Help Wanted: Applications Software Developers, Anywhere, USA

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Previous Colleague Kyle West

Over the past ten years, aside from registered nurses, employment gains for applications software developers have outperformed those for all other highly skilled occupations, adding more than 150,000 workers in the nation over the ten years ending with the third quarter of 2016. More than 775,000 workers were classified as applications software developers in the third quarter of 2016.

There are now more software developers employed in the United States than lawyers (747,559), bartenders (618,136), or bank tellers (520,398); and industry demand for more seems insatiable. Over the next ten years, average annual employment growth for software developers is forecast to advance at a pace more than 2.7 times the rate of growth for all occupations (1.9% per year versus 0.7% per year, respectively).[1]

Odds are, many of us live in a region where it is difficult to find qualified developers.

With a median annual salary of $98,300 in the United States, applications software developers can be an attractive career choice for those with the right mix of skills. Based on current demand, an influx of developers would be a welcome addition to most regions.

While these workers are predominantly employed by computer systems design firms, and to a lesser extent, software publishers, their distribution across industries is increasingly widespread as their skills and expertise become more valuable to a broader range of businesses.

Most people would probably guess that the majority of developers work in some of our nation’s established technology hubs and/or largest metropolitan areas, such as Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Chicago, or Atlanta. And, as shown in the table below, each of these metropolitan areas appears in the top ten list for employment of developers. 

Largest areas of employment

MSA Employment
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSA 54,311
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA 34,155
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA MSA 31,133
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA MSA 30,770
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA 28,205
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH MSA 27,898
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA 27,580
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI MSA 24,579
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA 22,262
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA MSA 17,645
Source: JobsEQ.

Are the metropolitan areas with the largest number of software developers the same places with the largest net increase forecast for software developers? Or the most rapid pace of growth over the past few years? Is it more difficult to fill developer vacancies in the largest metro areas compared to others? What cities do the most developers choose to live in?

Using our JobsEQ® technology platform alongside our newly unveiled Real Time Intelligence (RTI) tool, Chmura set out to answer these basic questions and others, and made some surprising discoveries in the process. Several “top ten lists” follow as they pertain to application software developers in regional labor markets across the United States.

For starters, what U.S. cities do the most developers choose to live in?

Where developers live

City Employment by Residence
New York, NY 22,686
San Jose, CA 11,295
San Francisco, CA 10,012
Los Angeles, CA 7,998
Chicago, IL 7,032
Seattle, WA 6,553
Austin, TX 5,457
Houston, TX 4,680
San Diego, CA 4,401
Dallas, TX 4,380
Source: JobsEQ.

Seven of the top ten cities also happen to be at the heart of many of the nation’s largest metropolitan statistical areas. And making six-digit salaries in these places means many developers can probably choose to live in the inner city to be close to where they work. The cities where most developers reside that are not among the top 10 employers of developers includes Houston, Austin, and sunny San Diego.

It’s also useful to consider how concentrated software developers are in a region relative to the national average. This indicator, known as a location quotient, measures the percent of people in the region employed as applications software developers relative to the percentage in the nation. A value of 1.0 indicates that a region’s concentration is equal to the national average; a value greater than 1.0 indicates a higher than average concentration.

So, what areas have the highest concentrations of these prized workers?

Highest concentration of developers

MSA LQ
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA 4.99
Boulder, CO MSA 3.06
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA 2.72
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA MSA 2.45
Provo-Orem, UT MSA 2.44
Madison, WI MSA 2.11
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA 2.04
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH MSA 1.99
Huntsville, AL MSA 1.97
Raleigh, NC MSA 1.95
Source: JobsEQ.

Boulder, with its scenic mountains, is not too surprising since many developers can choose to work wherever they want. And the wealth of intellectual capital in the Madison and Raleigh areas makes their appearances understandable. But while Provo and Huntsville have no shortage of positive attributes relative to quality of life or regional brainpower, some might be surprised to see them make the list.

How about historical trends—what areas have been adding software developers over the past year at the fastest rate?

Historical growth, one year

MSA Avg Ann % Change
Hammond, LA MSA 51.2%
Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL MSA 17.9%
Panama City, FL MSA 17.2%
Punta Gorda, FL MSA 15.7%
St. George, UT MSA 14.6%
Warner Robins, GA MSA 14.1%
Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA MSA 13.3%
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL MSA 12.2%
Ithaca, NY MSA 12.1%
Wilmington, NC MSA 11.9%
Source: JobsEQ.

Hammond, Louisiana2 has outperformed the rest of the nation by far! And Florida seems to have figured something out with four metro areas in the top ten. In fact, the southeast is well represented.

One year may not reflect a trend, so the next table identifies the metro areas where growth was sustained over the past ten years.

Historical growth, ten years