Inflation-adjusted tech sector salaries are rising nationally (4.5% from 2010-2015), but which states have seen the fastest growth and where does the tech sector pay the most compared to the private sector?
Using data from CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2016 report, we ranked each state in order to answer these questions. Some findings are to be expected—California pays the most—but others are surprising. Six states saw wages rise by 10% or more and four states had wage differentials of more than 125%.
This analysis is the first part of our Tech by the Numbers series, in which we take a deeper look at the most interesting aspects of CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2016 report. In some instances we complemented the report’s data with additional Emsi data to better highlight key takeaways.
Key Tech Sector Salaries Takeaways
Where Salaries Grew
North Dakota (22%), California (19%), Washington (14%), Idaho (10%), Oregon (10%), and New Jersey (10%) all saw significant wage growth. With so many hardware and software headquarters along the west coast, we expect to see a competitive market that drives salaries up in those states. North Dakota, Idaho, and New Jersey are surprising because they aren’t traditional tech center hubs.
In California (151%), Idaho (136%), Washington (135%), and Oregon (126%) the tech sector pays much more than the private sector. This wage differential means the average tech sector worker in California makes 151% more than the average private sector worker.
In North Dakota, which has seen the biggest compensation jump of any state, the average tech salary ($79,588) is below the national average ($105,387). If the 22% wage growth continues for the next five years, wages would reach $97,000, bringing the state more in line with the national average. It’s worth noting that CompTIA ranks North Dakota 47th for tech employment, with only 13,398 workers.
California remains a tech sector powerhouse with its 19% salary growth, which brings the average 2015 salary to $149,335. That’s $89,844 higher than the average private sector salary ($59,491)—the largest wage differential, at 151%, in the US. California’s wage differential alone is nearly as high as the national average ($105,387). While such high wages and comp growth are good for tech workers in the Golden State, they make for an ultra-competitive environment for companies and talent acquisition teams.
Idaho is a surprise in our analysis. The state’s average tech sector salary grew 10% from 2010-2015. That’s healthy growth in a state not known for its tech presence. At $90,415, the tech sector pays $52,000 more than the private sector ($38,000). That’s the second-highest wage differential, behind California. With low cost of living, Idaho is a great place for tech workers. Their dollar will stretch much further here than in coastal states where the tech sector is firmly entrenched.
Where Salaries Fell
The news isn’t all good though. More than a third (19) of states had wage growth of less than 2%. Among them, Missouri, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia actually saw salaries decline from 2010-2015. Stagnating salaries can indicate that these states don’t have competitive tech industries.
In West Virginia, the average tech worker made 1.8% less in 2015 than in 2010. The state’s wage differential of $24,000 is also quite low. Wages in general aren’t great in West Virginia: The tech sector pays an average of $64,000, compared to $40,457 in private sector—which is well below the national average for the private sector ($48,152).
How did we arrive at the rankings for each state? Here’s some insight into the process:
- We created our own index to evaluate and rank each state. Wage differential and wage growth (from 2010-2015) make up the two pieces of our index, weighted equally. In order to determine wage differential, CompTIA looked at how much the tech sector pays on average, then divided that by how much the private sector as a whole pays on average.
- It’s important to note that the private sector includes the tech sector. This means that tech sector salaries are folded into the larger private sector.
- All data for this analysis comes from the CompTIA 2016 Cyberstates report, which pulled data from many sources—including Emsi and the BLS.
- CompTIA’s 2016 definition of the tech sector, which is used for this analysis, includes 50 industries. See the methodology section of the Cyberstates report to see which industries are included.
- Salaries were adjusted to 2015 dollars by CompTIA. All salaries are averages, not median, which means that very high or low salaries can skew the numbers. They also include all workers in these industries, from tech workers (e.g., software developers) to support staff (e.g., administrative assistants).