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Best Cities for College Grads 2022

CB

By Charlotte Burlingame

Apr 27, 2022


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.

NORTHEAST/Mid-Atlantic

Harrisburg, PA Skyline

Harrisburg, PA

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.

NORTHEAST/New England

Boston, MA Skyline

Boston, MA

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 Skyline Optimized

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

Cincinnati Skyline image

Cincinnati, OH

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.

SOUTH/South Atlantic

Richmond, VA Skyline

Richmond, VA

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 Skyline

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.

SOUTH/South Central

Knoxville, TN Skyline

Knoxville, TN

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.

WEST/Pacific

Seattle, WA City Skyline

Seattle, WA

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.

WEST/Mountain

Denver, CO Skyline

Denver, CO

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.

National Ranking of Cities

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

2

Harrisburg

PA

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

28.0

23.3

25.6

3

Cincinnati

OH

Midwest

East North Central

25.0

30.4

27.7

4

Rochester

NY

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

32.2

23.4

27.8

5

Cleveland

OH

Midwest

East North Central

21.0

36.4

28.7

6

Pittsburgh

PA

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

28.5

29.1

28.8

7

Omaha

NE

Midwest

West North Central

21.2

43.9

32.5

8

Syracuse

NY

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

36.3

29.1

32.7

9

Minneapolis-St. Paul

MN

Midwest

West North Central

36.2

31.1

33.6

10

Buffalo

NY

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

40.8

26.8

33.8

11

Boston

MA

Northeast

New England

54.3

16.6

35.5

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

14

Denver

CO

West

Mountain

50.7

22.1

36.4

15

Richmond

VA

South

South Atlantic

42.5

31.6

37.1

16

Seattle

WA

West

Pacific

56.0

19.4

37.7

17

Greenville

SC

South

South Atlantic

42.3

33.8

38.0

18

Portland

OR

West

Pacific

54.2

22.3

38.2

19

Hartford

CT

Northeast

New England

48.3

28.5

38.4

20

Washington

DC

South

South Atlantic

54.0

24.4

39.2

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

25

San Francisco

CA

West

Pacific

61.0

21.6

41.3

26

Chicago

IL

Midwest

East North Central

47.5

35.5

41.5

27

Atlanta

GA

South

South Atlantic

50.5

33.3

41.9

27

Charleston

SC

South

South Atlantic

48.0

35.9

41.9

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

30

Philadelphia

PA

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

41.0

45.3

43.1

31

Orlando

FL

South

South Atlantic

54.8

31.8

43.3

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

34

Albany

NY

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

65.5

23.3

44.4

34

Raleigh

NC

South

South Atlantic

45.3

43.5

44.4

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

37

Tampa

FL

South

South Atlantic

54.7

37.8

46.2

38

Providence

RI

Northeast

New England

66.0

26.8

46.4

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

Colorado Springs

CO

West

Mountain

47.2

48.9

48.0

42

Las Vegas

NV

West

Mountain

61.2

34.9

48.0

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

43

Baltimore

MD

South

South Atlantic

48.7

48.5

48.6

43

Scranton

PA

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

32.0

65.3

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

46

Charlotte

NC

South

South Atlantic

36.0

64.1

50.1

46

Boise City

ID

West

Mountain

55.2

45.0

50.1

47

Baton Rouge

LA

South

West South Central

19.8

81.4

50.6

48

Allentown

PA

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

52.3

49.5

50.9

49

Birmingham

AL

South

East South Central

33.2

69.0

51.1

50

Columbia

SC

South

South Atlantic

43.8

59.1

51.5

50

New York

NY

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

63.8

39.1

51.5

50

Portland

ME

Northeast

New England

53.8

49.3

51.5

51

Sacramento

CA

West

Pacific

69.3

34.1

51.7

52

Toledo

OH

Midwest

East North Central

43.0

60.9

51.9

53

Ogden

UT

West

Mountain

60.2

44.3

52.2

53

Tucson

AZ

West

Mountain

60.2

44.3

52.2

54

Worcester

MA

Northeast

New England

53.3

53.3

53.3

55

Miami

FL

South

South Atlantic

80.0

27.1

53.6

56

Bridgeport

CT

Northeast

New England

61.5

46.0

53.8

57

San Diego

CA

West

Pacific

74.2

35.4

54.8

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

59

Phoenix

AZ

West

Mountain

56.5

54.5

55.5

60

Provo

UT

West

Mountain

64.5

46.8

55.6

61

Chattanooga

TN

South

East South Central

49.5

64.0

56.8

61

San Jose

CA

West

Pacific

60.7

52.9

56.8

62

Oklahoma City

OK

South

West South Central

39.2

75.1

57.1

63

Springfield

MA

Northeast

New England

57.3

58.1

57.7

64

Santa Rosa

CA

West

Pacific

57.3

58.5

57.9

65

Jackson

MS

South

East South Central

46.0

71.1

58.6

66

Honolulu

HI

West

Pacific

79.8

38.6

59.2

66

Winston-Salem

NC

South

South Atlantic

38.8

79.6

59.2

67

Lancaster

PA

Northeast

Middle Atlantic

58.2

61.8

60.0

68

Lakeland

FL

South

South Atlantic

54.8

66.1

60.5

69

Los Angeles

CA

West

Pacific

77.7

45.1

61.4

69

El Paso

TX

South

West South Central

49.5

73.4

61.4

70

Albuquerque

NM

West

Mountain

57.3

68.8

63.0

71

Salinas

CA

West

Pacific

81.5

45.0

63.3

72

Bakersfield

CA

West

Pacific

49.8

78.0

63.9

73

Augusta

GA

South

South Atlantic

35.8

92.3

64.0

74

Modesto

CA

West

Pacific

70.3

58.9

64.6

75

Greensboro

NC

South

South Atlantic

58.2

72.8

65.5

75

Jacksonville

FL

South

South Atlantic

53.3

77.8

65.5

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

77

Fresno

CA

West

Pacific

73.2

61.5

67.3

78

Stockton

CA

West

Pacific

72.8

67.1

70.0

79

Thousand Oaks

CA

West

Pacific

88.3

53.1

70.7

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

82

Riverside

CA

West

Pacific

90.0

66.1

78.1

83

Sarasota

FL

South

South Atlantic

87.3

71.9

79.6

Methodology

Sample

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.

Ranking

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 pr@apartmentadvisor.com.

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