It's a recession, so few things are booming and no city is exactly thriving. But within the tech industry, some cities clearly have more job opportunities than others. Although tech employment overall has suffered along with the rest of the economy, there's been variance: High-tech manufacturing jobs have been shed more rapidly, while IT service jobs—in engineering and in software services, for instance—have fared better. And one future bright spot: Over the next three years, the federal government is projected to make 11,500 new hires in information technology jobs, according to a report by the Partnership for Public Service.
To find some of the best places for tech jobs, U.S. News started out with our database of 2,000 cities—with data provided by Onboard Informatics—and looked at metro areas large enough to provide a range of opportunities in the field, then sorted for factors such as high rates of graduate degrees. From there, we looked at the geography of job openings within the industry on a broad job search engine and on a tech-specific job site. We then compared that data with local supply-demand ratios in several tech occupations from Wanted Analytics. Finally, we factored in salary data, for the industry and within specific occupations, from Glassdoor.com and considered the area's cost of living. Here's a look at 10 cities that seem to have better opportunities for tech workers right now:
Employers in the southern Atlantic states may outpace the national average in IT hiring over the next three months, according to a recent survey by Robert Half Technology. Thanks to corporate growth and expansion, nearly 10 percent of chief information officers in the region plan to beef up their payrolls in the fourth quarter, Robert Half reports. Atlanta is what Glassdoor cofounder Robert Hohman calls a "sleeper tech city." Its tech industry may not be as well known as those of Silicon Valley or New York, but industry salaries are surprisingly competitive. The city also ranked high in volume of tech job openings in early September and had an above-average ratio of tech openings to employees for many IT occupations, including computer programmer, software engineer, and systems analyst.
Boston has become a hotbed of high-tech innovation in fields such as biotech and software, says Robert Buderi, founder and chief executive of Xconomy. Universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University are a powerful draw for employers—and highly fertile ground for start-ups. Last year, when Microsoft opened its first East Coast research lab in nearby Cambridge, the company touted its ability to reach the "large community of scientists in New England, notably the faculty and students at the many premier academic institutions in the vicinity." The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that programmers and software applications engineers in nearby Lowell, Mass., rank among the highest paid in all U.S. metro areas. Silicon Valley may once have been a necessary career stop, but today, tech workers can spend their entire careers in New England, Buderi says.
Compared with the rest of the country, Houston—like Texas overall—is doing pretty well. D'Ann Petersen, a business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, says Houston is full of service firms, many of them IT, that serve the energy industry, which has tended to insulate regional economies in this recession despite price volatility.
Houston's high-tech industry emerged at the end of World War II, when companies moved in to build geophysical instrumentation and automation systems, according to the Dallas Federal Reserve. In the last recession, when the dot-com burst dragged the economy down, Texas "felt the impact longer than many areas, partly because of its large number of high-tech jobs," the Fed reports. Today, Houston ranks high for total tech job postings and has above-average ratios for tech job postings to employment in multiple occupations.