Main image of article Top 10 Cities for STEM Professional Opportunities and Quality of Life

When it comes to professional opportunities and quality of life, which cities are best for technologists and other STEM professionals? That’s a difficult question, but WalletHub takes a stab at answering it every year: The 2021 edition of its Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals is topped by some locales that might surprise you.  

WalletHub relies on 20 different metrics to rank cities, subdivided into three “buckets”: Professional opportunities (such as job openings for STEM graduates per capita), STEM friendliness (quality of local schools, research and development spending, etc.), and quality of life (housing affordability, recreation-friendliness, and so on). 

That ranking system creates an interesting dynamic, since many cities with lots of professional opportunities (Seattle, San Francisco) have poor quality-of-life rankings (mostly due to housing affordability). Meanwhile, cities with fantastic quality of life (number one on WalletHub’s list is Dayton, OH) might lack professional opportunities, forcing them fairly far down the list. 

The cities in WalletHub’s top ten represent the best balancing act between all of these metrics. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many are also some of the nation’s fastest-growing tech hubs, including Atlanta and Austin. Check it out: 

If you’re new to tech, you might think you need to move to one of the nation’s largest tech hubs—Silicon Valley, New York City, or Seattle—in order to find ample opportunity. That’s definitely not the case, as studies like WalletHub’s continually reinforce. Yes, the largest tech companies tend to cluster in a handful of metro areas, and yes, those metro areas generally offer plenty of opportunities and investment. 

However, many smaller cities are very much coming into their own as emerging tech hubs, especially as COVID-19 frees up many technologists to work from pretty much anywhere they want. Indeed, some states have been making a more concerted push to draw in technology companies. Texas, for instance, recently pulled in both Oracle and Tesla, while prominent data-analytics firm Palantir is uprooting from Silicon Valley to Denver. 

With the rise of remote work, it will be interesting to see if the technologist migration from the major tech hubs accelerates over the next several years. While the biggest cities offer lots of cool things to do, there’s something to be said about living somewhere cheap enough to afford a huge yard.