Best Cities for New Grads


If you’re a recent college grad or are going to graduate soon, you’re about to be faced with a choice — now that you finally have your degree, you need to move somewhere and start your career.

Where should you go? There are a lot of factors to consider.

One is the economy of the city you’ll be moving to — go where the jobs are! In a strong economy, you can not only land the job you want, but also get paid well to do it. Good local healthcare, access to transportation, shopping and other amenities are also worth examining.

Another factor is the city’s culture. Life shouldn’t be all about work, so consider what you can do for fun. If a city has a vibrant nightlife and great places to eat and hang out, you’ll probably be happier there. Local demographics are also key, as you’ll want to have people your age to enjoy the culture with.

Perhaps the most important factor for many college grads is affordability — how much does it cost to live in the area? Not everyone’s first job out of college is going to rake in the big bucks, and most college students have loan debt to deal with, too. Look for a city where the cost of living isn’t going to keep you from enjoying a life there.

With economy, culture and affordability in mind, the following cities all pass the test, making them a few of the best cities for recent college graduates.

Austin, Texas

Austin is known for its mild climate and for an unofficial motto, “Keep Austin Weird,” that attracts support for hip local businesses. The city’s home to a vibrant creative culture and to one of the biggest arts and music festivals in the U.S.

The city is also well known for its tech industry, with top employers that include Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Dell and Samsung. Austin ranks first in the nation for millennial population, which is 29 percent. The unemployment rate in 2014 was a mere 3.7 percent. At just $1,656, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is low, making Austin an affordable option for young graduates.

Seattle, Washington

Millennials are flocking to Seattle not only to rent — the median for a two-bedroom apartment is just $2,596 — but also to buy homes. The city is becoming increasingly trendy for young professionals, who make up roughly 28 percent of its population.

The home of the futuristic Space Needle and the headquarters of Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft is also surrounded by a scenic mountain landscape for those who love to hike and explore outdoors.

Denver, Colorado

The Mile-High City claims to have 300 days of sunshine a year — this isn’t quite true, but Denver still boasts great weather. What the city does have is the largest park system in the country, beautiful nearby mountains and a low cost of living for its 26 percent millennial population. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was just $2025 in 2014.

Denver’s huge, walkable downtown area is also home to a ton of breweries and pubs, so you and your friends will never get bored on the weekends.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

A perfect city for recent grads, Minneapolis boasts an incredibly low cost of living for the 31 percent of residents that are millennials, with a median rent of only $1,772 for a two-bedroom apartment.

A low unemployment rate of 4.1 percent means you’ll also have a good chance at landing a job with one of the many Fortune 500 companies located in the city, which include Target, Best Buy, General Mills, Land O’Lakes and St. Jude Medical.

Iowa City, Iowa

This one might seem out of place due to its small size, but Iowa City is a college town with a strong economy. The unemployment rate is low, at three percent, and Rosalind Greenstein of the American Institute for Economic Research says that “a growing technology corridor has improved economic opportunity in Iowa City, and low rents, more restaurants and bars, as well as a diverse population, also attract young people.”

The University of Iowa is a major employer, as are Oral B Laboratories, Proctor & Gamble and a host of other big businesses drawn in by the college population.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston has a diverse range of thriving industries for job-seekers — healthcare, social assistance, finance, education and biotech are all big fields in and around the city, which is home to 12 Fortune 500 companies. The unemployment rate in 2014 was only 4.9 percent, and the median income for millennials was $58,040 — which couples great with an average rent of $4,498 for a two-bedroom apartment.

About a third of the Boston population consists of millennials, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to hang out at after work. Lots of outdoor space — including the oldest public park and the first public beach in the U.S. — walking trails, a concentrated downtown area and comprehensive public transit make finding fun things to do both easy and affordable.

Washington, D.C.

If you’ve never visited the nation’s capital, it has a lot going for it — think free museums, beautiful parks and monuments, and a solid food and bar scene. Residents walk and bike everywhere.

DC is another young city with a millennial population of 29 percent, many of whom are attracted by government jobs on Capitol Hill. Unemployment sits at 4.9 percent, and the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is about $3,287.

Raleigh, N.C.

Raleigh is a part of the Research Triangle of North Carolina, where grads looking for a career in the tech industry will thrive. 26 percent of the population are millennials, unemployment sits at 4.8 percent and the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,431.

Raleigh is a smaller city that isn’t quite as hustle-and-bustle as some of the others on this list, and it holds lots of outdoor recreational areas and great entertainment options.

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore is underrated and affordable — the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is only $1,586! It has a growing millennial population drawn by the vibrant social scene, who often work in the industrious health and science fields.

Excellent nightlife and public transit are a few more reasons why recent grads love Charm City.

Cincinnati, Ohio

A city with a slowly growing population of millennials, Cincinnati has an economy that, along with top employers like Kroger, makes it attractive for recent grads.

Ten percent of Cincy is park land, so the 27 percent millennial population can enjoy plenty of time outdoors. Unemployment in the city is below-average at 4.6 percent, and median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is an affordable $2,138.

No matter where you choose to move after graduation, make sure you do some research. Above all, have fun and make the most of wherever you land your first big job.

sarah landrum head shotAbout the author: Sarah Landrum is a graduate from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also a member of the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum



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