10 cities with the best IT salaries

There's plenty of life beyond the coastal tech meccas: Factoring in not only salaries but also cost of living, job growth, and career opportunities yields a geographically dispersed list
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If you’re considering relocating for your next IT leadership role, there is no shortage of established and emerging tech hubs to consider. Average annual pay is a key factor most IT leaders will consider – and hot spots like San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. all have median technology salaries well into the six figures.

However, the recently released CompTIA Tech Town Index 2018 shows that taking into account cost of living, job opportunity, and career growth can unearth some other interesting options as well, like #12 Des Moines, Iowa in the “Silicon Prairie,” #14 Madison, Wisconsin for its rocketing career opportunities, and #16 Baltimore, Maryland, a growing cybersecurity center.

[ You need data to negotiate what you deserve. Read also: 5 top IT salary surveys. ]

CompTIA looked at 20 metropolitan areas with populations greater than 250,000 and ranked them based on cost of living, number of open IT positions identified using job posting data over a 12-month period, and projected job growth over the next 12 months and the next five years. Based on those criteria, here are their top ten options for living and working as an IT pro:

1. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

Median IT salary: $87,755

Five-year anticipated job growth: 11 percent

Cost of living: 1.3 percent lower than national average

The area has seen double-digit population growth during the last ten years, and the metro region posted more than 44,000 jobs during the past year. Banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America and consultancies Accenture and Deloitte are some of the biggest IT hirers in the Queen City and its environs. Relatively mild winters and some great golf add to the relocation attraction.

2. Raleigh, NC

Median IT salary: $86,944

Five- year anticipated job growth: 11 percent

Cost of living: 3.5 percent lower than national average

North Carolina dominates the top of the list thanks in part to the Research Triangle’s reputation for technology innovation. Raleigh proper was also named the fourth best in the country for fostering entrepreneurial growth by the Innovation that Matters report. There are opportunities at tech giants like Red Hat (parent company of The Enterprisers Project) and start-ups – 25,633 listings in the previous year. And salaries go a little further thanks to a lower cost of living than Charlotte’s.

3. Austin-Round Rock, TX

Median IT salary: $82,285

Five- year anticipated job growth: 15 percent

Cost of living: 3.4 percent lower than national average

While Dell, anchored in Round Rock, is this area’s largest tech employer, there were 37,551 listings over twelve months from the likes of Apple, Amazon, Advanced Micro Devices, and the University of Texas. Austin’s thriving cultural scene, low unemployment, and good schools are all attractive selling points. Most notable, however, is Bat City’s projected job growth – which rivals that of the Bay Area.

4. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Median IT salary: $122,242

Five- year anticipated job growth: 11 percent

Cost of living: 43.6 percent higher than national average

Yes, that COLA might be hard to swallow, but it goes down a tad easier thanks to the highest median IT salary on the list. And of course, it’s Silicon Valley – home to the likes of Apple, Google, Adobe, Cisco, and more. Last year, almost 100,000 tech openings were posted, and CompTIA says there are no signs of slowing growth on the horizon.

5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

Median IT salary: $110,448

Five- year anticipated job growth: 15 percent

Cost of living: 64.2 percent higher than national average

San Francisco has been and remains one of the hottest spots for technology professionals – and is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, with average home prices hovering around $1,000 a square foot. Neither fact appears to be changing anytime soon. A whopping 112,388 IT jobs were posted in the Bay Area between August 2017 and July 2018 by Facebook, Salesforce, Workday, and others.

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.