Hidden Tech Gems: Top 10 Cities For IT Salary Growth

It Ain't Always Sunny In Silicon Valley

The IT job market has been heating up in cities across the country, but not all cities are equal when it comes to the average year-over-year salary growth, according to tech-industry career site Dice's 2012-2013 Salary Survey of 15,049 tech professionals across the nation.

Although Silicon Valley topped the charts as the only market to boast a six-figure average salary, with the median at $101,278, it actually had a 2.8 percent decrease from its 2011 average of $104,195, according to Dice. But, it wasn't the only tech hotspot to see a decline. Hartford, Conn., saw a 3.9 percent drop, from $88,546 in 2011 to $85,130, and New York City dropped 0.4 percent, from $90,042 in 2011 to $89,669 in 2012.

But, it's not all bad news: 2012 marked the first time in the near-decade-long history of conducting the survey in which Dice found double-digit growth in seven markets -- the most ever registered, according to Dice. Continue on to find out which other tech cities enjoyed salary boosts last year.

No. 10: Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, has been making a name for itself in the tech world. Between the Battelle Memorial Institute, the world's largest private research and development foundation, and Ohio State University, the nation's third largest campus, Columbus has got the right recipe for tech success. And, in 2011, it landed the No. 3 spot on Forbes' Best Cities For Technology list, which must have led to IT companies feeling a little more comfortable when it came time for end-of-year performance reviews, as Columbus tech professionals saw an 8.2 percent year-over-year salary increase, from $76,522 in 2011 to $82,831 in 2012, according to Dice.

No. 9: The City of Roses -- Portland, Ore.

Known primarily for its hardware and clean energy-tech industry, Portland's become a burgeoning hotspot for software-related startups. And, although the City of Roses has earned a new nickname, Silicon Forest, tech professionals in Portland will certainly be stopping to smell the roses thanks to an 8.8 percent increase in year-over-year average salary growth, from $82,055 in 2011 to $89,291 in 2012, which places Portland in the No. 9 slot.

No. 8: Minneapolis, Minn.

Serving as the headquarters for the world's largest electronics store, Best Buy, Minneapolis also plays home to retail giant Target and a number of health care technology companies, such as UnitedHealth Group, nestled in nearby Minnetonka. And, with low rent and low cost of living, tech pros in Minneapolis were sure to feel the 9.4 percent increase in year-over-year average salary growth from $80,767 in 2011 to $88,375 in 2012, landing Minneapolis on the No. 8 spot on Dice's list.

No. 7: Brew City -- Milwaukee, Wis.

With a 9.7 percent increase in year-over-year average salary growth, from $74,465 in 2011 to $81,670 in 2012, Milwaukee tech professionals were brewing up more than just hops last year.

One reason many cities saw growth, according to Scot Melland, chairman, president and CEO of Dice Holdings Inc., was because "employers are recognizing and adjusting to the reality of a tight market," he said in the report. "The fact is you either pay to recruit or pay to retain, and these days, at least for technology teams, companies are doing both." And, that was certainly the case in Milwaukee last year.

Slide 6: O-Town -- Orlando, Fla.

Between Disney and Universal Studios, with their never-ending thirst for IT/data processing, and heavy-hitters like aerospace and defense leader Lockheed-Martin calling O-Town home, Orlando's tech scene is no surprise. But what did come as a surprise, at least to those at Dice, was the double-digit, year-over-year average salary growth O-Town saw last year. With the average salary around $74,080, Orlando tech professionals saw a whopping 10.1 percent increase in 2012, to $81,583 -- the first of seven in Dice's list to boast double-digit growth.

According to Dice, the pay increase is due to not only IT pros feeling confident they could land new positions this year but also employers recognizing they need to keep their top talent. "The increase in wages comes at a time when the vast majority of tech professionals (64 percent) are confident they could find a favorable new position in 2013 and when employers are stepping up to the plate to retain and motivate staff with more interesting or challenging assignments, increased compensation and the ability to telecommute," according to the report's respondents.

No. 5: Tech Startups Flee To The Cleve -- Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland over the past decade has made attracting young tech startups to set up shop downtown its goal; Cleveland Mayor Jane L. Campbell appointed in 2004 Michael DeAloia, now vice president of Expedient, a Cleveland-based co-location, network and managed data services specialist, as its "tech czar," tasking him with the job of recruiting tech companies to the downtown area by enticing them with high-speed fiber networks that run under the city's downtown streets to a number of "high-tech offices." Before stepping down as the city's "tech czar" in 2007, DeAloia told Cleveland.com that he'd been "assured that the work he started will be continued." And, continue it did.

According to JumpStart, a Cleveland-based technology accelerator, in 2012 The Cleve nabbed nearly $201 million, up 34 percent from 2011, in funding for tech startup companies from venture capitalists and angel investors. And Cleveland saw double-digit growth when it came to year-over-year salary, growing from $68,519 in 2011 to $75,773 in 2012 for a 10.6 percent increase.

No. 4: Valley Of The Sun -- Phoenix, Ariz.

California isn't the only home to a hot tech valley. Phoenix lays claim to numerous high-tech companies, such as domain-name and web-hosting leader Go Daddy and digital presence management company Limelight Networks. Even Intel pitched a tent in its backyard, and in 2011 it announced plans to build a $5 billion chip manufacturing facility in nearby Chandler, Ariz. And that wasn't the only boost the city got that year. According to Dice's survey, the average year-over-year salary growth in Phoenix jumped from $74,950 in 2011 to $83,607 in 2012 for an impressive 11.5 percent increase.

No. 3: Soulful St. Louis -- St. Louis, Mo.

Healthcare, biotech and high-tech markets are aplenty in St. Louis. Between playing home to pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer and government defense and aerospace giant Boeing, as well as to two world-class medical research universities, Washington University and Saint Louis University, the Gateway to the West serves as a tech hub for a number of IT-related companies. And although the city has deep roots in blues and jazz -- greats such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker got their starts there -- it's a safe bet that tech pros weren't singing the blues last year. St. Louis' tech professionals saw an average year-over-year salary growth of 13.3 percent, from $71,686 in 2011 to $81,245 in 2012, landing it in the No. 3 spot on Dice's survey.

No. 2: San Diego, Calif.

Between the University of California, San Diego and the UCSD Medical Center, San Diego leads the charge in health care and biotech development. As the second largest city in California, San Diego also plays home to a number of major telecom players like Qualcomm, which was founded and headquartered in San Diego, and wireless manufacturers Nokia and LG Electronics, to name a few. San Diego landed the No. 9 spot on Forbes' 2011 top tech city list, so it should come as no surprise that the average year-over-year salary growth saw a generous 13.4 percent increase, from $85,841 in 2011 to $97,328 in 2012, for a total increase of 34.9 percent between 2005 and 2012.

No. 1: The Steel City -- Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Steel City stole the show in Dice's survey, taking the No. 1 spot with an outstanding 18.1 percent increase in average year-over-year salary growth, from $64,519 in 2011 to $76,207 in 2012. Between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, the city's world-class tech research institutes lead the nation in R&D and have spurred a number of startups. If that weren't enough, Google, Intel and Apple have footprints in Pittsburgh among some 1,600 other tech companies. The city also has become a leader in LEED technology, according to Green Building Alliance, with 60 total and 10 of the world's first "green" buildings.