Best Cities for College Graduates

Posted by on in Life Transitions

You are preparing to graduate. Or maybe you have graduated within the last year. Among all of the other decisions you must make, you have to figure out where you plan to live. Will you move back home? Find an apartment and some roommates? Move to a new city entirely? Moving after college is exciting, but it is a difficult and intimidating process if you don’t have a job lined up in your destination city. However, if you have not had success finding a job in your current city, then perhaps you should consider moving in order to find a job. Moving after college will always give you a fresh start, and it can be a lot of fun to explore a new place. While it may not end up being the best financial decision, you are in a transitional period of your life, which means now may be the best time for you to move to a new city.

Before you decide which city you are going to move to, you need to consider the cost of living, ease of finding a place to live, and access to the things you would like or a need in a city. While there is going to be a lot to take care of in order to decide where to move, you should consider checking out the following cities.

Tampa, Florida


Located on the west coast of Florida near the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa, Florida, is a city of about 346,000 people. Tampa has a long and rich history, but what really secures its spot among the best cities for recent grads is the warm weather, great work opportunities, and the neighborhood culture.

Growing Economics: As a booming economic city, Tampa has workers in the service, retail, finance, insurance, shipping, national defense, professional sports, tourism, and real estate industries. It is projected that by 2015 the workforce for Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, will grow from 740,000 employees to 922,000. Tampa is home to several large corporations like OSI Restaurant Partners, WellCare Health Plans, and TECO Energy.

Mass Transit: As someone who just graduated college, you most likely will not want to spend money on a brand new car or pay for your gas all the time. You need to look for a city that provides great transportation services. In Tampa, you will find public buses and a streetcar line.

Raleigh, North Carolina


With a population of just over 400,000 people, Raleigh is the country’s 42nd largest city and is perfect for those who are looking for a city that is big but feels small. Because of its size, Raleigh offers recent graduates the opportunity to feel like they are really part of a community.

Climate: North Carolina is a southern state, but it still experiences all four seasons. Winters, however, are mild and shorter than any you would experience in the North or Midwest. Raleigh only gets about six inches of snow a year on average. So if you want those four seasons but aren’t a fan of the cold, Raleigh has the climate for you.

Jobs: Raleigh is a great city for those interested in pursuing careers in the high-tech and biotech fields. The city is part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, which is a large and highly successful research park. However, the city also offers careers in banking, telecommunications, food processing, and pharmaceuticals.

Riverside, California


Located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, Riverside is home to a little over 300,000 people. If you are looking for a city in California that is inland and provides you with art and opportunities, then this is the right fit for you.

The City: Riverside offers a wide range of architectural styles, including historical missions and contemporary buildings. The city is full of history, most of which is centered on art. For instance, the Riverside Fox Theater was the first place to screen the film Gone with the Wind. The Theater has since been turned into a performing arts venue.

Work: In Riverside, you are most likely going to find work in the fields of government, education, or healthcare. The city government and various schools around the area tend to employ the most people.

Atlanta, Georgia


One of the largest cities on this list, Atlanta provides recent graduates with many opportunities that some of the other cities just do not have. With a population of almost 5.5 million people, Atlanta is home to a booming arts culture and many job opportunities.

The Economy: Atlanta has the eighth largest economy in the US and the 17th largest in the world. Home to the global headquarters of companies like Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, and Delta Airlines, the job market in Atlanta is extremely diverse. Media is also an important part of the economy; you will find the homes of CNN, the Weather Channel, and several newspapers in the city.

The Culture: While you might expect pure Southern culture in Atlanta, you will find that people and cultures from around the country and around the world have influenced the city. Atlanta has many diverse neighborhoods and districts that reflect these influences, so living in this city means you will learn a lot and have the opportunity to experience a wide variety of foods, music, and events.

Seattle, Washington


While the actual city of Seattle comprises about 600,000 people, the metropolitan area is made up of nearly four million people. Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and is a major port for trade with Asia.

Fortune 500 Companies: Companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Nordstrom all make their homes in Seattle, which means that recent graduates have plenty of opportunities. The economy is also booming with various tech companies and established businesses.

Transportation: Seattle is on the cutting edge when it comes to mass transportation and saving the environment. You will find buses and light rail transportation, but the city is also one of the best for walking and for bike-riding.

Houston, Texas


Houston, Texas is home to over two million people and is the fourth largest city in the United States. In 2011, the city was voted “Coolest City in the US.” The metropolitan area is home to over six million people.

The Energy Economy: Much of the economy in Houston is dependent on the Energy Sector. With major ties to both oil and natural gas, Houston is a world leader in energy. However, the energy fields of wind and solar are also starting to play a vital role to the economy.

Diversity: Despite what you may think about Houston, it is actually a very diverse place with over one million of its residents being foreign born. In fact, the city is home to the third-largest concentration of consular offices where over 86 countries are represented.

Portland, Oregon


With a population of almost 600,000 people, Portland is known for its art and grunge community. If you enjoy art, community, and creativity, then this is a city that you should consider moving to.

Culture: Portland is home to performing arts, famous authors, shopping, microbreweries, world-class cuisine, and sporting events. Portland really does have it all when it comes to the culture, and it is one of the greenest cities in the country.

Transportation: Similar to Seattle, Portland is very committed to providing mass transportation in an effort to make the city more green. You will find light rail, streetcars, car sharing, and bike-friendly streets.

Phoenix, Arizona


Home to almost 1.5 million people, Phoenix is a great city for recent graduates because it provides you with many recreational activities while still offering plenty of job opportunities.

The Economy: Once built on copper, cattle, climate, cotton, and citrus, the economy of Phoenix has since changed with the times. Much of the economy is now dependent on the government and education. However, there are a number of high-tech and telecommunication companies in the area. The city also relies heavily on tourism.

Parks and Recreation: The area around Phoenix is extremely beautiful, and you will have many chances for hiking and exploring. Efforts to preserve the desert and save it from development have kept the land relatively unspoiled.

Dallas, Texas


With a population of almost two million people, Dallas is home to a healthy and vibrant economy. While it is not the largest city in Texas, it still provides a great cultural experience for recent graduates to explore.

Careers: Dallas actually has one of the largest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies, including American Airlines, HP Enterprise Services, Frito-Lay, and Mary Kay Cosmetics. The city comprises a diverse economy, but many careers revolve around business, healthcare, and education.

Arts District: Dallas’ Arts District is home to a number of museums, music venues, and artistic centers. Whether you enjoy art, sculpture, music, or performing arts, Dallas has something to offer everyone.

Austin, Texas


With a population of a little over 800,000 people, Austin offers its residents music, movies, and sports. But there is even more to the city than that.

Economy: While it may not be as famous as the Silicon Valley, Austin does have a booming high-tech industry. You will find corporations such as Dell and IBM located in the metropolitan area.

Music: If you enjoy live music—either playing it or listening to it—then Austin might just be the place for you. The official slogan of the city is “The Live Music Capital of the World.” You will find a number of music festivals including the famous South By Southwest (SXSW).

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