Careers: Are You Willing to Move to Move Up?

Tech professionals are more willing to sell the house, pack the van, and move the kids across country in the name of a better job opportunity.

Tech professionals, raw and seasoned alike, are more willing to sell the house, pack the van, and move the kids across country in the name of a better job opportunity.

Nearly 48 percent of techies say they are somewhat or much more likely than a year ago to relocate for work, according to a recent survey of 1,320 full-time, part-time, self-employed, and unemployed U.S. tech professionals. The survey, completed in July, ranged from CIOs to PC technicians and included many folks with relocation experience.

Excluding specific relocation criteria, 56 percent of survey participants say they “probably” or “definitely” would relocate for their next tech job, if offered. Given the circumstance of losing their job and having the only equivalent hundreds of miles away, 45 percent of techies say they would quickly accept the new job and move; 22 percent would simply set a deadline to find a job near home, then move if the deadline wasn’t met. About 34 percent say they would make the necessary sacrifices to remain where they are.

However, just 15 percent of those surveyed once had an employer that required they move to another location in order to keep their IT job. Similarly, 23 percent say they once lost their job and were forced to move—to a nearby city or out of country—to find new employment.

Relocation very often happens without a job in mind, according to the survey. In fact, nearly 32 percent surveyed say they’ve relocated for a variety of reasons—wanted to live somewhere, be closer to family, spouse needed/wanted to move—before they secured a job in the new location. But among those techies surveyed, an impressive 51 percent say they have relocated for a job, technical or non-technical.

Of all the relocation veterans, 30 percent moved more than 500 miles away from their previous residence. Despite the often-long journeys, the great majority of the permanent travelers say “everything went smoothly.” A small number claimed they had difficulties finding housing and dealt with employers not picking up the bills.

This recent survey aligns closely with the findings of a similar survey of 3,401 tech pros in August 2001.

Two years ago, when the previous survey was completed, 47 percent of participants—a 1 percent difference from today—declared themselves more willing than the previous year to relocate for work. Although a similar survey was not conducted in 2002, anecdotal research pointed to a widespread “wait and see” attitude among tech professionals that seemed to keep many from moving—especially considering (but not entirely affected by) the events of September 11, 2001.

Thus, the comparison of the 2003 and 2001 surveys does not assume a steady increase in relocation enthusiasm over the past two-plus years. Rather, each survey points to a nearly identical increase in relocation willingness from the respective previous year.

Just as in 2001, the job itself is considered by techies today to be the most important criterion for relocation. Money and career advancement opportunities are ranked second and third, respectively, in both surveys.

Both surveys also found the most difficult aspect of relocation for techies to be their employer not picking up the bill. However, compared to 45 percent of relocation veterans in 2001, just 23 percent of relocation veterans in 2003 actually had their employer pay for the packing and shipping of belongings. Corporate cost-cutting is most likely the explanation for this trend.

Another significant difference in survey findings deals with the percentage of folks claiming to be relocation veterans. In 2001, nearly 60 percent said they had relocated for a job, technical or non-technical; in 2003, the number dropped to 51 percent. Again, the effects of September 11 might account for this difference.

Survey notes: For the 2003 survey, 45 percent of techies surveyed have been techies for 10 or more years. Twenty-four percent are unemployed; 84 percent are “actively” or “passively” looking for new opportunities. Assuming all survey participants are considering relocation, 73 percent would have to consider moving their spouse/partner; 17 percent would have to move one kid; 26 percent have more than one child to consider.

About the Author

Nick Doty is editorial director of, an online career and training center for technology professionals based in Minneapolis.