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Photo By: Jeremy Banks
Disclaimer: Tupelo, MS is used as the base case for cost-of-living comparison purposes because (1) it’s near my current location therefore I have a certain amount of familiarity with it and (2) most locations are both more expensive and pay less than Tupelo, MS therefore keeping the statistical direction consistent. The $50,000 average salary for a software developer for Tupelo, MS is a rough estimate from my own experience as the number of reported salaries for the location are too little to be a trustworthy source. I use NerdWallet’s Cost of Living Calculator for estimating the Cost of Living differences between locations and estimating the median rent/home prices for a 2 bedroom apartment and 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, respectively. The estimated average salaries are gathered from Glassdoor using the VERY generic job title of Software Developer, I know many will anecdotally claim higher salaries but I’m trying to keep the sources of my information consistent across all locations.
This next list is what I would call secondary technology hubs. Some may even argue that a couple of these metro areas belong in the group from the previous post and perhaps some of these locations may become a primary technology hub in the future.
Located in the northeast with prestigious universities such as MIT and Harvard, it should come as no surprise that there is a technology presence in the Boston/Cambridge area. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a software developer in Boston, MA is ~$90,000 (13% above the national average) with a median rent of $3,548 and median home price of $719,537 according to NerdWallet. Using the cost-of-living comparison case of Tupelo, MS from the previous post, Boston, MA is 87% more expensive. What does this mean? Your $90,000 average salary in Boston, MA would roughly translate to $48,000 in Tupelo, MS. 
As far as jobs in the Boston area? There are the usual suspects of Google, Microsoft, Amazon (Alexa), Oracle, Hubspot, and IBM. But there are a multitude of biomedical engineering, healthcare-related technology companies located in the area such as athenahealth. Like robotics? There’s Boston Dynamics and iRobot. The industry is fairly diverse in Boston and the nearby universities keep the startup scene going fairly strong. As for living in Boston? From what I’m told, the warmer seasons are nice while the winters can be incredibly brutal and the city typically closes down fairly early at night.
Our first entry in Texas and home to the University of Texas, Austin, TX has in recent years been mentioned as a growing technology hub. With an average salary of $80,000 (the national average) for a software developer, and a median rent price of $1,478 and median 3BR/3BA home price of $336,787, the cost of living in Austin, TX is only 20% higher than Tupelo, MS with the majority of that being housing costs (60% higher). However, as technology companies have started locating new offices in Austin, TX, the housing costs have increased accordingly. The average salary of $80,000 in Austin, TX is equivalent to $66,500 in Tupelo, MS. And there is also no state income taxes.
So what are some opportunities in Austin, TX? An apparent nickname for Austin, TX is Silicon Hills due to the multitude of technology companies located in the area such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Oracle, DELL, and others. There are other large employers such as General Motors. Summers can be incredibly warm in Austin, TX but nearby Lake Travis can alleviate some of that heat. Given that it’s also a college town, there are plenty of entertainment options including the annual South by Southwest event. A fair warning, the homeless problem in Austin, TX has grown tremendously.
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
The Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina is often described as incredibly laid back, suburban, calm, and family oriented for a relatively tech-heavy area. The average salary for a software developer is $79,500 (1% less than the national average). RTP is fairly LCOL, the median rent in RTP, NC is $1,342 and the median home price is $287,839. In comparison to Tupelo, MS, RTP, NC is only 16% more expensive (with housing costs being only 37% higher). Despite being 1% lower than the national average, an $79,500 salary in RTP, NC translates to roughly $68,700. 
Where to work? There’s IBM, Cisco, Fidelity, Red Hat, and more. The warmer weather is ideal but one of the main criticisms is that the area can feel a little too suburban and slow paced for younger graduates or those who would prefer a more exciting experience that is typically had in larger metro areas.
The Denver/Boulder, Colorado area seems like a dream location for someone who prefers a balance between an urban metropolis and outdoorsy environment. The average salary for a software developer in this area is $80,500 (1% higher than the national average) according to Glassdoor. The median rent is $1,516 while the median home price is $529,000 making Denver, CO 37% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. An average salary of $80,500 in Denver, CO looks like $58,600 in Tupelo, MS. Some have argued that the increasing pace of housing costs have outpaced the salary growth for technology workers.
There is a great deal of telecommunications companies in the Denver area such as Dish, Comcast, Charter, and Spectrum. There are also many defense contractors in the Denver area such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. As for technology companies? Google has offices in Boulder. Facebook has an office in Denver. Github, Twitter, and Uber are also in Boulder. As for living in the area? If you enjoy outdoors activities such as hiking then the area has a lot to offer with the Flatirons located in Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park located nearby at Estes Park.
Washington, DC/Arlington, VA
Going back up the average salary and cost-of-living slide is the capital of this nation, Washington, DC. With an average salary of $86,266 (8% higher than the national average) and a median rent of $3,002 and a median home price of $1m; Washington, DC is roughly 102% higher than Tupelo, MS. A average salary of $86,266 would feel like only $42,600 in Tupelo, MS.
Amazon HQ2 was announced to be located in Arlington, VA earlier this year (after originally announced to be located in NYC). Predictably there are a lot of contract/government jobs that are either unstable (contract work) or incredibly stable (government work). Capital One is also headquartered nearby.
Last but definitely not least on this list is the Windy City, Chicago, IL. With an average salary for a software developer that is 2% higher than the national average at $82,000. The median rent and median home price in Chicago, IL is $2,317 and $517,000 respectively. As a whole, Chicago, IL is 49% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. The average salary of $82,000 in Chicago, IL is similar to $55,000 in Tupelo, MS.
The job market in Chicago, IL is very similar to NYC in that there are a great deal of financial-related companies such as HFT firms and Proprietary Trading firms. You have both Citadel, Optiver, Akuna, Belvedere, and Geneva. Speaking of Capital One, they also have a presence in the city. There is also a multitude of smaller startups in the city as well. Google, Amazon, Facebook all have an office in Chicago. As for living in Chicago, the biggest knock that I often read is the brutal mid-western winters. There’s plenty to do in Chicago such as to be expected from a large city.
Next, I’ll take a look at a collection of metro areas in the United States that may not be synonymous with technology but may still offer plenty of opportunities.
Here is some comparative information tabulated.
|Location||Median Rent||Median Housing Costs||COL %||Housing Costs %||Average Salary||National Average||Tupelo Equivalent|
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