The Best Cities To Start Your Career In Each State

By Heidi Cope
Aug. 20, 2018

Find a Job You Really Want In

Source: Click to enlarge.

You’ve just graduated college or are changing careers and now you are faced with the task to find a job. Should you stay in your hometown or try out your luck somewhere else?

Luckily for you, Zippia has already done the research on the top cities in the U.S. to start your career…and the results may surprise you.

You don’t need to move to the Big Apple or to Los Angeles to be successful. In fact, sometimes it is the lesser-known cities that actually will create the biggest positive impact on your career.

So if you are thinking of making a start in a new state or hoping to stay closer to home, these are the top 10 cities to kickstart your career with a bang:

  1. Fargo, ND
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Midland, TX
  4. Lincoln, NE
  5. Columbia, MO
  6. Norman, OK
  7. Anchorage, AK
  8. Lafayette, LA
  9. Provo, UT
  10. Duluth, MN

Still asking yourself who lives in the flyover states?

Even if these cities seem a bit foreign to you, they are bustling with energy and are some of the most up-and-coming places to start your career in the U.S.

Whether you prefer snow-covered cities like Fargo or Madison or are looking for the best-pulled pork in Lafayette or Midland, Zippia has found a city perfect for you and your career.


In order to properly compare places, we set a minimum population threshold of 50,000 people, which led us to data for 831 cities in the U.S.

We then ranked each place across a number of criteria from one to 831, with one being the best.

We took the average rank across all criteria, with the place posting the lowest overall score being named “Best Cities in Each State for Jobs.”

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Population
  • Unemployment
  • Percent of the population being a Millennial
  • Cost of living

The source of the criteria was the Census’s American Community Survey.

1. Fargo, ND

Fargo, ND

Unemployment Rate: 3.6%
Median Rent: $727
Median Income: $48,060

Fargo sits comfortably at #1 for the best place to start your career. Who wouldn’t want to live in a city with low unemployment, low cost of living, and be surrounded by a bunch of other millennials?

You could pay off your student loans faster, get your snow-fix, and not be the youngest person at your work by 20 years.

This city also houses red pandas, a millennial favorite, in the Red River Zoo. So if you get stressed at work, you can go surround yourself with some of the cutest animals on the planet.

2. Madison, WI

Madison, WI

Unemployment Rate: 4.8%
Median Rent: $959
Median Income: $56,464

If you love going to a lake or being surrounded by nature, Madison is the place for you. The city boasts it’s 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, making it perfect for the outdoor enthusiast.

Madison is a great city for any health or healthcare technology professional and is home for great companies like Epic, UW Hospital and Clinics, and American Family Insurance.

Once you get there, you may never want to leave. Madison was rated one of the best places to retire in 2018 by Forbes, so Zippia is keeping you ahead of the game.

3. Midland, TX

Midland, TX

Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
Median Rent: $1,143
Median Income: $71,500

Oil, oil, and more oil. Midland is the city for any oil industry guru. Even if the petrol business isn’t in your future, there are many other exciting career opportunities in Midland, including agriculture, aerospace, and health care.

If you are yearning for the small-town atmosphere with big-town job opportunity, Midland may be a great first step for your career.

Fun fact: if you are George W. Bush fan, you can see his childhood home restored to its 1950’s state.

4. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, NE

Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
Median Rent: $750
Median Income: $51,126

You don’t have to love corn to be happy in Nebraska. Lincoln is an up-and-coming vibrant town and home to the Nebraska Cornhuskers Football. From big arenas to see Beyonce to zen gardens to practice yoga, Lincoln is full of surprises for everyone.

Plus, Lincoln is one of the most affordable places to live in America. You can find studio apartments for under $400/month. Try having the same in New York City.

Our final thoughts on Lincoln? Why would you not want to live like a king while paying off student debt AND making a great start to your career?

5. Columbia, MO

Columbia, MO

Source: Public domain

Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
Median Rent: $803
Median Income: $45,221

Columbia is bustling with millennials, has over 600 restaurants, and offers a diverse set of exhibits at over 30 museums and art galleries. Tired of being indoors? Columbia has caves, bike trails, and lakes fit for any outdoor lover.

Combine all that with an incredibly affordable cost of living and a nice income– what else could you possibly want?

So if you just got a degree in education, health care, or insurance, Columbia may soon be called home!

6. Norman, OK

Norman, OK

Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
Median Rent: $802
Median Income: $52,484

You know those phone alarms that go off before a storm? Yeah, the National Weather Service ones? Those are brought to you in part by the NWC headquarters from Norman, Oklahoma!

If you have a degree in earth sciences, engineering, meteorology, or renewable energy, Norman is well-equipped to give you the opportunities needed to advance your career quickly.

The University of Oklahoma is highly invested in Norman, so you can be sure the city offers every amenity for young professionals, including theaters, music venues, and the well-renown Chocolate Festival.

7. Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, AK

Source: Wikipedia User Frank K. from A | CC BY 2.0

Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
Median Rent: $1,231
Median Income: $80,862

Enjoy beautiful scenery, cold weather, and polar bears? Anchorage comes in as #6 in our top ten best places to start a career.

Anchorage is well known for its cultural diversity and is home to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. So if you have ever wanted to spot a moose, boat with some whales, or learn more about Native American history and culture, Anchorage is easily a great option for your career.

Not sure what types of companies are hiring in America’s backcountry? Luckily, we have already done the research to find the 100 Largest Companies in Alaska.

8. Lafayette, LA

Lafayette, LA

Source: Public domain

Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
Median Rent: $824
Median Income: $47,940

Coming in at #8 on our top cities to start your career is Lafayette. If Anchorage seemed a little too cold for you, perhaps moving to the Deep South is more up your alley.

After work in Lafayette, you can tour creole plantations, try different types of BBQ, and avoid alligators in Lake Martin’s swamp.

The University of Louisiana-Lafayette helps drive small business and entrepreneurship in this spicy cajun-filled city. Careers in healthcare, in infrastructure, and with Walmart are some top options to choose from.

9. Provo, UT

Provo, UT

Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
Median Rent: $764
Median Income: $42,600

Provo, the millennial boom-town, with nearly 46% of the population being a millenial in 2010. Brigham Young University is a vibrant student center of Provo and the university helps drive Provo’s economy.

If you are not Mormon, don’t erase Provo off a list of potential places to start your career! The epic scenery, canyons, and mountains are enough to allure any recent grad and the job market is excellent.

The many international, Fortune 500, and tech start-up companies make Provo known as the “Silicon Slopes.” While you feel like you are surrounded by the great outdoors, you can have your Google Fiber top internet speeds and an amazing job.

10. Duluth, MN

Duluth, MN

Unemployment Rate: 5.6%
Median Rent: $752
Median Income: $45,950

Rounding out our top ten list is Duluth, which is a fabulous port city on Lake Superior.

Naturally, the port accessibility makes Duluth a top market for transportation, trade, and IT industries. Manufacturing companies invest in Duluth internationally so you can have easy access to international markets and companies.

Plus, if you are an avid skier, Duluth offers a mountain with year-round programs. Can’t say the same about Louisiana.

There You Have It You Career Go Getter, You

Now that you’ve seen our top 10 cities to start your career, you probably wonder what the big fuss is about New York, D.C., and Los Angeles.

At Zippia, we know your wallet is tight when you are first starting out with your careers, so why waste money on rent when you could live in a city surrounded by beautiful mountains or eat cajun jambalaya every day?

No matter your style, there is a city fit to boost your career without breaking your bank.

Detailed List Of The Best City TO Start Your Career In Each State

State City Median Income
Alabama Huntsville $51,441
Alaska Anchorage $80,862
Arizona Tempe $50,474
Arkansas Conway $47,190
California Berkeley $70,393
Colorado Fort Collins $57,831
Connecticut New Haven $38,126
Delaware Wilmington $40,065
Florida Gainesville $32,716
Georgia Sandy Springs $68,629
Hawaii Kalaoa $65,922
Idaho Pocatello $41,172
Illinois Normal $54,496
Indiana Lafayette $42,641
Iowa Cedar Rapids $55,359
Kansas Lawrence $47,938
Kentucky Louisville $46,881
Louisiana Lafayette $47,940
Maine Portland $48,259
Maryland Towson $77,680
Massachusetts Cambridge $83,122
Michigan Ann Arbor $57,697
Minnesota Duluth $45,950
Mississippi Jackson $32,866
Missouri Columbia $45,221
Montana Billings $52,944
Nebraska Lincoln $51,126
Nevada Reno $48,815
New Hampshire Manchester $54,899
New Jersey Jersey City $60,703
New Mexico Albuquerque $48,127
New York Cheektowaga $48,994
North Carolina Chapel Hill $65,373
North Dakota Fargo $48,060
Ohio Columbus $47,156
Oklahoma Norman $52,484
Oregon Eugene $44,859
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh $42,450
Rhode Island Providence $37,366
South Carolina Charleston $57,603
South Dakota Sioux Falls $54,110
Tennessee Nashville $49,891
Texas Midland $71,500
Utah Provo $42,600
Vermont Burlington $46,754
Virginia Arlington $108,706
Washington Seattle $74,458
West Virginia Charleston $46,720
Wisconsin Madison $56,464
Wyoming Casper $57,964

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Heidi Cope

Heidi Cope is a former writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog. Her writing focused primarily on Zippia's suite of rankings and general career advice. After leaving Zippia, Heidi joined The Mighty as a writer and editor, among other positions. She received her BS from UNC Charlotte in German Studies.

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