RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The Triangle’s reputation as a high-tech hub gets a boost from a new study that says Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham all rank in the top 50 metro areas as best American cities to work in technology with workers making on average more than $91,000.

Raleigh soared to third place from ninth in 2018 in the sixth such study conducted by financial news and information site SmartAsset.

Chapel Hill came in at No. 30 and Durham at No. 43.

Charlotte also scored well, placing No. 15.

SmartAsset tracks top 25 cities for tech workers.

Tech workers in Chapel Hill and Durham earn slightly more than those in Raleigh, and the percentage of tech workers in the overall labor market is slightly higher. But other differences in the index lifted Raleigh to a higher ranking.

The study focuses on a variety of measures from average salary to unemployment rate for people with undergraduate degrees, percentage of the workforce that is employed in technology, cost of living and the ratio of tech wages to overall job force compensation. The factors were compiled to create the SmartAsset index with a potential score of 100.

Columbus, Ohio tops the index with a 100 score. Raleigh came in at 94.35.

So what’s happening in Raleigh that drove up its index total?

“Almost 5.70% of Raleigh’s workers are working in the tech sector, the ninth-highest percentage in this study,” Kara Gibson of SmartIndex tells WRAL TechWire. “The city has an average salary of $91,680 for tech workers, which is 1.74 [times] more than workers make on average across all other industries in the city. The unemployment rate in Raleigh for those with bachelor’s degrees is just 2.6%.”

All numbers improved from 2018, reflecting the region’s hot economy. More than 20,000 tech jobs remain open across the state, according to NC TECH, with unemployment under North Carolina’s statewide average of 4 percent across Raleigh and the Triangle.

“Raleigh has the ninth-highest percentage of workers employed in tech in our study, with 5.69% of its workforce employed in tech. That figure is up from 5.41% in last year’s study,” Gibson points out.

SmartAsset tracks top cities for tech workers

“Additionally, the average wage for tech workers in the city cracks the top 20 in our study and increased slightly compared to last year’s findings.

“Raleigh also saw improvement in its unemployment rate for holders of bachelor’s degrees. In last year’s study, Raleigh’s unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 3.1% and this year it is 2.6%.”

In terms of pay, Gibson points out: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2018 Occupation Employment Statistics, the average worker across all fields in the city of Raleigh earns $52,580. Therefore, the average salary of a tech worker in Raleigh ($91,680) is 1.74 times the average salary across all fields citywide.”

Gibson cites other numbers that elevated the rankings for Durham and Chapel Hill.

“Since they are located in the same metro area, they only differ in one metric: the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders,” she explains. “Chapel Hill and Durham stand out for the high percentage of workers employed in tech in the area and they also combine a high tech salary with a relatively low cost of living.”

Here are the numbers:

Chapel Hill

  • Percentage employed in tech: 6.37%
  • Average tech salary: $91,740
  • Ratio of the average tech salary to the average salary across all fields: 1.53
  • Unemployment rate: 3.1%
  • Cost of living: 92.0


  • Percentage employed in tech: 6.37%
  • Average tech salary: $91,740
  • Ratio of the average tech salary to the average salary across all fields: 1.53
  • Unemployment rate: 3.5%
  • Cost of living: 92.0

Read more about the study online.