5 Best Cities for Starting a Career

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Thousands of young Americans are hitting the bricks and looking for work after finishing college this spring, and here's a look at five cities they should focus their job searches on.

"It's important for young people to realize that there's a big, big difference between some of the best and worst cities in terms of what you can earn, the cost of living and even [dating] opportunities," says Odysseas Papadimitriou of WalletHub, which recently named 2014's Best Cities to Start a Career.

WalletHub, which tracks banking rates and provides consumer reviews of personal-finance firms, chose winners by grading America's 150 most-populous cities on a weighted scale of 18 economic and quality-of-life measures important to recent graduates. Factors ranged from local jobless rates to how many young adults and unmarried people (i.e., potential dates) call a given city home.

Papadimitriou says the winning communities all hit a "sweet spot of size. They're big enough to have lots of job opportunities and lots of things to do, but not so big that their costs of living are ridiculous."

Read on to check out the communities at the top of WalletHub's list, plus some information on each locale's housing market from Realtor.com, the National Association of Realtors' official property-listing site.

Regarding the study's methodology:

  • Rates of residents who've never been married refer to people age 15 or older, while local jobless rates denote unemployment levels as of March.
  • Entrepreneurial-opportunity rankings reflect to how well locales scored on a separate WalletHub study of best places to start a business, while "economic mobility" refers to the odds that low-income residents will eventually enjoy high incomes.
  • Entry-level job numbers denote the per-capita number of positions advertised on Indeed.com that contained the words "entry level," while median-income growth refers to how much the typical resident's paycheck rose from 2008 to 2012.
  • Housing affordability is based on median house prices relative to median local income, while rental affordability refers to average two-bedroom apartment rents.

Fifth-best city to start a career: Minneapolis
The Mini Apple is a big winner for grads when it comes to finding a job and getting a date after work.

Minnesota's most-populous community boasts the 14th-lowest unemployment rate among cities analyzed, as well as the 18th-highest median starting income for jobs.

As for dating, Minneapolis places sixth for 25- to 34-year-olds as a share of total population, 10th for residents who've never been married and 12th for those who hold a bachelor's degree or higher.

And you should have no trouble finding places to take your date, as the city ranks 11th for the number of arts-and-leisure facilities relative to population.

On the downside, Minneapolis ranks 126th in terms of having employment that's spread out among different economic sectors. The city also places 118th for entrepreneurial opportunities and 103rd for affordable home prices.

Realtor.com says the median Minnesota-area residence lists for $235,563, with some 22,500 properties for sale.

Fourth-best city to start a career: Seattle
Starbucks has its corporate headquarters in Seattle, but grads who move to the Emerald City don't have to worry they'll end up making lattes for a living.

That's because Seattle ranks eighth for median starting salary, ninth for economic mobility and 11th for technology jobs as a share of the total workforce.

Young grads will also find that Washington state's most-populous city boasts the second-highest percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds and third-largest share of residents with at least a bachelor's degree. Locals also enjoy the seventh-biggest number of arts-and-leisure facilities on a per-capita basis.

"Seattle has a lot of young people, a lot of arts-and-leisure establishments and a very educated workforce," Papadimitriou says.

That said, Seattle places just 145th for entrepreneurial opportunities, 131st for a diversified workforce, 134th for affordable home prices and 114th for affordable rents.

The typical Seattle-area residence carries a $380,000 asking price, according to Realtor.com. If you think you can swing that, check out some 12,000 local listings here.

Third-best city to start a career: Irving, Texas
Part of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, Irving is home to a surprisingly large number of major employers.

Exxon-Mobil, Kimberly-Clark and other big corporations have headquarters there, while Citigroup, Verizon and other top firms have significant local operations as well.

Partly as a result, Irving comes in fourth for having a diversified labor force, sixth for per-capita entry-level jobs and 11th for median-income growth.

Young people who move there will also find that the community ranks 10th for 25- to 34-year-olds as a share of total population -- although arranging a successful date could be a challenge. That's because Irving places 111th for percentage of residents who've never been married and 102nd for per-capita arts-and-leisure offerings.

Realtor.com doesn't break out median home prices for Irving, but says the typical Dallas-area residence carries a $233,900 asking price. Click here to check out some 22,000 local listings.

Second-best city to start a career: Denver
Colorado's most-populous city offers mile-high opportunities for young grads -- and we're not even talking about the legalized pot.

Denver ranks fifth for population growth (typically a sign of an expanding local economy), as well as seventh for median-income growth, 13th for median starting salaries and 14th for tech jobs as a percentage of overall employment.

You'll also find plenty of dating opportunities there, as Denver enjoys the seventh-highest percentage of young residents and 18th-highest share of locals with a bachelor's degrees or higher.

"Denver's population and median income are growing fast, and there are a lot of young people there as well," Papadimitriou says.

Still, grads who move there should expect to spend big bucks for housing, as Denver comes in 119th for affordable home prices and 96th for reasonable apartment rents.

Realtor.com, which shows some 12,500 local properties for sale, says median Denver-area homes list for $340,000.

Best city to start a career: Washington, D.C.
Savvy Class of 2014 members will make Washington the capital of their job searches.

After all, D.C. ranks No. 1 among major U.S. communities for median-income growth, second for median starting salaries, sixth for tech jobs as a percentage of total employment and eighth for economic mobility and population growth.

Grads will also find plenty of dating opportunities there, as Washington ranks No. 1 for the share of locals who've never been married. The city also places second for 25- to 34-year-olds as a percentage of population and eighth for residents who hold at least a bachelor's degree.

"Our company is based out of Washington, [and] I am not at all surprised by the city's top ranking," Papadimitriou says. "Washington's strengths for recent graduates include having a lot of technology jobs, high income-growth rates, high starting salaries and a high ratio of young professionals."

That said, D.C. does have some negatives, such as ranking just 134th among big cities for entrepreneurial opportunities and 128th for a diversified employment base.

You'll also need to earn big bucks to live there, as Washington places 139th for apartment affordability and 133rd for reasonable home prices.

Realtor.com says the median D.C.-area place carries a $419,900 asking price, with some 34,000 residences listed for sale.

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