The top three metro areas for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals cuts a line clear across the United States, with West Coast metropolis Seattle in the top spot, followed by Texas startup hub Austin and East Coast college town Boston rounding out the trio.
These were among the findings from WalletHub's "2023's Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals" report, which compared the 100 biggest metro areas across 21 key metrics, with the data set ranging from per-capita job openings for STEM graduates to median wage growth for STEM workers.
Atlanta and Silicon Valley stalwarts San Francisco and San Jose took the next three spots, followed by Pittsburgh; Minneapolis; Madison, Wisconsin; and California's capital, Sacramento, rounding out the top 10.
Related: ITPro Today's 2022 Salary Survey Report
San Jose had the highest average monthly earnings for new employees in STEM industries, $14,904, as well as the highest share of all workers in STEM occupations, while Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had the most per-capita overall STEM job openings for STEM graduates.
When it comes to the highest median annual wage for STEM workers (adjusted by cost of living), those pros living in Raleigh, North Carolina, claimed the top spot with a yearly take home pay of $106,932.
High demand for IT professionals and persistent inflation are twin factors driving up salaries in the tech job market more broadly, according to a recent report from Janco, which found median salaries for the positions surveyed now exceed $101,000.
Why Some of Largest Cities Rank So Low for STEM Professionals
With Chicago coming in at 20, Los Angeles landing outside the top 20 at 26, and the nation's largest city, New York, coming in at 43, some of the nation's largest urban areas ranked comparatively low for STEM professionals.
"Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York metros actually don't have that many job openings for STEM graduates," WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. "They have a low share of the workforce in STEM, less than 6%, and STEM employment has in fact declined over the 2019-2021 period."
The unemployment rate for people with a bachelor's degree is high in these metro areas, and the annual median wage for STEM workers is low when adjusted for cost of living, she said.
"We've been publishing this report every year since 2015, and even though we update the methodology each time, there were no surprises in the ranking," Gonzalez said.
How Remote Work Is Benefiting STEM Professionals
Gonzalez did point out that remote work has "definitely" opened up a lot more professional opportunities for STEM workers, as geographical limits have been eliminated.
"It would also seem that those who sometimes work from home or fully remote are more productive and engaged," she noted. "From a business standpoint, companies that have a remote work policy are more attractive for employees. This leads to higher employee retention, as well as reduced costs for office space, supplies, or utilities."
Gonzalez added that it will be difficult to estimate how the rankings for best places for STEM professionals will continue to evolve.
"So far, the rankings of metro areas have been pretty stable in the past years," she said. "It's clear that the cities at the top will always have the most job openings for STEM graduates, as well as a large and growing share of STEM workforce."
For STEM professionals who are looking to make a change in where they live and work, Gonzalez recommends they look at the job opportunities in their line of work and compare the potential wages to their current income.
"You should also be aware of the possibilities to advance and grow your career," she said. "In terms of relocating, people have different priorities. In general, you should account for affordability, the quality of the healthcare system, and availability of entertainment options."
While some layoffs have dampened bargaining power slightly, multiple recent studies indicate IT hiring prospects for 2023 are still robust, with IT hiring experts predicting strong demand for IT pros with expertise in cloud, AI/data science, and especially cybersecurity in 2023.
According to the most recent analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), STEM professions are expected to grow 10.8% between 2021 and 2031, compared with just 4.9% for all other occupations.
Technology industry companies added 17,600 workers in December, with job gains recorded in four of five sector categories, representing the 25th straight month of net employment growth in the tech industry, according to a recent CompTIA analysis of BLS data.
About the authorNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.