Software Developer Career Tips: The Southeast.

Date: 2019-12-09

Time to Read: 9 Minutes



Photo By: Brandon Jean

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.

You may have noticed a suspicious lack of metro areas in the southeast in the previous posts (RTP as an exception). While it is true that opportunities are very limited in this region, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any viable locations to move to for a career in technology. I’ll cover a few notable locations.

Huntsville, Alabama 

The average salary for a software developer in Huntsville, AL is $68,000 which is around 15% less than the national average. Despite this, Huntsville, AL is only 13% more expensive than our base case of Tupelo, MS with a median rent of $870 and a median home price of $226,000. A salary of $68,000 in Huntsville, AL is equivalent to $65.6k in Tupelo, MS. When people begin listing possible landing locations for candidates seeking to stay within the southeast, Huntsville, AL is often mentioned. Most of the technology jobs in the area are geared toward the defense industry and aerospace engineering which usually requires security clearance.

Dallas, Texas 

Located back in the state of Texas, Dallas, TX has an average salary of $78,800 for a software developer (only 1% less than the national average) but with a median rent and home price of $1,538 and $399,000 (32% more expensive than Tupelo, MS), this average salary would feel like $59,800 in Tupelo, MS. Much like all locations in Texas, there is no state income tax. As for jobs, there are financial companies such as Goldman Sachs and Capital One that pay fairly well for software developers. Dallas, TX also has AT&T and many defense contractors as well. Dallas, TX is nestled in between our next location and Austin, TX when it comes to COL and compensation.

Houston, Texas

Also located in Texas is Houston, TX which has an average salary of $77,000. With a median rent of $1,240 and median home price of $309,000, Houston is cheaper than Dallas, TX and only 17% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. Oil and gas is the primary industry in Houston, TX and the large sprawl of suburbs may not be appealing to younger candidates looking for something that appears more “exciting”. Two Sigma has an office in Houston, TX. Some have mentioned that if you’re into outdoorsy activities then Houston, TX may not be for you; there is nearby Galveston which borders the Gulf of Mexico. And I can’t help but also include the risk of flooding from tropical storms/hurricanes that may breach nearby.

Atlanta, Georgia

Moving back east to the state of Georgia is one of the largest cities in the southeast, Atlanta, GA. Atlanta, GA has an average salary of $77,300 for software developers. With a median rent of $1,215 and median home price of $366,000, Atlanta, GA is 22% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. Therefore, the average salary of $77,300 would be the equivalent of $61,500 in Tupelo, MS. There are many opportunities in this city including technology companies like Square, Pandora, MailChimp, and Samsara. Other large companies include Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Equifax, Turner Broadcasting, Suntrust, and Coca Cola. Most people live outside of Atlanta in neighboring communities such as Alpharetta or Norcross and therefore the traffic when commuting can become incredibly bad. Closer to the city proper, most developers typically live in the Buckhead and Midtown area.

Nashville, Tennessee

The bachelorette party capital on the United States, Nashville, TN has grown significantly in the past decade. The average salary for a software developer in Nashville, TN is $77,400 and though the cost-of-living has been increasing significantly as the city has grown, Nashville, TN is only 22% more expensive than Tupelo, MS. The state of Tennessee also almost has no state income tax (it’s limited to dividend and interest income) which can also improve your overall earnings. Apparently there is a lot of healthcare-related technology jobs in the region but I’m honestly not sure of any prominent technology companies in the area.  

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, TN is the closest in terms of cost-of-living to Tupelo, MS and also the closest urban center to Tupelo, MS; the average salary for a software developer in this city is $65,000 (the lowest of all of our locations so far). The primary employers in this city for technology workers is FedEX and AutoZone. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital also has a fair bit of technical roles as well. As for living in Memphis, Cooper-Young, Overton Square, and Beale Street are the locations where most people tend to congregate for dining and entertainment. There are a multitude of surrounding communities such as Cordova, Olive Branch, Collierville, Bartlett and Germantown that provide suburban living opportunities for small families outside of the city proper. It almost goes without saying that the public school system and rising crime levels are a concern for those seeking to settle down in the area.

In closing…

Refering back to my previous post Location, Location, Location, there are a ton of factors to consider when looking as a prospective move for your career. Sometimes, you may choose to move to a location because you prefer the location, other times you may move to a location simply because of the career opportunities there. Family is another factor to consider, this includes your immediate family and the suitability from a financial standpoint or otherwise to raise your immediate family in that location, another is the closeness to your extended family which may play a heavy role in your decision making. Sometimes people scoff as the high cost of living of locations like San Francisco as essentially negating any large compensation package while ignoring the higher ceilings and opportunities for advancement that many companies in those HCOL areas present. Though this isn’t an exhaustive list by any measure, hopefully this last series of posts will better inform you on many of the opportunities and tradeoffs to consider in a multitude of locations that you may be interested in moving to.

Here is the comparative information for all locations 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
San Francisco, CA $4,232 $1.3m 150% 485% $106.5k 33% $42.5k
Seattle, WA $2,642 $813k 93% 244% $98.3k 23% $50k
New York City, NY $5,133 $2m 200% 698% $90.8k 14% $30.2k
Boston, MA $3,548 $719k 87% 251% $90.3k 13% $48.2k
Austin, TX $1,478 $336k 20% 60% $80k 0% $66.5k
RTP, NC $1,342 $287k 16% 36% $79.5k -1% $68.7k
Denver, CO $1,516 $529k 37% 117% $80.5k 1% $58.6k
Washington, DC $3,006 $1m 102% 334% $86.2k 8% $42.5k
Chicago, IL $2,137 $517k 49% 138% $82k 2% $55k
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
Huntsville, AL $870 $226k 13% 2% $68k -15% $60.4k
Dallas, TX $1,538 $399k 32% 81% $78.8k -1% $59.8k
Houston, TX $1,240 $309k 17% 41% $77k -4% $65.6k
Atlanta, GA $1,215 $366k 26% 57% $77.3k -3% $61.5k
Nashville, TN $1,163 $347k 22% 55% $77.4k -3% $63.2k
Memphis, TN $756 $248k -2% 7% $65k -19% $66k

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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