The majors that college students choose can have a big impact on their earnings, both after graduation and throughout their careers.
One of the highest-paying college majors is computer science. 2018 graduates with this degree are projected to earn starting salaries averaging over $66,000 a year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Selecting a major is not the only major decision facing computer science and technology students. Leading up to graduation, they’ll need to start looking for their first jobs out of college. And they’ll need to consider the cities in which they’ll live. After all, location can affect how much they earn in their position and how far that pay will go.
Our new rankings look at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to find the cities in each major U.S. region that offer the best pay to computer and information technology (IT) professionals.
- Local pay matters, but so does cost of living. To rank well, cities had to offer some of the highest pay across eight IT professions after cost of living was taken into account. Cities that ranked higher are those where educated tech workers earn high pay relative to their living expenses.
- The South offers the best deal to tech professionals. Of the top 20 cities in our rankings, 17 are in southern states. And nearly half of the top 100 cities for tech professionals can be found in the South.
- Tech professionals command wages well above average. For the lowest-paying occupation we surveyed, web developers, the median annual pay was $67,990 a year — nearly twice the national median pay of $37,690 for all occupations. The highest-paying tech professionals are computer network architects, who earn a median of $104,650 a year.
Top 5 cities for tech professionals in each region
Our rankings were designed to identify the cities in each U.S. region that offer the best financial situations to tech professionals. To do so, we used data from the BLS to compare pay in different cities for eight IT jobs that require a college education, adjusted for the local cost of living.
Here are the eight tech occupations we surveyed, along with the best region to find such a job, according to our study results:
|Tech occupation||Best region|
|Computer systems analyst||Midwest|
|Information security analyst||West|
|Software systems developer||South|
|Computer network administrator||South|
|Computer network architect||Northeast|
The top-ranking cities had some of the highest salaries for the jobs considered, relative to local prices and living expenses. In other words, college-educated tech professionals should consider living in these top cities if they want to earn the most and see their paycheck go the furthest.
Our study revealed that the South is a standout region for tech jobs. It’s home to 47 cities that were ranked among the top 100 on our list. Here’s the number of cities in each region that made it into the top 100:
- South: 47
- Midwest: 24
- West: 18
- Northeast: 11
As mentioned, the South is a clear standout for tech professionals. In fact, the top five cities in this region are also the best in the nation overall.
While the region tends to offer lower living costs to residents, tech workers can still expect incomes that are relatively high. Several cities in the Midwest offer a similarly favorable scenario to tech professionals.
Here’s a closer look at the best metropolitan areas for tech professionals in each U.S. region.
Top 5 cities for tech professionals in the South
1. Hinesville, Georgia
Georgia was ranked as one of the best states to live in if you have student debt. And one factor that works in favor of Hinesville residents is local costs, which are nearly 10% lower than the national average cost of living. Yet tech workers here earn some of the highest pay in the nation, relative to local prices.
Local computer systems analysts make $92,000 a year while software systems developers earn $107,430 on average. Both salaries are more than double the average annual wage in Hinesville of $42,660, as reported by the BLS.
2. Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte is one of the best cities in the nation to earn a living as a software systems developer or computer network architects. Annual wages for these jobs average $112,320 and $112,840, respectively, in Charlotte — well over double the local average wage of $50,150.
Even better, local prices are below the national average by 6.5%. So these high incomes will go further in Charlotte.
3. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
The main factor that put Hattiesburg at the top of this list is its low cost of living, which is around 18% below the national average.
Yet while local prices are low, tech professionals still earn a great income here. A typical worker makes $37,500 a year in Hattiesburg, but tech professionals make more than twice that amount.
In particular, computer systems analysts earn relatively high pay in this area, earning $78,780 on average. So do computer network administrators, with earnings that average $80,810 a year.
4. New Bern, North Carolina
Like the cities listed above, New Bern has a low cost of living, with expenses that are nearly 16% lower than the national average.
Still, New Bern continues the trend here of top cities where costs are low and some local tech professionals earn about double the local average income. While a typical worker here earns $42,490 a year, computer systems analysts average $83,430 and computer network administrators make $76,600.
5. California, Maryland
Unlike the other top cities in the South, California’s living costs are about on par with the national average. But the city has higher wages, with an average of $70,860, and offers similarly high salaries to local tech professionals.
Web developers are particularly well paid here, earning $90,610 a year on average. Computer systems analysts also come out ahead in this Maryland city, with the local average wage for this occupation at $98,580.
Top 5 cities for tech professionals in the Midwest
1. St. Louis
The cost of living in St. Louis is about 9% less than the national average, which can make it an affordable place for tech graduates to live and work.
This is especially true for the city’s top-paying tech jobs. Database administrators earn $95,320 a year here, on average. Computer systems analysts average $90,780. Such incomes are substantially higher than the average $49,180 annual wage for St. Louis workers.
2. Monroe, Michigan
Relative to local costs, Monroe offers one of the highest average salaries for local computer systems analysts in the nation. At $99,710, the occupation pays more than twice the local average pay of $43,900 a year.
Computer network administrators won’t command the same high pay, averaging $75,220 a year. But the cost of living in Monroe is 6% below the national average. So even those in this position can stretch their income.
3. Columbus, Ohio
Columbus residents pay 7% less to cover their basic costs than the national average, and locals earn a decent $50,020 on average. This sets most locals up for a decent living in this Ohio city.
The situation is better for tech workers. Columbus offers some of the best pay for database administrators ($97,280). And computer network architects also do well, averaging $105,560 in annual income.
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Cedar Rapids is the best city in the nation to earn a living as a web developer. Local web developers earn $86,120 a year, on average. Considering that Cedar Rapids has a cost of living that’s 10.7% below the national average, web developers who live here may see their incomes go further.
Software systems developers can also earn a decent living here. They make $93,570 on average. That’s easily twice the average wage ($48,410 a year) in Cedar Rapids.
5. Jackson, Michigan
The cost of living in Jackson is 10.4% less than the national average. That helps tech professionals get the most out of their salaries.
Jackson’s average salary of $97,560 for computer systems analysts is the best in the nation for this occupation when adjusted for local living costs. Software systems developers also command high pay here, averaging $100,920. Both types of tech jobs pay close to double the local average salary of $49,890.
Top 5 cities for tech professionals in the West
Unlike top cities in other regions, Seattle doesn’t offer low living costs. In fact, living here is 10.5% more expensive than the national average. But it might pay to live in a more expensive city.
The Seattle area is a major tech hub and home to Microsoft and Amazon headquarters. Professionals in this industry are paid well. Computer programmers average $129,470 a year, while web developers make $92,280 on average. By comparison, the average wage in this city is $63,120.
2. San Francisco
Next is San Francisco, another huge player in the tech industry thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley. With local costs nearly 25% above the national average, it’s also one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.
Despite that, tech professionals will have plenty of job opportunities and chances to earn high incomes here. Software systems developers earn $134,000 a year on average, and web developers make $104,400. Both are far above the average local wage of $69,700 for San Francisco.
3. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Another city that tech professionals could consider is Colorado Springs. The city’s cost of living is about on par with the national average, and the average local wage is $50,050 a year.
Here, a software systems developer earns more than twice that at an average $114,980 a year. Computer systems analysts in Colorado Springs earn $96,410 annually.
4. Kennewick, Washington
Technology majors can head to Kennewick to earn a great living, particularly if they’re interested in being an information security analyst or a computer systems analyst. For the former, the average salary is $109,500 in Kennewick, while local computer systems analysts average $91,810 a year.
These salaries far exceed the city’s average wage of $53,470. And thanks to slightly lower local costs, tech professionals will get a little more bang for their buck.
5. Sacramento, California
Sacramento locals face a cost of living just 2% above the national average. IT professionals in this city earn more than enough to make up for this.
Computer network architects earn $121,550 on average, and information security analysts make $113,750 a year. By comparison, the average wage for Sacramento is less than half that: $55,010.
Top 5 cities for tech professionals in the Northeast
1. Providence, Rhode Island
A typical worker in Providence earns $52,220 on average and pays prices on par with the national average.
Tech professionals earn even more here. Computer network architects and computer systems analysts, in particular, can earn a decent living in Providence, with typical salaries of $117,760 and $95,780, respectively.
2. Hartford, Connecticut
Tech graduates may want to consider finding their next job in Hartford. Computer network architects here typically earn $120,800 a year, and database administrators earn $99,970 a year.
These salaries are well above the local average wage of $60,040, while local costs of living are just 1.5% above the national average. Bottom line: Tech professionals can easily make ends meet while working and living in Hartford.
3. Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Next is Bloomsburg, where local workers earn, on average, $46,250 a year. Top tech jobs in this city pay more than twice this average.
Computer systems analysts make $97,990 a year, while computer programmers earn $103,080 annually. Additionally, Bloomsburg has living expenses that are 6.7% less than the national average.
4. Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton isn’t a cheap place to live — it’s 11.3% pricier than the national average. Despite this, it’s a top city for tech professionals who want to land a high-paying job.
A local database administrator earns $107,630 a year. A computer network architect earns even more, with annual earnings at $124,630. Compare that to the average salary in Trenton: $62,980.
5. Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Software systems developers can look to Pittsfield to find optimal pay and living conditions. Local prices are 3.8% below the national average, yet workers in this occupation earn $106,270 a year.
Computer systems analysts can also make a good living here, with an average annual pay of $79,190. By comparison, the average local wage is $49,650 a year.
Top 100 U.S. cities for tech jobs
Below is a list of every city that finished in the top 100 of our rankings. The table also lists: the top tech occupation for each city, its average salary, the cost of living for that city, and the occupation’s salary adjusted for cost of living (real income).
|Rank||City||Top local tech job||Top tech job salary||Cost of living, compared to national average||Real income (salary adjusted for cost of living)|
|1||Hinesville, Ga.||Computer systems analyst||$92,000||9.7% below||$101,883|
|2||Charlotte, N.C.||Software systems developer||$112,320||6.5% below||$120,128|
|3||Hattiesburg, Miss.||Computer systems analyst||$78,780||17.9% below||$95,956|
|4||New Bern, N.C.||Computer programmer||$104,400||14.6% below||$122,248|
|5||California, Md.||Web developer||$90,610||0.3% above||$90,339|
|6||St. Louis||Database administrator||$95,320||9.2% below||$104,978|
|7||Winston-Salem, N.C.||Computer network architect||$117,480||11.0% below||$132,000|
|8||Raleigh, N.C.||Database administrator||$102,430||4.1% below||$106,809|
|9||Rocky Mount, N.C.||Database administrator||$86,270||16.1% below||$102,825|
|10||Staunton-Waynesboro, Va.||Software systems developer||$112,400||15.2% below||$132,547|
|11||Huntsville, Ala.||Computer systems analyst||$89,470||10.6% below||$100,078|
|12||Brunswick, Ga.||Software systems developer||$98,780||14.4% below||$115,397|
|13||Monroe, Mich.||Computer systems analyst||$99,710||6.0% below||$106,074|
|14||Birmingham, Ala.||Database administrator||$90,910||11.2% below||$102,376|
|15||Atlanta||Computer network architect||$114,100||3.7% below||$118,484|
|16||Dallas||Computer network architect||$117,800||0.2% above||$117,565|
|17||Columbus, Ga.||Database administrator||$100,060||10.7% below||$112,049|
|18||Durham, N.C.||Computer network architect||$110,070||4.8% below||$115,620|
|19||Austin, Texas||Computer network architect||$122,530||0% (same as average)||$122,530|
|20||Seattle||Computer programmer||$129,470||10.5% above||$117,167|
|21||Decatur, Ala.||Computer systems analyst||$88,280||15.7% below||$104,721|
|22||Columbus, Ohio||Database administrator||$97,280||7% below||$104,602|
|23||Rome, Ga.||Computer programmer||$105,910||18.9% below||$130,592|
|24||Providence, R.I.||Computer network architect||$117,760||0.3% below||$118,114|
|25||Lynchburg, Va.||Information security analyst||$112,130||10.2% below||$124,866|
|26||Cedar Rapids, Iowa||Web developer||$86,120||10.7% below||$96,439|
|27||Houston||Software systems developer||$110,830||1.6% above||$109,085|
|28||Hartford, Conn.||Computer network architect||$120,800||1.5% above||$119,015|
|29||Greensboro, N.C.||Computer network architect||$111,540||10.2% below||$124,209|
|30||Jackson, Mich.||Computer systems analyst||$97,560||10.4% below||$108,884|
|31||Gainesville, Ga.||Computer systems analyst||$94,210||11.5% below||$106,452|
|32||Burlington, N.C.||Computer network administrator||$101,840||10.6% below||$113,915|
|33||San Antonio||Computer network architect||$118,510||5.6% below||$125,540|
|34||Winchester, Va.||Computer network architect||$121,250||8.0% below||$131,793|
|35||Bloomsburg, Pa.||Computer systems analyst||$97,990||6.7% below||$105,027|
|36||Springfield, Ohio||Database administrator||$86,080||12.1% below||$97,929|
|37||Richmond, Va.||Computer systems analyst||$94,540||3.9% below||$98,377|
|38||San Francisco||Web developer||$104,400||24.7% above||$83,721|
|39||Salisbury, Md.||Software systems developer||$113,190||10.7% below||$126,753|
|40||Akron, Ohio||Software systems developer||$100,370||10.0% below||$111,522|
|41||Peoria, Ill.||Database administrator||$92,240||9.2% below||$101,586|
|42||Cincinnati||Computer systems analyst||$84,350||10.4% below||$94,141|
|43||Colorado Springs, Colo.||Software systems developer||$114,980||0.4% below||$115,442|
|44||Kennewick, Wash.||Information security analyst||$109,500||2.9% below||$112,770|
|45||Trenton, N.J.||Database administrator||$107,630||11.3% above||$96,703|
|46||Baltimore||Information security analyst||$115,170||7.2% above||$107,435|
|47||Sacramento, Calif.||Computer network architect||$121,550||2.0% above||$119,167|
|48||Texarkana, Texas||Computer systems analyst||$83,830||12.4% below||$95,696|
|49||Portland, Ore.||Computer network architect||$118,790||1.7% above||$116,804|
|50||Montgomery, Ala.||Information security analyst||$95,180||10.9% below||$106,824|
|51||Brownsville, Texas||Computer programmer||$100,830||16.2% below||$120,322|
|52||San Jose, Calif.||Computer network architect||$146,940||27.1% above||$115,610|
|53||Detroit||Computer network architect||$111,050||4.1% below||$115,798|
|54||Valdosta, Ga.||Software systems developer||$96,220||19.1% below||$118,937|
|55||Dayton, Ohio||Computer systems analyst||$86,790||10.0% below||$96,433|
|56||Springfield, Ill.||Computer systems analyst||$94,170||9.0% below||$103,484|
|57||Minneapolis||Software systems developer||$114,820||2.3% above||$112,239|
|58||Denver||Software systems developer||$115,130||6.0% above||$108,613|
|59||Phoenix||Computer systems analyst||$90,650||2.9% below||$93,357|
|60||Battle Creek, Mich.||Computer programmer||$107,620||9.4% below||$118,786|
|61||Beaumont, Texas||Software systems developer||$102,310||10.2% below||$113,931|
|62||Kingsport, Tenn.||Computer systems analyst||$86,700||14.9% below||$101,880|
|63||Warner Robins, Ga.||Software systems developer||$103,800||11.5% below||$117,288|
|64||Omaha, Neb.||Database administrator||$88,370||6.6% below||$94,615|
|65||Auburn, Ala.||Computer programmer||$94,460||15.4% below||$111,655|
|66||Chattanooga, Tenn.||Database administrator||$87,710||10.7% below||$98,219|
|67||Chicago||Computer network architect||$113,950||3.8% above||$109,778|
|68||Sierra Vista, Ariz.||Computer systems analyst||$89,450||10.4% below||$99,833|
|69||Fresno, Calif.||Computer network architect||$123,380||3.7% below||$128,120|
|70||Bloomington, Ill.||Computer systems analyst||$87,910||6.2% below||$93,721|
|71||Salem, Ore.||Database administrator||$89,260||4.1% below||$93,076|
|72||Las Vegas||Computer network architect||$108,170||2.2% below||$110,603|
|73||Idaho Falls, Idaho||Software systems developer||$114,510||10.2% below||$127,517|
|74||Pittsfield, Mass.||Software systems developer||$106,270||3.8% below||$110,468|
|75||Boston||Web developer||$84,330||11.1% above||$75,905|
|76||Reading, Pa.||Computer systems analyst||$89,990||3.8% below||$93,545|
|77||Washington, D.C.||Software systems developer||$122,630||19.1% above||$102,964|
|78||Macon, Ga.||Software systems developer||$99,960||13.8% below||$115,963|
|79||Rochester, Minn.||Database administrator||$92,600||6.1% below||$98,616|
|80||Kansas City, Mo.||Software systems developer||$98,560||6.3% below||$105,187|
|81||Sioux City, Iowa||Computer systems analyst||$85,070||11.1% below||$95,692|
|82||Nashville, Tenn.||Database administrator||$87,390||5.6% below||$92,574|
|83||Springfield, Mass.||Computer systems analyst||$88,280||2.6% below||$90,637|
|84||Salt Lake City||Database administrator||$97,330||0.6% below||$97,918|
|85||Appleton, Wis.||Information security analyst||$113,640||8.1% below||$123,656|
|86||Davenport, Iowa||Computer network architect||$113,840||9.8% below||$126,208|
|87||Atlantic City, N.J.||Computer network architect||$116,310||3.5% above||$112,377|
|88||Santa Barbara, Calif.||Computer network architect||$126,740||9.5% above||$115,744|
|89||Charlottesville, Va.||Computer systems analyst||$94,250||2.1% below||$96,272|
|90||Ogden, Utah||Database administrator||$95,290||4.9% below||$100,200|
|91||Philadelphia||Computer systems analyst||$95,100||5.9% above||$89,802|
|92||Albuquerque, N.M.||Computer network architect||$112,260||3.7% below||$116,573|
|93||Cumberland, Md.||Software systems developer||$99,240||11.9% below||$112,645|
|94||Midland, Texas||Computer programmer||$101,530||0.8% above||$100,724|
|95||Bridgeport, Conn.||Computer network architect||$123,550||20.10% above||$102,873|
|96||Memphis, Tenn.||Computer network architect||$108,530||9.0% below||$119,264|
|97||Cape Girardeau, Mo.||Computer network administrator||$80,530||17.3% below||$97,376|
|98||Blacksburg, Va.||Database administrator||$87,920||11.5% below||$99,345|
|99||Longview, Texas||Computer programmer||$100,650||9.1% below||$110,726|
|100||Lawrence, Kan.||Computer programmer||$120,810||7.3% below||$130,324|
Methodology: This study used annual median wages (calculated as hourly mean wage multiplied by 2,080 hours) in 350 U.S. metropolitan areas, per Occupational Employment Statistics reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for eight different computer and IT occupations: computer network architects, computer programmers, computer systems analysts, database administrators, information security analysts, computer network administrators, software systems developers, and web developers. All wage data is for May 2017 and was released in March 2018.
The wages in a metropolitan area were normalized for the regional price parity (RPP), a measure of local costs of living reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, to compare real incomes between cities and occupations more accurately. RPPs were estimated for 2016 and released in May 2018.
We compared and scored RPP-adjusted incomes for each occupation, across all cities surveyed. Lastly, the city’s scores for each occupation were aggregated and averaged to generate the total rankings listed here.
Please note that U.S. cities were excluded from this list for which an RPP number was missing, or if they didn’t have median annual wages reported for at least two of the eight occupations considered here.
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