Top 10 Up-and-Coming Cities for College Grads

Top 10 Up-and-Coming Cities for College Grads

You’ve attended your last lecture, turned in final exams, and thrown your cap in the air to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. College is over, and it’s time to decide what your next step will be in kickstarting your  career and settling into post-grad life.

Moving to a big city might feel like the perfect antidote to college town cabin fever, but their large populations can often mean heavy competition for open positions and high costs for amenities and living expenses. Unemployed and potentially carrying the weight of a student loan, an expensive metropolitan area with an aggressive entry level job market may not be the best option.

We analyzed the nation’s major metropolitan areas based on factors that make them the most desirable to recently graduated job seekers: number of jobs available, percent of available positions that require a bachelor’s degree for consideration, median cost of rent, and percent of 20-24 year olds residing in the area. By combining these factors, we determined the top ten up-and-coming cities for college grads.

1. Sioux Falls, SD

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With a diversified economy and continual growth in its financial and healthcare industries, Sioux Falls is a prime place to start a career. Not only does the city offer varied entry level job opportunities, it also boasts a median rent of $815/mo – that’s about $500 less than the national median. With that big of a savings on rent, residents are free to enjoy the city’s cultural offerings like the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Festival, or a poetry reading hosted by the Sioux Falls Arts Council.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

2. Boise CityNampa, ID


Boise City continues to show positive job growth in its top industries of government, business, and most prominently in its tech industry, and our data also shows current availability in entry level marketing positions. Almost half of the positions hiring in Boise City right now require college experience, so a degree is valued highly. And recent grads will be in good company – Boise City is home to an above average population of 20-24 year olds, so there will be plenty of people to check out the local jazz and theatre scene with.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

3. Dayton, OH


Dayton’s top positions are in the research and production of aviation and aerospace technology, still the leading industry in the city where human flight was invented. The economy is also bolstered by healthcare research with several prominent institutions such as the Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering at Dayton. Dayton boasts the lowest median rent of cities on our list at $671/mo, and also ranked highly as a regional cultural hub. Residents spend their leisure time enjoying acclaimed opera and ballet performances, and live music at events like the annual Blues Festival. Safe, scenic biking routes make Dayton a ‘bike friendly’ city, and allow its population to enjoy its natural beauty.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

4. Lincoln, NE


Lincoln’s consistently low unemployment rate and diversified economy are a clear indicator of its strength. Mainly supported by its healthcare sector, Lincoln is also currently hiring for entry level positions in industries ranging from marketing to IT. It holds the highest percentage of early 20’s ages population of any city on our list, and a relatively low cost of living with a median rent $200 cheaper than the nation’s median.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

5. Fort Wayne, IN


Despite an economic depression that skyrocketed unemployment in the 80s, this former ‘Rust Belt’ city has earned the moniker ‘the city that saved itself’ by moving away from a dependence on manufacturing. While production is still a prominent industry in the area, healthcare and insurance have grown and created positions drawing college graduates to the area.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

6. Des MoinesWest Des Moines, IA


Des Moine’s sizeable insurance base maintains a higher than average number of entry level jobs requiring college degrees. In addition to being a powerful force in the financial industry, the city is also politically significant as the home of the first of the Iowa caucuses. Though the median rent is only slightly lower than the national median at $1259/mo, residing in Des Moines gives access to multiple arts centers, the Museum of Discovery, the sights and sounds of the Dayton Celtic Festival, just to name a few local attractions.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

7. Toledo, OH


Toledo has made great strides away from its reputation as a ‘Rust Belt’ city through development of solar energy and other green technologies. In addition to job growth in The Solar Valley industries, Toledo is currently hiring in its healthcare and financial service sectors. Toledo’s cost of living is more than manageable on an entry level salary, and the city offers activities like roller derby, golf, and hiking along scenic trails.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

8. Albuquerque, NM


As the economic hub of New Mexico’s Technology Corridor and one of the top engineering cities in the nation, Albuquerque ranks high on our list of places for recent grads to find work. This desert city draws crowds with its many arts, music, and film festivals, and outdoor activities like rock climbing and hiking trails along the Rio Grande.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

9. OgdenClearfield, UT


Ogden’s financial and government industries dominate the economy with the IRS as the city’s largest employer. Marketing, sales, and education currently rank high in availability of entry level positions. A varied terrain of rivers and mountains offers unlimited opportunities for recreation, and Ogden also hosts a satellite venue of the Sundance Film Festival annually.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

10. Jackson, MS


With a range of successful industries including manufacturing, agriculture, government, and healthcare, a strikingly low median rent of $889/mo, and a variety of cultural offerings, it’s no wonder that Jackson has earned the nickname ‘The Best of the New South.’ A strong economy kept Jackson relatively secure during the national recession, and the importance of recreation and culture in the area evident in its ballet, opera, and arts scenes has helped maintain a high quality of life in the region.

Top 5 Industries and their most available entry level position:

Written by

Kylie Anderson is an L.A.-based writer who covered employment trends for the ZipRecruiter blog.

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