Best US Cities for New Grads to Start a Career

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For recent college grads, the best cities in the United States to start a career aren’t coastal — they’re in the Midwest, according to a recent ranking that put St. Louis at the top of the list.

Since university graduates tend to earn less early in their careers, a analysis by the insurer Insure ranked cities in the United States based on job opportunities and affordability, as well as public transportation costs and livability.

The rankings were narrowed down to the best city in each state and based on an “overall attractiveness” score out of 100, with 100 being the most attractive.

Here’s a look at the top 10 cities for new grads to start their careers:

  1. Saint Louis: 100
  2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: 98.3
  3. Rapid City, South Dakota: 88.8
  4. Pittsburgh: 85.5
  5. Lincoln, Nebraska: 84.9
  6. Portland, Oregon: 78.9
  7. Fargo, North Dakota: 75.8
  8. Fort Wayne, Indiana: 73.7
  9. Denver: 73.3
  10. Tampa, Florida: 73.0

Six of the top 10 cities are located in the Midwest, including the top three. These cities have a relatively low cost of living while offering public transportation and entertainment options comparable to larger coastal cities.

Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle ranked between #12 and #20 on the overall list, with New York ranking the highest of the three at #12. These cities have a cost of living higher, but did well overall due to access to other transit options and entertainment choices.

A city received a higher overall call score if it has a lower unemployment rate, lower cost of living, lower room rental costs, high alternative transportation score, and higher number of arts and entertainment venues per capita.

Cost of living is based on the average US household budget, using 2021 US Bureau of Labor data. Because cost of living also includes housing, Insurify has halved its rental cost weighting. To account for the higher savings associated with not owning a car, the alternative public transport scores were weighted with a multiplier of 1.5.

Estimates are based on data compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Other data comes from rental site Apartment List, gasoline price tracking site Gas Buddy and private healthcare foundation The Commonwealth Fund.

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