Tech’s future is bright in the Mile High City.
Denver has focused on scaling their technology sector for years, but the last 12 months brought massive growth that signals an exciting new chapter in the city’s evolution as a tech hub. Though the typical West Coast tech capitals still lead the industry, Denver’s surge (and Colorado’s as a whole) has closed the gap between the city and longtime giants like San Francisco and Seattle.
To better understand the maturity and future of Denver’s tech scene, we took a deep dive into several key growth indicators, including software developer jobs and the number of tech firms expanding or opening their doors throughout the city.
→ Denver tech growth exploded in 2018. Data from the BLS shows employment in the sector grew 7.5% compared to just 2% for all other industries.
→ When you consider Denver’s cost of living, its tech salaries are among the most favorable in the country. The average application developer salary in Denver is $103,370. Web developers earn $87,920. Systems developers make $127,440. Denver’s cost of living ranks third among the country’s top tech cities, well ahead of competing tech hubs like New York and San Francisco.
→ Developers are in very high demand in Denver. LinkedIn’s Workforce report shows Development Tools as one of the top 10 skill shortages in Denver. As of May 2019, it’s estimated that there is a shortage of about 8,607 people in Denver alone.
Industry & job growth: 2017–2018
Denver’s Information industry (comprising computer programming, systems design, and telecommunication) grew 7.5% in the past year, three times more than the county-wide average and significantly higher than other large industries (including healthcare and financial services). In the last 12 months, 953 new tech jobs were added.
Looking ahead: developer job prospects through 2027
The Colorado Department of Labor & Employment projects that Denver will employ 9,128 more developers by 2027 — a 33% growth. For perspective, all other occupations are projected to grow by just 21% in that same timeframe. Among all types of developers, app developer roles are growing at the fastest pace.
|—||Current Employment Estimate (Denver-Aurora)||2027 Projected Estimate||% Change|
|Software Developers, Applications*||16,235||22,867||41%|
|Software Developers, Systems Software*||9,066||11,109||23%|
|Total (All Occupations)||1,567,091||1,890,905||21%|
Context: Software Developers, Applications analyze user needs and develop software solutions. Web Developers design, create, and modify web sites. Systems Developers are typically more senior and apply principles and techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis.
How does Denver compare to other tech hubs?
Denver has very favorable tech to non-tech job rates. That is, it employs developers at higher rates than most other major tech cities.
→ It currently ranks 4th — after San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Seattle — in terms of application developer employment: 11.8 app devs per 1,000 jobs (we looked at application developers specifically because they represent the largest pool of tech workers).
→ Though application development is the most popular, Denver is also home to 7,200 systems developers and 1,400 web developers.
Given this pattern, total developer jobs in Denver could soon surpass Boston and Chicago.
As for tech density, Denver is still far from the country’s top three markets. However, it’s a clear leader among emerging markets — think Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Relatedly, Boulder, too, has a high concentration of app developers: 27.89 per 1,000 jobs.
Further, Denver is famous for its high quality of living, ranking 3rd in U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Places to Live. The only cities with a lower cost of living are Dallas and Atlanta. Though Denver developers earn on average $44,000 less each year than they would in San Francisco, their dollar goes a lot further due to lower costs of housing, groceries, healthcare, and transportation. Denver’s cost of living index is 15% lower than Seattle and 37% lower than San Francisco.
Note: While the cost of living is comparatively low, city residents are seeing housing and education costs go up — partly due to the influx of technology.
Tech companies are expanding & moving into Denver
In studying the overall health of Denver’s tech scene, it’s also important to note the increasing number of technology companies moving to or expanding in the area. Denver is home to several Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon and Facebook. In April 2019, Amazon announced 400 new tech jobs in Denver and a new office downtown.
Below, we highlight 31 technology companies that since 2018 have announced plans to expand or move into Denver, along with their projected jobs impact.
|Company||Projected Additional Employment in Denver||Headquarters|
|Carbon Blank Inc.||150||Boston|
|Alto Pharmacy||70||San Francisco|
|Well Data Labs||60||Denver|
In total, these tech companies are expected to bring more than 5,000 jobs to Denver through the end of 2019.
State of STEM education & job training in Denver
Given the increased demand, we must also examine the supply side of the job market. In doing so, we see a skills shortage — Denver’s tech job openings are outpacing the number of people to fill those roles.
Because there is no recent data about computer science and computer engineering degrees conferred by city, we looked at the broader category of science and engineering degrees by state to get a proxy for workforce supply. Here, Colorado performs above the rest of the nation in terms of graduates per capita. In 2017, 14,215 degrees were conferred — a 17% jump since 2013.
Note: These figures are degrees conferred in the state, but don’t track movement after graduation. According to the National Science Foundation, "student mobility after graduation is not accounted for, which may make this indicator less meaningful in predicting the qualifications of a state's future technical workforce." (Denver’s ability to retain tech talent after graduation is a great direction for a future study.
Despite that growth, LinkedIn Workforce Report identifies “Development Tools” as one of the top 10 skill shortages in Denver. In May 2019, it estimated a shortage of about 8,607 people.
In recent years, coding schools — like Flatiron School — have stepped up to up-skill workers and help people transition to a career in tech, and could potentially help close the gap.
As Denver’s tech industry matures, Flatiron School aims to modernize tech education in the city by raising the bar on accountability. Since our founding in 2012, Flatiron School has published six third-party audited outcomes reports that transparently show job placement rates for graduates — how many of our graduates successfully get jobs. The most recent, from 2018, can be viewed here.
Perspectives on tech in Denver from local leaders
We spoke with members of Denver’s tech community — namely employers — for a more holistic view of why the city has been such a draw for tech companies.
“This report shows how dramatically Colorado’s job market and economy is changing. The rapid growth of the tech center here will have big implications on our communities. The report should be a signal for policymakers to start being proactive about the challenges and opportunities that come with this. For example, we have a chance to make sure that Coloradans from every background and community have a shot at entering this growing sector.”
“It’s great here. I’ve been at Name.com for 15 years and many of my coworkers are closing in on a decade. They could live anywhere they want, but Denver attracts people who want to stay. So here we are this company that’s online internationally, but firmly planted locally. That’s been an incredible factor for our steady and sustainable growth.”
“Denver is on the forefront of a tech transformation, happening in cities across the United States. We are seeing companies big and small choose Denver to set up offices and we are seeing skilled professionals from across the world choose Denver as their new home. At HomeAdvisor, we have always seen and known the tech potential of this area and are firmly rooted in this community.
Every time Denver is named a top city to live in by various renowned publications, we know that, as a company headquartered here, we will benefit immensely. From the growing talent pool to the increased national spotlight on Denver-based tech innovators, there is a lot of be excited about for the future of tech in Denver.”
“The Metro Denver region is quietly emerging as a hub for tech talent. New and existing tech companies like Amazon, Ibotta, Checkr, Gusto, and Slack know that their talent can find the best blend of lifestyle and productivity in our community. While there is much more work to do to support this industry, Metro Denver has already made itself a top destination for the next generation of tech.”
Campus Director at Flatiron School Denver
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