10 cities that offer IT pros the most bang for the buck

If you're looking for a move, here are some places to consider based on IT salaries, employment opportunities, and cost of living

The cities that offer IT professionals the most bang for the buck

What makes a city one of the best in regard to technology careers? A couple of key factors quickly bubble to the top, including how much the average IT worker makes in that city, how many opportunities there are, and what the cost of living is. At first glance, that great tech job out in Los Angeles or New York might pay you more than your current position. But after you factor in the cost of living, it quickly becomes obvious that all things are not equal.

So come along for this countrywide tour of the United States as CIO.com counts down what, according to Dice data, are the best U.S. cities for IT jobs.

How we got here

Who doesn't want more bang for their buck? To some, where they live isn't a major factor in their job hunt and if there are more opportunities somewhere else, why not head there? For those individuals, CIO.com worked with Dice, a major career site, to gather data on the best U.S. cities in regards to technology jobs and average IT salaries. We then cross-referenced that data with cost of living index data provided by Dean Frutinger, project manager at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. By weighing these three factors together, IT professionals can more accurately assess whether it's time for a change in location.

10. Portland, Oregon

We start our list in Portland, Oregon -- or "The City of Roses" as it's known due to its perfect rose-growing climate. Regularly noted as a bike-friendly and green city, Portland has much to offer those that love the outdoors. Other reasons to consider Portland your home include a robust music scene and a strong job market, among other things. "In my opinion, if you are a software engineer graduating from college right now, there is no better city you can move to than Portland," says Sam Blackman, CEO and co-founder of Elemental, a Portland tech startup.

Professional Sports Teams: The Trail Blazers, the Thorns and the Timber.

9. Chicago, Illinois

Sweet Home Chicago. Whether you're renting a building for your new startup or looking for a home, prices here are rock bottom when compared to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles. The city was designed in such a way that most places are within walking distance to several parks. Not many people think beaches when they think Chicago, but it's actually home to 29 miles of beaches located on Lake Michigan. Combine all this with no personal income taxes and a team in virtually every professional sport, and suddenly Chicago as a destination starts to make a lot of sense.

Professional Sports Teams: The White Sox, the Cubs, the Blackhawks, the Bulls, the Fire, Da Bears, the Wolves, and the Sky.

8. Raleigh, North Carolina

Recently, Forbes named Raleigh No. 2 on its fastest-growing cities list. Cisco, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, and many others have set up shop here to take advantage of the economic benefits as well as the talent pool.

Close proximity to several universities make this town one of the more highly educated populations. In January it was declared that "The (research) triangle has the nation's most 'educated' center cities." In fact, Raleigh regularly rates as one of the best places to live in the United States. Great weather, reasonable housing prices, and lots of jobs make Raleigh an attractive place to call home.

7. Charlotte, North Carolina

Another state managing to grab multiple positions on our list is North Carolina. Charlotte's beautiful weather, low cost of living, proximity to the tri-state area, and a growing market all come together to make it a consideration for those looking to leave the fevered pace of areas such as New York, New Jersey, and Baltimore behind.

Professional Sports Teams: The Panthers, NASCAR, and the Bobcats.

6. Dallas, Texas

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is a sprawling city situated in the plains of Texas. It ranked as the No. 3 spot for total number of high-tech jobs last year. This region employs over 136,000 tech workers and has had 6.6 percent annual growth, making Dallas an emerging market and one to watch. Everything is bigger in Texas and the area is known for its big steaks, BBQ, Mexican, and Tex-Mex foods. Combine all of this with a great set of sports teams, a high standard of living, and low cost of living and it becomes easy to see why your next job may be deep in the heart of Texas.

Professional Sports Teams: The Cowboys, the Rangers, the Mavericks, the Stars, and FC Dallas.

5. Denver, Colorado

If you're a fan of winter, then the city of Denver in the snowy mountains of Colorado should be considered. Colorado has several tech biggies, including IBM, Oracle, Lockheed Martin, and Avaya, as well as a thriving tech startup scene. More than 53 percent of downtown Denver's population holds a bachelor's degree, making it one of the smartest cities in America. It ranks as one of the top relocation destinations among highly skilled workers between 25 and 44. The relatively low cost of living compared to Silicon Valley or New York and the slower pace of living attracts many tech workers fleeing the coasts.

Professional Sports Teams: The Broncos, the Rockies, the Nuggets, the Avalanche, and the Rapids.

4. Phoenix, Arizona

If living in the dry desert weather appeals to you, then our next city could be your next home. Phoenix, also known as "The Valley of the Sun," is a little gem in the southwest that has managed to struggle back from a crushing foreclosure crisis. Recently ranked as the fourth fastest-growing city for technology job postings and fourth fastest in the country in regards to tech salary growth, Phoenix has had average tech salaries increase by an impressive 12 percent year over year.

Professional Sports Teams: The Cardinals, the Diamondbacks, the Rattlers, Coyotes, Mercury (WNBA), and the Suns.

3. Atlanta, Georgia

A low cost of living and high average IT salaries are making life in "the ATL" sweet. "The Big Peach" sports good universities, a major airport hub, and a thriving music scene.

According to reports from Dice, mobile is driving the job growth in this region. The metro area of Atlanta recently saw a 66 percent increase in the amount of online job postings. This was across all industries, but tech accounts for the lion's share of the jobs created.

Professional Sports Teams: The Falcons, the Braves, the Hawks, and the Silverbacks (MSL).

2. Houston, Texas

The Houston area continues to grow. "Oil and Gas, of course, ranked the highest in terms of needing highly skilled and educated employees. But let's not lose sight of medical, technology, engineering, retail, education, and financial fields -- all large sectors in West Houston. There is a scramble for highly educated and skilled employees," says Jeannie Bollinger, president and CEO of the Houston West Chamber of Commerce. According to Dice numbers, Texas actually ranked as the fourth fastest-growing technology employment state in the United States, which explains how three cities from The Lone Star State made it onto this list.

Professional Sports Teams: The Texans, the Astros, the Rockets, the Dynamo, and the Dash.

1. Austin Texas

The capital of Texas, Austin, comes in at No. 1 on our list. While it may not have the gravitas of New York or Silicon Valley, there is a lot to be said for this growing technology hub. This bike-friendly metropolis sports over eighty miles of bike paths, and its rapidly expanding market offers great opportunities with a low cost of living. Austin regularly shows up on the list of best cities for tech startups.

Professional Sports Teams: The Austin area isn't known for its sports cache, but there are NBA, NHL, and MBA farm teams here along with several universities.