What do NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Gateway Arch and the NASCAR Hall of Fame have in common? You’ll find them in the top cities with the highest software architect salaries in the United States.
But paychecks for software architects aren’t just big in these five cities (which we’ll reveal below)—they’re high nearly everywhere, frequently topping lists of the highest-paying tech jobs in metros across the nation. And these lucrative roles aren’t hard to find, either. In fact, since July 2017, software architect job postings on Indeed have grown by over 20%. However, the number of people searching for these roles has dropped 28% in the same time period.
With employer demand high, job seeker searches low and paychecks big, there are plenty of opportunities to find your fit in a well-paid software architect role. So if you’re looking to relocate for a better salary or jumpstart your career in software architecture, we’re giving you a blueprint to the top 10 cities with the highest software architect salaries. Some of the rankings may surprise you. Hint: You might want to pack a pair of cowboy boots for your next interview.
How much do software architects make?
Software architects are some of the highest paid tech workers in the nation. According to Indeed’s salary estimate, based on 9,693 employees, users, and past and present job advertisements, the average software architect salary in the United States is $139,720 per year.
What does a software architect do that commands such a high salary? Just as an architect plans and designs buildings, a software architect plans and designs software. They’re not just responsible for sprints, but for making high-level design decisions, planning for the long term and setting technical standards (e.g., coding languages, dev environments, tools and platforms) while keeping in mind scalability, performance and cost savings.
Since software architects need a great deal of experience (typically at least five years in software development), they have a high earning potential nearly anywhere they go. However, there are certain cities where they can earn even more. We’ve adjusted our salaries for cost of living, which means the cities on this list aren’t ranked based on where you can earn the highest software architect salary, but rather where your dollar will go the furthest.
There doesn’t seem to be patterns around size or part of the country: Our list includes both coasts with Boston, MA (#3) and San Diego, CA (#7), as well as very different populations with Houston, TX (#1), the fourth biggest city in the US with 2.3 million people, and Hartford, CT (#10), home to a more modest 123,000 people.
You’ll see hot tech markets, such as Boston, Atlanta (#6), Dallas (#8) and Denver (#9) paying their software architects well. But more traditional tech hubs, including Silicon Valley, New York, Austin and Seattle, are notably missing from our list. One potential explanation: As local tech communities in smaller cities grow, so does the demand for software architects. But a limited talent pool could force companies to shell out higher salaries to pull them in from other states.
Take Connecticut’s capital, Hartford, for example. Even though it’s a small town, the tech community there is flourishing. Nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World,” the area is home to several insurance company headquarters, as well as a new technology innovation hub that focuses on insurance, healthcare and manufacturing. As “insurtech” companies grow in the area, so will the demand (and salaries) for software architects to help them deliver better products and services.
Other standouts are two mid-sized Midwestern cities: St. Louis, MO (#2) and Cincinnati, OH (#4). These aren’t commonly associated with high tech, but big-name companies are moving in to take advantage of the area’s affordability and local tech network. However, since many software architects are looking to more established tech hubs for jobs, employers in these cities are offering top dollar to attract people with high-value skillsets to the Heartland.
Top 5 cities with the highest software architect salaries
Let’s take a closer look at the top five to find out why software architects earn more in certain locations.
1. Houston, TX
It’s not just oil, NASA and rodeos. Houston, TX is also a popular place for software architects, ranking at the top of our list with adjusted salaries of $144,773 per year. What’s more, software architects are the second most sought-after tech workers in Houston, according to Indeed data.
With tech talent flocking to millennial magnets like Austin, less than a three-hour drive away, Houston offers higher salaries to attract more software architects. It’s also sprucing up its tech presence. Houston’s Rice University, for instance, is renovating a former 270,000 sq ft. Sears building to serve as the heart of the city’s new four-mile-long innovation corridor. The hope is that a concentrated tech area in the sprawling city will attract entrepreneurs, venture capital and, you guessed it, highly experienced tech pros like software architects.
Another driver of high software architect salaries in the area is Houston’s century-old energy scene. Digital transformation is fueling this sector, which means companies like Halliburton, Shell Oil Company and BP America need software architects to help build software for oil rig predictive maintenance, risk management and drilling process optimizations.
2. St. Louis, MO
In second place is St. Louis, MO, a city defined by its French heritage and iconic Gateway Arch, as well as a growing healthcare and biotechnology presence thanks to Washington University in St. Louis, home to one of the top medical schools in the US and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the largest hospital in Missouri.
It’s not just the healthcare industry where software architects can make their mark. The 200-acre Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis’s Midtown neighborhood, which resembles a mini Silicon Valley, is the largest innovation hub in the Midwest, and home to tech startups and big names like Microsoft, Square, Boeing and the FDA.
Software architects in St. Louis can expect to earn a COL-adjusted salary of $144,616 (just a fraction less than our top city, Houston). It’s also the second most in-demand role in St. Louis, which means there’s no shortage of software architect job openings, particularly as innovations in healthcare, from AI to telemedicine tools to next-gen medical devices, start to take shape.
3. Boston, MA
Boston, MA claims the third spot for highest average software architect salaries. It’s the third-most rapidly growing tech hub, behind Silicon Valley and Austin, and is a supercluster for pharmaceutical, biotech and research companies.
With its college town vibe (the Boston area’s 57 colleges and universities attract more than 346,000 students from around the world), it’s no surprise that the city is a hotbed for tech hiring, especially since enterprise companies and startups alike want to seed talent from these schools.
However, software architect roles typically require more experience than the new college grad can offer. So despite the city’s large talent pool, Boston employers often have to look outside the city to attract those with the right level of experience (or do their part to keep people from moving to other cities). This translates to higher software architect salaries: $139,651 per year to be exact.
Want to learn more about Boston’s tech opportunities? Check out our list of 20 amazing tech companies hiring in the historical city.
4. Cincinnati, OH
An unlikely addition to our list is Cincinnati, OH. Home to a growing local tech community, the city offers a relaxed pace of life, friendly Midwestern attitudes (studies prove it) and high paychecks (a software architect salary here is $139,552).
While it’s no Silicon Valley, the Ohio city is becoming a tech hub in its own right. According to the Cincinnati Tech Census report, early-stage tech startups here grow 56% faster than the national rate. Not only that, but the retail and consumer goods industries—which are being transformed by tech—are both hot, with Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Macy’s headquartered in the city.
5. Charlotte, NC
Three hours from the beach and three hours from the mountains, Charlotte’s a great place for anyone to grow a tech career, particularly if you’re looking to dip your toes in financial technology.
Home to three of the nation’s largest banks and over 40 fintech firms, Charlotte is fast becoming the nation’s epicenter for fintech. Software architects are needed in the Queen City to integrate emerging tech solutions with older, established financial systems. And because the financial industry’s regulatory environment presents unique challenges, software architects are the most in-demand tech role in the city (and they’re paid well in return).
What’s more, home improvement retailer Lowe’s recently announced that it selected Charlotte as its global tech hub, with plans to hire 1,600 tech employees to fill a 23-story tower in historic South End. These roles will include software architects with experience in AI and machine learning.
It’s not just software architects hitting the big time in Charlotte: The city also offers the #1 highest salaries for cloud engineers.
A blueprint for a high paying tech career
The software architect supply-demand mismatch means you can find a big paycheck almost anywhere. But if you’re looking to plan, design and build a software architect career in a city where your paycheck will go the furthest, consider looking in more unconventional locations across the map where your skills are highly coveted (and where employers struggle to find the right talent).
There’s a fit for anyone, whether you want to work in a big, bustling city or are all about that laid-back, small-town life.
*Methodology: Indeed analyzed the percentage change in the share of job postings with “software architect” in the job title and the share of job searches per million for “software architect” over a two-year period from August 15, 2017 to August 15, 2019.
For the most in-demand tech skills, verified skills listed in job postings on Indeed.com with “software architect” as the job title were calculated as a share of all postings over a six-month period through August 15, 2019.
Our analysis for the highest paying cities was calculated based on the average salaries listed on “software architect” job postings on Indeed.com in the US over a two-year period from August 15, 2017 to August 15, 2019.