San Francisco, Silicon Valley and New York City may be the nation's largest job markets for IT, but industry staffing firms report that faster growth rates can be found in smaller, less traditional markets as well.
Secondary and tertiary markets can provide high-quality, lower-cost standards of living and strong educational systems, and companies find that a very attractive environment for efficient growth. The cost differential between regions can be significant, says Dice.com Vice President Jennifer Bewley. "The average IT salary in Silicon Valley is over $100,000, but in St. Louis, despite the fact that it's seen huge growth (in IT job salaries) recently, it's $81,000."
The geographic shift of tech jobs into smaller markets accelerated during and after the recession. It's made easier now that IT operations are less tied to geography.
"Companies are trying to evaluate where their growth is going to be and where they can get the most bang for their buck," says Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president for Modis' south region. "So the company that is going to hire 500 people may choose one of the midwestern cities, versus the New Yorks or the Californias."
How companies locate IT resources is changing, Ripaldi noted. "Five years ago, if a company hired 10 people, eight might be in New York City, with two in Houston. Now, the company may look at four people in New York and six in Houston. The allocation mix is definitely shifting."
Below, listed in alphabetical order, are the cities that IT hiring firms such as Dice.com, Modis, Robert Half Technology and TEKsystems separately identified among the fastest-growing IT job markets in the United States.
In January, General Motors announced it would hire approximately 1,000 high-tech workers to staff a new Information Technology Innovation Center, and global payments company Elavon announced plans for a new technology development center. CBS Inc. is also building an IT and software services center there. "It's a low-cost market that offers access to a lot of talent—experienced talent and junior-level talent coming out of the universities," says Ripaldi.
Robert Half Technology Senior Executive Director John Reed reports his company is "seeing incredible demand" in healthcare, primarily tied to healthcare reform, and also demand for IT workers in higher education. "Many of the educational institutions are implementing technological improvements in order to not only recruit and retain students, but also to reach a larger audience," says Reed.
In February, Austin total IT job postings increased 11 percent year-over-year, while overall salary averages remained flat, Dice reported.
Dell already cemented Austin's reputation as a technology town, but now the city is benefiting from local manufacturing growth, including GM's hiring hundreds of IT workers for its new Innovation Center, says DICE's Bewley. GM's Austin job openings include college internships, IT infrastructure architects and cyber incident handlers. TEKsystems also reports increased demand here for desktop technicians and IT project managers.
In addition, Modis sees strong IT job growth from Austin's small- and medium-sized companies supporting the larger players. Another strong factor: A lower cost of living and vibrant city life. "We may move a consultant from the Northeast or the West Coast to Austin, and it's very common for them to want to stay in that area," says Ripaldi.
This central Illinois city has seen demand for business analysts and project managers grow steadily over the past two years, driven primarily by finance and insurance industries, reports Jason Hayman, TEKsystems research manager. Some of the top employers in Bloomington include Country Financial and State Farm.
More Windy City companies are conducting mobile development and virtualization projects, RHT reports, and that is driving demand for specialized skills. "Most notably, we're seeing demand for web developers with PHP programming skills and network engineers with security experience," says Reed, adding that the year's "hottest" web development role is a Web Developer with PHP programming skills and experience using a content management system such as Drupal or Joomla.
"Companies specifically request that candidates have strong PHP with backend MySQL database skills," says Reed, adding that Microsoft Visual C# development and ASP .NET skills are also in high demand.
Reed also notes that Chicago's IT workers "have steadily been requesting flexible work schedules, including reduced on-site days," due to the rising costs of commuting. In response, companies have become increasingly flexible in employee schedule and location in order to attract highly skilled IT workers.
This IT job market is diverse and growing. "You've got the large Fortune 100 companies, the Fortune 500 companies, and small- and mid-sized companies," says Ripaldi. "It's a desirable place to live. We see talent migrating here."
Energy — oil mainly, but also natural gas — is Houston's biggest economic driver. As energy infrastructure gets more technical, that has translated into more tech jobs and increased competition for tech talent.
"During the most recent six to nine months, we've seen a real strong uptick in the energy and utilities sector," says TEKsystems Research Manager Jason Hayman. Energy companies are increasingly using IT to increase operations efficiency, reduce emissions, and manage the energy grid, he notes. Dice reports that Houston's total IT job postings increased 9 percent, year-over-year in February, while IT salary averages increased nearly 6 percent to $94,186.
Two-thirds of the Texas IT workers in a Dice survey reported they were "very confident" of their ability to find a favorable new position in 2013. "Houston has been a terrific tech town," says Bewley. "In terms of economy, it's been the fastest growing city in the state for three years."
For roughly the last year, TEKsystems has seen increased need for healthcare IT workers, especially for PC technicians, help desk workers and trainers assisting with electronic health records (EHR) implementation. Indy's healthcare sector is home to Indiana University Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Riley Hospital for Children, St. Vincent Hospital and Wishard Memorial Hospital, healthcare benefits provider WellPoint and pharma giant Eli Lilly.
RHT reports "strongest hiring in the legal and banking industries, primarily due to a large number of mergers and legislative activity with regards to employment," says Reed, adding that the market is experiencing "a marked uptick in demand" for network administrators and application developers.
"Financial services are picking up, and healthcare providers are making investments into their organizations," says Ripaldi. "We're seeing the most IT job growth in those two industries here."
This hometown of the movie industry and the nation's largest seaport has seen big jumps in IT job demand. "We've seen increases with companies in finance, telcom or manufacturing/distribution looking for IT workers during the past 12 to 18 months," says TEKsystems' Hayman.
"Minneapolis hasn't experienced the consistent growth that Houston has, but larger industries, such as financial services and retail are starting to uptick," says Modis' Ripaldi.
TEKsystems has seen an increase in IT job growth here during the past six to nine months. "It's definitely a market that's growing," says Hayman, adding that healthcare organizations and EHR implementation is sparking growth.
In Minneapolis/St. Paul, RHT sees "substantial demand for IT professionals, especially those with skills in applications development and networking," says Reed. He attributes the trend to companies taking on virtualization, system upgrades and data management projects. IT hiring continues to be strong in the financial services, healthcare and industrial sectors, Reed said.
"Nashville as a whole has a good presence of healthcare companies and healthcare providers," says Ripaldi. "We find that group always need companies to support their IT." Nashville also has an education base of colleges and universities to grow the tech workforce. "It's a very desirable, low-cost place to live, and all of those factors make it a healthy, robust IT market," he said.
Multiple positive factors have resulted in consistent IT job growth for the last 24 months, Modis reported. The Omaha market is home to Offutt Air Force Base, tech solutions provider CSC, packaged foods company ConAgra and multi-national holding company Berkshire Hathaway.
Travel and tourism may drive the economy, but Orlando has a large defense and health sectors as well. The downturn in the economy hit it hard, and "it took a while for Orlando to get back on track," says Ripaldi. "It's probably one of the last markets to pick up." But slowly and continually, Orlando's demand for IT labor is increasing. "It continues on an upward trend," says Ripaldi.
Research Triangle Park, biotech, pharma and healthcare drive IT jobs here, reports Modis' Ripaldi. It's 10th on CIO.com's ranking of Best Cities for IT Jobs 2013. TEKsystems reports it has consistently been an IT job growth market for the past 12 to 18 months.
Financial services are expanding here. Scottrade is based here, and local companies Wells Fargo Advisors and Edward Jones actively encourage New York-based financial firms to expand their operations in St. Louis.
DICE reports that St. Louis has about 1,000 IT jobs posted on a daily basis. In February 2013, IT job postings were up 54 percent, year-over-year, Bewley says. IT salaries are up 13 percent. Business and professional services make up about 15 percent of St. Louis' economy, and that requires a lot of technology professionals, she says. "We hear pretty consistently from our clients that it's difficult to find IT professionals in St. Louis."
Tampa's total IT job postings were up 22 percent in February, and average IT salaries were up 7 percent year over year to $78,000, reports Dice. Tampa's regional economy is tied to MacDill Air Force Base, which houses U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Ops Command, and supports a ring of defense contractors. However, the local economy has gradually diversified to include thriving healthcare and finance industries.
How NASA IT personnel handle the wind-down of the space shuttle program may impact Tampa's future IT job market, Bewley notes. "There's a lot of technical talent that needs to shift away from aerospace."