The Top 10 Smartest Cities In America

These 10 cities have the highest percentage of residents who have earned a college degree

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

Top Ten Smartest Cities
Top Ten Smartest Cities

If you’re picking a team for a tournament of “Jeopardy” champions, you might want to try Seattle. That’s where, by some measures, you’ll find the brainiest folks in the country.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Seattle has the largest percentage of adults with a college degree – 53%.

The ranking atop the list of smartest cities in America was a jump for Seattle. In 2010, the Emerald City held the ninth spot with 37% of the population possessing a degree, according to the CNN Money website.

Find a Program for You

Get MatchedU.S. News University Directory can match you with online programs that meet your criteria in a few simple steps.

At the other end of the range, the bottom 10 cities had an average of 17% of the population with a college degree, according to the rankings in a article. Five of the bottom ten cities were in California.

A common trait of the Top 10 Smartest U.S. cities was the large selection of colleges and universities, so there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who might want to keep up with their Brainiac neighbors or compete for jobs in these cities. Each also has a large number of institutes and schools.

Here’s a quick glance at the smartest U.S. cities.

1. Seattle (53% with a college degree). Home of Microsoft and Boeing, along with other corporate headquarters, the highly-caffeinated city has at least five colleges or universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees and another five community colleges with associate’s degree programs.

Among them is the University of Washington, which offers programs that include business, public health, performing arts, environmental studies, nursing and liberal arts. Alternatively, Antioch University in Seattle is a small school with highly individualized majors at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

2. San Francisco (50% with a college degree). A center for the banking and defense industries, San Francisco also is close to IQ-rich Silicon Valley, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Closer to the city itself, you’ll find at least a half dozen schools offering graduate and undergraduate degree programs, including San Francisco State University with nearly 100 bachelor’s degree programs, the University of San Francisco which offers online Internet Marketing courses and the mammoth City College of San Francisco with 11 campuses and associate’s degrees in fields including business, physical education, science and math.

3. Raleigh (50% with a college degree). The high-tech Research Triangle Park provides a major financial and employment engine with more than 100 agencies and companies employing nearly 40,000, according to

The city also isn’t far from nearby campuses of major universities such as North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Raleigh is also home to smaller schools, such as Meredith College, a small, private and independent women’s college with about 2,000 students and bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

4. Washington, DC (45% with a college degree). In the nation’s capital, government employment directly or indirectly fuels its economy. Nearly 50 of the major Fortune 500 companies have offices there, according to Also, the city is home to more than 500 printing and publishing companies fed by government documents, the website said.

You'll find a dozen colleges and universities in Washington, including Georgetown University, Howard University, George Washington University and American University with graduate and undergraduate programs.

[Browse Top Distance Learning MBA Programs Now]

In addition you’ll find smaller private colleges such as Trinity Washington University and Catholic University of America.

5. Austin (44% with a college degree).Benefitting from its role as capital of Texas and a technology hub, Austin is attracting pharmaceutical and biotech businesses, according to

The University of Texas at Austin provides a major education and economic force with more than 15 individual schools including engineering, law, linguistics, psychology and public affairs. It also has strong programs in bioengineering and nanotechnology.

ustin is also home to smaller institutions such as Concordia University affiliated with the Lutheran Church with degrees such as business administration and environmental science. Austin Community College and other schools offer associate’s degrees.

6. Minneapolis (43% with a college degree). Finance and manufacturing are among the major economic foundations in this half of the Twin Cities, according to, with more than a dozen top Fortune 500 companies using the two cities as a headquarters. The site also said Minneapolis is the financial center of the upper Midwest.

The main college is the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with programs in law, medicine, allied health, dentistry and veterinary medicine. There also are smaller schools such as Augsburg College with degree offerings that include English, film, American Indian studies and nursing.

In addition at least five institutions in Minneapolis offer associate’s degrees.

7. Atlanta (43% with a college degree). Atlanta is the economic center of the South with Coca Cola the first corporate name that comes to mind. But BellSouth, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, UPS, and Georgia-Pacific all have headquarters in the city, according to

It’s also home to three education powerhouses, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. The city has more than 40 institutions that offer programs from certificates to doctorate degrees, said.

You can also find smaller schools such as Morehouse College, an all-male historically African-American school, Clark Atlanta University or The Art Institute of Atlanta.

8. Boston (41% with a college degree). One of the nation’s most history-steeped cities, Boston has evolved from manufacturing to a major finance, insurance and tourism center, though shoes and textiles still play a role in the city’s economy, according to

Some of the country’s top universities are established in Boston including Boston University, which has almost 20 schools and colleges, and Tufts and Harvard universities that have medical schools in Boston. There also is Emerson College, which offers communication and fine arts programs, and Emanuel College, with programs such as fine arts and social justice.

9. San Diego (40% with a college degree). Another California city by a bay, San Diego’s harbor is its economic cornerstone. Home of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, military spending is one of the main financial engines, though tourism plays a major role, also.

San Diego is home to three major universities: University of California at San Diego, a public research university; San Diego State with 200 programs from bachelor’s degree to doctorate; and the University of San Diego with more than 30 graduate programs.

San Diego Mesa College, San Diego City College and San Diego Miramar College are among the smaller schools that offer certificate and associate’s degrees.

[Get a Free Financial Aid Guide and FASFA Form Now]

10. Lexington (40% with a college degree). This is a down-to-earth city with horse breeding and agriculture among the major economic forces, said, though the tourist draw of horse racing also is a large factor.

Lexington is home to the University of Kentucky with undergraduate and graduate degrees in the arts, humanities, sciences, business and professional studies. There also are smaller schools such as Transylvania University and the Cooper campus of the Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

Featured Schools Offering Degrees in Liberal Arts

We recommend