Has Nashville’s Tech Job Market Recovered From COVID-19?

Jan 28, 2021
John Wark

An Update on Nashville’s Tech Job Market as of January 2021

Probably the most common question we get from adults considering a career upgrade or change is some variation of: “How many of your graduates get jobs?” or its close cousin “What’s the job market in Nashville for <software developers / data analysts / data scientists>?” COVID-19 and the resultant blow to the economy has only heightened interest in the answer to that question. We thought it would be useful to give an update on what our graduates are actually experiencing in the current local economy - given NSS is putting more people to work in entry / junior jobs in software development and data analytics than anyone else in the local area, what our graduates experience is a useful proxy for the job market as a whole. 

It’s useful to recall what the tech job market looked like a year ago - just before COVID-19 arrived on the scene. Without a doubt 2019 was the hottest year in tech hiring in Nashville’s history. We had high growth in the local tech economy over a multi-year period, culminating in 2019’s excellent job market. When March 2020 hit, that all changed, and very suddenly. 

As you might have expected, job placements for our graduates - or what we call Seekers, graduates that are searching for their first tech job where they can use the skills they acquired at NSS - slowed dramatically in March and April 2020 given the rapid lockdown due to the coronavirus. However, it didn’t completely stop - there were employers in March who completed hiring cycles that had started earlier in 2020 or even in late 2019 and there were some employers who had urgent hiring needs even in the early and very uncertain days of the pandemic. But overall the number of NSS grads placed in those months definitely took a pretty meaningful hit and the number of new job postings shared with us for our graduates also dropped. 

A recovery in placements of our Seekers was visible by May and June as compared to the low point in April. The recovery continued through the end of the year, although it was up and down from month to month. The average job search time after graduation is certainly longer than it was a year ago, but overall we’re seeing most of our graduates find their first jobs in tech. 

In terms of numbers, we actually placed more graduates in the last five months of 2020 than we did in the comparable period of 2019! For example, we placed 16% more graduates of our web development program in the last five months of 2020 than we did in the last five months of 2019. December of 2020 actually had more placements than any month in the last two years. In terms of overall placements from all programs (web development, analytics, and data science), we placed fully ⅓ more graduates in jobs than in the comparable year. 

Those placement numbers are much better than we expected when we were only a couple of months into the pandemic and I’d be willing to bet they are much better than most of you expected. To me, it speaks to the underlying momentum that has built up in the tech job market in Nashville over the past five or six years (and certainly to the strength of our graduates as well). 

One quick update on a related question regarding the job market - and that is: “What’s the average starting salary for an NSS bootcamp graduate?”, i.e. what can I expect to make once I get these skills. No looking ahead now - but what’s your guess? Is it down, did it stay the same, or did it increase despite the pandemic? And the answer is - it actually went up during a four month period at the end of the year. More specifically, average starting salaries for our web developer bootcamp grads that were placed during those four months were up by approximately $2500/year as compared to 2019. 

To me those placement and starting salary numbers are a very encouraging sign of the underlying strength of the tech job market in Nashville. It speaks to the demand for these skills in today’s economy, despite the severe economic hit we took in 2020. In the next post in this series, we’ll look in more detail at the growth in the Nashville tech talent market and where it is headed over the next few years. Watch this space.

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