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This is an old version of this ranking. Check out the latest version here, which includes employment projections to 2030.
Over the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on employment in nearly every industry. However, according to data and projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for health care and technology jobs remains bright.
As Americans search for their next potential job, Insider decided to look for promising, high-paying jobs. To do this, we used two data sets available on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections Program publishes job growth estimates for hundreds of occupations. The latest release compares the number of people working for each occupation in 2019 with the bureau’s projections for 2029. The BLS noted that these estimates do not include the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on employment.
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However, the BLS released two alternative projections that include the impact of the pandemic to see how the longer-term economic fallout could affect job growth in various occupations. As far as any forecast goes, these estimates may not be exactly what the next decade will look like, but they give an idea of where job growth can be expected.
We combined these job growth projections with the latest May 2020 annual median wages for each occupation in the Bureau’s Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Program (formerly known as the Occupational Employment Statistics Program), using the geometric mean of the two numbers. Come find roles that are all growing and paying well.
Because of our focus on high-paying jobs, we limited our ranking to occupations with a 2020 median salary above the all-occupation median of $41,950. From a salary standpoint, Silicon Valley is the clear winner, with an average salary of $110,554 per year, according to Glassdoor. But even with six-figure salaries, many developers find it difficult to afford the sky-high rents in the Bay Area.
For a more comprehensive analysis, we compared what software engineers actually earn in 43 cities around the world to find out where they have the most buying power. Actual income is calculated as follows:
Software Developer Job Description
Real Income = Income – Tax – Social Security – Cost of Living – Rent A quick summary of our results
Seattle is the clear winner, with wages close to Silicon Valley but much lower rental costs. Furthermore, with few exceptions, US cities generally rank higher than international cities. Interestingly, San Jose (we represent Silicon Valley) is still 3rd out of 21 US cities, while San Francisco ranks 19th again due to the rent difference.
On the East Coast, New York and Washington, D.C. fared even worse and took the bottom two places respectively. Phoenix came in second, with Austin and Houston rounding out the top five. Internationally, we recommend Tel Aviv, the Canadian city and Berlin. Contrary to what one might expect, our data advises you to avoid London, Singapore and China.
Previously, Glassdoor listed the “25 Highest Paying Cities for Software Engineers” in the United States and calculated “real adjusted wages” by converting wages to cost-of-living factors. Their model places San Jose and San Francisco at no. 2 and no. 3 on their list, contrary to anecdotal evidence. In particular, they say that San Jose is more expensive to live than San Francisco, and our data will show you why the opposite is true.
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What does “income proportional to cost of living” mean? This is a way to put all cities with different costs of living on an equal footing. Here’s Glassdoor’s formula:
But measuring income by cost of living is not a very accurate way to compare between cities. People just want to know how much money will be in their pocket at the end of each year.
Instead of calculating income like Glassdoor does, we use our actual income formula to calculate the income of an average software engineer living alone in a city and use that as a ranking metric. This leads to very different results.
Since taxes make up a large portion of each salary and vary by region, we used the same Glassdoor base salary figures to calculate after-tax income in each city, then subtracted the average annual cost of living and rent based on Numbeo’s data. You don’t want to move to a city with few jobs, so we took cities with a lot of job listings and expanded our reach worldwide.
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US cities beat almost all international cities, so we’ve split the two into separate rankings for simplicity. From now on, we will refer to non-US cities as “international” cities.
Most feel that while wages are lower abroad, the lower cost of living more than makes up for it. With a lower base salary, you’ll actually earn less, but even as a cost of living ratio, salaries abroad often don’t compete with American salaries. See the Affordability section below for more information.
Our data corroborates findings from similar reports, showing that Seattle is currently the best place to be a software engineer. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft have raised average salaries closer to Silicon Valley levels; however, lower rent means more money in your pocket each month.
Phoenix, Austin, and Houston also appear to be good options with actual incomes over $30,000. These markets are still growing and are near the bottom of our list of vacancies. Raleigh, N.C., ranks sixth behind Houston, but again, the job market there is relatively small.
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From the chart above you may have seen the gap between no. 3 San Jose and no. 19 San Francisco noted. The two cities are often grouped under the same category of “Bay Area”. Why do regions with similar markets and geographic proximity have such different real returns?
Our data shows that salaries and cost of living are about the same, but San Jose’s low rents make up the difference.
The cost of living varies little between cities, but rents vary greatly. For example, Phoenix was third with an average rent of $972 per month, while San Francisco ranked nineteenth with an average rent of $3,272 per month.
Washington, D.C., New York and Boston have the largest job markets for software engineers outside the Bay Area, but sky-high rents push them to the bottom of the list. Washington, D.C. had the highest number of jobs in our analysis, but below-average wages and high costs made it the worst choice among major US cities.
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In addition to American cities, we wanted to learn more about international cities. We picked cities named in similar reports as established or “emerging” tech hubs and crunched the numbers for them. Keep in mind that almost none of the cities listed below beat US cities in terms of actual income and number of jobs.
Oslo tops the list for earnings, but we didn’t mention it earlier because the labor market is the smallest of the 43 cities we analyzed in this report. Compare its 106 jobs to New York’s 22,554 jobs.
Your best bet is Tel Aviv. It is a fairly established tech hub with the second highest real income and a reasonably sized tech market. In addition, newcomers to the country are eligible for tax breaks, which are not included in our tax calculations.
Canada also did well. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are respectively no. 3, no. 4 and no. 5 on our real earnings list. Moreover, the labor market in all three cities exceeds that of Tel Aviv. Berlin, often referred to as a powerful European technology hub, follows in sixth place.
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Bangalore also deserves a mention. It has one of the highest vacancies for software engineers in the world, surpassing San Francisco and San Jose and just behind New York and Washington, D.C. By contrast, it has the lowest average pretax income in dollars of any city we considered.
In most cases, the cost of living internationally is much lower than in the US, but not low enough to make up for the drop in wages.
According to our data, real incomes in London are below the international average, which in turn is well below US cities. Another city that may surprise you is Beijing. Many people are excited about the technological innovations there, there are offers for local startups