Best UK Cities for a Career in IT

Now that you have your brand-new degree and you’ve graduated from university, you’re all set to start your new IT career. . . in London. While the annual pay for IT specialists is the highest here, you should look a little farther afield and consider taking a post in Cambridge, Peterborough or even Manchester. Tech is a field that easily establishes itself in any city or country, with little effort. IT business owners don’t need to establish large factories. In fact, they can begin in small buildings, then as they grow, find larger quarters. If living and working in London doesn’t excite you, then think about moving to another city. By doing so, you’ll be able to reap all the rewards of this exciting and growing field while avoiding the drawbacks of living in a large city, such as crime, overcrowding, traffic jams and an overly high cost of living. By living away from London, you’ll be able to save more of your income or use it for items you need or have been wanting to buy. 

Is London the Only Place for an IT Career?

With more than 59,000 IT job postings between January and March, 2015, it may make you stop when you realise that three out of 10 of these postings are located outside London. Many of these cities were able to offer more IT jobs than London. Here’s a brief list of the IT sectors experiencing job growth:

  • Big data
  • Cloud computing
  • IT security
  • Mobile
  • Web development

Of these fields, only mobile experienced a drop in growth while IT security experienced the greatest growth. Why have recruitment and job availability grown? Consumers are expressing stronger confidence in the UK’s economic outlook. Several cybercrime events have taken place, moving security concerns up. When you remember that cyber-criminals could wreak havoc on one or more banking institutions, it’s easy to see how their activities could also push the UK, if not the world, into the next significant financial crash.

While London-based IT firms offer the highest pay, workers in London also see a high cost of living. In addition, housing costs are unaffordable for many workers.

Start-ups are attracted to other cities because of business-friendly initiatives such as:

  • Rental discounts for companies
  • Government grants for start-ups
  • Government plan to bring prosperity to other areas of the UK

If you want to do a comparison of the cost of living between London and another UK city, look at Glasgow. If you’re a big data specialist, you’ll be able to command an annual salary of almost £65,000—which is just about £2,000 higher than that of London, for the same IT field. Along with this huge benefit, you’ll be able to slash your yearly cost of living, saving that money for needs down the road.

Even Freelancers Can Benefit

Tech workers who are attracted to the freelancing life may do better away from London. While per-day rates outside London may be lower, independent contractors can still command excellent payments from their clients:

  • Bristol: £520
  • Brighton £500
  • Cambridge £494

For cyber-security freelancers, the daily payments can be:

  • Edinburgh £495
  • Glasgow £425
  • London £420

Depending on the IT field the freelancer specialises in, their day rates will vary.

Tech Fields and UK Cities

UK cities with tech centres include:

  • London
  • Cambridge
  • Birmingham
  • Glasgow
  • Bristol
  • Edinburgh
  • Manchester
  • Sheffield
  • Newcastle upon Tyne

In each of these cities, IT workers, whether traditionally employed or freelance, can find work in their particular specialty. Wherever they live, big data commands the highest salary, with London-based employers paying their workers £63,000.

Those who plan to work in big data will need to compete more strongly for these jobs. They are more difficult to land.

Surprisingly, it is the companies based in London that are fueling the move to remote cities. These employers are hungry for new talent, and they know that they are more likely to find these workers if they reach out to cities away from the capital.


IT sectors available to freelance tech workers here include cloud, IT security, mobile and web development. On average, a freelance tech worker can earn £324 per day.

The traditionally employed IT worker earns almost £41,000 annually in Cambridge. The University of Cambridge Judge Business School is an education partners for tech fields. Tech workers are in high demand as employers scramble to find the right workers for available positions.


Freelance tech workers earn the lowest day rate at £218, but they can find work in web development, mobile, IT security and cloud computing.

If this worker is traditionally employed, they may potentially earn £39,143.


An independent contractor living and working in Bristol can potentially earn £371 per day, with options available in IT security, cloud, web development and mobile. Contractors specialising in web development and cloud computing are outstripping their counterparts in London.

The traditionally employed IT worker earns £37,859. It helps that the Bristol Technology and Engineering Academy opened in 2013.


Independent contractors living in Brighton fare a little better here—their daily pay is about £289. They are able to sign contracts for cloud work, IT security, mobile and web development. Their traditionally employed counterparts command just over £36,000 annually.


In this Scottish city, IT freelance workers can bring in £274 per day, specialising in big data, cloud, IT security, mobile and web development. They earn the most by working in cloud computing.


In Birmingham, IT freelancers are able to bring home £324, working in web development, cloud, mobile and in IT security. If they are looking for the field that pays the highest, IT security is an excellent choice.

IT workers working for employers in Birmingham earn £39,733, working in all IT sectors, which include big data, web development, cloud computing, mobile and IT security. These workers should choose to work in cloud computing, because their annual pay moves up to £52,684.

Birmingham city leaders embrace the tech field, with a “Big City Plan,” described as devoting the centre of the city to a grouping of tech hubs devoted to promoting and accelerating tech start-up companies. The success of this plan is stunning—more than 16,000 new tech companies were begun just in 2013.


Here, the first Gigabit City was created. The tech infrastructure is easily capable of supporting broadband speeds of 1,000Mbps for public sectors and businesses!

While the average annual pay for IT employees in Peterborough isn’t as high as it is in other cities, those who are weighing their options should look at this: of the top 100 tech companies supporting Cambridgeshire’s growth, 29 are based in Peterborough alone. Some of these include Compare the Market and Ideal World, showing that IT firms are confident that they will find a supportive environment in this UK city.


Manchester is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the tech world. After London, the city has the highest number of job vacancies, waiting to be filled by the right IT professional.

Two IT giants located in or very near Manchester include Royal London, which is expanding government pension reforms and opening up 450 new jobs. MediaCom has relocated in Manchester. Log into LinkedIn and search for IT-related jobs in the UK. You’ll see that Manchester ranks very close to the top of the listings for the UK.

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