5 College Towns for Techies

5 College Towns for Techies

September 11, 2013

By Justin Boyle

It's no secret that computer and tech jobs occupy some of the healthiest sectors of the nationwide job market, and it's fairly common knowledge that good tech colleges can help techies develop the skills necessary to kick off a career in the field. Location matters, though, and the quest for good tech jobs can be easier if you earn your degree in a town where industry infrastructure is already on the ground and running. Here's a list of five cities with great colleges for technology lovers and surrounding area with career opportunities for grads.

5 Great College Towns for Techies

  • Boston, MA is home to a tech sector that's been surging forward in 2013. An analysis done in August 2013 by tech careers hub Dice ranks Massachusetts as the second-fastest growing state for jobs in computer systems design and related services, growing its labor force in the field by 4 percent in the first six months of the year and adding about 2,600 new tech jobs. What's more, the Boston metro area ranked in the top ten regions for mean annual salary and overall employment of computer and mathematical occupations in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), and Apple, Facebook and Amazon have all announced expansions in the city's Kendall Square neighborhood. When looking at tech colleges in Boston, don't bypass Wentworth Institute of Technology, where computer systems networking and telecommunications is among the five most popular majors (usnews.com, 2013). Examples of other tech majors at Wentworth include computer science, electronic engineering technology, computer information systems and computer engineering. Several resources, such as the Computer Science and Networking department's gaming and networking labs, are available for Wentworth students to apply their learnings.
  • New York City, NY ranks first in tech job postings on Dice.com, according to CNN Money, and offered nearly 9,000 open positions in early March 2013. Additionally, bls.gov numbers indicate that the New York-White Plains-Wayne area employed the second-largest number of computer and mathematical professionals out of all metropolitan areas in the country in 2012. The market for computer systems design and related occupations has grown faster in New York than in all but four other states, increasing by 2.6 percent in the first half of 2013, according to the Dice study. As far as job diversity is concerned, New York City might just have the market cornered -- more than 1,000 tech and digital companies operate primarily in NYC, including both major corporations and newer, smaller startups hungry for talent and just getting started. Examples of companies with a presence in the city include MongoDB, Microsoft and Sony. New York City College of Technology, better known as City Tech, can be a great choice for Big Apple residents looking to begin their tech education. The school has separate departments for Computer Engineering Technology and Computer Systems Technology in addition to an Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications Technology department for students looking for more hardware-focused tech jobs. There's even an OpenLab where students and faculty can collaborate on projects and share their ideas.
  • Raleigh, NC landed a spot on Forbes's 2012 "Best Cities For Tech Jobs" list, which noted that the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area experienced a 32.3 percent job growth in tech and 15 percent growth in STEM jobs over the past decade. Potentially contributing to this growth is the fact that Raleigh holds down one of the corners of North Carolina's Research Triangle -- along with the nearby tech and education centers of Durham and Chapel Hill -- where companies and individuals can work on cutting-edge ideas in technology within a short drive's distance of 170 research organizations, including MCNC and EMC. The Triangle area even offers some of the nation's highest wages for computer programmers, as per bls.gov, with code wizards in the Durham-Chapel Hill area earning a mean annual wage of $104,910 in 2012. Residents of the area have several educational options in terms of preparing for a tech career. North Carolina State University in Raleigh offers undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science and furnishes multiple engineering degree options for techies interested in disciplines such as materials science and biomedical technology. The school also has a fairly impressive tech pedigree: Dr. Donald Bitzer, co-inventor of the flat-panel plasma display and creator of the PLATO computer system, teaches computer science at the university.
  • Santa Clara, CA, in a region many people know as Silicon Valley, is also on Forbes's "Best Cities For Tech Jobs" list, and with good reason. For starters, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region is the highest-paying metro area for computer and mathematics occupations, according to May 2012 data from bls.gov, and it has actually increased its opportunity for technology jobs by more than 8 percent in the last two years, Forbes reported in 2012. Students looking to get started on the path to a tech career could do so by earning a bachelor's degree in Computer Science or in Web Design and Engineering from Santa Clara University. SCU lies in the heart of the fabled Silicon Valley, and the list of amenities to a tech degree includes a Robotics Systems Laboratory. Even the business school at Santa Clara University seems to be intertwined with the tech world, counting Google, eBay and Yahoo! among companies where alumni have held high-level positions. Other SCU grads may also have an opportunity to showcase their tech skills at these companies, all of which are headquartered in nearby cities.

  • Washington, D.C. might be making a play for the spot at the top of the tech cities heap, considering its standing in bls.gov reports. Not only did the District of Columbia chart as the highest-paying state for computer and mathematical occupations in 2012, but also, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area is home to the largest number of workers employed in the sector. Forbes notes that the metro area boasts a proportion of technology jobs that's nearly triple the national average. The scope of tech employment in the nation's capital focuses on more than just the current trend of web application development by maintaining significant employment in systems design, private-sector research and custom programming. Students at The George Washington University can prepare for that diverse climate with an undergraduate computer science degree with a potential concentration in subjects such as bioinformatics, biomedical computing and computer security and information assistance. D.C. is also a great place to be when it comes to cyber security jobs, which averaged a yearly salary of $116,000 and are heavily concentrated in the D.C. metro area, according to a 2013 survey by Semper Secure. GWU can help students learn to fill that niche with a Master of Science in Cybersecurity or a graduate certificate in Computer Security and Information Assurance.

While these five cities are definitely among the strongest for students who are building toward technology jobs, employment opportunities in the sector are growing nationwide. If you don't live near one of these hotbeds of tech activity or you're not interested in moving, look into tech colleges in your own area and see what you can turn up. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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Washington Colleges, Universities, Trade and Vocational Schools