Best Places to Live and Work: Which Cities are Best for Software Engineers Right Now?

Career opportunities for software engineers are as good as it gets. According to data from PayScale, to be a software engineer in 2018 means having a well-paid job where the national median salary eclipses $82,000 and where financial stability comes with opportunities all across the country.

With millions of students having just graduated over the weekend, that means that a throng of young software engineers will be entering the workforce and recent reports suggest that young developers are not immediately flocking to Silicon Valley. The number one reason? Unaffordable housing.

With that in mind, and because we’re all about helping recent grads on their next big move, SpareFoot teamed up with online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter to find the cities where software engineers will see their paychecks go furthest and where opportunities are plenty.

Finding the Best Cities for Software Engineering Jobs

When it comes to finding a job as a software engineer, some cities have better opportunities than others. ZipRecruiter provided us with exclusive data limited to the past 30 days to create an up-to-date and accurate list.

ZipRecruiter compared the number of software developer jobs available in each MSA (metropolitan statistical area) and divided that by the number of active job seekers in that same MSA. This determined the opportunity index for each MSA. The 25 MSAs with the highest opportunity indexes were used for our analysis. They’re the places where you’ll probably have the best chance of landing a software engineer job, quickly.

The second component of our formula is real adjusted salary. To find this, we looked at median software engineer salaries for each city provided by PayScale and combined them with cost of living data provided by AreaVibes.

To determine our final list, we combined the rankings for the Opportunity Index and the Real Adjusted Salary, giving double weight to the Opportunity Index. (because it doesn’t matter if salaries and cost of living are favorable in an area if you can’t find a job there).

Cost of living and developer salary data collected manually from AreaVibes and PayScale, respectively.

Here is our list of the best cities for software engineers right now:

10. Austin, TX (tie)

Austin

A few years ago, Austin would have been near the top of our list. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not affordable compared to the rest of the country and full of solid paying opportunities for software developers.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $74,587 (Ranked 10th)
  • 7 percent above national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.77 (Ranked 14th)

10. Minneapolis, MN (tie)

Minneapolis life coach

Minneapolis may be under the radar, but software engineers looking for well-paying opportunities should take a gander at what one half of the “Twin Cities” has to offer.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $70,614 (Ranked 14th)
  • 6 percent above national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 1.34 (Ranked 6th)

9. Houston, TX

Aerial view of Houston, Texas

When adjusted for cost of living, median software engineer salaries in Houston surpass the national median salary for software engineers. There may be more competition for software engineer jobs here, but landing a job will surely set you up nicely.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $84,085 (Ranked 3rd)
  • 9 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.26 (Ranked 25th)

8. Dallas, TX

To cut a long story short, a software developer salary in Dallas is worth way more than a salary in the Bay Area. To be more specific, Dallas gets the 5th place on our list of best-paying cities considering salaries that are adjusted to cost of living.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $79,923 (Ranked 5th)
  • 5 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.43 (Ranked 20th)

6. Phoenix, AZ  (tie)

The 4th best-paying city on our list, Phoenix offers cost of living that is 5 percent below the national average, along with an average of 299 sunny days per year.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $80,213 (Ranked 4th)
  • 5 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.41 (Ranked 21st)

6. St. Louis, MO (tie)

aerial of The Old Court House surrounded by downtown St. Louis

Don’t be fooled by St. Louis’ third ranked median base salary of $69,936 per year. When adjusted, its 3rd place cost of living brings that salary all the way up to 6th best on our list.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $78,580 (Ranked 6th)
  • 11 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.82 (Ranked 12th)

5. Columbus, OH

The second of four midwestern cities on our list, Columbus is the third most affordable and eighth best-paying city for software engineers (of 25 eligible cities).

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $78,580 (Ranked 8th)
  • 11 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.82 (Ranked 12th)

4. Detroit, MI

You already know Detroit is making a comeback, and software engineers there are primed to take advantage of one of the best-paying cities in the country for software engineers. While the median base salary is $73,123, that money will go further here than anywhere else thanks to the low cost of living, resulting in a real adjusted salary of $91,404.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $91,404 (Ranked 1st)
  • 20 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 0.29 (Ranked 24th)

3. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore is in need of software engineers, and with top ten rankings in pay and cost of living, it’s hard to imagine those jobs won’t get filled soon.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $77,322 (Ranked 9th)
  • Equal to national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 1.95 (Ranked 1st)

2. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA at dusk.

You know Pittsburgh is a top city for software engineers when its own developers are singing its praises. Local prices for housing, transportation, and groceries are very reasonable, which means you won’t have to spend the biggest part of your income on necessities.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $79,385 (Ranked 7th)
  • 9 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 1.93 (Ranked 2nd)

1. San Antonio, TX 

The 2nd best-paying city for software engineers on our list of surveyed cities, San Antonio is a wonderful place to be. Since the local cost of living is a whopping 14 percent lower than the national average, settling down in this city can help you maximize your real income.

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $89,621 (Ranked 2nd)
  • 14 percent below national average cost of living
  • Opportunity Index: 1.54 (Ranked 3rd)

The Best of the Rest

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. Orlando, FL
  3. Atlanta, GA
  4. Portland, OR
  5. Philadelphia, PA
  6. Seattle, WA
  7. San Jose, CA
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Washington, DC
  10. Denver, CO
  11. Los Angeles, CA
  12. New York, NY
  13. San Diego, CA
  14. San Francisco, CA

Methodology: SpareFoot’s Best Cities for Software Engineers Right Now identifies U.S. cities with the highest real adjusted salary for software engineers, indicating where a local software engineer’s base salary stretches furthest when compared to local cost of living. Cost of living includes groceries, health care, housing (the main driver of living costs), transportation, utilities, and more. Real adjusted salary is determined by the ratio of median annual base salary to cost of living for each city. For simplicity of reporting, ‘cities’ refers to U.S. metros as defined by the U.S. Office of Management Budget, and cost of living refers to AreaVibes’ overall cost of living index. This report takes into account job title normalization that groups similar job titles. Job openings represent active job listings on ZipRecruiter as of 4/1/18.

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