Highest Paying Cities For Tech Jobs

It’s not surprising that California’s Silicon Valley lands in the top spot on a new ranking of metropolitan areas that offer the best-paying jobs for information technology professionals. But there are some other unexpected results in a new survey from Dice, a 22-year-old career site that specializes in tech jobs. One is that while Silicon Valley still boasts the highest tech salaries in the nation, at an average of $101,000, that number is down by 2.8% from a high of $104,000 the previous year. Scot Melland, CEO of Dice Holdings, says the dip in Silicon Valley salaries is probably a result of companies there hiring more people straight out of college, which skews the average salary downward. “Silicon Valley is plucking new grads from around the country and moving them into the Bay Area,” he says.

Can you guess which city comes in second? Baltimore/Washington, D.C. with a salary of $98,000, up 3.8% from the previous year. The area is home to giant defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman, both of which have a huge need for technology talent, and to large defense-oriented technology companies like AIC and CACI. In third place: San Diego, at $97,000, an impressive 13.4% hike from 2011. San Diego is the base for companies like Qualcomm that make the underlying technology for wireless communications, and to a number of smaller companies with demand for tech talent.

Overall, tech professionals had a 5% pay increase over the previous year, up from an average of $81,000 in 2011 to $86,000, according to Dice. The previous year salaries had only risen 2%. Average bonuses fell a bit in 2012, from $8,800 to $8,600, but a slightly greater number of employees collected bonuses, 33% versus 32%, in 2012. More good news for tech workers: a majority of tech professionals (64%) say they feel confident they could find a good new job in 2013.

In some areas, tech pay showed strong gains. Pittsburgh had the greatest salary increase, growing $18% from a year earlier, to $76,000. Melland says Pittsburgh has had to work to keep graduates from top schools like Carnegie Mellon from decamping to other cities, so companies there have hiked pay. In St. Louis tech salaries have risen 13.3% to $81,000 and in Phoenix, tech pay is up 11.5% to $84,000.

According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the technology sector, at 3.8%, is less than half the national rate of 7.8%. “There is more demand for technology skills than other areas and it’s growing,” says Melland. “Especially if you’re willing to relocate and go where the jobs are, there is terrific opportunity in this market.”

Dice gathered its salary data in late September and early November of last year, running online surveys of 15,000 tech professionals. Respondents also participated in discussions led by Dice staff.
I.T. pros know that their talents and skills are in hot demand. Nineteen percent of those surveyed said they changed jobs within the last year and earned a greater salary as a result.
For newcomers to the tech profession, those with two years of experience or less, salaries have risen 8% over the last year to $46,000. For techies with at least 15 years of experience, the average salary is $103,000, a 4% hike from the previous year.

One city that just barely missed the top ten highest-paying metro areas for tech jobs is New York, where we’ve had a boom of I.T. activity over the past several years. But at $90,000, New York lags just behind Austin, Tex., in 11th place, and New York tech salaries are essentially flat, down 0.4% in the last year. Melland explains that while the tech startup market is still healthy, the financial services sector has continued to cut back, depressing salaries.

One other interesting statistic from the Dice report: some I.T. skills are more prized than others. Workers fluent in programming languages like Hadoop, NoSQL and MongoDB, that can help companies analyze large databases, earn at the upper end of the pay scale, usually more than $100,000 a year, as opposed to $80,000 earned by those working with mobile technology or $90,000 for those who do cloud computing.

Overall, the picture keeps getting brighter for workers with technology skills.  “Demand has been steadily increasing,“ says Melland. “There are technologies like mobile applications, cloud computing and data and network security that didn’t even exist five years ago, that are critical to almost every company today.” That means plenty of jobs and high salaries for people who know how to work with those technologies.