As an IT professional, you’re in high demand across the country right now. Throw a dart at a map and you will surely find a well-paying IT job wherever it lands. However, certain cities will grow your tech career faster and further than others. As you look ahead toward your next role, consider these three top cities for tech pros in 2019.
Often described as having the culture of New York with a midwestern feel, Chicago continues to rank highly on most top high-tech cities lists. For nearly 10 years the city’s unemployment rate has been trending downward from 12% all the way to a current 4.1%, on par with the national average. Of course, IT unemployment rates are even lower, which has only increased the demand for tech pros. That’s one reason the average annual tech salary in Chicago is $93,116, higher than most other cities.
A closer look at Chicago’s evolving tech industry uncovers a tremendous amount of activity and opportunity for IT career progression. Fourteen Chicago tech companies made the 2018 Inc. Best Workplaces List. With area tech startups raising nearly $200 million in August alone, Chicago promises to continue leading the pack well into 2019. Major companies like Walmart are partnering with these startups, while many of the world’s largest companies relocate their headquarters to the metropolitan area.
With this influx of investment and the stability of the business community, there are an abundance of IT roles waiting for tech pros. This makes Chicago one of the hardest cities for recruiting tech talent, providing leg up to professionals looking for work. Additionally, a recent survey showed that 58% of those aged 26-34 view Chicago as the country’s #1 rising tech hotspot. Combined with an upcoming $500 million investment in a new University of Illinois tech campus downtown, Chicago is a vibrant city priming to explode onto the scene with an injection of younger talent ready to make an impact in the technology field.
As the motor city continues to see a renaissance, IT careers in the area are enjoying one as well. Tech wages in Detroit rose 9.9% from 2012 through 2017, reaching an average annual salary of $85,234. With a cost of living 6% below the national average, that equates to more spending money in the pockets of IT professionals.
The auto industry provides the biggest impetus for job creation in Detroit, so much so that the city is being called the “Silicon Valley of smart mobility technology.” Major automaker Ford announced plans for a new 1.2 million square foot innovation hub for working on autonomous and electric vehicles, a $740 million initiative that will require 5,000 new employees. Rival GM invested $500 million in ride-sharing service Lyft with plans of implementing a fleet of self-driving cars. Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler also put $30 million into a new testing and development facility for self-driving automobiles.
All of these initiatives will require a tremendous number of tech pros, making it a haven for job seekers. It’s no wonder the number of tech workers in Detroit increased by nearly 25% from 2012 to 2017 while students earning tech-related degrees in the area jumped 28% during a similar period. Despite this surge of talent, Detroit’s open tech roles still drastically outnumber professionals, making it the #4 hardest city in the country for recruiting IT professionals. Take into account the fact that Detroit is ranked as one of the best startup cities in the Midwest (billionaire Dan Gilbert’s real-estate firm Bedrock has already invested $5.6 billion in the area) and it’s easy to see why it’s an empowering destination for tech professionals.
Boasting a low cost of living (relative to cities equal in size), a culture that celebrates art and the outdoors, and an average work commute of less than 20 minutes, Grand Rapids is perennially one of the best cities to work in and a top place to raise a family. The metro area is home to a whopping 17 universities and colleges, providing many opportunities for continuing education and providing a setting filled with bright individuals. When it comes to the IT industry, the city is proud of Grand Circus, a tech hub offering training bootcamps, coworking spaces, technology events, and more. A world-class resource for any tech pro, Grand Circus reports that 41% of its students are women and 30% are underrepresented minorities, making it an inclusive and welcoming place for anyone.
An excellent playground for tech professionals, western Michigan’s IT industry is one of the fastest growing in the country, increasing at a rate of 18.5%, nearly 6.5% over the national average. Large companies like Amway, Steelcase, Herman Miller, Wolverine Worldwide, and Bissell, call the area home. A great deal of IT job growth in the area is fueled by manufacturing, and with an increasing focus on machine learning and AI. In fact, in Grand Rapids, there are 6.3 robots for every 1,000 workers, illustrating just how badly technology talent is needed to program, maintain, oversee, and troubleshoot automation initiatives.
While other traditionally booming tech cities like San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., Charlotte, and Houston, continue to be promising in 2019, the top cities for tech pros are all located in the Midwest. According to Shravan Goli, the President of prominent technology career website Dice, “Finding talent in the Midwest is getting tougher.” It’s a job seeker’s market in Chicago, Detroit, and Grand Rapids, and combined with an influx of investment and innovation, these cities can provide the right setting for an IT professional aspiring to reach the next level of their career.