Hey College Grads: Here Are the Best and Worse Places to Start Your Career

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If there’s one thing recent college graduates are beginning to figure out right about now, it’s that their hometowns may not be the best places to find jobs where they can apply the degrees they just earned.

It would be nice if we could all land high-paying entry-level gigs a few blocks from the homes we grew up in, but it usually doesn’t work out that way.

Instead, graduates from around the country will flock to population centers to begin their careers. While destinations such as New York or Los Angeles will undoubtedly remain popular (perhaps too popular), they might not provide the best opportunities. After extensive research into the market strength and livability of more than 150 U.S. cities, WalletHub broke down the results into the best and worst places to start a career. The full list of 150 cities, ranked by professional opportunities and quality of life, can be viewed here.

Average Starting Salaries

Your days of flipping burgers or ringing up potato chips and tanks of gas are behind you. You want to get paid. Here are the best and worst cities for those concerned about the starting income levels of their new careers. These cities are adjusted for cost of living, so these are the places where each dollar you make will stretch the furthest or the least:


Available Entry-Level Jobs

You certainly wouldn’t want to move to a new city only to find out the job market sucks. You’ll want to go somewhere that has jobs – and lots of them. The following cities have the most and least available entry-level jobs per 100,000 working age residents:


Rate of Job Growth

You’d have to be really lucky to land a job that you’ll stay at the rest of your life on the very first try. And even if you do, living in an area where there’s a lot of hot competitors trying to lure you away will ensure that you get regular raises and are continually offered good benefits packages. These cities boast the highest and lowest job growth:


Affordable Housing

It’s no good landing your dream job if you end up sleeping on a bunk bed and living with eight roommates in a two-bedroom apartment to make it happen. Instead, focus on locating somewhere you can get your own place – or at least only have to deal with a normal amount of roommates. These are the cities that offer the most or least affordable housing:


To sum up, here’s your checklist:

  1. You want to make good money so you can sell your clunker and stop eating macaroni and cheese.
  2. You want to locate yourself somewhere you aren’t competing with a thousand other graduates for every job. (This happened to me when I moved to New York City after college. I don’t recommend it).
  3. You want to go somewhere you can put down roots and still have the option to change careers if your first job doesn’t suit you.
  4. And finally, you want to be able to afford a decent place to live.

It’s all easier said than done, and you may need to sacrifice one or more of these things to get the right first job in your preferred field. For example, if you want to work on the production of Hollywood movies, you will need to go to Los Angeles. If you want to work at one of the Big Five publishers or work at the Stock Exchange, New York is the place for you.

The key to success after college is making sure you have as much information as possible about the jobs you apply to and the areas they are located. Then, do your best to weigh all the pros and cons.

From all of us here at Recruiter.com: Good luck.

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Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.