The 10 Best Cities to Start Your Career

Amanda Postma
by Amanda Postma
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Starting your career can be tough. No matter how old you are or how much schooling you have, it’s always difficult.

It especially doesn’t help when you have your parents on your back about it because they want you out of the house. If you’ve been searching for a job in your area with no luck, maybe it’s time to try job hunting in a different city. We found the the cities where rent is cheapest, starting incomes are high, and jobs are abundant.

Check below to see if your city ranks as one of the top 10 best cities to start your career.

The Best Cities to Start a Career

  1. Fargo, North Dakota
  2. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  3. Salt Lake City, Utah
  4. Lincoln, Nebraska
  5. Madison, Wisconsin
  6. Raleigh, North Carolina
  7. Charleston, South Carolina
  8. Boise City, Idaho
  9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  10. Nashville-Davidson, Tennessee

Just because your city didn’t make it on the top 10 doesn’t mean it can’t be No. 11. Keep reading for our full list of best cities to start a career to see where your city made it.

How We Determined The Best Cities to Start Your Career

We looked at over 200 cities and ranked them on the following areas:

  • Median Income
  • Average rent
  • Unemployment

We first examined median income to find the cities where young professionals can expect to bring home the biggest paychecks. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy creature comforts and pay off hefty student loans which goes a long way.

However, big paychecks can come with big bills- so next we looked at average rent costs. For those just graduating college and moving to jump-start their careers, it can be a struggle to scrape together first month’s rent, last, and a security deposit. That first paycheck may not make it into their bank account for a month! The smaller the monthly rent, the better.

Finally, we looked at average unemployment. If that first job doesn’t end up being a dream job, getting your next job is easier when you’re in a city with a strong labor market.

All of our data came from the most recent Census ACS.

1. Fargo, ND

fargo,

Individual Median Income: $38,525
unemployment: 2.5
Rent: $818

While people living in Fargo only make a median income of $38,525, they’re in the best place to start their careers. Especially with the average rent being $818 a month and unemployment settled at 2.5%, it’s easy to see why Fargo tops our list.

2. Sioux Falls, SD

sioux

Individual Median Income: $35,942
Unemployment: 2.1
Rent: $811

No. 2 on the list is Sioux Falls with a low unemployment rate of 2.1%. But that’s not the only contributing factor. The city is also known for its low average rent of $811 a month and a median income of $35,942. With those kinds of numbers, people from all over are flocking to Sioux Falls to get a jumpstart on their careers.

3. Salt Lake City, UT

salt

Source: |CC BY-SA 3.0

Individual Median Income: $43,458
Unemployment: 2
Rent: $1,001

Coming in at the third best city to start your career, Salt Lake City has an unemployment rate of 2% with the median income being $43,458. Sounds pretty good, right? The only downside is that the average rent there is $1,001 a month.

4. Lincoln, NE

lincoln,

Individual Median Income: $37,481
Unemployment: 2.4
Rent: $843

With a low average monthly rent of $843 per month and the unemployment rate sitting at 2.4%, the No. 4 spot of Lincoln, Nebraska doesn’t sound like a bad place to send a few resumes. However, the city’s median income is pretty low at $37,481.

5. Madison, WI

madison,

Source: Dori|GFDL

Individual Median Income: $45,382
Unemployment: 1.4
Rent: $1,125

Madison has claimed the fifth spot of the best cities to start your career with its unemployment rate sitting at 1.4%. Even the city’s median income is something to boast about with it being $45,382. However, it can be a little expensive to live there with the average monthly rent at $1,125. Maybe you can live in a box.

6. Raleigh, NC

raleigh,

Individual Median Income: $47,701
Unemployment: 2.3
Rent: $1,131

While Raleigh isn’t the only city that occupies the No. 6 spot, it does have a lower average rent of $1,131 than the other city it’s tied with. With a slightly higher unemployment rate of 2.3% and a much lower median income of $47,701, Raleigh definitely deserves some recognition for being a great place to start a career.

6. Charleston, SC

charleston,

Individual Median Income: $56,121
Unemployment: 2.2
Rent: $1,288

Also coming in at sixth place is Charleston. Unlike Raleigh, Charleston’s two strengths are its median income of $56,121 and its unemployment rate of 2.2%. Meanwhile, it’s average monthly rent runs at $1,288. The average salary alone puts Charleston on the career map.

8. Boise, ID

boise,

Individual Median Income: $38,078
Unemployment: 2.2
Rent: $941

Boise made a little noise as the No. 8 best city to start a career. It’s easy to see why the city is desirable for entry-level applicants with the 2.2% unemployment rate and $941 average monthly rent. However, it’s median income is a little tough to swallow coming in at $38,078.

9. Oklahoma City, OK

oklahoma

Individual Median Income: $37,965
Unemployment: 2.5
Rent: $872

Taking the No. 9 spot is Oklahoma City. While it’s easy to find a place to rent there with the average at $872 a month, it’s no surprise the median income is also low at $37,965.

10. Nashville, TN

nashville,

Individual Median Income: $48,807
Unemployment: 2.5
Rent: $1,117

Last, but not least of the top 10 best cities to start a career in, is Nashville-Davidson(balance). The city offers a higher-than-most median income of $48,807 with an unemployment rate of 2.5%. The average rent of $1,117 is the kicker here.

Summary of the Best Cities to Start a Career

While salary may be the first to jump out at you on this list, be wary of the costs each city has to offer. Just because you’re making a higher salary doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be taking more of the dough home. If you didn’t find your city in the top 10 list, check out the table below to see where it ranks. Maybe another city is more worthy of your applications.

The Best Cities to Start a Career Ranked

Rank Geographic Area Individual Median Income Unemployment Rent
1 Fargo, ND $38,525 2 $818
2 Sioux Falls, SD $35,942 2 $811
3 Salt Lake City, UT $43,458 2 $1,001
4 Lincoln, NE $37,481 2 $843
5 Madison, WI $45,382 1 $1,125
6 Raleigh, NC $47,701 2 $1,131
6 Charleston, SC $56,121 2 $1,288
8 Boise City, ID $38,078 2 $941
9 Oklahoma City, OK $37,965 2 $872
10 Nashville, TN $48,807 2 $1,117
11 Cary town, NC $60,085 2 $1,337
12 Scottsdale, AZ $60,518 2 $1,363
13 Metairie, LA $34,532 2 $919
14 Arlington, VA $96,802 1 $1,924
15 Durham, NC $38,817 2 $1,045
15 Frisco, TX $60,397 2 $1,494
17 Billings, MT $32,434 2 $895
18 Carrollton, TX $59,224 2 $1,254
18 Alexandria, VA $84,312 2 $1,736
20 McKinney, TX $51,350 2 $1,332
21 Independence, MO $34,885 2 $866
22 Denver, CO $54,571 2 $1,330
22 Chandler, AZ $53,031 2 $1,319
24 Amarillo, TX $30,416 2 $834
24 Arvada, CO $51,508 2 $1,363
26 St. Paul, MN $41,425 3 $947
27 Chesapeake, VA $45,295 2 $1,252
27 Norman, OK $32,341 2 $843
29 Little Rock, AR $33,938 3 $819
29 Torrance, CA $56,214 2 $1,746
32 Newport News, VA $32,474 1 $986
31 Arlington, TX $40,971 2 $1,099
33 Austin, TX $54,979 2 $1,314
35 Fremont, CA $66,740 2 $2,381
33 Thornton, CO $50,170 2 $1,463
36 Dallas, TX $42,410 2 $1,054
37 Springfield, MO $23,039 2 $716
39 Irving, TX $56,369 3 $1,203
38 Gilbert town, AZ $55,591 2 $1,527
39 Huntington Beach, CA $65,886 2 $1,936
42 San Francisco, CA $88,771 2 $1,880
44 Bellevue, WA $77,026 2 $2,051
39 Lakewood, CO $46,807 2 $1,396
46 Reno, NV $42,106 2 $1,068
46 Grand Prairie, TX $41,458 2 $1,137
44 Mesquite, TX $35,496 2 $1,116
42 Westminster, CO $45,175 2 $1,442
46 Portland, OR $49,487 2 $1,297
49 Wichita, KS $32,337 3 $772
49 Plano, TX $54,361 2 $1,435
52 Kansas City, MO $38,935 3 $952
49 Cape Coral, FL $38,978 2 $1,308
54 Concord, CA $61,924 2 $1,696
55 Cambridge, MA $77,382 2 $2,350
52 Virginia Beach, VA $49,108 2 $1,344
56 Tulsa, OK $33,460 3 $826
58 Charlotte, NC $45,895 3 $1,154
58 Omaha, NE $37,107 3 $904
57 St. Petersburg, FL $39,113 2 $1,132
58 Naperville, IL $56,089 2 $1,463
61 Seattle, WA $68,343 2 $1,699
63 Lubbock, TX $26,211 1 $929
62 Richmond, VA $36,772 2 $1,016
64 Huntsville, AL $35,503 3 $854
64 Pasadena, CA $46,535 2 $1,699
67 Columbus, OH $41,000 3 $954
66 Tacoma, WA $47,624 2 $1,299
67 Des Moines, IA $36,273 3 $837
67 Mesa, AZ $38,505 2 $1,057
70 Sunnyvale, CA $106,960 2 $2,580
70 Phoenix, AZ $41,306 3 $1,049
70 Fort Wayne, IN $32,667 3 $758
73 Tempe, AZ $46,385 3 $1,158
74 San Jose, CA $69,080 2 $2,161
74 Wilmington, NC $32,091 2 $998
76 Lexington-Fayette, KY $36,825 3 $915
78 Irvine, CA $60,472 2 $2,399
77 Colorado Springs, CO $38,885 2 $1,156
79 Topeka, KS $30,573 3 $835
80 Louisville/Jefferson, KY $35,000 3 $848
82 Pittsburgh, PA $32,122 2 $917
80 Escondido, CA $40,559 2 $1,456
83 Minneapolis, MN $47,861 3 $1,052
84 Athens-Clarke, GA $29,956 3 $843
86 Milwaukee, WI $30,904 3 $835
84 Vancouver, WA $42,167 2 $1,298
88 Knoxville, TN $30,774 3 $843
88 Hayward, CA $61,569 3 $1,889
94 Houston, TX $40,054 3 $1,032
87 Honolulu, HI $42,265 2 $1,472
91 Buffalo, NY $30,828 3 $792
90 Worcester, MA $33,373 2 $1,112
91 Enterprise, NV $61,294 3 $1,385
94 Winston-Salem, NC $30,407 3 $773
94 Columbia, MO $33,098 3 $881
91 Roseville, CA $44,388 2 $1,590
97 Tucson, AZ $29,994 3 $823
97 Henderson, NV $46,923 3 $1,290
97 Anaheim, CA $49,986 2 $1,643
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