Top 10 Cities for College Grads to Find Jobs

Author: Lauren Ross

happy group of university graduates at graduation ceremony

College flies by for most grads. One day you’re moving your belongings into the freshman dorm, and the next day, you’re turning your tassel on your graduation cap – recalling all the hard work you put in for this special moment. Now that the graduation parties are wrapping up and the “Thank You” cards have been sent out, it’s time to sit down and begin applying for your first post-college job.

Fortunately, the economy is in a better state than it was five or six years ago.  Last month’s (April) unemployment rate reached 5.4%, which is considered healthy for the economy. This year’s job market looks to be a bright one, with 97% of employers looking to hire at least one new grad, according to a Michigan State University survey of 5,700 companies.

But where is the best place for a grad to find and secure a new job? Is it better to stay in the city I graduated in or relocate? Nerdwallet has analyzed 100 of the nation’s largest cities and then ranked them according to the ones with the most prosperous opportunities. They tracked trends and incorporated factors that could influence grads in the job market. These factors included affordability of the city, entry level income, and percentage of millennial cohorts in the area.

Below are the top 10 cities for college grads to find employment in 2015:

1. Madison, WI

Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is a huge university town – home to the University of Wisconsin — that makes the number one spot in NerdWallet’s “Best Places for Recent Grads to Find Jobs” list for 2015. The millennials, young people ages 20 to 29, make up just over a quarter of Madison’s population. With its comparatively low unemployment rate to the national average, Madison has become a prime center for job opportunities. The city is continuing its growth in the healthcare, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing divisions.

  • Millennial population: 25.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 29.4%
  • Median income for college grads: $44,510

2. Arlington, VA

Residents of Arlington, Virginia are a well-educated bunch, with 34.3% having a bachelor’s degree. Arlington has a large millennial population and a low unemployment rate. Though many residents of Arlington commute to Washington D.C. for work, there are many employers right in the community, such as Accenture and Deloitte.

  • Millennial population: 22.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 34.3%
  • Median income for college grads: $64,957

3. Minneapolis, MN

College grads are flocking to Minneapolis for a chance to work at some of the top grossing corporations in Minnesota. The greater Minneapolis/St. Paul region is home to 18 Fortune 500 companies per capita – that’s more than any other metro region in the United States. The Twin Cities region has been recognized as one of the “best places to live” and has a large cohort of millennials.

  • Millennial population: 22.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.3%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 29.3%
  • Median income for college grads: $45,688

4. Boston, MA

Young professionals are driven to Boston because of its active social scene and large wages. Boston has a huge amount of bars, exquisite restaurants, professional sports teams, and the city is completely walkable – a super convenience for downtown workers. The city’s top industries include healthcare, education, insurance and finance.  Just last year, Boston drew in $4.4 billion venture-capital investments – ranking just behind San Francisco and San Jose, according to National Venture Capital Association.

  • Millennial population: 25.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 24%
  • Median income for college grads: $53,275

5. Washington, DC

Arlington’s neighbor comes in at #5, four places south of last year’s top status. Though the cost of living in Washington D.C. is high, it’s offset by huge wages for graduates. Our nation’s capital has a large percentage of the employed working in management, government, business, and science and art positions.  The job market in D.C. is also more immune to recessions than other cities because of the large number of government job opportunities.

  • Millennial population: 21.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 23%
  • Median income for college grads: $60,833

6. Seattle, WA

Seattle is a very smart city, with 34.5% of residents 25 and up having obtained a bachelor’s degree. Seattle is a great city for graduates who studied technology, engineering, science, and math, since the city’s top industries include aerospace, information and clean technology, as well as healthcare. Top employers of The Emerald City include Boeing, Microsoft, and the University of Washington – which also produce the most grads in Seattle. Other companies located or headquartered in Seattle include the following: Providence Health and Services, Amazon, Starbucks, and Nordstrom Inc.

  • Millennial population: 19.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 34.5%
  • Median income for college grads: $51,938

7. Austin, TX

A low cost of living and small unemployment rate makes Austin a perfect city for job opportunities. Austin is rapidly growing in the tech industry, and has even adopted the nickname “Silicon Hills” – a take on California’s Silicon Valley. The city is home to major tech players, like Dell and IBM, and also has an active arts and science industry. The job market in Austin is very strong and ideal for graduates pursuing positions in the technology field.

  • Millennial population: 20.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 29.3%
  • Median income for college grads: $45,377

8. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate on the list. Most economic activity derives from the service and manufacturing industries. The largest employer of Lincoln is the Federal and State government. Other top employers include Lincoln Public Schools, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Bryan Health. Lincoln is an affordable city, which makes it a hotspot for recent grads.

  • Millennial population: 19.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 2.5%
  • Population 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree: 23.8%
  • Median income for college grads: $41,566

9. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta’s economy is growing because of its diverse set of industries. Top leading industries include trade, transportation, health and business services, government, and education, with its most recent and successful venture into the movie and film business. Atlanta has a huge population of millennials, which stem from the many local universities in the area, such as Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Emory University/Emory Healthcare.  Many Fortune 500 companies are Atlanta-based, including Delta Airlines, The Coca-Cola Company, and The Home Depot.

  • Millennial population: 21.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.4%
  • Population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree: 28.3%
  • Median income for college grads: $51,115

10. Lubbock, TX

Lubbock, Texas has a prospering economy because of its many industries. The Largest employers of the city are Texas Tech University, Covenant Health Systems, Lubbock School District, and University Medical Systems.  The Hub City also attracts millennials because of its affordability and relatively low unemployment rate.

  • Millennial population: 22.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.0%
  • Population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree: 18.3%
  • Median income for college grads: $42,084

See NerdWallet’s complete list of cities and their affordability. If you’re thinking about moving to a new apartment because of your job, then start your search today with Apartment Finder!