Main image of article Dice 2020 Salary Report: Which Cities, Skills, and Occupations Paid the Most?

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the Dice Salary Report. In order to obtain the latest data on the top technology salaries, we surveyed more than 12,800 technologists over two months. Whether you’re brand-new to the industry or a longtime veteran, there’s data in here that’s relevant to your current career and future goals. Let’s jump in!

(For new and updated compensation information, check out the 2021 Dice Salary Report, featuring data on all-new skills and cities.)

Certain skills saw a significant year-over-year bump, suggesting heightened demand by employers, and certain cities saw employees and contractors earning more. Metro areas such as St. Louis and Atlanta enjoyed big growth in salaries, hinting that something very interesting is going on outside the "traditional" tech hubs such as Silicon Valley. Nationally, average annual pay in the technology industry hit $94,000 in 2019—just a 1.3 percent increase from 2018.

This year—as with every year—the salaries associated with skills hinged on supply and demand. Newer skills don’t necessarily draw higher salaries; with many older skills, the number of proficient technologists is relatively low, which means employers are willing to pay more in order to secure their services. (That’s a key reason why the handful of technologists who still know their way around an ancient mainframe can score six-figure salaries from companies that haven’t given up decades-old hardware.)

Over the next few weeks, we're going to publish in-depth articles that'll break down everything you want to know about salaries and compensation for technologists in 2020, including things like the "benefits gap." In the meantime, though, let's jump in!

Salary Report: Top Cities Include San Diego, St. Louis, and Atlanta

In key cities across the country, technologists also enjoyed rising compensation—suggesting that some metro areas are “up and comers” ready to challenge more established tech hubs such as Seattle and Silicon Valley.  

This year, Columbus and St. Louis enjoyed double-digit year-over-year growth in salaries (14.2 percent and 13.6 percent, respectively), and other cities such as Denver and Atlanta also experienced an ideal mix of growth and high salaries. These up-and-comers benefitted from the presence of key employers such as Amazon and IBM; in addition, a lower cost of living and plentiful amenities have made them increasingly attractive to technologists, even those coming from well-established tech hubs such as Silicon Valley. 

Speaking of which… Silicon Valley remains a world of high salaries—but as we pointed out in last year’s Salary Report, the cost of living in the Bay Area remains extraordinarily high, which chews into that higher-than-average paycheck. And that’s before we factor in issues such as grinding commutes. In Seattle, New York City (also known as “Silicon Alley”), and other well-established tech hubs, costs are similarly high, which only makes up-and-coming tech hubs more potentially attractive to technologists. 

Top Skills Include Kafka, Cloudera, MapReduce, Amazon RedShift

Among those newer skills that draw big salaries, it’s a similar theme: A small (but often growing) number of technologists have mastered these nascent technologies, and can extract high salaries from employers. In the case of programming languages such as Swift, which enjoyed significant year-over-year growth and high salaries, a large number of technologists might have mastered it—but the market is huge and white-hot, ensuring that compensation will only rise. 

Many of the top skills in the 2020 Salary Survey are essential to storing and working with data. That’s not a change from previous years: In the 2019 edition of the Salary Report, the top-paying skill was Golang (averaging $132,827), followed by Kafka ($127,554), Amazon DynamoDB ($125,609), and Amazon Redshift ($125,090). As we noted at the time, all of these skills helped technologists manage massive codebases (which was precisely why Google employees created Golang) as well as real-life data feeds, cloud data warehousing, and similar Big Data functions.

This year, data-centric skills such as Kafka and MapReduce remain key. Businesses will always need technologists who can effectively wrangle data.  

Salary Report: Top Occupations Include Data Scientist, Data Engineer

Which occupations saw the biggest increases in salary and job postings between 2018 and 2019? The short answer: Those that allowed businesses to wrangle and analyze data, build applications, and make sure those applications went into the world relatively bug-free. For example, data engineer and data scientist enjoyed year-over-year growth of 9.3 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively, along with six-figure salaries.

If there’s one takeaway from this year’s Salary Report with regard to occupations, it’s this: The key to landing a high salary (and excellent job prospects) is a highly specialized set of skills. Engineers who pull down top compensation often have in-depth knowledge of their sub-industry’s unique tools and best practices. Yes, employers are hungry for talent—but they want and need employees and contractors who truly know their stuff.

2020: Time to Boost Your Career 

What this year’s Salary Report makes clear is that technologists have a lot of leverage when it comes to salary and benefits, especially in certain metro areas where there’s clearly increased demand for workers with technical aptitude. That being said, that leverage is almost wholly dependent on having the right mix of skills, as well as negotiating effectively. Download the Report to see what technologists can earn, and for what skill-sets.