If you’re a tech worker looking for a change of pace—but not willing to make sacrifices when it comes to salary—your options are quickly expanding to include more than traditional tech hubs like the SF Bay Area and New York. While average tech salaries in the Bay Area still top the charts, there are other important factors to consider, such as how quickly salaries are growing in different locations, not to mention cost of living differences that make your earnings go further (or, in some cases, less far) in some cities.
Specifically, one new analysis reveals that tech salaries (for roles in software engineering, design, product management, and data analytics) in Seattle, Austin, and Washington, DC are increasing at a faster rate than in any other cities included in the dataset. In this article we’ll dive into what those differences look like, and what that might mean looking towards the future.
Our data found that, on an aggregate level, Bay Area-based tech workers still make the most per year, with an average salary of $142K in 2017, as compared to a global average of $135K. Seattle came in second at $132K, and tech workers in New York and Los Angeles earned the same average salary of $129K.
But these are just average salaries at one point in time, which don’t reflect where the various cities have come from—and therefore the upward (or downward) trajectory they’re on. To dig further into this, we also analyzed salary growth between 2016 and 2017 for each city.
Austin was the clear winner in this analysis, with average tech salaries growing more than 7% from 2016 to 2017, from $110K to $118K. Los Angeles and Washington, D.C came in close second, both seeing salaries grow an average of 6%. On a global level, tech salaries grew by 5%—incidentally, the same rate that the Bay Area saw in the same time period.
Surprisingly, some popular cities saw wage stagnation, or even declining salaries, between 2016 and 2017. Boston, for example, held steady with an average tech salary of $118K, whereas salaries in Denver fell from $114K to $112K. Salaries in international tech hubs, like London and Paris, were found to be significantly lower on average; $77K and $57K, respectively, in 2017.
Still further, comparing salaries across cities is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, as living costs vary significantly between the geographies analyzed—and each dollar therefore has a different value in each city. For example, while the Bay Area boasts the highest average salary, the cost of living there is also one of the highest, meaning that each dollar earned in San Francisco buys less than it would in a city such as Austin, for example. To account for this, we ran a comparison by adjusting salaries for San Francisco cost of living—that is, we asked how much each salary would be worth if every city had the same cost of living as San Francisco.
Under this analysis, Austin again came out on top, with an adjusted salary of $202K, followed by Los Angeles and Seattle at $182K. In the U.S., San Francisco and New York fared the worst, with respective adjusted salaries of $142K and $136K—not all that surprising given countless news headlines about rent and other astronomical expenses in both cities.
As with many things in life, it really depends on what you’re looking for.
If you’re keen to try out an up-and-coming city with great potential upside, you might consider cities where salaries have been growing in recent years, such as Seattle, Austin, and Washington, D.C. In addition to being part of a newer startup scene, these cities may offer better growth potential than some of the more established tech cities.
Another important factor to consider is cost of living across cities, as this can significantly impact your purchasing power—and while a salary may look lower at face value, a lower cost of living might increase the relative attractiveness of one city over another.
Geography is just one (important!) consideration as you think about your next tech job, but there are many other factors that affect who gets paid what. Check out Hired’s 2018 State of Salaries Report for a full analysis of tech salaries in 2017 and beyond.