Deciding where to lay the foundation for a long and prosperous career can be a tall order, especially for recent graduates entering the job market for the first time. After all, there are many factors — job-market saturation, housing affordability and commuter-friendliness, for instance — to consider about each prospective area.
Fortunately, new graduates are entering the market at a good time, as there is currently an employment shortage and many places are eager to hire. In fact, employers plan to hire 14.7% more graduates from the Class of 2023 than they did from the Class of 2022.
In order to help new graduates start their search for a career, WalletHub compared the relative market strength and overall livability of more than 180 U.S. cities to help recent college graduates find the best cradles for their budding careers. We examined each city based on 26 key metrics that range from the availability of entry-level jobs to monthly average starting salary to housing affordability.
Best Cities to Start a Career
|Overall Rank||City||Total Score||Professional Opportunities||Quality of Life|
|3||Salt Lake City, UT||63.54||8||6|
|15||St. Louis, MO||57.97||9||57|
|20||Grand Rapids, MI||56.56||18||32|
|22||Overland Park, KS||56.09||24||27|
|30||Colorado Springs, CO||54.25||32||36|
|35||Rapid City, SD||53.18||35||48|
|37||Oklahoma City, OK||52.95||30||68|
|41||Des Moines, IA||52.46||48||49|
|43||St. Petersburg, FL||52.38||37||60|
|46||Fort Lauderdale, FL||52.27||28||86|
|49||Sioux Falls, SD||51.98||69||35|
|56||Kansas City, MO||50.86||55||71|
|58||San Francisco, CA||50.67||125||16|
|59||Cedar Rapids, IA||50.61||73||51|
|60||St. Paul, MN||50.60||100||29|
|61||Fort Worth, TX||50.59||50||80|
|69||South Burlington, VT||49.98||89||45|
|72||San Diego, CA||49.72||113||28|
|82||West Valley City, UT||48.20||84||84|
|85||Las Vegas, NV||48.00||120||46|
|87||Little Rock, AR||47.72||47||137|
|91||New Orleans, LA||47.21||68||128|
|92||Virginia Beach, VA||47.07||127||56|
|93||Fort Wayne, IN||47.06||60||130|
|94||San Antonio, TX||47.02||112||77|
|98||Baton Rouge, LA||46.68||80||121|
|108||San Bernardino, CA||45.99||70||148|
|111||New Haven, CT||45.85||102||106|
|112||San Jose, CA||45.83||133||64|
|129||Jersey City, NJ||43.98||167||43|
|130||Fort Smith, AR||43.91||94||155|
|131||El Paso, TX||43.81||141||95|
|133||Grand Prairie, TX||43.63||103||150|
|139||Port St. Lucie, FL||43.04||93||173|
|145||Los Angeles, CA||41.99||154||114|
|146||Las Cruces, NM||41.98||173||67|
|147||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||41.78||163||100|
|148||Corpus Christi, TX||41.73||145||134|
|149||Pearl City, HI||41.64||155||117|
|152||Newport News, VA||41.26||130||167|
|157||Huntington Beach, CA||40.72||174||88|
|159||Santa Rosa, CA||40.41||135||172|
|161||Santa Ana, CA||39.99||156||145|
|164||Garden Grove, CA||39.22||179||99|
|166||Cape Coral, FL||38.91||166||151|
|167||Chula Vista, CA||38.88||164||162|
|170||Pembroke Pines, FL||38.80||159||170|
|172||Long Beach, CA||38.50||171||139|
|175||Moreno Valley, CA||37.81||162||176|
|177||North Las Vegas, NV||36.99||175||165|
|178||Santa Clarita, CA||36.05||180||161|
|182||New York, NY||33.29||181||174|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that city, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
- T-1. Austin, TX
- T-1. Houston, TX
- T-1. Fort Worth, TX
- T-1. Durham, NC
- T-1. Tacoma, WA
- 178. Gulfport, MS
- 179. Anchorage, AK
- T-180. Honolulu, HI
- T-180. Pearl City, HI
- T-180. Juneau, AK
- 1. Orlando, FL
- 2. Columbia, SC
- 3. St. Louis, MO
- 4. Salt Lake City, UT
- 5. Cincinnati, OH
- 178. Garden Grove, CA
- 179. Los Angeles, CA
- 180. Moreno Valley, CA
- 181. Santa Clarita, CA
- 182. New York, NY
- 1. Miami, FL
- 2. Wilmington, DE
- 3. Providence, RI
- 4. Bridgeport, CT
- 5. Lewiston, ME
- 178. Shreveport, LA
- 179. Portland, ME
- 180. Montgomery, AL
- 181. South Burlington, VT
- 182. Gulfport, MS
- 1. Cedar Rapids, IA
- 2. Fort Wayne, IN
- 3. Des Moines, IA
- 4. Overland Park, KS
- 5. Columbia, MD
- 178. Boston, MA
- 179. Miami, FL
- T-180. Los Angeles, CA
- T-180. Glendale, CA
- 182. New York, NY
- 1. Seattle, WA
- 2. Boston, MA
- 3. Denver, CO
- T-4. Washington, DC
- T-4. Jersey City, NJ
- T-4. Tempe, AZ
- 178. Hialeah, FL
- 179. Pembroke Pines, FL
- 180. Gilbert, AZ
- 181. Peoria, AZ
- 182. Cape Coral, FL
Ask The Experts
Choosing a career path can be just as challenging as finding a place in which to settle down. To help job seekers with such decisions, we turned to a panel of experts for their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What can city policymakers and corporations do to attract and retain recent graduates?
- Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?
- What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?
- In choosing a city to start a career, what are the top 5 indicators?
- What will the entry-level job market look like in 2023?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best cities in which to launch a career, WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across two key dimensions, “Professional Opportunities” and “Quality of Life.” Our sample considers only city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.
We evaluated the two dimensions using 26 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for job-market entrants.
We then determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Professional Opportunities – Total Points: 70
- Availability of Entry-Level Jobs: Double Weight (~9.66 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of entry-level jobs per 100,000 residents aged 16 and older.
- 4+ Star Company Jobs per Total People in Labor Force: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of full time job opportunities at companies with 4+ stars on Glassdoor.com per the total number of people in the labor force.
- Monthly Average Starting Salary: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Annual Job Growth Rate: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for population growth.
- Median-Income Growth Rate: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
- Share of Workers in Poverty: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
- Workforce Diversity: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
- Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
- Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
- Employer-Based Retirement Access & Participation: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Note: It’s important for employees to have access to an employer-based retirement plan.
Workers in the United States accumulate the vast majority of their retirement savings through employer-based plans, but large gaps in coverage exist. Pew’s analysis shows that more than 30 million workers report they do not have access to an employer-based retirement plan.
The analysis focuses on full-time, full-year, private sector wage and salary workers, ages 18 to 64.
- Job Satisfaction: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Note: This metric is based on The Indeed Job Happiness Index 2016.
- Career Counselors per 1,000 Workers: Half Weight (~2.41 Points)
- Entrepreneur-Friendliness: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best Large Cities to Start a Business” ranking.
- MSA GDP Growth Rate: Full Weight (~4.83 Points)
Quality of Life – Total Points: 30
- Median Annual Income: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Average Length of Work Week (in Hours): Half Weight (~1.36 Points)
- Commuter-Friendly Jobs: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of jobs accessible by a 30-minute transit ride per total civilian employed population.
- Average Commute Time (in Minutes): Half Weight (~1.36 Points)
- Share of Population Aged 25 to 34: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Share of Millennial Newcomers: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with at Least a Bachelor’s Degree: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Projected Population Growth (2046 vs. 2016): Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Fun-Friendliness: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Most Fun Cities in America” ranking.
- Family-Friendliness: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Families” ranking.
- Singles-Friendliness: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Singles” ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Indeed.com, Glassdoor, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Council for Community & Economic Research, United States Conference of Mayors, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Center for Neighborhood Technology and WalletHub research.