing which cities and regions are the “hottest” markets for developers relies on a number of data points. For purpose of this article, we examine salary and cost of living as they contribute to the individual value of working – and living – in these regions. Discretionary income is a telltale indicator of where developers are making the most out of their careers. After all, a large salary isn’t a differentiator when most of it gets funneled right into living expenses.
Monetary factors are just one aspect of individual choice. There are broader market dynamics that influence the overall “hotness” a region is experiencing – and how long it might last. It is valuable to account for the amount of industry growth in the city, as this is representative of how lucrative the market will be in the future. Tech growth in the market is a sign that it will remain financially viable in the future.
So, what are the hottest markets for developers in 2016?
1. Raleigh, NC
By Mark Turner – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4981012.
According to InformationWeek, Raleigh experienced some of the greatest job growth increases (23%) for developers in 2015. The city is part of the Research Triangle, a region in North Carolina where the close proximity of several major universities has fostered a booming tech industry since the 1950s. The Research Triangle Park is home to major tech companies such as IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft, and Raleigh hosts a number of growing healthcare corporations. Rent in Raleigh averages around $900 per month, and the adjusted salary (which accounts for living expenses) is an average $103,000 annually, according to Business Insider.
The benefits of living in Raleigh go beyond the immediate opportunities in the tech industry. It is often described as a city that feels like a small town, which is perfect if you want to be a developer but aren’t a fan of the big city life. Just outside your doorstep is the Research Triangle Park, which is a wonderful area in and of itself – Forbes describes it as “tees, trees, and PHDs,” a perfect blend of academia, passionate young individuals, and natural settings. With the continuous expansion of the park (including new plans for development as of 2014) and the current trends in job growth in the city, Raleigh ranks number 1 on our list.
2. Silicon Valley
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The well-known San Jose-Sunnydale-Santa Clara region in California has traditionally been one of the hottest markets for developers, and can be safely expected to stay that way for a long time. According to Nerdwallet, 12% of all jobs in Silicon Valley are within the tech industry, and developers can make upwards of $130,000 annually. Home to tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Adobe, there is certainly no shortage of opportunity in the Valley. However, the cost of living is high, with average rent over $1500 per month. Business Insider estimates the adjusted salary of developers in San Jose to be $107,000. Still, Silicon Valley experienced a 10% growth rate in 2015 and remains the most recognized tech hub in America.
Much of the Silicon Valley region was built following the tech boom in the 1960s, and there was little historical activity before then. Now, Silicon Valley is noted for a great sense of community driven by the passionate developers that are attracted to the region, as well as a great spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. If you’re looking to be at the center of the tech industry, Silicon Valley is the place to be!
3. San Francisco, CA
The largest city in the Bay Area – which includes Silicon Valley – is San Francisco. The adjusted annual salary for developers is $101,000, but like Silicon Valley, the housing market is extremely expensive, with average monthly rent averaging an almost unbelievable $3500 – the highest in the country as of 2015. And while San Francisco is often seen as a close competitor to Silicon Valley – with companies such as Yahoo, Dropbox, and Twitter – the reality is that the Valley is still home to more tech companies, and with greater density. Still, the Bay Area as a whole is one of the hottest markets for development, landing San Francisco a number 3 spot on our list.
San Francisco is a lively and progressive city. The culture is extremely diverse, a product of the counterculture from the 1960s. There are festivals, live music performances, art shows, and all other sorts of cultural events. Like Silicon Valley, there is a community of incredibly passionate young entrepreneurs, and the pace of life is fast. The fast-paced lifestyle is countered to some extent by the quality of life for San Francisco residents. Living well is a popular trend in San Francisco, whether it be organic food, spirituality, or yoga. Sure, the price of housing in San Francisco is a bit much, but if you’re willing to pay the price, you can be a part of one of the most vibrant cities in America!
4. Austin, TX
By Ed Schipul – Flickr: Austin Texas, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15240351.
Among the many cities expected to rival Silicon Valley in the coming years, Austin is at the forefront. The adjusted annual salary for developers is $95,500, and the cost of living is significantly lower than it is in Silicon Valley. From a broader perspective, the city is attractive to startup companies as a result of Texas’ anti-regulation and pro-business laws, and the lack of state taxes. A pool of bright young individuals is readily available in Austin as well, especially as the market continues to become more popular for tech companies. The city is already home to IBM, Dell, and Oracle (each with thousands of employees based in Austin), and a number of growing startups, and there is a lot of potential for Austin to flourish as a tech hub in the future.
The overall environment in Austin is tailored to the tech industry. The annual SXSW festival is held here, creating a hub for developers and tech companies to network and collaborate. There are efforts to involve tech companies in the local community, such as the Austin Technology Council, which establishes volunteer and charity programs. The Austin Chamber of Commerce itself provides strong local support for the tech industry. In light of its recent growth, Austin ranks number 4 on our list, but it may never outpace Silicon Valley.
5. Seattle, WA
By Adbar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31999073.
The West Coast is well on its way to being one of the most influential regions for the tech industry. Both Microsoft and Amazon are headquartered in the Seattle area, and HP and Google have offices here as well. The city ranks #1 on Business Insider for adjusted annual salary for developers – at $107,500. Rent averages around $1100 per month, making Seattle one of the best cities for development given the ratio of living expenses to salary.
Furthermore, Seattle is at the forefront of the tech industry for cloud computing and infrastructure-related technologies. Silicon Valley focuses more on social, consumer-related products. Still, the market for development in Seattle isn’t as hot as some of the other cities on this list, which is why Seattle doesn’t rank higher
Seattle is a lively metropolis in spite of its weather. It is a hub for the hipster scene among young people, boasts a great music scene, and is a short drive away from some amazing natural spaces when you need to escape the city and destress. The only downside of Seattle is the rain (although it makes for some gorgeous summer months). But if you love working in coffee shops on rainy days, Seattle might be just the place for you.
6. Portland, OR
By User:Cacophony – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=782152.
In addition to Seattle, Portland is one of the major tech hubs of the Pacific Northwest. The adjusted annual salary for developers is just over $100,000, and rent averages just under $1000. With a 21% growth in development jobs in 2015, the city is rapidly becoming a major part of the tech scene. Google recently announced that they are expanding their office space in the metro area, and other companies such as WeWork are moving to Portland due to the region’s surge in rising talent. Other companies such as Apple, HP, and Intel already have a presence in the city. Some have even nicknamed Portland the Silicon Forest – a challenger to Silicon Valley. In the coming decade, Portland may end up outpacing Silicon Valley as the tech hub of the US.
If anything, Portland is known for its community. The city is home to a very creative and passionate group of individuals. Like Seattle, there is a lot of rain and a lot of coffee shops, and plenty of outdoor activities in close proximity to the city. If you’re the type of person who thrives in these kinds of environments, Portland might be the right city for you! With its creative, social, and natural outlets outside of the workplace, Portland offers a good work-life balance.
7. Atlanta, GA
By Mike – Flickr: DSC_6831_2_3_tonemapped, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17010156.
Atlanta is a strong contender for the most well-rounded market for development. With an average adjusted developer salary of $96,500, it boasts number one rankings on Sparefoot for rent as a percentage of income (18%) and salary as a percentage of median home price (39%). Atlanta is home to a massive number of Fortune 500 companies in its own right (including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines), and the city has become more tech-friendly in the past few years. Atlanta is a versatile market for both job opportunities and living accommodations, making it a good choice for young developers who aren’t quite sure where to go. The city has a lot of potential for the future of its tech industry, and remains a promising market for development.
Atlanta is one of the top relocation destinations in America, and for good reason. There are plenty of attractions throughout the city, and it is known for its mix of urban and Southern lifestyle. In Atlanta, breakfast food — and all the food for that matter — is known for special, authentic Southern charm. If you are a traveler the enormous Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport has direct service everywhere. But why travel? The weather is gorgeous all year and there is so much to do! All this makes Atlanta an even more versatile option for young developers. Atlanta ranks number 7 because of its versatility – it isn’t as hot of a market as the first six on our list, but it still affords plenty of opportunities for developers to succeed.
8. Denver, CO
By R0uge – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47831553.
Ranked 13th on Nerdwallet and 7th on Business Insider’s lists of top tech cities, Denver is a bustling market for development. The adjusted average annual developer salary is around $97,000, and rent averages out around $1000. According to Informationweek, application developers and UX/UI designers are in high demand, and Denver is expected to become a hotspot for the tech industry in the next few years. Tech giants such as IBM, Oracle, and Lockheed Martin are located in Denver, and the city is already an attractive hub for startups. Attracting bigger names in the tech industry to the region will transform Denver into a booming market for development.
Yet, Denver’s appeal is not limited to the opportunities it offers in the tech industry, The city (and the outlying area) fosters an active lifestyle outside of the workplace. People burned out by the rigorous and demanding pace of life in Silicon Valley often come to Denver for a more balanced life. The proximity of both the Rocky Mountains and the nightlife scene in the city make up a diverse group of activities that improve the overall quality of life that Denver has to offer.
9. New York City, NY
By chensiyuan – chensiyuan, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25610236.
New York City is not exactly one of the hottest markets for developers in terms of the statistics that we’ve been using for the other cities on this list. However, there is a bustling tech market in the city – according to Sparefoot, about 20% of Indeed’s job listings for software development are based in New York City. The adjusted annual salary for developers in NYC is $90,500, but the market does not experience much growth. Still, the city is home to some notable Internet companies like AOL, Tumblr, and Etsy, and it is sometimes referred to as Silicon Alley – yet another comparison to the affluence of Silicon Valley that other cities strive to achieve.
It’s not hard to write what’s great about one of the most famous cities in the world. NYC is a vibrant, bustling city that is rich in culture, diversity, and community. Historically referred to as a “melting pot” of immigrants from all over the world, the city today is still a reflection of this diversity. As a result, New York City is full of activities, parks, and cultural landmarks. You could spend a lifetime in the city and you wouldn’t have even seen half of it. If you want to be at the center of – well, everything, really – then New York City is the place to be.
10. St. Louis, MO
By Bev Sykes from Davis, CA, USA – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=639544.
One of the often looked over markets for development is St. Louis. While the market is nowhere near as big as those of Silicon Valley, Raleigh, and San Francisco, it has been showing promising growth trends in recent years. According to CNBC, St. Louis was the fastest growing area for funding of tech startups in 2014, and it is already home to companies such as Graybar and Answers.com. More recently, news outlets in 2016 have St. Louis poised to be a new tech center in the coming years. Developers in St. Louis still make an adjusted annual salary of $97,600, even with the city’s status as an “underground market.” St. Louis has a lot of potential, given that its development market is still in its early stages. With the right investments, big companies in the tech industry can be attracted to St. Louis and kickstart a tech boom.
Home to the Gateway Arch, St. Louis is a bustling metropolis, but there is a lot people don’t know about the city. It is home to several art museums and festivals, parks, and botanical gardens, as well as a baseball stadium and a large number of charities. As an added bonus, access to most of the city’s museums and parks is completely free! Like Raleigh, it doesn’t exactly feel like a city, which appeals to many people who want the benefits of a city but the vibe of a smaller town.