You want to work in tech, but you don't want to live in San Francisco. Here are 8 thriving tech cities that have plenty of opportunity (and slightly cheaper rent).

Do you dream in code, speak in algorithms, and bask in data? Are you young, eager, and desperate to work in tech? You know San Francisco is Startup City, as well as home to giants like Google and Facebook. But you don’t want to live in a giant city, or pay super high rents, or move far away from your family.

San Francisco gets all the tech love but plenty of other cities have thriving tech communities and municipal infrastructures that supports entrepreneurs. These cities are stocked with startup tech companies and most have excellent universities in or around the city that will keep the young, tech culture alive for years to come.

Raleigh, North Carolina

Part of the fabled “research triangle,” Raleigh is a major tech hub in the southeast United States. North Carolina State is located directly in the city and is very tech-focused. In fact, in 2014, 23 percent of NC State students chose some type of engineering as their major. In addition to NC State, world class universities like University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke (ranked #8 in the country by U.S. News) are both 35-45 minutes away. (In Chapel Hill and Durham, the other two points of the “research triangle.”)

Not only does Raleigh feature some great schools in close proximity, but it’s also home to a number of both new and established tech companies. Tech companies like LuLu, Citrix ShareFile, and Cree Inc. are all located in Raleigh, making it one of the country’s most desirable tech cities.

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington is a little different than most tech cities you’ll find. It’s the largest city in Vermont with a population of 42,000. But what’s really interesting is that, as of 2014, 100 percent of Burlington’s power comes from renewable resources, like wind and water. It’s home to University of Vermont, which ranks highly for their medical programs and is credited as a top 100 school in the United States by U.S. News. BioTek Instruments, LPA Design, and Reading Plus are three tech companies located in or near Burlington.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Part of the Boston metro area, Cambridge is home to two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard and MIT.  Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in one of the Harvard dorms.

Cambridge produces some of the most innovative and intelligent graduates in the country. Biotech companies like Biogen, Novartis, Genzyme, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals are big employers in Cambridge. In addition, research and development organizations like Draper Laboratory and the Broad Institute are located here.

Don’t forget about the greater Boston area, either, which features plenty of startup tech companies to work for.

That said, Boston and Cambridge are currently giving San Francisco a run for its money in the “impossibly expensive place to live” department. But if you want to pay through the nose on the East Coast rather than the West, then it might be the place for you.

Portland, Oregon

Portland isn’t just for hipsters anymore. Places like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Seattle are all well-known for their tech industry. But the cost of living is simply unaffordable for many. While Portland isn’t cheap, it’s definitely less expensive than the major tech hubs. Many people in the tech industry are moving here, and companies are following.

In fact, the greater Portland area has been named the “Silicon Forest” for the many tech companies concentrated in northwest Oregon, many of which are homegrown. While Portland doesn’t feature a ton of universities, Oregon State and University of Oregon are both within a couple hours’ drive.

Los Angeles, California

The westside of Los Angeles is becoming known as “Silicon Beach” for its dense population of tech-heavy companies. One of the major moves came in 2014, when Google purchased 12 acres in Playa Vista. Other companies like YouTube, BuzzFeed, and Yahoo have opened offices in the region, and many startups are buying old warehouses and buildings to renovate into offices.

Some of the newer startups located in this region that you may recognize are Swagbucks, Snapchat, Hulu, and Nasty Gal. The cost of living in this area is still high, so you’ll probably need to commute from a less expensive suburb.

On the education front, California Institute of Technology is located in nearby Pasadena. It’s ranked tenth in the country by U.S. News, and 78 percent of students major in engineering, computer sciences, biomedical sciences, and mathematics.

Nashville, Tennessee

Most of us think of Nashville as the home of country music, but it’s becoming much more than that. Nashville is quickly turning into one of the hottest tech cities in the South. In the past five years, tech jobs have increased 38 percent in sectors like healthcare and IT. Growing tech companies like LeanKit, ForceX, and Emma are all located in Nashville.

Tech accelerator Jumpstart Foundry has “graduated” 48 startups from its summer program since its inception six years ago—including InvisionHeart, a company that created a handheld, FDA-approved ECG machine. Also contributing to innovative mood around Music City is The Nashville Entrepreneur Center, whose startup accelerator has helped more than 200 companies launch in the last five years. And the music industry itself isn’t immune to the disruptive power of the lean new startups—many of Nashville’s new entrepreneurs are taking aim at the inefficiencies of the city’s biggest business.

Nashville also boasts one of the country’s most highly regarded universities in Vanderbilt, along with the less well-known (but still excellent) Belmont University. If that wasn’t enough, Nashville is well-known for its music scene and nightlife, as well as plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, waterskiing, and boating.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is thriving in a lot of ways. The city has grown more than 25 percent in the last decade and a half, adding more than a million newcomers to the city burned to the ground by General Sherman during his march to the sea in 1864. They’re also putting a lot of money back into the city to make it more desirable for young professionals, with developments like the Atlanta Beltline Trail. The Metro Atlanta Chamber just launched the first council for young professionals under 40.

It’s also becoming a startup hotspot. The Atlanta Tech Village offers office space for companies as small as one person, and is designed to be an affordable place for startups to get their businesses rolling. Startups get things like office space, parking, mailboxes, conference rooms, WiFi, and other amenities without taking on the significant overhead for themselves. The Tech Village currently houses over 170 startups and counting.

According to Entrepreneur, one of Atlanta’s major advantages as a tech hub is the easy access new startups have to big, established corporations based in the city, like Coca-Cola and UPS. Atlanta is home to more than 400 Fortune 500 companies. Add in the presence of prestigious universities like Georgia Tech and Emory, and it becomes clear that Atlanta’s startups have an abundant supply of both potential customers and potential employees. This means Atlanta’s startups are more focused on revenue and sustainability, and thus less likely to go bust following sky-high valuations and hype.

Atlanta is home to well-known mass emailer (and podcast sponsor extraordinaire) Mailchimp, as well as the finance startup Kabbage, which specializes in online lending to small businesses.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is a visual gem of the midwest. It’s full of beautiful architecture and has plenty of trails and parks for the outdoor enthusiast.

But what about those looking for a tech culture? Believe it or not, you’ll find it in Indy. Indianapolis is home to over 150 tech companies, including Salesforce, Angie’s List, and Mobi. An organization called TechPoint is also headquartered here. Their mission is to promote and accelerate the growth of Indiana’s tech community through various programs and initiatives. This type of group will ensure that there are tech companies and jobs in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future. For education, you’ll find Butler University located directly in Indianapolis.

Summary

While the cost of living will vary between these areas, they all have one thing in common—they’re bursting with tech. With universities nearby, as well as both new and established tech companies right in the heart of the city, these places will allow you to cultivate a long and successful career.

If you’re still looking for colleges and want to get into the tech world, consider the schools in these cities. If you’ve already graduated and are open to relocating, most of the startups and tech companies I mentioned are hiring right now, so check out the career sections of their websites today.

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Chris Muller picture
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Chris has an MBA with a focus in advanced investments and has been writing about all things personal finance since 2015. He’s also built and run a digital marketing agency, focusing on content marketing, copywriting, and SEO, since 2016. You can connect with Chris on Twitter.