Best Small Cities to Start a Career

Amanda Postma
by Amanda Postma
Study - 1 month ago

Find a Job You Really Want In

To get started, tell us where you'd like to work.

Sorry, we can't find that. Please try a different city or state.


A lot of people like living and working in big cities for career opportunities that are there. But there are some who prefer a much quieter lifestyle.

They like the smaller cities, which actually offer just as many great opportunities for starting a career as a big city can offer.

Take a look over our list of the best small cities to start a career to find out where you should be searching for a job.

Best Small Cities to Start a Career

  1. Springdale, New Jersey
  2. Carroll, Iowa
  3. Pierre, South Dakota
  4. Hamburg, New York
  5. Whitehall, Pennsylvania
  6. Victoria, Minnesota
  7. Newcastle, Oklahoma
  8. Trenton, Michigan
  9. Waupun, Wisconsin
  10. Macedonia, Ohio

If you’re looking for a slice of the good life, your job search should start with this list. But if those cities don’t get your wheels a-turning, check out the full list of all the best cities below.

How We Determined The Best Cities To Start Your Career

We looked at over 3,000 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.

We defined small-sized as any city with a working population between 5,000 to 25,000 people. We then selected the highest-ranking city in each state.

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

1. Springdale, New Jersey

Individual Median Income: $69,923
Unemployment: 1.2
Rent: $785

The first stop for Small City, USA is Springdale, New Jersey. The quaint little city beats out the competition when it comes to starting a career with its low unemployment rate of 1.2. In addition, the cost of living is incredibly affordable as the average monthly rent there is only $785. And while you’re making an average of $69,923, you won’t have to skimp on the finer things in life.

2. Carroll, Iowa


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

The next stop is Carroll, Iowa. While you probably won’t become a millionaire starting out here since the average income is $35,942, you won’t have to worry so much about the cost of living as the average rent is $811 a month. Plus, with unemployment at 2.1, you’ll be able to snatch up a job in no time.

3. Pierre, South Dakota


Individual Median Income: $43,458
Unemployment: 2.0

Pierre, South Dakota is next on our list. And it should be on yours as well. With a median income of $43,458, you’ll be able to take care of that $1,001 average rent.

4. Hamburg, New York


Individual Median Income: $37,481
Unemployment: 2.4

Far enough away from that big city that never sleeps, Hamburg, New York is the perfect small city for you to start a career. It’s hard to imagine rent averaging $843 a month anywhere in New York, but Hamburg has got it figured out. Plus with the median income being $37,481, you’ll have plenty to make it in a state you had probably crossed off your list.

5. Whitehall, Pennsylvania


Individual Median Income: $45,382
Unemployment: 1.4

Next up is Whitehall, Pennsylvania. This city has an astonishing low unemployment rate at 1.4% so you’re sure to find a job easily enough. The only downside to living here is the living cost with the average rent at $1,125.

6. Victoria, Minnesota


Individual Median Income: $47,701
Unemployment: 2.3

For No. 6, we’ve arrived at Victoria, Minnesota. This cute little city is a great place to start a career, especially if you want to make a little extra money. The city’s median income is $47,701, which is plenty to get by with and still be able to afford the average rent of $1,131.

7. Newcastle, Oklahoma

Individual Median Income: $41,000
Unemployment: 1.7
Rent: 719

Next up on the tour is Newcastle, Oklahoma. Its unemployment rate of 1.7% is so low that you’ll have no problem finding a job here. In fact, you may decide to spend the rest of your career here with the average rent costing only $719 and the median income being $41,000.

8. Trenton, Michigan


Source: |GFDL

Individual Median Income: $38,078
Unemployment: 2.2

You won’t want to miss this stop at Trenton, Michigan. With a low average rent of $941 and a low unemployment rate of 2.2%, you won’t have to worry about securing a job and you may even be able to splurge on housing.

9. Waupun, Wisconsin


Individual Median Income: $37,965
Unemployment: 2.5

As we make a stop in Waupun, Wisconsin, you’ll notice how cheap the cost of living is here. With an average rent of $872, you’ll be able to spend your paycheck on things you want to purchase.

10. Macedonia, Ohio


Individual Median Income: $48,807
Unemployment: 2.5

The 10th stop at Macedonia, Ohio is where we get off the train. The city supports its employees with a median income of $48,807, which is really great especially for those who are just starting out. The high median income is needed for the city’s average rent of $1,117, but you’ll be able to enjoy the small city life in addition to paying bills and rent with that salary.

Summary of Best Small Cities to Start a Career

Not all people enjoy living in a big city so we spent some time finding smaller cities that are the best spots for starting a career. We went on a short little road trip across America to learn a little bit about each city. If you didn’t find your final stop in the top 10, don’t give up hope yet. We have a complete list of cities for you to check out below.

State City Median Income
Alabama Vestavia Hills $54,207
Alaska Sitka $40,204
Arizona Catalina Foothills $52,099
Arkansas Lowell $35,976
California Mill Valley $83,588
Colorado Windsor $49,704
Connecticut Wethersfield $48,421
Delaware Milford $32,500
Florida Lutz $41,866
Georgia Braselton $50,314
Hawaii Mililani Mauka $55,926
Idaho Blackfoot $24,607
Illinois Morton $44,872
Indiana St. John $52,639
Iowa Carroll $36,929
Kansas Derby $41,165
Kentucky Fort Thomas $46,852
Louisiana Central $41,424
Maine Brewer $31,149
Maryland Eldersburg $53,478
Massachusetts Maynard $53,616
Michigan Trenton $41,065
Minnesota Victoria $63,067
Mississippi Brandon $42,260
Missouri Town and Country $84,526
Montana Miles City $31,539
Nebraska Papillion $37,664
Nevada Spring Creek $53,190
New Hampshire Lebanon $42,630
New Jersey Springdale $69,923
New Mexico Los Alamos $70,383
New York Hamburg $46,693
North Carolina Summerfield $52,115
North Dakota West Fargo $41,858
Ohio Macedonia $47,433
Oklahoma Newcastle $41,000
Oregon West Haven-Sylvan $50,480
Pennsylvania Whitehall $41,172
Puerto Rico Guayama $18,458
Rhode Island Valley Falls $41,807
South Carolina Fort Mill $42,188
South Dakota Pierre $37,669
Tennessee Farragut $54,908
Texas Lumberton $40,482
Utah Kaysville $39,157
Vermont Rutland $30,580
Virginia Innsbrook $47,944
Washington Bothell East $69,443
West Virginia Cheat Lake $47,712
Wisconsin Waupun $36,812
Wyoming Sheridan $33,745
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time