There are many considerations for recent college grads looking for the best place to launch their careers.
Rising costs of living and the changing nature of the American workforce since the pandemic have caused once-popular cities like New York and San Francisco to lose their allure for recent college graduates.
Many recent graduates are weighing their options, wondering whether to remain in their current fields or seek out opportunities elsewhere, thanks to the growing popularity of hybrid and remote work models among employers.
It can be overwhelming to choose one of the many promising new centers for young professionals popping up across the country. The insurance company Insurify has published a list of the best cities for recent college grads to settle in, broken down by state, based on a variety of factors like cost of living, unemployment rate, and general attractiveness.
According to Insurify, a city’s cost of living, accessibility to other modes of transportation, and quality of life are all crucial considerations for young professionals just starting out.
These are the top places for recent college grads to settle down.
Best cities for college graduates
Minneapolis, Minnesota, consistently ranks in the top three of all categories for college grads. Rent and median income are both relatively low in the Twin Cities, earning them “B” grades, while the area’s low unemployment rate earns it an “A,” making it an attractive place for rising stars to start their careers without breaking the bank. The number of restaurants per 100,000 people in Minneapolis also earned an A. This city is the class valedictorian because it excels in every category we evaluated.
Columbus is attractive to recent college grads because of its low rent prices, despite the fact that its median income ranking is in the lower half of our range. One-bedroom apartments in Columbus cost an average of $925 per month to rent. The young population (18-34) and the population of people aged 25 with a bachelor’s degree both scored “A”s in Columbus, making it a great place for young professionals to gather. With a median annual income of $32,108, Columbus only managed a “C” in the category of young adults (25 and under).
This sunny city is a destination of choice for young people. Even though Phoenix has an above-average youth population, low unemployment rate, and high number of college graduates, it remains in sixth place. Phoenix is a C student overall, with “C”s in the categories of restaurants per capita and total population. There’s most certainly room for development.
With the proliferation of tech startups in the area, Raleigh, North Carolina has become a magnet for young professionals. We give Raleigh high marks for its low unemployment rate of 4.3%. Raleigh, North Carolina, comes in at number seven on our list because it has a median monthly rent of only $1,158 and a high number of job opportunities for recent college graduates.
For the fourth year running, Cincinnati tops the list of cities for recent college grads. With a population of over 300,000, this city ranks #5 for affordability and #4 for fun. When looking at specific categories, Cincinnati ranks fourth for best bars and tenth for best restaurants on Yelp. Cincinnati has the seventh-lowest cost of living ($22,721) and the sixth-lowest median rent ($635) among all of the places we looked. These figures account for the price of food, housing, transportation, healthcare, and other necessities of daily life. The percentage of the population that is comprised of people aged 20 to 29 ranks 15th highest in our sample.
St. Louis, MO
Thanks in large part to average bar and restaurant Yelp scores that are among the top 15, St. Louis has the sixth-highest fun rating across our study. Meanwhile, relative to other places we looked at, the city is relatively inexpensive. St. Louis has the ninth-lowest median monthly rent at $659 and the 18th-lowest cost of living at $23,462.
On Yelp, restaurants in Indianapolis rank number four, while bars in the city have the second-highest average score. Indianapolis has the nineteenth-lowest median monthly rent in our sample, coming in at $734. A bachelor’s degree holder in this city has a 2.3% lower chance of being unemployed than the national average.
With 23.45% of its population between the ages of 20 and 29, Pittsburgh is fourth in the nation for its youthful demographic. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has a 19th-lowest cost of living ($23,463) and the 22nd-most job listings on Indeed (4,110), and is home to two prestigious universities.
Birmingham has the fifth-lowest median rent in our sample, at just $631 per month, compared to the other 113 cities we looked at. The city also has the sixth-highest average score for restaurants on Yelp and the eleventh-highest average score for bars. Birmingham also has a low unemployment rate, ranking 12th lowest in the country in March 2022, when 2.5% of the labor force was unemployed.
Amsterdam is a fantastic place to live for graduates, and not just because it is a cultural mecca. One of the best things about living in a city is that you can get around quickly and easily on two wheels. Not having to worry about the high cost of maintaining a vehicle is a huge bonus for someone just starting out in their career. The city’s thriving tech startup community is another major draw. The 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 includes eighty companies founded in the Netherlands. So, if you want to work in the tech industry, Amsterdam is a great place to start.
Manchester, like Glasgow, does a fantastic job of keeping its college grads. Manchester’s average starting salary may be lower than in other UK cities, at £20,870, but the city has many other advantages. Manchester is a more cost-effective option than London because of its lower living expenses. Jobs in the media, the sciences, and the financial industry are plentiful in the city as well. Manchester’s nightlife and cultural offerings are additional draws for recent college grads.
Young graduates won’t feel out of place in Perth, where nearly half of the population is under 30. But there are many other features that make it appealing to young working adults. Perth is a popular destination for recent college graduates because of its pleasant climate, beautiful beaches, abundance of outdoor activities, and convenient public transportation. The city’s low unemployment rate and positive job outlook are also contributing factors.
Stockholm is a fantastic place for recent college grads to launch their technology careers. In addition to Spotify, Stockholm is also home to a plethora of other “unicorns,” or startups with a valuation of over $1 billion. In fact, Stockholm has more unicorns than any other city in the world outside of Silicon Valley. New college grads aren’t the only ones interested in Stockholm because of the city’s track record of startup success. Employees in Sweden are also entitled to a minimum of five weeks of paid leave per year. This means that young professionals who want to work hard without sacrificing their social lives won’t have to choose between the two.
Almost any ranking of the world’s best cities would have to include Vienna. Young professionals, however, will find extra appeal in Vienna. The imperial capital of Austria offers above-average wages and a high employment rate, making it an attractive place to launch a professional career. Vienna is a great place for startups because, in addition to being home to many MNCs, it also has a thriving tech community. There is not a dearth of shared office spaces. After completing your education, Austria may be a good option if you want to launch a business.
When compared to other major cities, Orlando’s low cost of living is especially impressive.
If you’re looking for a place to settle down after you graduate, this is it. It serves as a fitting backdrop for the city’s abundance of amusement parks, many of which offer residents free or heavily discounted admission.
Once you’ve set up permanent residence in Florida, your first order of business should be to visit Disney World and take advantage of the resident discount.
Las Vegas, NV
If finding a city with a thriving restaurant and nightlife scene is a top priority after finishing school, Las Vegas should be on your itinerary.
However, because of the city’s high unemployment rate, you should make sure that there are openings in your field of expertise before relocating to Las Vegas. If you’re lucky enough to land a job in the Silver State, you won’t have to worry about paying state income tax in Nevada.
Salt Lake City, UT
The unemployment rate in Salt Lake City is particularly low, and the cost of living is also quite low.
In fact, the city also boasts a fast-rising employment rate. In addition to its cultural vitality, Salt Lake City is renowned for its stunning natural scenery.
A combination of city life and access to the great outdoors might be what you’re looking for.
Nashville’s low unemployment rate and excellent music scene have contributed to the city’s rapid expansion in recent years.
You can count on experiencing all four seasons in this area, though winters may seem milder if you’re coming from the Northeast or the Midwest. Recent grads have options in Nashville, including working in the country music industry and at major institutions like Vanderbilt University and Nissan North America.
Outdoor activities are popular in Madison, WI, throughout the entire year. A series of lakes offers year-round opportunities for recreation, and outdoor concerts take place during the mild summer months. However, the temperature can fall significantly below zero, so be sure to bring your parkas.
An arboretum, zoo, biking paths, botanical gardens, and other outdoor attractions cater to the city’s active population. This could be an excellent opportunity for those interested in careers dealing with either plants or animals.
You can take advantage of Madison’s thriving library system and the University of Wisconsin – Madison to further your education and professional development if you so choose.
Finally, one of the best places to meet other young people is in Mad City because more than half of its residents are under the age of 34.
Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky (Metro Area)
Although the U.S. Census Bureau classifies Lexington-Fayette as a metropolitan area (and an urban county), it is not technically a city. The chamber of commerce for Lexington-Fayette Urban County, Kentucky, reports that the local economy has weathered the recent economic downturns well. It is also mentioned that the region has received praise for the number of jobs it has created, the number of tech companies it has spawned, and the quality of its schools.
Lexington-Fayette is an attractive location because of its high job growth and stable economy, but it also has an eye on the future. The county is expanding in many different sectors, including healthcare, technology, the environment, and urban and park planning.
If you like nature but want to stay close to civilization, the county has made it a priority to improve the area’s walkability and bikeability.
Food, healthcare, and transportation costs are significantly lower than average in Chandler, Arizona. It also ranked 8th for the most free fun things to do.
As a result, this city is feasible for a recent college grad to live in with the help of a roommate (average rent is higher than in other places).
Niche ranked this area of Phoenix as the fourth best in the state for young professionals. Intel is the largest employer, so if you have a degree in technology, you might find work there.
However, if you have a degree in something else, that shouldn’t put you off. Healthcare, finance, and commerce are all thriving in the city and are always on the lookout for new employees.
The city of Chandler brags about having 330 sunny days per year. You can spend a lot of time outdoors doing things like exploring the exciting downtown, going on hikes, or joining one of the many adult sports leagues available in the area.
In addition, every year they host an Ostrich Festival. So, it seems that there is truly something for everyone in Chandler.
College grads often look to relocate to a new city as they begin their professional lives, but their motivations for doing so vary greatly. Some twenty-somethings can’t wait to leave for a city with a lower cost of living and thus a higher standard of living. Some people will choose to live in a city with a higher cost of living because they value the city’s amenities more than they value saving money.
A recent college grad’s top priority should be getting their financial house in order, regardless of whether they choose to live in a large, expensive metropolis or a smaller, more manageable one.