Where’s The Best Place to Live and Work in the United States? The New CompTIA Tech Town Index Is Here

CompTIA ranks the top U.S. cities to live and work in technology based on opportunity, affordability and quality of life.
Tech Towns 2022

While working in the technology industry unites us to some extent, factors like where we live, what we do and who we work for mean that IT pros all over the country have very different experiences and perceptions. Is the grass greener in a high-profile metro area with lots of opportunity and high-paying salaries? Or would you be happier in a more affordable location with a better work–life balance?

If you’re looking for a clear-cut answer, there isn’t one. Your unique values and expectations are the only factors that can contribute to your job satisfaction and overall sense of happiness. What we can do is show you where opportunities in tech intersect with affordability via the newly released 2021 CompTIA Tech Town Index.  

What Is the Tech Town Index?

We first published the Tech Town Index four years ago in 2018. Every year since then, the report has been updated as we gather new data and identify new trends. It’s safe to say that in just four years, the world has changed dramatically.

Fortunately, in the tech world, jobs are thriving all over the country. Companies are hiring and they’re looking for qualified IT pros that can jump in and get the job done right. Case in point, in 2021 there were 3.3 million total job postings for open IT positions in the United States. About one-quarter of those (27%) were advertised as remote work.

The CompTIA Tech Town Index looked at 20 metropolitan areas with populations greater than 250,000 where demand for tech workers is highest, based on 2021 job posting data. The cities were then ranked based on cost of living, number of postings for open IT positions, and projected job growth over the next 12 months and the next 5 years.

What Cities Made the 2021 List?

#21 Remote, USA

A comprehensive where to live and work list wouldn’t be complete without addressing remote work. While some IT pros are chomping at the bit to get back into the office, others have established a work-from-home routine that they want to continue. In 2021, approximately 890,000 of the 3.3 million total job postings were advertised as remote – that’s 27%. In 2020, that percentage was 22%.

#20 Tallahassee, FL

New to the Tech Town Index, Tallahassee’s enviable geography and growing population make the region a prime candidate for tech companies. IT pros in this capital city earn a median wage of $59,703 with a cost of living that just about equals the national average. While this pay is the lowest on the 2021 index, the tech scene is growing. Last year, employers advertised for 7,626 technology jobs, and that number is expected to grow by 3% over the next 5 years.

#19 Hartford, CT

According to Inc.com, Hartford is among the top cities that IT pros relocated to during the pandemic – and maybe why it makes the Tech Town list for the first time this year. The metro area (including East Hartford and Middletown) posted a total of 21,683 open tech jobs last year, and that number will look more like 26,000 by 2026. IT pros here make a median salary of $92,096, which helps offset the high cost of East Coast living.

#18 Des Moines, IA

Des Moines is back on the index for the first time since 2018 when the metro area ranked #12. Known as an insurance hub and having close proximity to Iowa State University, entrepreneurial spirit and local support have contributed to a tech scene that posted 15,331 open jobs last year. Tech jobs are projected to grow by 4.7% over the next five years. Local IT pros earn a median salary of $88,479, which is spot on based on the below-average cost of living..

#17 Colorado Springs, CO

According to the Smart Cities Council, Colorado Springs has slowly been turning into a cybersecurity hub. Tech Town Index data shows that in 2021, employers in the area advertised for more than 16,000 open tech jobs – about 1,400 of them were for cybersecurity engineers and analysts. These jobs are expected to grow by 5% in 5 years as well. IT pros here earn a median salary of $98,572 in an area where the cost of living is about 7% higher than the national average.

#16 New York City, NY

Leave it to New York City to arrive to the Tech Town Index fashionably late. The Big Apple makes its index debut by beating out Washington, D.C., for sheer number of open technology positions – an astounding 204,883 in 2021. That figure is expected to increase by another 6,275 in 2022 and reach 366,500 by 2026. IT pros working in NYC earn a median salary of $108,864, although living here requires deep pockets.

#15 Boulder, CO

Fueled by strong entrepreneurship and innovation, the Boulder high-tech ecosystem includes everything from startups to Fortune 500 companies. In 2021, the Boulder area advertised for 10,477 open technology positions. Looking ahead, the number of IT jobs is estimated to grow by 8.6% over the next five years. Local IT pros earn a good living here, with a median salary of $101,087 – although the cost of living is about 17% higher than the national average.

#14 Trenton, NJ

The greater Trenton area (including Princeton, NJ) posted nearly 12,000 open tech jobs in 2021, bumping it up from #20 on the 2020 index to #14. New Jersey boasts the highest concentration of scientists and engineers per square mile – tied with Massachusetts. Perhaps that pipeline of talent is the reason STEM jobs are expected to grow here by 10% through 2026 and Trenton-area employers are paying well to retain IT pros. The median salary is $99,068.

#13 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

The Durham-Chapel Hill area has enjoyed national recognition for its growing tech economy – even being named as “the Startup Capital of the South” by CNBC. With 16,924 open IT positions posted in 2021 and that number projected to increase to 24,462 by 2026, it’s certainly no surprise. IT pros here earn a median salary of $94,211, close to the national average, with the cost of living is just below average.

#12 Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore metro area jumped significantly from #17 in 2020 to #12 in 2021. An expansion in services is a likely reason for the jump, combined with 48,670 open IT positions last year. By 2026, it’s estimated that the area will have upwards of 84,000 tech jobs available. IT pros in Baltimore can expect to earn a median salary of $105,548, although the cost of living is 31% higher here than the national average.

#11 Lansing, MI

Stereotypically considered a manufacturing state, Michigan has been a pioneer in technology research and development for quite some time. The area is leveraging its high concentration of engineers and a strong pipeline of tech students to fill 8,328 tech jobs in 2021. But they’ll need more, as jobs are expected to grow by 7.7% over the next 5 years. With a median salary of $72,582 and a cost of living that is 8% lower than average, life in Lansing could be good.

#10 Washington, DC

There’s no question that living and working in D.C. equals opportunities across the board. In fact, a whopping 191,013 tech jobs were available last year. With jobs increasing by 6.3% over the next 5 years and top tech employers expanding their investments, the nation’s capital isn’t a bad place to be. The median salary for IT pros is $113,330, but the area is not exactly considered affordable. The cost of living here is 22.6% higher than the national average.

#9 Seattle, WA

Seattle has room to grow. Area businesses are expanding and building new developments to house big players and startups. That type of buzz attracts talent. Last year, the Seattle area posted more than 91,000 open tech positions – and that’s expected to grow by 2.5% in the next year. While Seattle isn’t known for being affordable, the median salary for an IT pro is $131,392. When adjusted for cost of living, Seattle ranks first in compensation.

#8 San Francisco, CA

While it’s true that San Francisco places dead last in terms of affordability, it makes up for it in opportunity and pay. In 2021, the area advertised for a massive 124,375 open tech jobs – and job growth is expected in spades. By 2026, that number should be around 212,000. IT pros are easily making six figures here. The median salary sits at $132,800 – nearly the top salary on the index, with one more California city (stay tuned to find out which one!) edging San Francisco out.

#7 Raleigh, NC

Raleigh’s Office of Economic Development and Innovation says the city is examining ways to help the existing workforce gain the skills, education and experience to compete and succeed in the local economy – and if you build it, they will come. Raleigh advertised for 41,240 technology jobs in 2021. That number is expected to grow to approximately 44,500 by 2026. The median salary in the area is $95,786 – a good figure for the most affordable North Carolina city on the index.

#6 Charlotte, NC

With a reputation as a financial and banking epicenter, Charlotte may not have always been at the forefront of technology. But as more jobs in non-technical industries require technical know-how, it makes perfect sense that the technology industry would grow as well. Last year, Charlotte posted 53,504 open tech jobs. IT pros can expect to earn a median salary of $93,600 in the Charlotte area and enjoy a cost of living that is nearly 2% lower than the national average.

#5 Huntsville, AL

While military defense and aerospace technology  put Huntsville on the map, today the area attracts all kinds of IT talent. In 2021, Huntsville employers posted 14,085 available technology jobs. Additionally, the number of IT jobs is expected to grow to nearly 20,000 in just one year and to about 21,000 in five years. The median salary for an IT pro in this area is $98,251, and the city ranks #3 in the cost-of-living category.

#4 Atlanta, GA

Atlanta has always been a thriving center of business, but Atlanta leaders have been vocal about their efforts to recruit and groom technology companies – and talent – to the area. Their efforts are paying off. In 2021, there were 111,225 open IT jobs, and the median salary is $95,788. In a region where the cost of living is 4% below the national average, businesses and IT pros will continue to target Atlanta.

#3 Dallas, TX

Opportunity is still the name of the game in Dallas. In 2021, the area advertised for more than 156,000 IT jobs. That figure rivals larger metro areas like New York City and Washington, DC. But why Dallas? Lower operating costs and access to diverse talent – those factors add up to even more growth. The area is projected to grow by 10.5% over the next 5 years. Add to that the fact that the cost of living is slightly less than average; a median salary of $97,431 sounds pretty good.

#2 San Jose, CA

While other areas of the country make headlines for technology innovation and growth, some still consider Silicon Valley to be the hub of the industry’s brightest minds – and for good reason. There were just under 100,000 open IT jobs advertised for in 2021. While the cost of living is famously high here, tech employers factor that into your salary. The median annual salary for an IT pro in this metro area is $148,607 – that’s $52,592 more than the national average.

#1 Austin, TX

Austin has done it again! For the third consecutive year, the Austin-Round Rock metro area tops the CompTIA Tech Town Index. An attractive combo of opportunity, affordability and good old-fashioned real estate keep tech companies and talent flocking to Austin. In 2021, 64,481 tech jobs were available and IT pros earned a median salary of $90,459, which feels more like $93,643 when adjusted for Austin’s more affordable cost of living.

Check out the full 2021 Tech Towns report here!

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