The six next-best U.S. states to look for IT work
This feature first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
NOTE: Wondering where in the United States to look for work? Our first article addressing this topic can be found here.
In 2019, an estimated 307,000 tech jobs were created in the United States, according to the Cyberstates2020 report compiled by tech industry association CompTIA. This works out to an increase of roughly 2.6 percent over 2018. CompTIA estimates that net tech employment stood at 12.1 million in 2019.
In our previous article on this topic — printed in the January 2020 issue of Certification Magazine — we listed the top U.S. states for IT job seekers in terms of net tech job gains and innovation in our previous article. Now we’re back to take a look at the six next-best states.
In Colorado and Illinois, for example, the tech industry is attracting a diverse mix of potential employers. Michigan has shown a lot of promise as an IT-hub-in-waiting. These states are more affordable than California, New York, and Washington, for tech employees as well as companies.
It’s impossible to predict how the U.S. tech sector will perform in 2020. There’s widespread social unrest stemming from the police killing of George Floyd. A highly charged presidential election is waiting in the wings. And that’s to say nothing of the ongoing and massively disruptive presence of a highly infectious disease.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the global economy and the tech industry is still unfolding. Some technology providers, however, are finding their services more in-demand than ever before.
With large numbers of people working from home, demand for improved telework and video conferencing software is already surging. Contact-free biometric identification, such as iris detection and facial recognition, seems likely to gradually replace contact-based identification such as biometric fingerprint readers.
Demand for telehealth services has increased and is expected to rise further. The emphasis on monitoring COVID-19 infections and contact tracing is leading to innovations in location-tracking technology. Going forward, there could be more jobs for specialists in these fields.
Software and web development was the fastest growing segment of the IT workforce in the United States in 2019. The thirst for apps and other web-based conveniences accounted for the largest chunk of tech industry jobs at 1.6 million. Most of the job and industry stats quoted here are from the Cyberstates2020 report.
Cyberstates2020 has Massachusetts ranked seventh in net tech employment gains, eighth in net tech employment, and tenth in innovation. The Bay State has the highest concentration of tech workers in the United States.
Tech workers comprise 11.5 percent of the workforce in Massachusetts, and in 2019 the number of tech jobs in the state increased by 11,544. CompTIA estimates that the median tech salary is $95,377, which is 73 percent higher than the median state salary.
Tech majors Microsoft, IBM, and Google, as well as numerous small ICT companies, have a presence here. According to Boston Landing, the state is a hub for SaaS, mobile technologies, cloud computing, robotics, nanotechnologies, video gaming, telecommunications, and Web2.0 enterprises, and home to several tech startups.
For anyone looking to work in an innovative tech company, Massachusetts might be a good option. The state has an innovative tech ecosystem and attracts tech entrepreneurs from all over the country.
Boston has a flourishing tech scene, with significant activity in AI, machine learning, and application development. The city added an estimated 10,704 tech jobs in 2019.
Massachusetts is also a good place for anyone seeking a vibrant multicultural environment. There are film and music festivals, as well as other cultural events and museums, a thriving professional sports scene, and some delectable Chinese and Italian cuisine.
● High concentration of world-class universities and research centers
● Innovative companies
● Relatively high cost of living in Boston (nearly 50 percent higher than the national average)
● Metro transit system is unreliable and roads are not the best
● High rush-hour traffic in Boston
Georgia is currently one of the top U.S. tech hubs. The Peach State added 9,746 tech jobs in 2019 and ranked tenth in net tech employment gains and sixth in innovation, according to Cyberstates2020. CompTIA reports that the median tech salary is roughly $82,783, which is 99 percent higher than the state median salary.
Atlanta is emerging as a tech center, with a flourishing startup community. The “Hollywood of the South” could suit professionals looking to work at IT startups, of which there are quite a few. MailChimp and Rubicon Global are headquartered in Atlanta and large companies, such as Microsoft, and Airbus have offices here.
Startup incubator Atlanta Tech Village has spawned a collaborative tech ecosystem where small companies share office space. The state has considerable tech talent because of its high-quality IT educational institutions, including Georgia Tech and Emory University. Georgia is particularly attractive to software developers: Employment in this sector grew by 4.3 in 2019.
● Lower cost of living
● Diverse cultures
● Relatively short and mild winters
● A higher crime rate than in many states
● Heat and humidity for much of the year
The growing tech industry in the Land of Lincoln added approximately 5,436 net tech jobs in 2019. The state ranked seventh in net tech employment and ninth in innovation in the Cyberstates2020 survey. The median tech salary is roughly $82,966, 80 percent higher than the state median salary.
If you’re looking for work in web and software development, or are just starting your tech career, Chicago could be a good option. There’s growing demand for experienced software engineers and web developers. And the city has an innovative tech ecosystem.
Most tech companies that have set up operations in Illinois are located in and around Chicago. Big names, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have offices here, as do LinkedIn and Yelp, as well as numerous startups.
Chicago has emerged as the leading tech hub of the Midwest. After Austin, the city is the next best option for companies based in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco that are looking to expand inland. Commercial space is much more affordable in Chicago.
● Affordable rents
● Excellent transportation system
● Diverse population
● High crime rate in Chicago
● Combination of hot and humid summers and very cold winters with plenty of snow
Colorado has the third highest concentration of tech workers in the United States, with 10.5 percent of the workforce employed in tech jobs. The state’s tech industry added 10,118 net tech jobs in 2019. Colorado ranked fifth in innovation and ninth in net tech employment in the Cyberstates2020 survey.
The Colorado tech industry offers opportunities for developers as well as tech pros looking to work in networking and communications. Major employers in the state include Angi, Arrow Electronics, Raytheon, Comcast, and Dish Network.
From tech majors Amazon, Facebook, and Apple to small companies looking to expand, a range of tech companies have opened offices in Colorado. Tech activity in Colorado is mostly concentrated in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Castle Rock. Denver has a burgeoning tech industry and is home to many startups. The cost of living in Denver is higher than in other parts of the state.
According to Cyberstates2020, the Centennial State’s estimated median tech salary is $92,251, which is 92 percent higher than the median state salary. For anyone who likes the crisp mountain air, hiking, skiing, scenic vistas, and a diverse cultural scene, Colorado might be the right choice.
● Quality of life
● Pleasant weather
● Collaborative tech industry
● Traffic congestion in some parts of the state
● Higher cost of living than many other states
Virginia and Washington state have the second highest concentration of tech workers after Massachusetts. Net tech employment grew from 437,497 to 446,507 jobs in 2019, a gain of 9,010 net tech jobs, according to Cyberstates2020. Virginia ranked fifth in net tech employment in 2019.
Northern Virginia is emerging as a hub for cloud computing, cybersecurity, and predictive analytics. Many tech companies in the region work on federal contracts. The cybersecurity startup Verodin is headquartered in Virginia.
Tech salaries in Virginia are relatively high. At an estimated $97,059, the median tech salary is 102 percent higher than the median state salary.
● World-class universities, including Virginia Tech
● Solid tech talent
● Relatively low crime rate
● Higher taxes compared to other states
● Higher cost of living than in many other states
● Northern Virginia has some of the worst traffic in the country
● A number of nuclear power plants are located in Virginia
With 10,963 tech jobs added in 2019, Michigan ranked eighth in net tech employment gains and ninth in net tech employment for last year. A total of 412,324 professionals were employed in tech roles in 2019; there were 121,967 postings for tech jobs in 2019. According to CompTIA, Michigan’s estimated tech salary of $77,189 is higher than the median state salary by roughly 81 percent.
Long known for its automobile industry, Detroit is now an emerging hub for automotive tech. In recent years, the auto industry has embraced innovation. Automobile giants Ford, General Motors, and FCA, as well as companies such as Vroom and May Mobility, are developing innovative automobile technology. General Motors is working on building electric cars using its new electric vehicle architecture.
● Solid university system
● Low cost of living
● Cold winters and unpredictable weather
● Bad roads
Something for everyone
The United States has so many different locations that are magnets for IT operations, including several not mentioned here, that there’s likely a work and living environment suited to almost anyone. If you’re looking to relocate in search of a more sustainable lifestyle or better work-life balance, then one of these six states will likely be more suitable than more established IT nerve centers like California or New York.