The United States of Developers

Update: This piece was picked up by ForbesAxios, CNET,  Venture Beat & SiliconAngle.


best developers in the united states

TLDR; Which state takes the cake for the best developers?

  • Washington outperforms California as best state
  • Hawaii, Colorado, Virginia and Maryland have the fastest growing developer activity
  • Wisconsin has the best developers in the Rust Belt
  • Oregon stands out for best Java developers

Silicon Valley has long been the center of technology in the U.S., not just by largest (1) share of venture capital but also highest growth (2) in tech jobs. But as companies across all industries increasingly transform into tech companies, the demand for software developers all across the country has skyrocketed. In fact, a recent study (3) found that 89% of software developers today work and live outside of Silicon Valley.

This got us thinking: where are all of those developers, and how do they stack up against Silicon Valley talent?

At HackerRank, we’ve built a community of millions of software developers who come to our platform to practice coding, improve their skills and help hiring managers assess technical skills. Over the past few years, we’ve seen our community grow organically, particularly in the U.S.

In an effort to understand the state of software developers in the U.S., we dug into our data of about 450,000 unique U.S. developers to uncover which states are home to the best software engineers, and which pockets of the country have the highest rate of developer growth.

Our data revealed: Washington, not California, ranked number one in most skilled developers on HackerRank, and the smaller concentration of talented coders in Wyoming is right on its heels. Developers in Washington and Wyoming dominated in Algorithms, which is the domain with the largest share of challenges solved on the platform.

California came in third overall and placed in the top 10 across multiple domains. Hawaii, Colorado and Virginia have seen the highest percentage of developer growth on HackerRank over the past couple years, emerging as the next generation of tech hubs.

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To determine which states have the best developers, we took the coding submissions of unique developers from 2015 and 2016 and found the average score by state across 8 domains(4). Developers often practice for coding interviews on our platform, which requires brushing up on their computer science fundamentals. Hence, the algorithm track is the most popular across states.


(1) City Labs
(2) Forbes
(3) App Association ACT study
(4) Domains: Algorithm, functional programming, math, data structures, java, ruby, cpp, python and java.

Pro Tip: Gayle Laakmann McDowell, who wrote Cracking the Coding Interview, also helped us create this supplemental tutorial for anyone looking to practice coding interview skills.


Which States Have the Best Developers?

Developers Ranked by Average Score Across Domains

Best Developers in the US

Even though California, New York and Virginia contribute the highest number of developers, Washington and Wyoming proved to be strongest in average score per developer. In looking at the implications of the results, Seattle, Washington could be a good alternative to California’s high cost of living for talented developers. Seattle also boasts top enterprise tech companies like Amazon, Zillow, and Microsoft. The developer population of Wyoming is the smallest after Alaska, but the small developer community there proves to be quite mighty.

And it’s not just technology companies that contribute to the proliferation of developers beyond Silicon Valley. At HackerRank, we’ve had a noticeable uptick in customers across industries, from healthcare to retail and finance, with strong demand for identifying technical skills quickly.

MCG Health, for instance, is seeing the growth of developers in Washington firsthand. It’s currently revving up its software engineering team to build insightful analytics to make better decisions on patient care. Augusto Gurdian, software engineering manager at MCG, says it’s exciting to build tech teams in Washington with one caveat:

“You still need to have a strategy to attract them to your organization and an excellent interview process to identify and hire the top talent. The talent may be there but you still need to identify them,”Gurdian says.

Non-tech companies, like Dish, Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Capital One all have engineering offices in Washington as well. The transformation of every company into a technology company is facilitating the creation of more jobs beyond Silicon Valley.

“Cost of living has been a concern for engineers in Silicon Valley for many years, so Seattle has become the destination of choice for some of that talent,”Gurdian says. “Most of the big names like Apple, Google, Facebook etc. have opened up engineering offices to capitalize on that migration and to also attract talent from local companies like Microsoft and Amazon.”

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There are some standouts when you look at top performers by domain:

Best States by Domain

Best Developers by Domain, including Java, Algorithms, Mathematics

Turns out, Wyoming’s small developer community has exhibited strong skills, particularly in the algorithm, Ruby and data structure domains. Louisiana, on the other hand, does not rank highly in our overall leaderboard, but has a concentration of strong C++ developers and, like Wyoming, houses a modest developer population. DC ranks 14th overall, but ranks number one in Functional Programming, with a sizable population of developers. California’s developers rank in the top 10 across multiple domains, highlighting their versatility.

Some of the lower overall performing states, like Oregon, Delaware and Alabama, made the top 10 list in Java, our platform’s most popular language,

***

We also looked at top-performing states by region. Here’s a look at which states dominate in their respective part of the country, from the East, the West, the Rust Belt and the Midwest.

East & West Coast States with the Best Developers

Midwest States with the Best Developers

Best Developers in the Midwest

Rust Belt States with the Best Developers

Best Developers in the Rust Belt

 

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Then, we looked at which states have had the highest growth in developer activity on the platform, looking at both total population of unique developers and the percentage growth of developers year over year.

The usual suspects–California, New York and Virginia–have the highest number of developers on the platform. Small states like Alaska, Wyoming and South Dakota have the least number of developers.

However, the largest bump in developer growth, year over year, occurred in some small states, like Hawaii and Maryland.

We can attribute this growth to programs in Hawaii and Maryland that facilitate a culture of coding. For instance, an accelerator called DevLeague has been producing crops of Hawaiian developers for four years. Baltimore, Maryland has made headlines about its burgeoning tech scene, housing arms of well-known tech companies like Amazon, RedOwl Analytics, and Pandora, to name a few.

States with large computer science programs, like Pennsylvania’s University of Pennsylvania and Penn State, or Massachusetts’ MIT and University of Boston, also top the list of highest developer growth. As more companies, and tech jobs, are founded in these states, students could be foregoing the move to California and New York in order to join their local tech communities.

Which State Has the Highest Developer Growth?

States with the highest growth of developers

Not long ago, the best and highest concentrations of developers did not stray far from the tech hubs in California. Today, there are pockets of highly skilled developers and growing developer communities across the nation, from the Rust Belt to the East Coast and beyond.

The proliferation of great developers and high growth of coding activity across the nation speaks to the spread of companies and corresponding demand for technical talent everywhere. Software developers aren’t just attached to VCs, startups or Silicon Valley anymore — they’re increasingly hacking in every corner of the U.S.  


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9 Replies to “The United States of Developers”

  1. Any chance you could post the developer counts for each state? The results for Wyoming were quite interesting, made me curious.

    Also curious how the state was determined in the first place, since it isn’t part of our user profile (unless I missed it).

  2. While this is interesting, tbh I think the data is probably flawed since the best developers probably wouldn’t finish hackerrank in it’s entirety since they would have probably been recruited or may use other platforms such as codewars.

    Another thing to think about is that developers in big cities run on a much more erratic schedule compared to people in the midwest. I am not saying that developers from Wyoming aren’t amazing, they probably are.

    I am just curious about the methodology and the potential flaws in your data, since there’s bound to be individuals who simply tried your website to learn programming for a few weeks than gave up. For places with higher populations that is much more likely to happen.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Raymond! The methodology was pretty simple: Average score per unique user by state. So, definitely agree it’s an interesting data point reflecting the developer community, but not the end all, be all study.

  3. Very interesting but with your data, as you said, your findings are “based of developers who come to your site to brush up on skills prior to interviews “(yes, I’m paraphrasing). Perhaps you are measuring developers who need/want to brush up. If California developers are more confident in their skills, they do not come to your site to brush up, take the interview “cold turkey” and get hired nonetheless. Does your data correct or allow for that?

  4. Can you define “best”? There are a lot of factors that go into being a good developer – from diversity and breadth of experience to being a good member of a team, to ability to learn (growth mindset) and of course technical skills coming in. I’m not sure saying “best” is really the right term here- are you specifically referring to technical skills?

    1. Yes, by “best,” we mean highest performing state on HackerRank measuring technical skills (coding challenges). The metric is simple: Average score per unique user.

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