If you want to work in the lobster industry, you move to Maine. If you want to break into the casino business, you move to Nevada. And if you want to be a web developer? Well my friend, you’ve got options.
According to a study of over 28 million online job postings between May 2013 and September 2014, the top metro areas for web development are New York City, Newark, and Jersey City, which make up 12% of all web development jobs in the United States. The San Francisco Bay area is the runner-up at 9%, followed by Los Angeles (7%), Boston (6%), and Chicago (6%).
But 6% of what? How many web development jobs are actually out there for the taking? The same study concluded that 6500 to 7000 web development jobs are posted monthly.
The results of this study are not all that surprising. As with most high-tech industries, bigger cities maintain greater concentrations of web development jobs. However, there is a reason that San Francisco is hiring more developers than, say, Minneapolis. Both are big cities, but they harbor different cultures. If you’re a web developer with an itch to move and bus ticket to anywhere, it might be helpful to understand the why behind web development geography.
First let’s look at New York City. This modern cradle of civilization is home to over 7,000 high-tech companies, which contributes substantially to the profusion of web development jobs, but there is another factor at play. New York City is also the country’s financial hub, and financial companies need superstar developers. The financial industry is often at the forefront of technology, and recent innovations like digital banking, gamified financial education, and data analytics have placed a higher demand on developers who can tackle these new challenges.
The San Francisco Bay Area is at 9% thanks to Silicon Valley, which is home to some of the world’s largest tech corporations, including Google, Yahoo!, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard. Silicon Valley is also startup central, with over 16,000 startup companies. Startups are hiring web developers like nobody’s business, but as most startups are boutique operations with little overhead, the expectations of startup web developers can drastically differ from those working in multi-billion dollar financial institutions.
Many startups can’t afford to hire multiple developers, so they lean on uber developers; developers who can do it all. This might explain the rise of the full stack developer, who is proficient in all stages of the web development cycle. If you find yourself in the Bay Area, expect to see an ever-growing list of job postings for full stack developers.
Ad agencies are also big web development job creators, and Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City are deep into the ad game. Web developers working for an ad agency can expect a greater focus on innovative front end development, as many agencies are pushing for cutting-edge visuals and interactive elements.
So before you hop on that bus, remember that the geography of the web development industry is no accident. Different places hire web developers for different reasons, and if you’d rather work in a startup environment than a big corporation, or focus on the front end rather than the server-side, factoring in the geography of job demand is the smart move.