For a long time, the United States has been regarded as one of the best countries for tech jobs. Businesses and professionals from all over the world flocked to enter the tech industry, which arguably exploded in the 1990s. With the total market capitalisation of the FANGAM businesses (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft) reaching over $8 trillion USD (over 3 times India’s GDP in 2020), technology is more appealing than ever. Hundreds of unicorn (1 billion+ value) tech start-ups exist just in the United States.
Thousands of students and early-career professionals from all over the world, particularly India and China, seek to study and work in tech in the United States. As a higher education consultant, well over half of the requests I receive are related to computer science. An increasingly common question that I get is – does location matter (when selecting CS programs/universities)? The answer is an emphatical yes.
In this article, I look at ten of the best affordable cities outside California (in no particular order), with universities in or nearby, for a fantastic career in technology. Yet, bear in mind that your talents, network, and outreach have a considerably higher impact on where you get offers and how many you get. It’s possible to think of location as an external element that can play in your favour.
Since the Bay Area (California) is the hub for technology-oriented companies, I have drawn comparisons in terms of income (equivalent to $200,000 in San Francisco) and costs of living, using a tool offered by CNN.
Disclosure: I am pleased to offer certain resources in this post as an affiliate. I appreciate you clicking on certain links and making a purchase, for which I may receive a certain commission for referring you. Thank you!
1. Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is one of the country’s largest cities, and is often deemed the tech hub of the South-eastern US. MailChimp and Urjanet are a couple of massive tech companies which were born in Atlanta.
Equivalent income: $104,000
Top universities in and around Atlanta:
Georgia Institute of Technology (In the top 50 CS programs in North America)
University of Georgia
2. Houston, Texas
Known as the “Silicon Bayou”, Houston is one of the most underrated cities for tech in the US, and is attracting a lot of growth. In fact, the city was rated second in the US for corporate growth and relocation. Giants such as Amazon are considering adding Houston to their hubs, which will create a lot of tech jobs.
Equivalent income: $98,000
3. Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Texas
Being one of the largest cities in Texas, DFW should definitely be on this list. Further, it rose to the No. 2 spot in the Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) list for tech professionals and businesses.
Equivalent income: $96,0000 (Fort Worth) – $111,0000 (Dallas)
Top universities in and around DFW:
University of Texas, Dallas
University of Texas, Arlington
4. Austin, Texas
The fourth most populated city in Texas and one of the fastest growing major metros, Austin took the top spot in CompTIA’s list for tech professionals and businesses. Known as the “Silicon Hills”, Austin is attracting a lot of techies from the Bay Area, as well as giants such as Apple setting up new campuses, the city is certainly heading towards becoming as attractive as the Bay Area soon.
Equivalent Income: $104,000
5. Pheonix, Arizona
Similar to the Texan cities, Phoenix offers several advantages such as reduced regulations, low cost of living and improving talent while retaining all the advantages of a major US city. Further, according to EMSI, tech jobs have increased by 48% in Arizona, and are poised to go up. Zoom, one of the most popular online communication companies, plans to open an office here, as well as in the city at No. 9 in this list.
Equivalent income: $104,000
Top universities in and around Pheonix:
Arizona State University
University of Arizona
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6. Detroit, Michigan
Once the hub for auto in the world, Detroit has had a tough time. However, the city is making a comeback. Detroit is the second-largest city in the Midwest (behind Chicago), and the tech scene is shaping up well. The availability of tech jobs in Michigan has almost doubled since last year, which is very promising for Detroit.
Equivalent income: $105,000
Top universities in and around Detroit:
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Go Blue!) (In the top 50 CS programs in North America)
Michigan State University
7. Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is also major city in the Midwest, with a booming tech and startup scene. Massive companies such as Angie’s List and SalesForce have offices in Indianapolis, along with several upcoming startups.
Equivalent income: $94,000
Top universities in and around Indianapolis:
Purdue University, West Lafayette (In the top 50 CS programs in North America)
University of Indiana, Bloomington
8. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill
Although two separate metropolitan areas, the “RDC” region is largely considered as one by North Carolinians. Raleigh ranks 3rd and Durham-Chapel Hill ranks 13th in CompTIA’s list of top 20 cities for IT jobs in the US. Companies such as IBM, Cisco, RedHat and numerous others have been hiring since 2019 in the RDC region.
Equivalent Income: $99,000
Top universities in and around RDC:
Duke University (In the top 50 CS programs in North America)
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (In the top 50 CS programs in North America)
North Carolina State University, Raleigh
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh’s tech jobs scene has gloriously evolved over the past 2 decades. The big five and others such as Uber and Zoom are marking their presence in Pittsburgh. Start-ups such as Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous driving technology giant are contributing to the evolving tech scene in the city.
Equivalent Income: $106,000
10. Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore ranks 17th on CompTIA’s list, and the city neighbours Washington, D.C. (11th on CompTIA’s list). The city’s biggest advantage is lower prices – both for companies looking to expand, as well as for residents. It also offers the advantage of being close to several US government headquarters.
Equivalent Income: $113,000