The Best State Capitals to Start a Career

By Amanda Postma
Oct. 29, 2020

Find a Job You Really Want In

When it comes to starting your career, you want to start out on the right foot.

Or, at the very least, in the right place. Sure, you could pick a state to find a job in and probably have some success.

You could also try your luck at finding a job in one of the best cities in the U.S. or even the best city in each state.

Maybe you could start your career in a mid-sized city or a small city. And we’ve heard that beach cities have it going on when it comes to starting a career.

But perhaps, you should consider narrowing your career search even further to state capitals. From low unemployment rates and rent averages to high salary rates, we found out that these state capitals want you to succeed when it comes to entering the workforce.
Best 10 State Capitals

  1. Pierre, South Dakota
  2. Bismarck, North Dakota
  3. Jefferson City, Missouri
  4. Montpelier, Vermont
  5. Little Rock, Arkansas
  6. Helena, Montana
  7. Lincoln, Nebraska
  8. Topeka, Kansas
  9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  10. Cheyenne, Wyoming

These cities are state capitals for a reason. Maybe it’s time for you to find out why. Treat yourself by starting a career in one of these capitals.

Once you see these average salaries and rent rates, you won’t want to look anywhere else. Plus, the unemployment rates are so low that you just know it’s not hard to find a job and keep it.

If these state capitals aren’t doing it for you, then be sure to check out the full list below to see how other state capitals fare.

How We Determined The Best State Capitals to Start Your Career

We looked at all 50 capitals 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. Pierre, South Dakota

south dakota class=

Unemployment Rate: 2.2
Earnings: $37,669
Rent: $617

Pierre, South Dakota, is at the top of the list when it comes to starting your career. That’s because it ranks first in the nation for how cheap rent is there. At $617 a month, it truly doesn’t get any better than that. If that wasn’t enough to sell you on Pierre, then it having the second-lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. of 2.2% might be enough. Here we come, Pierre!

2. Bismarck, North Dakota

north dakota class=

Unemployment Rate: 1.9
Earnings: $39,300
Rent: $850

The second best state capital to start your career is Bismarck, North Dakota. With an unemployment rate of 1.9%, you’ll have no problem holding down a job here. Plus, with the average salary at $39,300 you’ll be able to pay that $850 rent easily enough.

3. Jefferson City, Missouri

missouri class=

Unemployment Rate: 4.0
Earnings: $31,212
Rent: $621

Just outside of the Mizzou college town, Jefferson City, Missouri, awaits your arrival to join the workforce. The capital features the second-lowest rent average of $621 compared to the rest of the capitals.

4. Montpelier, Vermont

vermont class=

Unemployment Rate: 3.9
Earnings: $41,027
Rent: $992

Montpelier, Vermont, is the fourth-best state capital city for your career to take off. The second-highest salary rate of $41,027 is here, and you won’t want to miss out on that. Plus with a 3.9 unemployment rate and $992 average rent, Montpelier is living up to the hype.

5. Little Rock, Arkansas

arkansas class=

Unemployment Rate: 4.3
Earnings: $32,751
Rent: $850

As if the BBQ food here wasn’t enough to make you want to move here in the first place, maybe these other factors will convince you. Like a 4.3% unemployment rate. Or the average salary of $32,751. For us, though, it’s the $850 average rent. We wish our rent was that cheap!

6. Helena, Montana

montana class=

Unemployment Rate: 3.3
Earnings: $30,450
Rent: $818

At No. 6, Helena, Montana, has a whole lot to offer in terms of careers. The unemployment rate of 3.3% is the third-lowest in the country. And the average monthly rent of $818 isn’t that far behind either.

7. Lincoln, Nebraska

nebraska class=

Unemployment Rate: 3.6
Earnings: $30,065
Rent: $822

Lincoln, Nebraska, is the seventh-best state capital to start your career. From the fifth-lowest unemployment rate to the 10th-lowest monthly rent, you’d be living here practically stress-free.

8. Topeka, Kansas

kansas class=

Unemployment Rate: 5.0
Earnings: $31,013
Rent: $790

Kansas may get a bad wrap from being too flat (a.k.a. boring to drive through). But we think you should give it a chance. Especially when it comes to starting a career. Topeka, Kansas, is a great place to start with it’s $790 average rent and 5% unemployment rate.

9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

oklahoma class=

Unemployment Rate: 4.8
Earnings: $31,434
Rent: $849

Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. That’s not all you’ll be singing about in the state’s capital, though. Oklahoma City has lots to offer for those who are just starting out in their careers, like an average salary of $31,434 and low monthly rent of $849.

10. Cheyenne, Wyoming

wyoming class=

Unemployment Rate: 5.8
Earnings: $36,684
Rent: $898

There are a lot of great things about Cheyenne, Wyoming, and one of those is the career potential. Cheyenne features one of the highest average salaries on this list at $36,684. And with rent only averaging $898, you won’t have any problems living here.

Summary of the Best State Capitals to Start Your Career

There is a lot of potential that lies within a state capital city. Especially for someone who is just starting their career.

We narrowed it down and found that the 10 cities listed above are the best when it comes to careers.

These cities feature low unemployment rates, low monthly rent and high salaries. The table below gives you the full picture of how all the capital cities in the U.S. rank when it comes down to these factors.

The Best and Worst State Capitals

Rank State Capital Unemployment Rate Earnings Rent
1 South Dakota Pierre 2 $37,669 $617
2 North Dakota Bismarck 1 $39,300 $850
3 Missouri Jefferson City 4 $31,212 $621
4 Vermont Montpelier 3 $41,027 $992
5 Arkansas Little Rock 4 $32,751 $850
6 Montana Helena 3 $30,450 $818
7 Nebraska Lincoln 3 $30,065 $822
8 Kansas Topeka 5 $31,013 $790
8 Oklahoma Oklahoma City 4 $31,434 $849
10 Wyoming Cheyenne 5 $36,684 $898
11 Colorado Denver 4 $40,458 $1,217
11 Idaho Boise 4 $31,569 $910
13 West Virginia Charleston 5 $29,200 $727
14 Texas Austin 3 $38,261 $1,225
15 Illinois Springfield 7 $31,833 $789
16 Hawaii Honolulu 3 $36,941 $1,465
16 New Hampshire Concord 4 $36,318 $1,052
16 Utah Salt Lake City 4 $31,225 $938
19 North Carolina Raleigh 4 $36,549 $1,074
20 Iowa Des Moines 6 $30,868 $822
20 Maine Augusta 6 $28,546 $704
20 Wisconsin Madison 3 $31,452 $1,068
23 Tennessee Nashville 4 $32,348 $1,033
24 Maryland Annapolis 5 $40,476 $1,537
25 Alaska Juneau 5 $44,604 $1,226
26 Nevada Carson City 6 $31,433 $895
27 Ohio Columbus 5 $31,262 $928
28 Minnesota Saint Paul 5 $31,217 $935
28 New Mexico Santa Fe 5 $31,761 $1,043
30 Kentucky Frankfort 6 $27,962 $727
31 Arizona Phoenix 6 $31,672 $999
32 Indiana Indianapolis 7 $30,863 $865
33 Washington Olympia 6 $35,665 $1,089
34 Georgia Atlanta 7 $38,840 $1,099
35 Massachusetts Boston 7 $39,592 $1,539
36 Oregon Salem 6 $28,189 $922
37 Alabama Montgomery 7 $28,283 $867
38 Michigan Lansing 9 $25,036 $807
39 California Sacramento 8 $34,216 $1,179
39 Pennsylvania Harrisburg 9 $26,280 $834
41 New York Albany 6 $27,898 $951
42 Louisiana Baton Rouge 8 $25,221 $860
43 Mississippi Jackson 11 $24,887 $824
43 Virginia Richmond 7 $28,464 $979
45 South Carolina Columbia 7 $21,553 $910
46 Delaware Dover 6 $24,499 $1,028
47 Rhode Island Providence 8 $25,786 $972
48 Connecticut Hartford 13 $25,791 $959
49 Florida Tallahassee 8 $23,091 $995
50 New Jersey Trenton 12 $24,264 $1,029

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Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.


Amanda Postma

Amanda Postma is a writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog with a focus on creating entertaining content to help you through your job search. She received her BA from the University Of Missouri-Columbia.

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