If you were to ask most people “Where would you find the best job in tech?” they would give you a two word answer: Silicon Valley. This sunny patch of land beneath an iconic US city is home to many of the world’s largest tech companies and thousands of startups, who, in turn, receive around 1/3 of all VC money invested in the US each year.
This concentration of money and activity leads many job-seekers to make the same assumption: That the best jobs in tech are in tech companies, and most likely in Silicon Valley. Tech companies are more innovative, more exciting, with great perks and higher pay — so the argument goes. The truth is, this is a myth — and we need to debunk it. Not just because it is wrong — but because the behavior it encourages is damaging to our economy and regional growth.
According to data gathered by Code.org, in 2015 there were over 500,000 unfilled computer science jobs across the United States with more than two-thirds of these outside the tech sector. Employment analytics firm Burning Glass goes further, estimating that there were 7 million job openings in 2015 in occupations across the US that value coding skills. These are jobs in a wide-variety of industries, in cities across the US. There really is opportunity everywhere. And according to a study by WalletHub, Silicon Valley actually has among the lowest annual wages for STEM workers (with Houston delivering the highest annual median wages, and Detroit and Des Moines the highest wage growth). Add to this the fact that the tech hotspots in the Bay Area are among the least affordable places to live in the US, you have a pretty compelling argument for job-seeking outside of the Valley bubble.
Vacancies are opening up near to where people live, and in communities across the States. But some still see a job in tech as something unattainable — or not for ‘people like them’. The myth persists that you need a computer science degree to be taken seriously in tech. As someone who has a computer science degree, my view is this is utter rubbish (as I wrote about last month). You don’t need this kind of qualification to get a great job in tech — and you can do without the tens of thousands of dollars of debt and multi-year commitment a college degree demands. Instead, increasing numbers of people are using online credentials such as the Treehouse Techdegree to get the qualifications they need to get the tech job they want. There has been an explosion in online learning in the last few years and a Techdegree can act as a passport into a new, and life-changing, career. These qualifications are recognized by employers as great training for an entry-level job in tech.
This is a huge opportunity for our economy, and for these businesses. But most importantly these are good jobs. As Fast Company reported, the jobs that require coding skills pay over $20,000 per year more, on average. As Burning Glass concludes “For students looking to increase their potential income, few other skills open the door to as many well-paying careers”.
The sooner we break the myth that a job in tech means a job in Silicon Valley the better. And you don’t need a college degree to get there either.