Congratulations, Class of 2022. Navigating college during a pandemic wasn’t easy, but you did it. Now, you get to decide what’s next, including where to start your post-grad life.
The good news is that the job market is booming. According to a report from the National Association of Colleges & Employers, employers intend to hire 31% more college graduates this year. Plus, remote and hybrid work has become more common, which may give you even more flexibility as you decide where to live.
Still, as you plan your post-graduation move, there are new financial realities to consider, including paying for rent, utilities, and food — not to mention your student loan payments. Life after college will mean finding a way to balance all these expenses. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream of living in a vibrant city where you can thrive at both work and play.
For our 2022 Best Cities for College Grads list, we analyzed 100 of the largest U.S. cities, scoring and ranking each city on a range of economic indicators from rent prices to average salaries to employment rates, plus desirability factors including access to recreation and nightlife, ease of mobility, and size of the young adult population. As explained in our methodology, total scores are an average of these metrics, with the lowest scores being most desirable.
Below, we've highlighted the cities that ranked the highest in each region of the U.S. You can find the full-ranked list of all 100 cities here.
Economic Score: 28 | Desirability Score: 23.3 | Total Average Score: 25.6 | NATIONAL RANK: #2
Affordable rent prices and low cost of living make Pennsylvania’s capital a compelling place to start post-grad life. But affordability isn't the only draw. Harrisburg also offers great city amenities, from fun bars and restaurants to a variety of parks and green spaces, including Riverfront Park, Wildwood Park, and The City Island. And while there’s plenty to do in and around Harrisburg, the city’s central Pennsylvania location also offers great proximity for day trips to bigger cities like Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Many people here work in state and federal government, but the private sector also offers ample career opportunities. The Hershey Co. and Rite Aid are both headquartered in the Harrisburg area, and grads interested in healthcare and tech can also find opportunities here.
Economic Score: 54.3 | Desirability Score: 16.6 | Total Average Score: 35.5 | NATIONAL RANK: #11
While Boston rents are among the highest in the nation, the salary potential for four-year degree holders is also among the highest. Plus, the city is truly an innovation hub, fueling a healthy job market across tech, biotech, and healthcare, so opportunities for recent college graduates abound here. Boston also offers great walkability, excellent access to parks and green spaces, a large young population, and a vibrant bar, food, and arts scene making it an especially fun place to live. Boston (well, technically Cambridge) also happens to be where ApartmentAdvisor is headquartered and where many of us started our own careers (and we’re still here!).
MIDWEST/West North Central
St. Louis, MO
Economic Score: 17.8 | Desirability Score: 29.1 | Total Average Score: 23.5 | NATIONAL RANK: #1
St. Louis not only ranked highest for the Midwest/West North Central region of the US, it also ranked #1 among all of the 100 cities we studied. Known as the “gateway to the west,” the city is among the nation’s more affordable large cities when it comes to rent prices and cost of living, making it extremely livable on an entry-level salary. And job opportunities here span industries, from tech to finance, not to mention a slew of new startups. St. Louis also offers young professionals plenty to do when not working, including enjoying the city’s 100 public parks, experiencing the fun nightlife and sports scene, and taking advantage of its many free museums. St. Louis is also very easy to get around – it’s known as a “20-minute city” for a reason. Finally, you’ll find a lot of midwestern charm among residents here – it’s a friendly community that takes a lot of pride in its city.
MIDWEST/East North Central
Economic Score: 25 | Desirability Score: 30.4 | Total Average Score: 27.7 | NATIONAL RANK: #3
Located on the Ohio River, Cincinnati offers new grads the perfect combination of low cost of living and high quality of life. Residents have easy access to great museums, phenomenal bars and restaurants, a massive park system, and a lively local sports culture. Career opportunities here are diverse, ranging from Fortune 500 companies like Proctor and Gamble and Kroger to large financial companies and hospital networks, plus a burgeoning tech startup scene. And while “Cincy” is a busy city, it’s also quite charming, with remarkable architecture and beautiful skylines. For renters, there’s also a great variety of neighborhood options, from upscale Hyde Park to the eclectic Northside to historic Over-The-Rhine.
Economic Score: 42.5 | Desirability Score: 31.6 | Total Average Score: 37.1 | NATIONAL RANK: #15
Richmond is a city steeped in American history, so it’s no wonder it attracts millions of tourists year-round. But the Virginia state capital is also a great place to live, with lively nightlife, great museums, charming neighborhoods, many young professionals, and a large population of students (it’s the home of the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University). Rents here are on the higher side, but salaries for four-year degree-holders also tend to be high, so the equation is workable for most. On the job front, grads can find opportunities in government adjacent fields (law and legislature), finance, and insurance. The used car retailer CarMax is also based here.
SOUTH/West South Central
New Orleans, LA
Economic Score: 44.2 | Desirability Score: 36.4 | Total Average Score: 40.3 | NATIONAL RANK: #23
There’s no place quite like New Orleans. The city has a quirky, friendly vibe that is likely to appeal to grads that want to live in a place that’s diverse, vibrant, and rich in culture. Rent prices here are moderate, and the cost of living is on the lower side, which affords young professionals more opportunities to take advantage of the city’s incredible food, drink, and music scene. Tourism is a significant part of the economy in The Big Easy, but the city is also home to healthcare, energy, and manufacturing industries, as well as an emerging film production industry.
Economic Score: 45.7 | Desirability Score: 44.9 | Total Average Score: 45.3 | NATIONAL RANK: #35
Nestled in a valley between the Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau, Knoxville is a city surrounded by nature, where residents can take full advantage of an abundance of outdoor activities, from hiking to paddling to mountain biking. Rent prices are also affordable here, and Knoxville’s historic neighborhoods offer great access to the city’s vibrant nightlife, whether that’s in Downtown Knoxville itself or quieter areas like South Knoxville (The SoKno) or North Hills. Knoxville’s most significant industries are financial services, energy, and telecommunications, but there are plenty of other types of businesses too, including HGTV corporate headquarters.
Economic Score: 56 | Desirability Score: 19.4 | Total Average Score: 37.7 | NATIONAL RANK: #16
Located just 100 miles south of the Canadian border, “the emerald city” is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. It’s also among the more expensive rental markets in the region. Thankfully, salaries for four-year degree-holders tend to be commensurate. Seattle has cemented itself as a major tech hub with Amazon, Microsoft (in nearby Redmond), and Zillow all headquartered here, plus a growing number of other exciting tech companies creating ample opportunities for new talent. Seattle also offers a much-celebrated food and beverage scene, plus no shortage of access to outdoor activities. And while winters in Seattle can be cold and dark, summers in Seattle are warm, dry, and bright – perfect weather for sea kayaking, hiking, and biking.
Economic Score: 50.7 | Desirability Score: 22.1 | Total Average Score: 36.4 | NATIONAL RANK: #14
Denver is located at the base of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, giving residents here easy proximity to skiing and other outdoor pursuits, plus beautiful mountain vistas and a sunny, arid climate (although be prepared for snowy winters). The city is growing fast, drawing many young professionals looking for that perfect combination of big-city amenities and outdoor recreation, which The Mile High City certainly offers. This has put pressure on rent prices of late, but salaries for degree-holders here do tend to be on the higher side. Industries in Denver range from defense (Lockheed Martin is based here) to healthcare, finance, hospitality, and the cannabis industry. There’s also an emerging tech startup ecosystem.
Below is the full-ranked list of all 100 cities we analyzed.
Best Cities for College Grads 2022
|Rank||Metro Area||State||Region||Division||Economic Indicators Score||Desirability Indicators Score||Overall Average Score|
|1||St. Louis||MO||Midwest||West North Central||17.8||29.1||23.5|
|3||Cincinnati||OH||Midwest||East North Central||25.0||30.4||27.7|
|5||Cleveland||OH||Midwest||East North Central||21.0||36.4||28.7|
|7||Omaha||NE||Midwest||West North Central||21.2||43.9||32.5|
|9||Minneapolis-St. Paul||MN||Midwest||West North Central||36.2||31.1||33.6|
|12||Milwaukee||WI||Midwest||East North Central||24.8||46.4||35.6|
|13||Kansas City||MO||Midwest||West North Central||22.8||48.6||35.7|
|21||Salt Lake City||UT||West||Mountain||55.3||23.3||39.3|
|22||Columbus||OH||Midwest||East North Central||30.5||49.8||40.1|
|23||New Orleans||LA||South||West South Central||44.2||36.4||40.3|
|24||Dallas-Fort Worth||TX||South||West South Central||38.8||43.1||41.0|
|26||Chicago||IL||Midwest||East North Central||47.5||35.5||41.5|
|28||New Haven||CT||Northeast||New England||54.8||30.3||42.5|
|29||Grand Rapids||MI||Midwest||East North Central||36.3||49.1||42.7|
|32||Austin||TX||South||West South Central||47.0||40.4||43.7|
|33||San Antonio||TX||South||West South Central||36.5||51.9||44.2|
|35||Knoxville||TN||South||East South Central||45.7||44.9||45.3|
|36||Akron||OH||Midwest||East North Central||45.8||45.4||45.6|
|36||Little Rock||AR||South||West South Central||27.7||63.6||45.6|
|39||Youngstown||OH||Midwest||East North Central||29.3||64.8||47.0|
|40||Detroit||MI||Midwest||East North Central||39.5||55.3||47.4|
|41||Nashville||TN||South||East South Central||46.3||48.8||47.5|
|42||Wichita||KS||Midwest||West North Central||15.3||80.8||48.0|
|43||Houston||TX||South||West South Central||37.0||60.1||48.6|
|44||Louisville||KY||South||East South Central||32.5||65.8||49.1|
|45||Indianapolis||IN||Midwest||East North Central||30.2||68.3||49.2|
|47||Baton Rouge||LA||South||West South Central||19.8||81.4||50.6|
|49||Birmingham||AL||South||East South Central||33.2||69.0||51.1|
|50||New York||NY||Northeast||Middle Atlantic||63.8||39.1||51.5|
|52||Toledo||OH||Midwest||East North Central||43.0||60.9||51.9|
|58||Memphis||TN||South||East South Central||31.8||78.4||55.1|
|58||Virginia Beach||VA||South||South Atlantic||47.3||62.9||55.1|
|61||Chattanooga||TN||South||East South Central||49.5||64.0||56.8|
|62||Oklahoma City||OK||South||West South Central||39.2||75.1||57.1|
|65||Jackson||MS||South||East South Central||46.0||71.1||58.6|
|69||El Paso||TX||South||West South Central||49.5||73.4||61.4|
|76||Fort Myers||FL||South||South Atlantic||62.3||70.4||66.4|
|76||McAllen||TX||South||West South Central||51.5||81.4||66.4|
|80||Daytona Beach||FL||South||South Atlantic||64.2||78.8||71.5|
|81||Palm Bay||FL||South||South Atlantic||58.5||85.5||72.0|
The 100 most populated metropolitan statistical areas (according to the American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year sample). The ACS data for this study is based on a sample of individuals in the labor force aged 20-30 with bachelor’s degrees or higher.
Metrics and Data Sources
The metrics used to create the “Economic Indicator” were average unemployment for bachelor’s degree holders, median yearly earnings for bachelor’s degree holders, median yearly rent for a one-bedroom apartment, and a cost-of-living index. Unemployment and earnings data come from the ACS 1-year sample, rent data come from Apartment Advisor, and the cost-of-living index comes from AdvisorSmith City Cost of Living Index.
The metrics used to create the “Desirability Indicator” were the gender wage gap in a given city, the percent of a city’s residents that live within a 10-minute walk from a park, a “mobility score” indicating how easy it is to get around a city without a car, the size of the young adult population, and how many restaurants/bars per capita a city has. The gender wage gap (calculated by median yearly earnings for women divided by median yearly earnings for men) and young adult population data come from the ACS 1-year sample, park data come from the Trust for Public Land’s ParkServe, mobility data were taken from Walkscore (the sum of the Walkscore and Transitscore), and restaurant/bar data come from Yelp.
For each metric, each metro area is sorted from “best” to “worst” value and assigned a score of 1 to 100, where 1 is the most desirable and 100 is the least. The Economic Indicator for each metro area is the average of the ranks for the economic metrics, where earnings and rent are double weighted. The Desirability Indicator for each metro area is the average of the ranks for the desirability metrics, where young adult population, mobility, and nightlife are double weighted.
The Final Score was calculated by averaging the Economic and Desirability indicators. The lowest final score is considered the “best.” The Final Rank is calculated by ranking the 100 metro areas from 1 to 100, where 1 is the best and 100 is the worst, using this Final Score.
Notes About the Data
Unemployment, earnings, rent, wage gap, and young adult population are at the metropolitan statistical area level. Cost-of-living, park, nightlife, and mobility data are at the city level, using the core city of the metro area.
For more information about this study, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We rate and sort every listing based on fair market rent.
Top metro areas
732 apartments starting at $550/month
934 apartments starting at $600/month
603 apartments starting at $450/month
261 apartments starting at $550/month
3,254 apartments starting at $750/month
109 apartments starting at $750/month
705 apartments starting at $542/month
3,362 apartments starting at $400/month
301 apartments starting at $600/month
427 apartments starting at $525/month
911 apartments starting at $400/month
1,256 apartments starting at $550/month
683 apartments starting at $500/month
517 apartments starting at $550/month
Grand Rapids Apartments
227 apartments starting at $560/month
75 apartments starting at $795/month
654 apartments starting at $650/month
528 apartments starting at $400/month
901 apartments starting at $448/month
Kansas City Apartments
510 apartments starting at $500/month
Las Vegas Apartments
825 apartments starting at $675/month
Los Angeles Apartments
3,485 apartments starting at $600/month
305 apartments starting at $500/month
681 apartments starting at $500/month
614 apartments starting at $1,200/month
522 apartments starting at $465/month
684 apartments starting at $625/month
356 apartments starting at $795/month
New Orleans Apartments
432 apartments starting at $595/month
New York City Apartments
1,873 apartments starting at $850/month
Oklahoma City Apartments
581 apartments starting at $575/month
398 apartments starting at $650/month
1,677 apartments starting at $400/month
1,072 apartments starting at $638/month
765 apartments starting at $600/month
884 apartments starting at $415/month
155 apartments starting at $799/month
414 apartments starting at $600/month
402 apartments starting at $650/month
102 apartments starting at $495/month
336 apartments starting at $900/month
Salt Lake City Apartments
199 apartments starting at $550/month
San Antonio Apartments
745 apartments starting at $410/month
San Diego Apartments
963 apartments starting at $795/month
San Francisco Apartments
782 apartments starting at $895/month
San Jose Apartments
212 apartments starting at $1,000/month
931 apartments starting at $600/month
St. Louis Apartments
364 apartments starting at $525/month
405 apartments starting at $801/month
Virginia Beach Apartments
220 apartments starting at $595/month
Washington DC Apartments
512 apartments starting at $828/month