America's Best Cities for College Graduates

If you're looking for the places where the jobs are most plentiful -- and the lifestyle is accommodating to young adults -- these cities are where you want to look, according to numerous recent rankings.

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

Best of the Best Cities List 2012
Best of the Best Cities List 2012

Finding the best cities for college graduates depends on what’s high on your list. Do you want lots of companies looking to pay solid salaries for workers? Or do you need rent you can afford? Or maybe it’s important to be around others your own age with similar interests and education for networking?

It could be you’re after a place where you’ll be happy.

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There are lots of ways to rank the best cities for young people. Here are some that are constant favorites or sit in the upper tiers of various lists on the best cities for young professionals.

San Francisco

You’ve got the bay on one side and high tech, banking and defense on the other. San Francisco is No. 1 on list that includes looking at commuters using public transportation and money left over after rent. It was third on the rank of easiest places to find a job. It also is the second brainiest city in the country and sixth best for clubbing, according to lists.

San Jose, Calif.

Billing itself as the Capital of Silicon Valley, the city is tops in a list of easiest places to find a job. The ranking is partly based on listings for jobs paying $50,000 and up, and it helps having employers such as eBay, Cisco Systems and Adobe so close. It was second on list of best places for new grads and third on a list that ranked social aspects as well as employment.


Boston is another top city to find jobs that is also a magnet for young, smart people, as well as a city making a successful transition from a manufacturing-base economy to insurance and finance. It appeared third in an article by CNBC that weighed unemployment, cost of living and salaries. The history-rich city is around the middle of the top ten on the list of cities where it is easiest to find jobs and another list on that covers a range of economic factors, like earning potential, along with personal factors. It also is on a list of smartest cities.

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A haven for the high tech industry and a business center, Seattle made the top ten list on the ranking of best places for grads to find a job and list of top cities for recent graduates. It also is in the top ten in the CNBC for best cities. It’s got a low unemployment rate and high average income, the article said. In addition, Seattle supports abundant outdoor recreation and may be the nation’s smartest city -- more than half the population has at least a bachelor’s degree.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is always a place where jobs are available but government isn’t alone in feeding the job market as major corporations have headquarters or a presence there. It is one of the easiest cities to find a job, according to, and it tops the list from as best in the nation for college graduates with one of the country’s top average incomes for new graduates. Law degrees are prized there and the city has the highest ratio of lawyers to residents in the country.


Home to a major university and the Texas state government, Austin is also attracting technology, pharmaceutical and medical employers. In addition to University of Texas, Austin has a number of other smaller colleges and is the location for the headquarters of Dell. More than 40% of the residents have a college degree.

St. Louis

A article citing a study of the happiest places for college graduates put St. Louis on the top, with one of the main factors being how far a paycheck will stretch and the median pay for new graduates. College educated people 25 to 34 are flocking to the urban center of St. Louis more than twice as fast as the national average, according to an article on

Durham, N.C.

Home of Research Triangle Park, which employs more than 40,000 people, Durham was among the top ten on list of best cities for graduates and on the list that rated the city high on the number of creative, technical or professional jobs as well as the percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees or higher.


This city is on the Top 10 of a list of easiest cities to find a job as well as the list on for best places for college grads. The city also did well in a joint study by and that looked at top cities for new graduates. Low unemployment and reasonable rent were factors in placing Minneapolis fourth on the list, as was the average starting salary of $38,500, only slightly below New York.


Relatively close to Washington, Baltimore ranked in the Top 10 on the list of easiest cities to find a job and the list that looked partly at cost of living in ranking the best cities. Baltimore is shifting into employment in service industries and away from heavy manufacturing and steel, the article said. It also has an average income of over $50,000.

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