Do You Work in Tech? Seattle May Be the Best City for You

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Photo: iStockphoto

By: Tekla S. Perry

Where is the best place for tech professionals in the United States? Personal finance website provider WalletHub tried to answer that question by looking at the 100 largest metro areas. By its analysis, Seattle, Boston, and Austin came out on top, while Florida metros dominated the bottom 10.

That’s very different from Indeed’s recent study of smaller tech hotspots, which put Huntsville, Ala., at the top, and from SpareFoot’s rankings that gave top honors to San Antonio, Texas. That’s because the WalletHub analysis merged an extremely broad range of factors. The data crunched included the usual variables—like share of job postings in tech, STEM employment growth, and annual median tech wages—but added not so common factors, including number of tech meetups per capita, family friendliness, singles-friendliness, invention patents per capita, quality of engineering universities, and R&D spending.

It grouped these factors into three categories: opportunities, STEM-friendliness, and quality of life, and ranked each metro in each category.

How did Silicon Valley and its environs do? WalletHub placed San Francisco as number six overall, and San Jose at 19. Frankly, housing costs tend to sink the Bay Area in any multi-factor analysis. This factor largely contributed to San Francisco’s quality of life rank—number 63—while the city’s professional opportunities and STEM-friendliness both ranked in third place. San Jose came in 68 in quality of life, 11 in opportunities, and 13 in STEM-friendliness. (I have to think that last ranking, which included the quality of local engineering schools, excluded nearby Stanford University.)

The tables below list a top and bottom 10 in each category, as well as the overall winners and losers. The full report is available at WalletHub.

Best metros for STEM professionals, overall

Rank City Score (out of 100)
1 Seattle, WA 71.78
2 Boston, MA 68.04
3 Austin, TX 67.16
4 Atlanta, GA 66.39
5 Pittsburgh, PA 66.06
6 San Francisco, CA 65.27
7 Raleigh, NC 64.14
8 Madison, WI 63.2
9 Minneapolis, MN 61.3
10 San Diego, CA 60.97

Worst metros for STEM professionals, overall

Rank Metro Area Score (out of 100)
100 Cape Coral, FL 25.77
99 Little Rock, AR 29.92
98 Jackson, MS 30.34
97 Stockton, CA 31.37
96 Toledo, OH 31.38
95 Deltona, FL 32.21
94 McAllen, TX 32.25
93 Lakeland, FL 32.43
92 Memphis, TN 32.56
91 North Port, FL 34.68

Best professional opportunities for STEM professionals*

Rank Metro Area
1 Seattle, WA
2 Washington, DC
3 San Francisco, CA
4 Raleigh, NC
5 Austin, TX
6 Atlanta, GA
7 Boston, MA
8 Salt Lake City, UT
9 Baltimore, MD
10 Orlando, FL

Worst professional opportunities for STEM professionals*

Rank Metro Area
100 McAllen, TX
99 Cape Coral, FL
98 Fresno, CA
97 Scranton, PA
96 Stockton, CA
95 El Paso, TX
94 Deltona, FL
93 Oxnard, CA
92 Lakeland, FL
91 Toledo, OH

*includes STEM job openings per capita, share of job postings in tech, share of workforce in STEM, STEM employment growth, annual median wage for STEM workers, average monthly earnings for new employees in STEM, and median wage growth for STEM workers

Most STEM-friendly metro areas**

Rank Metro area
1 Boston, MA
2 Springfield, MA
3 San Francisco, CA
4 Los Angeles, CA
5 New Haven, CT
6 Sacramento, CA
7 New York, NY
8 Seattle, WA
9 Worcester, MA
10 Allentown, PA

Least STEM-friendly metro areas**

Rank Metro area
100 Jackson, MS
99 Tulsa, OK
98 Honolulu, HI
97 Little Rock, AR
96 Baton Rouge, LA
95 Charleston, SC
94 Palm Bay, FL
93 Ogden, UT
92 Chattanooga, TN
91 Oklahoma City, OK

**includes standardized math test scores for local fourth and eighth graders, number of best engineering schools, quality of engineering universities, disparity of women vs men in STEM occupations, disparity of women vs men in STEM field of degree, R&D spending, invention patents per capita, tech meetups per capita, and presence of summer tech programs

Best quality of life for STEM professionals***

Rank Metro area
1 Dayton, OH
2 Youngstown, OH
3 Syracuse, NY
4 Scranton, PA
5 Greenville, SC
6 Ogden, UT
7 San Diego, CA
8 Springfield, MA
9 Boise, ID
10 Palm Bay, FL

Worst quality of life for STEM professionals***

Rank Metro area
100 Cape Coral, FL
99 Stockton, CA
98 Memphis, TN
97 Deltona, FL
96 Riverside, CA
95 Oxnard, CA
94 Jackson, MS
93 Bridgeport, CT
92 Detroit, MI
91 Toledo, OH

***Includes housing affordability, recreation-friendliness, family-friendliness, and singles-friendliness

This article originally appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 31 January 2020.