Tech has long been known as a lucrative field. There were about 1.4 million software developers nationwide in 2021, earning a median annual salary of $120,730. Though the industry is currently facing a wave of layoffs, BLS predicts job growth in the field to be much faster than average, with an estimated 25% growth between 2021 and 2031, compared to only 5% for the average job.
Numbers like these might make you want to hit the books and change careers—but what does a software developer actually do? It's a bit more than just writing the code that helps run the software you use every day—from your takeout app to your favorite social media site.
Software developers must predict consumers' needs and design solutions for them. They'll need to see every piece of the puzzle in the development process, including meeting with stakeholders to brainstorm ideas and testing final products. Software developers should have hard skills like coding languages and data structures under their belt, according to Indeed. But soft skills like communication and creativity are just as important.
Once you have the necessary skills and education to land a software development job, there are plenty of great places to do so. You might immediately think of Silicon Valley or San Francisco when you picture a tech hub, but the truth is there are many lesser-known cities that now boast plenty of opportunities for software developers.
Feats used 2021 employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank the 15 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest concentrations of software developers, shown as number of developers per 1,000 jobs. Median annual wages are also included but do not affect the ranking.
While you might recognize many of the cities on this list, some might surprise you—and just might be the perfect place to start your development career.
- Software developer jobs: 25,670 (17.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $122,780
Situated in such a beautiful locale for nature-lovers, it's no surprise Denver has attracted many young workers in recent years. When you add in a cost of living much lower than the likes of San Francisco, the metro area seems like an even better place for new tech companies to take root.
Whether it's the mountain living or community amenities, new tech companies are taking notice of the area. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Denver metro has seen a rapid uptick in venture capital investment and startup-support services over the last few years. Companies hiring developers in Denver include Ibotta and Zoom Video Communications.
- Software developer jobs: 32,480 (17.8 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $103,010
Minneapolis has been coming into its own as a tech hub, especially within financial technology. Data about the city, which includes its surrounding areas in Wisconsin—shows a 52% growth rate in tech jobs in credit intermediation from 2013 to 2018, according to Minnesota Technology Corridor. In fact, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has earned the nickname Silicon Prairie for its recent expansion in the tech field.
Financial technology companies like Northwestern Mutual might be giants in the area, but they are far from the only companies attracting tech talent to Minnesota. Chewy and HomeSpotter are just a few major businesses hiring in the area.
- Software developer jobs: 3,950 (17.9 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $102,570
Palm Bay, located on the east coast of Florida about 75 miles southeast of Orlando, probably isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of booming tech hubs. But the city plays host to a few large companies that have allowed it to grow, including ServiceNow and L3Harris Technologies.
Like L3Harris Technologies, most tech companies hiring in the area are in the aerospace industry, which is no surprise considering the NASA Kennedy Space Center is nearby.
- Software developer jobs: 5,210 (19.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $100,400
In the region nicknamed Silicon Slopes, it's no surprise Provo attracts workers with beautiful scenery and proximity to ski resorts and national parks alike. Home values are increasing in the area, according to Zillow, but the cost of living is still relatively low. Payscale marks it at about 3% higher than the national average, significantly less than other tech hubs on this list.
Major companies including Oracle, Adobe, and Amazon have set up hubs in the area. But it's not just tech giants setting up shop; startups are putting down roots in Provo and the surrounding area as well, according to Inc.
- Software developer jobs: 21,940 (20.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $103,410
Ask anyone in Austin, and they'll tell you the skyline in the city looks nothing like it did 10 years ago. This change, along with the city's rapid population growth, can be at least partially attributed to the growing tech scene in the area.
Major tech players, including Meta, Samsung, and Indeed have had operations in the Austin area for years, with more recent entrants including Tesla and The Boring Company. Apple has also expanded its Austin campus. The fact that so many large tech companies are hiring in the area makes it seem likely the city will continue to grow as a tech hub, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
- Software developer jobs: 13,110 (20.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $124,950
Raleigh has been growing as a tech hub for years, but it has particularly exploded since the pandemic, according to Axios. This might have to do with its reputation for churning out top talent from its universities, in the area known as the Research Triangle. The city's temperate climate and low cost of living can't hurt either.
But really, Raleigh and surrounding areas have seen a recent boom thanks at least in part to tech giants like Apple and Google building local hubs. Apple's move to Raleigh brought an estimated 3,000 tech jobs to the city, and Google's brought in about 1,000, according to Insider.
- Software developer jobs: 55,690 (21.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $129,180
Boston is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the country, and therefore plenty of talent ready to take on tech jobs. It's no surprise then that major companies have taken note of the city and its surrounding metropolitan area, which includes parts of New Hampshire. Amazon recently opening a hub in the city, which is estimated to bring in more than 2,000 jobs.
Despite a high cost of living, the history and culture the city has to offer continue to attract workers to build a home there. The city has for many years been expanding beyond its well-known biotech roots to welcome major players in the travel, gaming, and e-commerce industries, according to TheNextWeb.
- Software developer jobs: 63,360 (21.6 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $128,830
Washington D.C. is not just the nation's capital: It's also a very livable tech hub. Home to more than 70 museums, a diverse population, and a moderate cost of living compared to cities like San Francisco, D.C. has plenty to offer its locals. Its metropolitan area includes parts of Virgina, Maryland, and West Virginia.
In addition to federal agency jobs, tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon have long been present in the D.C. area. You'll also find software companies including Blackboard, DXC Technology, and Qualtrics.
- Software developer jobs: 3,010 (22.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $100,410
Another less recognizable metro on this list, Cedar Rapids is a fast-growing addition to the country's tech hubs. It's received recognition in the last few years for its startup scene, but the city is also home to bigger tech players like Collins Aerospace, a division of Raytheon.
Those looking for a better cost of living than other tech hubs will be excited to learn Cedar Rapids' cost is 9% below the national average, according to Payscale. Housing is particularly affordable, at 25% below the national average.
- Software developer jobs: 8,260 (26.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $120,710
Located just 30 minutes from Raleigh, Durham is also part of the area known as the Research Triangle.
The prestigious Duke University is located in city limits, and as one of the top-rated engineering technology schools in the country, it has the area teeming with top tech talent. That is part of what attracted tech companies including Apple and Google to set up campuses in the city. You'll also find plenty of startups hiring in the area.
- Software developer jobs: 6,540 (28.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $102,600
Another great growing tech hub for those seeking a low cost of living, Huntsville has ranked among the top affordable cities for tech careers, as reported in the Huntsville Business Journal. Payscale ranks the metro's cost 9% below the national average.
The city is a particular hub for the aerospace industry, hosting companies including Boeing and The Aerospace Corporation. You'll also find plenty of jobs in the information technology sector thanks to giants like IBM setting up offices there.
- Software developer jobs: 64,460 (28.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $161,930
San Francisco has long been known as a hub for all things technology, playing host to Salesforce, Uber, Amazon, and many more major companies. But while high-paying tech jobs and a Mediterranean climate have attracted tech workers to the area, some say the metro is losing steam. A sky-high cost of living in the era of remote work could be to blame.
Still, venture capital funding in the city outpaces all other U.S. metros, as reported by Forbes. With so much potential growth on the horizon, it is unlikely San Francisco will lose its title as a tech hub anytime soon.
- Software developer jobs: 5,480 (30.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $124,950
In 2013, Inc. called Boulder the startup capital of America. It seems the last 10 years have been nothing but kind to the metro, which continues its growth as a tech hub. Venture capital investment in local businesses has grown, and Apple, Cisco, and IBM now have offices in the city.
Its picturesque locale and easy access to outdoor activities no doubt support Boulder's appeal. While the cost of living is higher than the national average, it still beats cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C.
- Software developer jobs: 73,860 (38.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $151,960
Seattle is home to many giants in the tech space, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Dell. The city seems to particularly appeal to young workers, with GeekWire reporting it was the country's most desired post-graduation destination for college students.
In addition, Seattle salaries are catching up to those in Silicon Valley, according to Axios. The Emerald City has also carved out a name for itself as a haven for remote workers, a huge plus in the post-pandemic job market. Despite a high cost of living, competitive salaries, flexible work arrangements, and plenty of tech jobs will likely ensure Seattle holds its title as a tech hub for years to come.
- Software developer jobs: 67,780 (63.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- Annual median wage: $165,030
The heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose might be the country's original tech hub. The city is home to more than 6,600 technology companies, including head offices for Adobe, Hewlett Packard, and Cisco. Just 10 miles from San Jose, you'll find Cupertino, California, and the headquarters of Apple, and 15 miles away you'll find Mountain View and the Google/Alphabet headquarters.
San Jose has more than just tech giants. The city also ranks as one of the top in the country for small business, as reported by Forbes. With the highest median wage of any of the tech hubs on this list, it is likely San Jose will continue to attract top tech talent, even as other metros expand their tech job presence.
This story originally appeared on Feats and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.