The 2020 edition of the Dice Salary Report revealed some key things about the tech industry and the technologists who work in it. Nationally, average annual pay within the tech industry hit $94,000 last year—just a 1.3 percent increase from 2018.
But that’s not the whole story. Salary can vary wildly from state to state, driven by a huge number of factors—everything from the presence of a major tech hub to the average cost of living (which can have a substantial impact on pay). In that spirit, we also broke down average pay on a state-by-state basis; these are the states for which we received a significant number of responses:
Every state is different, and that includes the factors that go into its average technologist salary. Of course, location isn’t destiny; if you want to secure massive compensation in your tech role, make sure that you’ve mastered the right skills, that you negotiate for the benefits you truly want and need, and that you even get to display a little bit of creativity.
Let’s break down some of these states a bit more:
YoY change: 3 percent
For years, Silicon Valley dominated the nation’s tech conversation, and for good reason: It’s home to tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Google. However, other tech hubs have begun to establish themselves across the nation, threatening California’s longtime supremacy. There’s New York City (“Silicon Alley”), Austin, and a handful of other towns attracting tech companies and talent.
Within California itself, both San Diego and Los Angeles have also done their best to draw more tech-related attention. In any case, the state benefits from a variety of factors, including a very deep tool of talent, universities to create and pipeline that talent, lots of venture-capital firms to fund even the craziest ideas, and local governments that have traditionally proven amenable to tech firms’ ambitions (up to a point).
Those factors have translated into considerable demand for technologists, especially those who specialize in cutting-edge arenas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.), which in turn has resulted in significant average salaries: $109,173 in 2019, up 3 percent from the year before.
YoY change: 4.60 percent
Massachusetts enjoyed a massive year-over-year average salary increase of 4.60 percent, placing the average salary at $107,966. And why not? Like California, the state boasts a number of factors that attract tech companies and ensure steady demand for technologists with a variety of skills.
For starters, Cambridge (which features MIT and Harvard) is a major research-and-development hub. The state is also within relatively easy reach of the other East Coast tech hubs, including New York City and Washington, D.C. For years, local companies have very publicly struggled with retention, but high salaries (along with benefits and other perks) might convince tech talent to not flee to other tech hubs.
YoY change: 10.10 percent
(Yes, yes, we know it's technically not a state.) Washington, DC has always hungered for all kinds of technologists; the federal government, after all, needs thousands of specialists to manage its sprawling IT infrastructure. In addition, dozens of federal contractors also need technologists, especially those with specialized skills such as cybersecurity.
Although many federal jobs don’t pay nearly as much as their equivalents in private industry, a government position offers fantastic stability and benefits.
YoY change: -2.10 percent
Northern Virginia is one of the key nerve centers for the U.S. tech industry. Amazon, the U.S. government, Boeing, AT&T, IBM, Raytheon, and dozens of other companies have all built or lease datacenter space in the area; in turn, their datacenters power services for thousands of companies large and small.
That’s in addition to a universe of government IT contractors clustered in the area. And although salaries declined year-over-year, big things in the pipeline could make Virginia’s tech compensation rise again: Amazon is scaling up its proposed “HQ2” headquarters in Crystal City (right across the river from DC), which may power thousands of new job openings.
YoY change: 6.90 percent
Along with San Francisco, Seattle remains one of the nation’s oldest and most well-established tech hubs. Amazon dominates here, along with outposts of some of the nation’s biggest tech firms (such as Facebook). All of that tech-driven economic activity has led to some spectacular fights over gentrification, as well as debates over homelessness and affordable housing, but the growth seems unlikely to stop anytime soon.
YoY change: 0.80 percent
New Jersey didn’t benefit from strong year-over-year growth, but its average tech salaries remain some of the highest in the nation. Like Virginia and Washington, D.C., New Jersey benefits heavily from proximity to New York City and its massive tech ecosystem. For technologists, a six-figure salary can purchase an actual house in New Jersey as opposed to a mouse-filled shoebox in Manhattan.
YoY change: -5.10 percent
Minnesota experienced a pretty big dip in average salaries, year-over-year, but nonetheless it remains a powerhouse of Midwestern tech. Cities such as Minneapolis-Saint Paul boast a combination of startups and major corporations, as well as a healthy pipeline of local talent. Plus, there’s a relatively low cost of living compared to other tech hubs!
YoY change: 3.30 percent
New York City spent years trying to diversify its local economy by pulling in technology companies. The effort worked: “Silicon Alley” now boasts tech firms large and small. For example, Amazon wanted to place its massive “second headquarters” (HQ2) in NYC’s Long Island City neighborhood; even though local protests scuttled that idea, the company nonetheless moved into 335,000 square feet of office space in the nearby Hudson Yards complex.
Facebook and Google have also occupied hundreds of thousands of square feet in midtown, and giants of other industries—most notably finance—are also battling for specialized technologists. Then you have startups clustering in Brooklyn and other boroughs.
Outside of New York City, though, the state government is trying to make areas such as Central New York most hospitable to tech firms, with very mixed results.