Where Should You Move After Graduation?

Loans, Student Loans

Class of 2013, the world is your oyster!  That oyster is large and intimidating, however, and between the job applications, form-letter rejections and the prospect of living more than ten minutes away from your friends, it all just makes you want to crawl back to your parents’ couch.  You would go to your old room, but your mom turned it into a painting studio when you left for college.

While it can be difficult to narrow your job search to a specific city, or even to rank your top city choices on an application to a position at a large company, several factors should contribute to your decision.

 1.     Cost of living

While New York City may seem like a great place to start out your post-graduate career, keep in mind that your money will not stretch as far in The Big Apple.  A two-bedroom apartment in New York will cost you $4,088, whereas the same apartment in Austin, Texas will only cost $968.  Sometimes living in a city with a high cost of living is worth it for better job opportunities, being able to live near your friends or family or an opportunity to explore a new city that you’re excited about.  Whatever you decide, be aware that the cost of living will influence your quality of life, particularly if you’re trying to save money to pay off your student debt.  Try NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator to determine how your expenses will vary according to city.

 2.     Quality of life

What aspects of a city will most contribute to your happiness?  Do you need sunny weather to be happy?  Snowy winters?  People in your age demographic?  Ethnic diversity?  A walkable layout? Cities differ widely in terms of culture, demographics and quality of life.   Explore your potential new city through travel guides, online forums and NerdWallet’s city life tool, where you can compare cities to each other according to various qualities.

 3.     Availability of jobs

If you don’t have a job lined up, keep in mind that it will be easier to find a job in some cities than in others.  While some cities are better for job seekers than others in terms of growth and employment rates, you should think about what industries interest you.  Some cities are hubs for niche industries—for example, San Francisco has tons of technology startups if that’s what interests you, and Denver has a growing healthcare industry.  Los Angeles is an obvious choice for those who are interested in entertainment, and Charlotte is a banking hub.

NerdWallet ranked the best cities for recent college graduates based on the following factors:

    1. Demographics: cities with the largest population of people between the ages of 18 and 24
    2. Availability of jobs and local economy: cities with the lowest unemployment rate
    3. Cost of living: cities with the lowest average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment
    4. Accessibility: cities with the highest Walk Score
    5. Social life: cities with the most bars per 1,000 residents

See our full list for more information.

Although this list may not include all of the factors that matter to you, with a little research, you can figure out where you belong.  Check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool to start exploring cities!

 Rank City Percent 18-24 years old Unemployment rate 2-BR apartment rent cost Walkability (how easy is it to live without a car) Bars per 1,000 people Overall score for recent college grads
1 Boston, MA 19.40% 7.10% $1,819 79.2 0.77 87.7
2 Seattle, WA 11.80% 7.50% $1,417 73.7 0.82 73.5
3 Denver, CO 10.40% 9.10% $931 60.4 0.84 66.8
4 Baltimore, MD 12.60% 10.50% $1,307 63.9 0.76 66
5 Philadelphia, PA 13.30% 10.80% $1,242 74.1 0.56 65.6
6 Washington, DC 14.50% 10.20% $1,823 73 0.57 65.4
7 Columbus, OH 14.10% 7.60% $768 47.4 0.51 63.1
8 Austin, TX 14.50% 6.20% $968 46.7 0.44 62.6
9 Chicago, IL 11.20% 11.30% $1,200 74.3 0.51 59.6
10 San Francisco, CA 9.60% 13.60% $2,702 84.9 0.72 54