The six best U.S. states to look for IT work

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This feature first appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?With rapid technological change and continuing tech economic growth, there are an increasing number of places one can go in the United States to establish a thriving IT career. While there are a range of jobs available at the familiar, established locations — such as Silicon Valley (and environs), New York, and Massachusetts — new tech hubs are emerging in other U.S. states.

Though many tech professionals relocate at some point or other in their career, it’s not uncommon to wind up someplace new and quickly experience a sort of “buyer’s remorse” regarding your relocation. It’s worth taking the time to think through the potential pros and cons of living in this state or that city before you pack your bags.

People relocate for different reasons and salary is only one of those reasons. Cost of living, innovation, and job security are other important factors. Other reasons include climate and lifestyle options. We weighed several different factors to determine which states, including both traditional powerhouses and up-and-comers, are the best first options for IT pros looking for work.

California and New York are expensive even for highly-paid tech pros, but some of the other states discussed here are far more affordable. Most of the statistics quoted in this article are drawn from CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2019 report, which has loads of useful information.

In 2018, the technology workforce in the United States totaled approximately 11.8 million. Compared to 2017, that figure indicates growth of 2.3 percent, or 260,865 new jobs. U.S. tech employment is expected to keep growing, with the highest job growth found among software and web developers, followed by cybersecurity analysts and IT support specialists.

All six states discussed here registered growth in their overall number of tech jobs in 2018.

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?California

The cradle of tech ingenuity, California is America’s premier technology state. From tech giants Facebook and Google to numerous startups, California is home to an incredibly diverse range of IT enterprises. The Golden State topped CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2019 rankings in the tech employment, tech employment jobs growth, and innovation categories.

California added 51,567 technology jobs in 2018, with the number of software and web development jobs increasing by 4.7 percent over 2017. The tech sector generates $481.7 billion annually, or 18.9 percent of California’s economy. The median tech salary, $96,237, is 101 percent higher than the median state salary.

Advantages
● Country’s leading innovation hub
● Silicon Valley offers lots of high-tech jobs
● Highest tech job growth in the country
● Mild climate
Drawbacks
● Exorbitant cost of living (especially housing)

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?Florida

If you are a software or web developer, support specialist, or network professional, then you might want to consider Florida, where work opportunities for tech workers have increased over the last few years. The cost of living is surprisingly affordable and winters are mild.

Florida ranks second after California in terms of technology employment job growth and ranks fourth in innovation, according to Cyberstates 2019. The state added 18,147 tech jobs in 2018. As of 2018, the number of software and web developers employed in the state was 64,867, 5 percent more than in 2017.

The tech sector in Florida accounted for 7.9 percent or $71 billion of the overall state economy. Median tech wages are 86 percent higher than the state median wage.

Advantages
● Affordable cost of living
● No state income tax
● Warm, sunny weather

Drawbacks
● Relatively high crime rate
● Parts of the state are overpopulated
● Frequent high levels of heat and humidity; highly active hurricane season

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?Texas

Texas is a dynamic tech hub that attracts talent from across the United State, as well as from other countries. Dell is headquartered in Austin, which topped the U.S. News & World Report rankings for best U.S. cities for IT professionals and also came in at No.1 in CompTIA’s Tech Town report. Apple has a presence in Austin, as does Walmart, which has set up a tech hub in collaboration with Microsoft.

Texas’ IT sector contributed $141.8 billion to the state economy, and Texas ranks second, after California, in the tech employment category, and third for both innovation and the number of tech jobs added, in CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2019 report. Texas added 17,855 jobs in 2018. The tech median wage, at $81,855, is 98 percent higher than the state median wage.

The software and web development tech occupation category registered a 4.7 percent increase over 2017. Cyberstates 2019 found that job postings for emerging tech grew by 112 percent in 2018.

Austin is known for its food, art, and live music scene, while other major metropolitan hubs include Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Advantages
● Affordable cost of living
● Relatively low taxes

Drawbacks
● Relatively high crime rate
● Frequent high levels of heat and humidity
● Coastal regions affected by hurricanes and flooding

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?New York

New York City is the center of New York’s tech industry and the east coast’s innovation hub. It is one of the leading areas for tech employment in the United States. Both large companies and startups operate in the city. If you’re looking for opportunities to innovate and a busy, varied lifestyle, then New York is worthy of consideration.

Cyberstates 2019 ranked New York 3rd in tech employment, 5th in tech jobs growth, and 2nd in innovation. New York’s tech sector generates $119 billion annually, or 8.1 percent of the state’s overall economy. The Empire States added 13,732 jobs in 2018. Software and web development jobs increased by 3.7 percent, and jobs for computer systems and cybersecurity analysts increased by 3.2 percent over 2017.

Basic expenses tend to be exorbitant and transportation can involve epic commutes, particularly for those who choose to live in outlying areas. Individuals who have fat salaries often struggle to find suitable housing.

Despite the astronomical cost of living, New York, like California, is a magnet for tech talent. It’s particularly attractive for young professionals looking for innovative jobs in software and web development, as well as biotechnology, and a lifestyle in a busy international city that many say never sleeps. It is America’s most ethnically diverse and culturally vibrant metropolis.

Advantages
● Opportunity to innovate
● Attractive lifestyle for young professionals

Drawbacks
● Sky-high cost of living
● Lower median tech salary than in California
● May not be the most desirable place to raise a family

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?North Carolina

Though North Carolina ranked 13th for net tech employment, it came in at No. 4 for tech employment gains and No. 6 for innovation in the Cyberstates 2019 report. The state added 13,773 jobs in 2018. Software and web development jobs increased by 5.1 percent and computer system and cybersecurity analyst jobs increased by 4.7 percent over 2017. The tech sector accounts for nearly 10 percent of the state economy.

Charlotte’s banking industry employs a substantial number of IT professionals, with Bank of America and Wells Fargo leading the way. IT jobs are projected to grow by 11 percent over the next 5 years. Raleigh is home to Research Triangle Park, America’s largest research park, and North Carolina State University. The median tech salary is $79,062.

Advantages
● Affordable cost of living
● Median tech salary is 101 percent above the median state salary
● Mild weather
● Appealing mix of mountain and coastal landscapes

Drawbacks
● Higher crime rate than the national average, though criminal activity in largely concentrated in a few areas
● Coastal region is prone to hurricane damage

What are the best states inside the United States to look for IT jobs?Washington

Though Washington was ranked No. 11 for tech employment and innovation in the Cyberstates 2019 report, it came in at No. 6 for tech employment growth. Washington’s tech sector accounts for 20.1 percent of the state economy; there are more than 14,000 tech businesses in the state.

Washington has the highest concentration of tech workers after Massachusetts and Virginia, with tech workers accounting for 10.6 percent of the state workforce. Washington added 12, 864 tech positions in 2018. The median wage for tech workers, at $99,653, is 102 percent higher than the state median wage.

Seattle, Redmond, and Bellevue offer lots of work opportunities for tech professionals. Large tech employers in the state include Microsoft, Google, Amazon, T Mobile U.S., and Comcast NBCUniversal. The cost of living in Seattle is very high; the average price of a home is higher than in most cities in the U.S. Washington is also known for its outdoor sport and recreation options, art museums, and food.

Advantages
● Robust demand for tech workers
● Mountain and coastal landscapes

Drawbacks
● High cost of living in Seattle metropolitan area
● Relatively high crime rate

Other considerations

There are other states worth considering as well. According to Cyberstates 2019, Massachusetts has the highest percentage of technology workers and added 11,175 net tech jobs in 2018. Colorado came in at No. 5 for innovation and added 7,175 tech jobs, while Illinois came in at No. 5 for tech employment.

It all depends on what your priorities are. For many, scope for innovation is a major draw. Fortunately, some of the emerging tech hubs offer opportunities to innovate and rents are affordable. Given the cost of living in the nation’s leading innovation centers — California and New York — Florida, Texas, and Colorado might be the most viable options.

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Reena Ghosh

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit. She is a wanderer who spends time in West Bengal, Goa and any place that pulls.

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