Top 5 Cities for Recent College Graduates

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You’ve done it — after four years of working hard, studying late, and balancing more than one part-time job, you’re graduating from college. Congratulations!

Now what?

Before the ink is dry on your diploma, you’re going to be thinking about getting a job. Those student loans won’t pay for themselves and you’re probably excited about the possibility of landing a “real” position and starting adult life. If you’re like most recent college graduates, you may be moving to find work. Your ideal job might not be in the college town where you’ve spent the last few years, or you might want a fresh start in a new city.

What to Think About When Choosing a City for Post-College Life

You don’t want to move just anywhere for a job. Where you choose to work will have a big impact on how you live, your chances of snagging career-boosting work, and even how happy you are. The four big factors you’ll want to consider before you call in the moving trucks are:

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1) The Economy

Look for a city with a strong economy and lots of businesses to give you the best chance of finding work. A strong economy means more open positions and can mean better pay, too, since companies need to attract workers. While your chances of getting a job are better with a degree than without one, unemployment for college graduates in the 20-24 age range is still 7.2%. That’s better than the 14.7% high school graduates in the same age range face, but there’s still plenty of competition and no guarantee you’ll find a job, so going where the work is makes sense if you like to eat.

2) The Amenities and Nightlife

You won’t just be working in a new city — you’ll be living there, too, and that means you’ll want a city where you can enjoy your time off. Look for a place with fun things to do and a place where you’ll enjoy hanging out with the new friends you meet. A community with nightlife, good health care, and everything else you need makes a big difference.

3) The Culture and Demographics

Sure, you may be offered a great job in the middle of nowhere, but if you’re one of only three people under the age of 30 and there’s no diversity in the silver-haired population, you’re not going to be very happy (no matter how sweet the gig is). You’ll be out of luck when it comes to a support system, dating pool, or just like-minded people who understand your witty comments.

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4) The Affordability

This country owes about $1.2 trillion in college loans. If you’re one of the 2014 graduates carrying the average $33,000 in student loans at graduation (or more), those loan payments are going to be cutting into your paychecks. You might love the idea of living in places like New York City or Los Angeles, but those cities are also incredibly expensive. Unless you’re willing to live with five roommates, or manage to get an amazing career straight out of school, payday won’t take you very far.

Best Places to Move if You’re A Recent College Grad

So where can you move where employers are looking to hire, the economy is strong, and the culture ensures you’ll enjoy your time off? Five cities make the grade:

1) Boston, MA4-Boston-Millenials

Let’s start right at the top. Boston is a big city ranking high for lifestyle, affordability, diversity, and economy. Living in Boston is easy. About 33% of the population was made up of millennials in 2014, so there’s a sizeable pool of people who’ll understand your references and will be fun to hang around on a random Friday night. And you’ll probably have decent conversations, too, since about 44.5% of the Boston population has a college degree.

If you’re straight out of college and looking to snag a great job, you’ll adore the job market in Boston. Checking out jobs in Boston is a snap, since there are plenty of companies hiring. For every 1000 residents, there were 837 jobs in 2014, and the unemployment rate that year was 4.9%. The average earnings for people in the 22-35 age range might really get your attention, though — in 2015, this age group had an average salary of $58,040. That’s great for your first few jobs.

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Boston jobs are plentiful and diverse. If you’re looking for the best jobs in Boston, you have plenty of industries to choose from. There are 12 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Boston and the rest of Massachusetts and these include major financial conglomerates, insurance giants, and brokerage firms. Boston also has about 65 accredited colleges, universities, and other schools of higher learning, as well as many high schools, so if you’re interested in teaching or academia, you’ll have plenty of choices.

Top industries in Boston include the healthcare, social services, professional, education and tech fields. Social assistance and health care fields accounted for 18.7% of the city’s jobs in 2014. Major employers in Boston and the surrounding areas include Massachusetts General Hospital, Liberty Mutual, and Deloitte Development LLC.

And if you want to live in Boston but look beyond the city for jobs, you’ll also enjoy plenty of communities with strong work markets. Business Insider has ranked Massachusetts as the #1 state for college grads looking to increase their chances of landing a job. In 2015, there were 94,600 online job ads seeking diploma holders, so there’s a strong job market. About 63% of all employers looking for workers online in Massachusetts wanted someone with a college education, so your new degree is something in demand.

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Once you’ve found a job, you’ll have to get down to the serious business of living, and this is another area where Boston excels. Compared to most other large cities, Boston is also affordable. A 2-bedroom in Boston in 2014 came with a median rent of $4,498. For millennials, the average rent was $1,680. Considering how much the starting salary is in the city, that means you can keep more dollars in your pocket for other expenses.

Since Boston is a larger city, there’s also a ton to see and do. There are lots of walking trails and greens spaces, so you can stay in shape and even ditch the car (saving even more money). In fact, only 19.8% of the city is dependent on a car to get around. With about 2.33 bars and restaurants per 1000 residents, you’ll always be able to find a great new place for dinner or drinks.

When you work and live in Boston, you’ll never be bored. You can head to Fenway Park to watch a Red Sox game, shop at Quincy market, walk through Copley Square, see a show in the Theater District, attend the famous St. Patrick’s Day parade, or just take in the sights. With a concentrated downtown area, you can easily walk or bike through the downtown core. Outside the downtown core, a comprehensive and affordable mass transit system — including a subway — is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, making it easy to access all parts of the city.

2) Austin, TX

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Known as a city of artists and college students, Austin has a sizeable population of millennials. About 29% of the city is made up of residents between the age of 20 and 34. With a young and creative population, it’s no surprise how many people love living in Austin.

Maybe one of the biggest draws of Austin is its culture and lifestyle. The city has long had a campaign to “keep Austin weird” to encourage small and offbeat businesses. While the city has grown quickly in the last few years, it continues to keep its arts and its independent stores. South by Southwest has grown to be one of the biggest arts and music festivals in the country, and Austin is also home to many art galleries, conferences, film events, and more.

Finding a job in Austin is relatively easy, although the market is competitive. While the unemployment rate is low at 3.7%, the job market is pretty well saturated, with about 66 jobs, on average, posted for every 1000 residents in 2014. That can mean some pretty stiff competition when it’s time to spiff up your resume.

Austin’s major employers are Apple, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Xerox, and Advanced Micro Devices, with many jobs in the tech, software, engineering, computing, and research and development fields. Austin is sometimes called “Silicon Hills” because of the many tech and computing jobs in the region. Biotech, pharmaceutical, and educational jobs are also plentiful in the community.

However, with a strong arts scene there are also many creatives in the area and many jobs in the arts available. There are many small businesses hiring in the area as well, since there are so many independent companies here. Many residents in Austin have a “day job” to pay the bills and pursue creative work on the side.

The cost of living in Austin is reasonable, with a 2-bedroom rental carrying a median price of $1,656 in 2014. With a mild climate, you might also save on winter heating costs, leaving you more cash to take in the live music scene. Capital Metro mass transit is also very reasonable, allowing you to get around for just a few dollars a day.

Many of the activities in Austin are affordable and fun. Unwind by swimming at Barton Springs or by checking out Lake Travis or Lake Austin. Check out Zilker Park, one of the city’s many barbecue spots, or the live music playing pretty much everywhere (including at diners and your local grocery store). Take in a University of Texas Longhorns game or one of the local theater productions.

3) Washington, DC

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About 29% of the population in 2014 was between the ages of 20 and 43 in 2014, so this is a youthful city. For every 1000 residents, there were about 78 open jobs, making it a decent job market, and the unemployment rate was below the national average at 4.9%. Renting a two-bedroom apartment carried a median price tag of $3,287.

Not surprisingly, one of the major employers of the nation’s capital is the government. If you’re looking for a job in government, law, civil service, politics, or law enforcement, Washington DC is a great place to be.

In the past, Washington DC has had a reputation for crime. Efforts to reduce violent crime have been underway for years, but the problem still persists. The city sees about 8,406 violent crimes and 31,083 property crimes each year. By September 2015, Washington DC had already recorded its 100th homicide of the year. While Chicago had had 284 murders by the same period, the incidents sparked a renewed interest in safety.

Washington, DC still offers a great lifestyle and many amenities. The city has more free museums than just about any region in the country, and the nation’s most impressive monuments can be found in the area. Walking around and taking it all in is something both tourists and residents enjoy. In fact, Washington is very much a walking and biking city. If you live and work here, be sure to check out all 2,000 acres of Rock Creek Park. When your feet need a rest, visit one of the many restaurants, take in a show at the Kennedy Center, or check out one of the many live music venues across the city.

4) Iowa City, IA

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Iowa City is affordable and diverse for a city of 139,000. The economy in Iowa City is also strong, especially if you’re in the tech fields. With an unemployment rate of only 3% in 2015, the average grad that year earned $42,511 per year — not bad for the start of your career.

The cornerstone of the city is the University of Iowa, which is a major employer in the area. Whether you’re interested in teaching, administrative work, research, or academia, the University of Iowa offers many jobs across various fields. In addition to the university, major employers in the city include Oral B Laboratories and Procter & Gamble.

One point of interest is the Writer’s Workshop at the university, considered by some to be among the best in the country. It has attracted many writers and creatives from all over the world, meaning there are some arts and educational writing jobs in the area, especially for Pearson and ACT, both major employers in the city. Writing is so important in the city that Iowa City has been declared one of UNESCO’s Cities of Literature. It is one of only 20 cities in the world to have this distinction and it’s the only US city (as of 2015) to make the list.

Iowa City is small and much of the culture is focused around the university, which might not be ideal for all young professionals. Nevertheless, there are many things to see and do in the area, including annual jazz and music festivals, live theater, and the natural sights of Lake MacBride and Coralville Lake.

When you live and work in Iowa City you can also access a very educated population — more than 45% of adults in the city have a college education. With Kirkwood Community College and the university right in town, it’ll be easy to brush up your resume and continue your education, and the university and college offer plenty of services and amenities you can enjoy.

5) Ann Arbor, MI

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Close to both Ohio and Detroit, Ann Arbor is known for being a pedestrian-friendly college town. It is known for being friendly and for having a strong arts scene, making it an attractive place to live and work. In fact, Ann Arbor consistently ranks among the best places to live, work, or study in the country. With a population of over 110,000, it is a smaller city but still offers many amenities.

The economy in Ann Arbor is promising. In 2014, more than 93% of millennials living in Ann Arbor had a job. With strong life sciences, software, and automotive research industries, it is especially a hot spot for tech jobs. Top employers include Toyota Technical Center, Google, Thomson Reuters, the University of Michigan, and Trinity Health, and there are also many small businesses in the city.

Ann Arbor’s cost of living is about 3% under the national rate. As a college town, there are also plenty of affordable things to see and do in the city. Take in a Michigan Wolverines game, walk through the Matthei Botanical Gardens (or one of the other 146 parks in the region), or just walk along the downtown area. Take in the crowds outside Michigan Stadium on game day or view a new film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Ann Arbor also has many independent eateries, galleries, and theaters to experience and is known for having many bookstores, so you’ll always have something to read for your morning commute.

Ann Arbor also has a fun side. It’s been ranked the best city for singles and has plenty of restaurants, art galleries, and festivals to attend. With about 21,145 millennials in 2014, there’ll also be plenty of people you can spend time with. The median age of Ann Arbor is 27, so when you move here you’ll be able to easily meet people your age.

Are You Ready to Move?

If you’re a recent graduate and are wondering where to move for a job, check out a range of cities. From larger cities to smaller towns, the country has many employers looking for people with your degree and your unique skills. Don’t be afraid to expand your search past your college town.

When trying to decide whether to move for a position, consider the following:

  • The costs of moving (including the cost of movers, security deposits on an apartment, and utilities set up)
  • The challenges of developing a new support system and friend network
  • The excitement of a new place and new opportunities
  • The job you’re considering moving for (Is it long-term? Will it lead to new things? Is it a position you’re excited about?)
  • Your long-term goals
  • Housing options

Ultimately, you’re the one who gets to decide whether moving is worth it for you. Carefully consider the job market, affordability, and the lifestyle you can enjoy in your new job and new town.

If you do decide to come to Boston for work, make sure you land a great apartment. If you’d like some help finding a great property where you can live and entertain as you get started on your career, contact Boston Luxe, or take a look at places to rent or buy in Boston. We can help you find a comfortable apartment or property to get you started on your exciting new post-college life. Whether you want a trendy loft to express your style or a luxury condo to help you entertain your new work colleagues, Boston Luxe is the professional team who will listen to your needs and work with you to find the ideal place for you to unwind after a long day.

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