Boston Software Jobs: Where are They?


A lot has changed since I first became a Boston software recruiter 30 years ago.  The hot skills, the salary levels, and the tools and techniques of sourcing and recruiting seem almost prehistoric to me. One thing in particular stands out: where the Boston software jobs actually are.

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Allston, Brighton – these are the places where much of the technology hiring is happening today. Drilling down even further, the MBTA’s Red Line has become the new Central Artery for city-dwelling software engineers.

I decided to tabulate the locations of each of the several hundreds of Boston-area job orders I’ve worked on since launching Oculus Search Partners three years ago. Here’s what I found:

  •  54% of all the job orders were located in either Boston, Cambridge or Somerville.
  •  29% were in the central Route 128 corridor. I’m including Watertown and Newton in this grouping, because even though they are technically T-accessible, one would usually need to take a bus, and many people also drive to their jobs in these places.
  •  14% were around Route 495: places like Route 3 (Chelmsford, Billerica, Westford etc.), on the North Shore, in Natick or Framingham, or in Marlborough / Westborough / Southboro.
  •  The other 3% were in random places.

One has to take these results with a big grain of salt, of course.  One lone recruiter’s experiences hardly constitute a valid scientific sample. But I think any other good recruiter would tell you the same thing. “Way back when”, there was a much more even distribution: on Route 495, on Route 128, and in the city.  Software companies, like any other employer, want to locate  where the good workers are. Today, a large number of software professionals have no interest in living in the suburbs, owning a car, or driving to work. Very often they want to take the T, or walk, or ride a bike. A number of software companies that have traditionally had suburban offices have, within recent years, either relocated into the city proper, or have established downtown satellite development offices.

Will these trends continue? Multiple factors will determine the answer. As engineers get older, start families, and have school-age children, there may be more of a migration back to the suburbs. Then again, maybe there won’t be.

The ability to work remotely also makes a big difference. More and more companies are comfortable with software engineers working from home at least some of the time, but this is an arrangement that often has to be earned over time. Relatively few companies are comfortable having a completely remote software engineer. Usually at least a couple of days each week in the office are required.

But at least for right now: if you are a software engineer, you will have access to the greatest number of good Boston software jobs if you either reside in the city, or are willing to commute into the city without needing too much in the way of special accommodations to do so. See my latest in-the-city searches here.