News & Events


Seattle: Top City to Hire Software Engineers

The Karat Team image

The Karat Team

blog feature image

In our 2024 ranking of the top cities to hire software engineers, Seattle ranks at the top of the list based on its concentration of strong software engineers. The city also ranked third in the world,  and first in the U.S. based on its concentration of elite engineering talent. 

With Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in the Seattle metropolitan area, the city serves as a global hub for cloud computing, e-commerce, and AI technology innovation. Seattle is also home to more than 600 startups, as companies and entrepreneurs are drawn to the city for its deep engineering talent pool, steady stream of engineering graduates, and the undeveloped land just outside of the city.

Read more about why Seattle beat out all other U.S. cities in elite engineering talent and some of the hiring challenges that companies might face there. 

Why Seattle

  • Large and growing talent pool: With 95,000 software engineers, Seattle has the seventh largest engineering talent pool in our list of the top cities for hiring software engineers in 2024. The talent pool is also rapidly growing through university programs and partnerships between tech companies and high schools. Last year, more than 8,500 students who applied to the University of Washington listed their first-choice major as the Paul G. Allen School, the university’s computer science school. The Allen School has doubled its number of graduates in the last five years and has embraced AI in order to keep up with the changing nature of software jobs. Other universities in Washington have seen the number of computer science students triple or quadruple over the last decade. With so much engineering demand from companies, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are even sponsoring high school programs to increase access to computer science opportunities and offering scholarships to study computer science.   
  • Concentration of cutting-edge tech skills: In a 2023 analysis that measured the concentration of leading edge skills in the local workforce, Seattle led the pack of large metropolitan statistical areas with the largest share of tech workers with a Frontier Skill, which is defined as “skills that are on the frontier of tech skills in the labor market as evidenced by commanding a high wage premium while also experiencing robust growth in demand over the last two years.” These skills include cloud computing, deep learning, and security engineering. In particular, Seattle is an underrated AI hub that’s often overshadowed by Silicon Valley. The city ranks second in the country for AI talent density, where Meta, Google, and Apple employ thousands of AI researchers and engineers and the Allen Institute for AI Incubator has created more than 20 AI companies. 
  • Attracts young tech professionals: As one of the “top five metros for in-migration of young tech talent” with zero to six years of experience, Seattle was the fastest-growing U.S. market for young tech talent in 2023. The city gained a 15.2% increase in tech grads with three years of experience or less over the year ending February 2023. “This is likely being driven by the variety of early career options by companies in Seattle, plus its pull as a vibrant urban center with a high quality of life that remains attractive for early career professionals,” said Chris Volney, Managing Director at CBRE.
  • Renowned computer science program: The University of Washington is the most well-known of the state’s public universities, ranking number 18 in the world and number three among U.S. public universities. Engineering is one of the university’s many disciplines that are widely recognized as the best in the country. The Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering tied for fifth place in 2023, “and three programs ranked in the top 10, including programming language at No. 5, and artificial intelligence and systems both at No. 7.”

Hiring Challenges in Seattle

  • Competitive market: Because Seattle is dominated by large global tech companies, smaller tech firms and non-tech companies often struggle to hire developers due to offering lower salaries and less innovative, cutting-edge work. For Alaska Airlines, this was the case. The company had struggled to fill its software engineer job openings. However, the Big Tech layoffs of 2023 created an opportunity for Alaska Airlines, which saw “a ton more applicants … just in the last couple of months,” said Jen Keller, Managing Director, Talent Acquisition at Alaska Airlines. By taking advantage of these situations, companies can pick up talented engineers and attract candidates who are willing to trade a high salary for more stability.
  • High price tag: Seattle is the second most expensive place among the top 30 cities for hiring software engineers in 2024, with a median salary of $220,000. With such high demand for talent, companies enter into bidding wars and signing bonuses can reach six figures. Even candidates at the beginning of their careers command extremely high compensation. “We were seeing people with two, three years of experience getting over $200,000 in total comp,” said Albert Squiers, Managing Director, Technology and Product Practice at Fuel Talent. After employee salaries, office rent is the next highest cost for tech companies, and Seattle is among the cities with the highest average office rent in the U.S. The estimated one-year cost of a company with 500 employees and 75,000 square feet of office space is $58 million. Companies may be able to secure real estate at a lower price though, as many tech employees have continued to work from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and tech companies are shedding office space. To draw more tenants, landlords are likely to offer more concessions now, such as free rent or allowing tenants to make improvements to their space.

If you’re considering tapping into global tech talent to rapidly grow, manage costs, or expand into new markets, see our full report on the top cities to hire software engineers in 2024

Ready to get started?

It’s time to start
hiring with confidence

Request Demo