Software Developer Career Tips: The Other Metro Areas.

Date: 2019-12-02

Time to Read: 7 Minutes



Photo By: Parker Gibbons

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 post covers many other metropolitan areas that I see mentioned sparingly when potential candidates discuss possible locations to move to for their careers.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah is mentioned as a fairly underrated location with an average salary for a software developer estimated to be $79.9k. With a median rent of $1,261 and a median home price of $403k, SLC, Utah is only 28% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. An equivalent salary in Tupelo, MS would be $62.2k. I believe that both Microsoft, Adobe, Qualtrics, and eBay have a presence in SLC and offer competitive salaries despite the relative LCOL. Most of the better paying companies are located in Lehi or Provo south of SLC. The nearby mountains are nice but the area can suffer from “inversions” or a layer of pollution particulates that can affect breathing and visibility in the winter months.

Portland, Oregon 

Portland, Oregon has an average salary of $80.4k for software developers. With a median rent of $2,511 and a median home price of $620k, Portland, OR is 66% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. The average salary of $80.4k in Portland, OR is roughly the equivalent of $48.4k in Tupelo, MS. Employment-wise, companies such as Amazon, eBay, HP, AirBnB, and Nike are hiring software developers. As for weather and culture, the city is very similar to Seattle.

Madison, Wisconsin 

Madison, WI has an average salary of $112k for software developers. This was a bit shocking but comes to no surprise when exploring the data (more on that further down). As for the cost of living, with a median rent and home price of $1100 and $409k respectively, Madison, WI is only 31% more expensive than Tupelo, MS.  Now back to my earlier point, one of the largest and highest paying technology companies in Madison, WI is the healthcare management technology company Epic who “pays silicon valley salaries in the midwest.”. What’s the catch? Well, many claim that the company uses a proprietary language that doesn’t translate well to other jobs. Others claim that you will be overworked. However, others claim that these criticisms are team-dependent. Regardless, the pay/cost ratio is tough to beat. Madison gets really cold, though.

San Diego, California 

Quite the opposite of Madison, WI is San Diego, CA. With an average salary of $86.5k for software developers and a median rent and home price of $2,428 and $804k, San Diego, CA is 75% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. The sunshine tax is real and many claim that salaries for tech workers have not kept pace with the high cost of living. The key industries in the area are biotechnology, defense, and government  related but there are some technology focused companies such as Intuit, Amazon, and Qualcomm.

Los Angeles, California 

Up north just a bit is Los Angeles with an average salary of $85.9k for software developers. Los Angeles is 85% more expensive than Tupelo, MS with a median rent and home price of $2,776 and $823k respectively. As with San Diego (and any city in California), the state’s high income taxes can also affect your earnings. As for job opportunities, Los Angeles is the headquarters for Snap. Netflix, Facebook, SpaceX also have a presence in the area. Los Angeles is a large urban sprawl and most are fairly with the offerings that the City of Angels provide as far as entertainment and dining is concerned.

Phoenix, Arizona 

Phoenix, AZ is often touted as a viable LCOL location for tech workers. With an average salary of $77.4k and a cost of living that is only 23% more than Tupelo, MS; that $77.4k would feel like $63k in northeast Mississippi. As for jobs? I’ll include Scottsdale, and Tempe in the mix as the towns tend to bleed into each other. There are a lot of credit card companies, insurance companies, and healthcare companies in the area that hire technology workers. As for technology companies, Amazon, Intel, and GoDaddy have a presence. It should go without saying, but it’s very hot all year round in this area.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Philadelphia has an average software developer salary of $77.6k and is roughly 37% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. Comcast has a presence in the area. One common criticism of the area is increasing amount of crime.

Twin Cities, Minnesota 

Back to the cold in Minnesota, the twin cities regions include Minneapolis and St. Paul and has an average salary of $71.4k while being only 32% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. There are some larger companies such as Target, United Health Group, and General Mills. Amazon also apparently had a small office in the area. 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Back to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh has an average salary of $71.7k for software developers and a cost of living that is roughly 28% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. Where to work? There is Uber and Duolingo. This location has the potential to take off significantly, seeing as it’s the home of Carnegie Mellon University.

Richmond, Virginia

The average salary for a software developer in Richmond, VA is $67.6k and is roughly only 15% more expensive than our base case of Tupelo, MS. Capital One has a presence in the area and the close proximity to the DC/Northern Virginia might allow you negotiate a WFH arrangement with any companies in that nearby region without incurring the higher cost of living in that region.

Las Vegas, NV

The average salary for a software developer in $77.5k with a cost of living that is roughly 14% higher than Tupelo, MS. As for companies, there is Zappos, UnitedHealthcare, and multiple opportunities in the casino gaming industry.

Next, I’ll look at many of the areas and opportunities located in the southeast.

Here is some comparative information tabulated.

Location Median Rent Median Housing Costs COL % Housing Costs % Average Salary National Average Tupelo Equivalent
Tupelo, MS $720 $233k 0% 0% $50k -37.5% $50k
SLC, UT $1,261 $403k 28% 66% $79.9k 0% $62.2k
Portland, OR $2,511 $620k 66% 186% $80.4k 1% $48.4k
Madison, WI $1,103 $409k 31% 68% $112k 40% $85.3k
San Diego, CA $2,428 $804k 75% 232% $86.5k 8% $49.3k
Los Angeles, CA $2,776 $823k 82% 252% $85.9k 7% $47.2k
Phoenix, AZ $1,443 $329k 23% 60% $77.4k -3% $63k
Philadelphia, PA $1,503 $422k 37% 81% $77.6k -3% $56.5k
Twin Cities, MN $1,179 $370k 32% 60% $71.4k -11% $54.1k
Pittsburgh, PA $1,503 $422k 28% 64% $71.7k -10% $55.9k
Richmond, VA $1,079 $301k 15% 32% $67.6k -16% $58.7k
Las Vegas, NV $1,104 $273k 14% 16% $75.5k -6% $66.9k

Software Developer Career Tips

12 February, 2020
A collection of posts detailing much of the information that I've learned in recent years when considering a significant career move.
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Blake Adams is a writer, software developer, technical consultant, and financial independence enthusiast living in Oxford, MS.

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