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More tech grads are applying to jobs in Boise, Madison, and other small cities

Columbia, Maryland
Columbia, Maryland is planned community of ten villages that's about an hour commute from Washington D.C. Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images
  • Young workers are applying to cities outside traditional tech hubs, according to a new report.

  • They're looking for a lower cost of living and a wider range of industries to apply their skills.

  • From Columbia, Maryland to El Paso, Texas, here are 10 US cities attracting new talent.

Forget Silicon Valley, Austin, or even Miami — young workers are hunting for tech jobs in smaller cities across the country.

Columbia, Maryland, followed by Boise, Idaho, and Fairfax, Virginia top the list of places trending among college students and recent grads with tech-related majors, according to a January report from Handshake. The job and internship platform, used by millions of college students every year, tracked job applications from students with technical degrees like computer science and statistics.

Handshake determined which US cities saw the biggest increase in job applications between 2021 and 2023, based on the number of full-time job applications submitted on its platform.

The surge in job applications to cities outside the country's traditional tech hubs comes as tech giants have slowed down hiring or made massive cuts to their workforces over the past couple of years. Handshake's report found that the number of applications submitted to tech jobs in California, Washington, and New York — where companies like Amazon, Meta, and Google have headquarters — declined significantly in the past year. So it's not surprising that Handshake found that applications to traditional internet and software companies also dropped by more than 30% between 2021 and 2023.

The waning interest in Big Tech has made way for a host of new opportunities. Retail and consumer goods companies have amped up their efforts to recruit young tech talent, and the number of applications tech majors submitted to government jobs also doubled between 2021 and 2023, per Handshake.

The cities on the list "tend to be more affordable, have less stressful commutes, and are starting to feature many of the elements people enjoy in larger coastal cities," Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake's chief education strategy officer told Business Insider by email. "I expect to see interest in moving to these smaller cities grow as more and more Gen Z workers prove that a location or specific industry does not define what a 'tech job' is."

And it's not just recent college grads. Tech workers of all ages are gravitating to mid-size cities in search of lower cost of living and a more laid-back lifestyle.

Handshake found these 10 cities had the biggest year-over-year increase in job applications on its site:

10. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is drawing young workers for its relatively low cost of living. Yuanshuai Si/Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 44%

Population: 361,607, according to 2022 data from the US Census

Cleveland's low cost of living has attracted a growing population of Gen Z and millennial workers. Major industries in the city include healthcare – the city's biggest employer is the Cleveland Clinic – plus manufacturing and retail.

9. Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida.
Job applications to Orlando — and Florida as a whole — increased over the past year. Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 48%

Population: 316,081, according to 2022 data from the US Census

Several major tech companies, including Oracle and Verizon, have offices in Orlando and have helped attract new tech talent to the city. And with thousands of college students within commuting distance to downtown, it's no surprise that young workers are trying to continue their careers in Orlando. Handshake's report found that applications to jobs in both Orlando and Florida as a whole increased between 2022 and 2023.

8. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond skyline
Richmond has opportunities for recent grads in industries ranging from finance to biotech to transportation. ferrantraite/getty images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 51%

Population: 229,395, according to 2022 data from the US Census

Richmond has long been known for its rich history, museums, and historical landmarks, but it's also become a hot spot for young workers. Aside from the presence of major consulting firms like Deloitte and financial institutions like Capital One, the city is also a hub for biotech, transportation, and manufacturing.

7. Madison, Wisconsin

Pedestrians in Madison, WI
With companies like Epic and institutions like the University of Wisconsin, Madison has many opportunities for tech majors looking to branch into new industries. Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 60%

Population: 272,903 according to 2022 data from the US Census

Young workers are eyeing Madison for its affordable housing and college town flair. Major local employers include healthcare software company Epic Systems, doll manufacturer American Girl, and the University of Wisconsin.

6. El Paso, Texas

Northwest in El Paso, Texas
Job applications to roles in Texas declined on the whole between 2022 and 2023, but El Paso saw a surge in job interest, according to Handshake. John Coletti/Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 65%

Population: 677,456, according to 2022 data from the US Census

Job applications to roles in El Paso increased over the past year, even as applications to roles in Texas decreased overall, according to Handshake. The border city is also expected to have one of the hottest housing markets in 2024 as young workers move in to capitalize on the affordable housing costs.

5. Saint Paul, Minnesota

St. Paul, Minnesota
The Twin Cities are home to major employers, including key players in the healthcare space. Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 79%

Population: 303,176 according to 2022 data from the US Census

St. Paul is a great bet for fans of snowy winters, lakes, and laid-back energy. And between St. Paul and nearby Minneapolis, the Twin Cities are home to major corporations like Target and key players in the healthcare space, including UnitedHealth Group and Mayo Clinic.

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

Night time view of Las Vegas, Nevada.
With opportunities in retail and tourism (plus vibrant nightlife) Las Vegas is drawing interest from techie college grads. Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 80%

Population: 656,274 according to 2022 data from the US Census

Las Vegas isn't just known for its vibrant nightlife — it's one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Young workers are flocking to the city for affordable housing, job opportunities, and no income tax.

3. Fairfax, Virginia

Neat line of suburban houses in Fairfax, Virginia.
Fairfax is a relatively short commute from the nation's capital but has a lower cost of living. Robert Knopes/Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 103%

Population: 24,835 according to 2022 data from the US Census

For those who work in Washington D.C. but want the convenience of a suburb, Fairfax is a good option. The city is just a short commute from Washington, D.C., and housing costs are more affordable than the capital. Major employers in the county include Amazon, government consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, home loan lender Freddie Mac, and Capital One.

2. Boise, Idaho

Boise Idaho
The influx in job applications has been fueled by the presence of big-name companies like Micron, Intuit, and Equifax. Anna Gorin/Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 116%

Population: 236,634 according to 2022 data from the US Census

Boise is a growing tech hub. In the past few years, two local companies have been acquired by Equifax and Intuit. Chip manufacturer Micron is also building a $15 billion manufacturing facility in Boise set to open in 2025. So it's an attractive spot for young tech workers who are increasingly opting for jobs in hardware, semiconductors, and manufacturing, over traditional internet and software companies, per Handshake.

1. Columbia, Maryland

Columbia, Maryland
Columbia, Maryland is planned community of ten villages that's about an hour commute from Washington D.C. Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images

Year-over-year increase in job applications: 190%

Population: 104,681 according to 2020 data from the US Census

Columbia is a planned community within commuting distance of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Popular employers among tech majors include electronics company Rohde & Schwarz — which has its Americas headquarters — insurance company AFLAC, and government entities like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, according to Handshake.

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