At this point in your college career, you’re probably no stranger to making important life decisions. From declaring a major to figuring out how to choose a career, you’ve made several big commitments that are going to shape your life and career path after college. (No big deal or anything, right?) But there might be one more key decision you need to make: deciding where to move after you graduate.
While some students are fortunate to have a job lined up after college, others aren’t so lucky. Or maybe they are lucky in a way. After all, the world is your oyster when you aren’t tied down by an irresistible job offer.
If you don’t have a job lined up, consider relocating to one of the following metro areas. We based our picks on factors such as cost of living, the number of job opportunities, and average salaries. And, of course, social activities for when things return to normal.
- Austin, Texas
Live music, incredible food, plentiful career opportunities — Austin clearly isn’t a tough sell for many college grads. Young professionals have been flocking to the city for years, thanks to low housing costs, strong job growth, and a thriving nightlife. Once a sleepy college town, the capital of Texas has become a vibrant city that is now home to several major tech firms, including Oracle Corporation, the company that recently won its bid for U.S. operations of TikTok. Other major industries in the “The Violet City” include advanced manufacturing, space technology, life sciences, and financial services.
- San Jose, California
If you’re currently mapping out a career path in the tech industry, there’s a good chance that Silicon Valley is high on your list of dream places to work. In that case, why not put San Jose on your list of potential new hometowns? Known as “the Capital of Silicon Valley,” San Jose boasts a large number of high-tech companies, including big names like Apple, Adobe, Cisco Systems, eBay, Hewlett Packard, and Microsoft. The cost of living is also significantly lower in San Jose compared to San Francisco, so you’ll get more bang for your buck there as a recent college grad (that, and a lot more parking space). After work, head to downtown San Jose to catch a Sharks game (NHL) at the SAP Center or check out contemporary art at the San Jose Museum of Art.
- Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines is such an underrated city for college graduates. This city is super affordable compared to other metros, with a cost of living that is 10 percent under the national average, and has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation (pre-pandemic). Des Moines is home to numerous major companies like Principal Financial and Meredith Corporation, which means plenty of job opportunities for those who are just starting their careers. And if all that weren’t attractive enough for college graduates, Des Moines has tons of breweries, restaurants, festivals, and fun events that largely cater to the 25-and-under-crowd.
- Denver, Colorado
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Once a rough-and-tumble mining town, Denver has come a long way since its Gold Rush days. Today, the Denver metro area is a cultural hotbed with the second-highest educated population in America. The Mile High City, so nicknamed for being exactly 5,280 feet above sea level, boasts an incredibly diverse economy, with major industries like aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, and biosciences driving the region’s economy.
Recent college grads make an average of $53,010 per year, beating out other metros like Atlanta and Dallas, and you could save even more money on gas by taking advantage of Denver’s extremely walkable layout. Be sure to use some of your paycheck to buy a nice pair of sunglasses — Denver is one of the sunniest cities in the United States, with over 300 days of sunshine each year!
- Phoenix, Arizona
Need a respite from the cold? Pack your bags and move to Phoenix – aka, the Valley of the Sun. In addition to its warm weather, the capital city of Arizona boasts a low cost of living (seven percent under the national average), with the median around $1K per month. Phoenix also offers various transportation options for young professionals, including a light-rail service and bike-sharing programs that make it easy for new grads to get around without a vehicle. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll enjoy catching a Phoenix Suns or Arizona Cardinals game in your spare time.
- Salt Lake City, Utah
The Beehive State boasts an active nightlife, great public transit, affordable housing, and high bike-ability. Salt Lake City also has a strong job market due to its recent tech explosion. Some of the highest-paying careers in SLC are in the data science, programming, and healthcare industries. On top of all that, Salt Lake City is an outdoor lover’s dream. Thanks to its amazing weather, you’ll have plenty of sunny days to hike, bike, and mountaineer.
- Orlando, Florida
With great weather, beautiful beaches, and amusement parks galore, Orlando is essentially a young person’s paradise. Not only does the city have lots of entry-level jobs for recent college grads, it’s also smaller than Miami or Jacksonville, making it easier to connect with professionals in your industry. And speaking of industries, entertainment and tourism aren’t the only key players in Orlando’s economy. Aerospace, aviation, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, and biotech also have a strong presence in the city.