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The top 100 cities for recent college grads [#WhereTheJobsAt]

Opportunity knocks for the 2016 graduating class, but that dream job may just be in another city.

Pack your bags, new grads

It’s that time of year again. A new cascade of graduating seniors will soon be hitting the streets and fortunately for them, employers plan to hire 11 percent more college graduates from the class of 2016 than they did for the class before, that according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

This year, like in other years gone by, the key to job hunting success is relocation. Studies support that college graduates need to be willing to move to a place where they have the best chance of snagging the job of their dreams. Or at least one that will pay a decent wage and leave something left over for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Where opportunity runs rampant

NerdWallet has you covered: NerdWallet recently surveyed the 100 largest U.S. cities and ranked them according to the places that provide the best environments for college graduates who are just starting out.

The Nerd analysis focused on 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data covering job options, the age of the population, rent costs and median earnings, as well as December 2015 unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And the winner is…

Arlington, Virginia tops the list in no small part because 67.1 percent of its workforce find jobs in management, business, science or the arts. These fields have the most jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. In fact, more men and women per capita hold Bachelor Degrees than almost any other city on the list.

The Top Five

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  1. Arlington, VA – Additionally you’ll be happy to know, as NerdWallet points out, “The median annual earnings of $72,406 for a worker 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree. Which is up from $64,957 in 2015. The flipside to all that opulence? Rent runs on the high side.
  2. Madison, WI – About a quarter of the population (24.7 percent) is in the 20- to 29-year-old range, likely thanks in part to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. According to research by the Capital Times, Madison has worked to attract these young people with a boom in high-density apartments downtown
  3. Washington, D.C. – Check it out: 60.5 percent of the workforce found jobs in management, business, science or the arts. About a quarter (26 percent) of employees work for the federal, state or local government, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
  4. Boston, MA – Boston residents ages 20-29 make up 24.8 percent of the population. Area universities, such as MIT and Harvard, have an impact on the median age of the population and the local economy, since the academic institutions serve as employers and a source of talent for the city’s tech industry.
  5. Minneapolis, MN – Here’s one perk to choosing the Midwest over a coastal city: You get to hold onto more of your paycheck when it comes to rent. Of the cities in NerdWallet’s study, Minneapolis residents pay the least in rent as a percentage of their income. Annual earnings are a bit lower so it all evens out I guess.

The Rest of the Best

Seattle, Pittsburgh, Austin (where we are headquartered), Atlanta and San Francisco round out the top 10. And the best advice to give soon-to-be graduates? Wherever you are is the place to be. Make the most of wherever you call home, whether it’s a city of 5 million or town of 5,000.

That said, when opportunity knocks, be ready to pack your bags if necessary.


Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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