Best U.S. Cities for New College Grads

It's college graduation time, and that means new grads are launching into the working world.

What kind of cities do they want to live in? Some things they might consider include: the cost of living in these places, the kinds of jobs available, how hard it is to find a job, the number of people in their age group, and the education level of residents in their age group.

To determine the best cities for new college grads, personal finance site NerdWallet examined these criteria and analyzed data for the 100 largest cities in the U.S.

They scored each city based on the environment offered for recent college graduates who are looking to get a foothold in the working world.

Cities were scored on: unemployment (20% of the score,) the percentage of the population 25 and older whose highest level of education is a bachelor's degree (15%,) rent as percentage of income (15%,) the percentage of the population aged 20 to 29 (30%,) median earnings of residents 25 years and older with a bachelor's (10%,) and the number of jobs in management, business, science or arts occupations (10%). 

Bottom line: cities with lots of young adults, educated residents and universities, tend to be the best bet for new graduates. Even though some of these cities have high rents, many of them make up for it in higher median wages.

Based on the data, these are the best cities for new college graduates.

(Above, Atlanta, No. 9 on the list. Photo: ESB Professional / Shutterstock)

1. Madison, Wis.
1. Madison, Wis.

1. Madison, Wis.

  • Population: 248,956
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 31.6%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $46,275
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 25.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 2.5%

Photo: youngryand / Shutterstock

2. Arlington, Va.
2. Arlington, Va.

2. Arlington, Va.

  • Population: 229,164
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 34.5%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $75,025
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 29.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

Photo: Shutterstock

3. Seattle
3. Seattle

3. Seattle

  • Population: 684,443
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 36.7%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $60,476
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 26.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 4%

Photo: Shutterstock

4. Minneapolis, Minn.
4. Minneapolis, Minn.

4. Minneapolis, Minn.

  • Population: 410,935
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 28.1%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $50,341
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 21.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.3%

Photo: Shutterstock

5. Boston
5. Boston

5. Boston

  • Population: 669,469
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 26.1%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $56,853
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 30%
  • Unemployment rate: 4%

Photo: Shutterstock

6. Washington, D.C.
6. Washington, D.C.

6. Washington, D.C.

  • Population: 672,228
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 23.8%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $64,142
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 26.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

Photo: DiegoMariottini / Shutterstock

7. San Francisco
7. San Francisco

7. San Francisco

  • Population: 864,816
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only:33.2%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $72,016
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 27.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

Photo: jejim / Shutterstock

8. Austin, Texas
8. Austin, Texas

8. Austin, Texas

  • Population: 931,840
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 30.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $50,379
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 27.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.2%

Photo: PiercarloAbate/Shutterstock

9. Atlanta
9. Atlanta

9. Atlanta

  • Population: 463,875
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 27%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only:$53,581
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Photo: Shutterstock

10. Raleigh, N.C.
10. Raleigh, N.C.

10. Raleigh, N.C.

  • Population: 451,949
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 31.7%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $48,034
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 24.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%

Photo: Shutterstock

11. Denver
11. Denver

11. Denver

  • Population: 682,545
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 28.6%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $51,032
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 25.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.2%

Photo: Shutterstock

12. Norfolk, Va.
12. Norfolk, Va.

12. Norfolk, Va.

  • Population: 246,393
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 15.8%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $45,445
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 26.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Photo: Shutterstock

13. Pittsburgh
13. Pittsburgh

13. Pittsburgh

  • Population: 304,385
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 20.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $41,877
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 24.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%

Photo: Shutterstock

14. Lincoln, Neb.
14. Lincoln, Neb.

14. Lincoln, Neb.

  • Population: 277,346
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 23.2%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $42,346
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 21.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 2.7%

Photo: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

15. Lubbock, Texas
15. Lubbock, Texas

15. Lubbock, Texas

  • Population: 249,051
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 16.7%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $45,462
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.6%

Photo: Redraiderengineer/Wikipedia

16. Baton Rouge, La.
16. Baton Rouge, La.

16. Baton Rouge, La.

  • Population: 228,596
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 19.2%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $48,831
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 19.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 5%

Photo: Roberto Michel / Shutterstock

17. Irvine, Calif.
17. Irvine, Calif.

17. Irvine, Calif.

  • Population: 256,927
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 39.5%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $66,377
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 37.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 5%

Photo: LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock

18. St. Paul, Minn.
18. St. Paul, Minn.

18. St. Paul, Minn.

  • Population: 300,840
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 23.5%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $44,256
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 23.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.3%
Photo: Shutterstock

19. Plano, Texas
19. Plano, Texas

19. Plano, Texas

  • Population: 283,619
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 33.1%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $65,654
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%

Photo: David R. Tribble /Wikipedia

20. Durham, N.C.
20. Durham, N.C.

20. Durham, N.C.

  • Population: 257,598
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 25.1%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $47,472
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 23.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.1%

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock

21. Cincinnati
21. Cincinnati

21. Cincinnati

  • Population: 298,537
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 20.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $45,831
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 17.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.7%

Photo: aceshot1 / Shutterstock

22. Orlando, Fla.
22. Orlando, Fla.

22. Orlando, Fla.

  • Population: 270,917
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 24.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $41,645
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 29.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 4%

Photo: Shutterstock

23. Columbus, Ohio
23. Columbus, Ohio

23. Columbus, Ohio

  • Population: 849,067
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 22.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $45,559
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Photo: aceshot1 / Shutterstock

24. Boise City, Idaho
24. Boise City, Idaho

24. Boise City, Idaho

  • Population: 218,280
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 26.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $46,414
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 2.9%

Photo: Shutterstock

25. Jersey City, N.J.
25. Jersey City, N.J.

25. Jersey City, N.J.

  • Population: 264,277
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 26.5%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $62,219
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 23.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.7%

Photo: Shutterstock

26. Nashville
26. Nashville

26. Nashville

  • Population: 654,596
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 23.2%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $45,109
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 24.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.3%

Photo: f11photo/ Shutterstock

27. Dallas
27. Dallas

27. Dallas

  • Population: 1.3 million
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 20.3%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $54,520
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 19.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%

Photo: Dorti / Shutterstock

28. Scottsdale, Ariz.
28. Scottsdale, Ariz.

28. Scottsdale, Ariz.

  • Population: 236,844
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 34.9%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $60,371
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.6%

Photo: Shutterstock

29. Lexington, Ky.
29. Lexington, Ky.

29. Lexington, Ky.

  • Population: 314,488
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 22.6%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $43,982
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 22.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.6%

Photo: aceshot1 / Shutterstock

30. San Diego
30. San Diego

30. San Diego

  • Population: 1.4 million
  • Residents 25+ with a bachelor's degree only: 25.8%
  • Median annual earnings, residents 25+, bachelor's only: $56,820
  • Rent as percentage of income, 25+, bachelor's only: 30.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.7%

See the full study and list of all 100 cities at NerdWallet.

Photo: Shutterstock

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