After the graduation caps have met the ground and the sounds of pomp and circumstance fade, the class of 2022 will officially enter the workforce and embark on their post-collegiate journey. Many factors affect where recent graduates choose to begin their next chapter, including median rent prices, average income, unemployment rate, and the potential for social opportunities. Zumper has ranked 100 cities by these factors, and other key categories, to determine the best cities for 2022 college graduates to live. We then assigned each city a graded mark in these categories to show where they fall in the class standings.
- Minneapolis, MN is the overall best city for college graduates
- San Francisco, CA offers the highest earning potential for new grads
- Detroit, MI has the highest percentage of singles
- Madison, WI has the lowest unemployment rate
- Laredo, TX is the worst overall city for recent college grads
Top 10 best cities for college grads
1. Minneapolis, MN
Ranking in the upper third for all designated categories, Minneapolis, MN is the overall number one city for college grads. With consistent “B’s” for affordable rent, and median income, and an “A” for low unemployment rate, the Twin Cities is a desirable location for emerging leaders to enter the workforce while maintaining a lower cost of living. Minneapolis also received an “A” for restaurants per capita. Overall, this city is well rounded in all categories, attributing to its title of valedictorian in our rankings.
2. Denver, CO
Denver, Colorado has been a popular destination for transplants looking to move West for years now, and it’s no surprise why. Receiving “A” grades for low unemployment, with a rate of 4.3 percent, and high median earnings of 25-year-olds and younger, Denver is a highly desirable location to start a career. What propelled Denver to our second position of best cities for college graduates is its high marks for restaurants per capita, speaking to the city’s vibrant social scene, especially if you are a brewery enthusiast. What kept Denver from the top of the class was its “D” grade for median rent price of 1-bedroom apartments, with an average rent of $1,740/month.
3. Seattle, WA
Home to Mount Rainier and Pikes Place Market, Seattle, Washington is ranked third on our list of best cities for college grads. Seattle received an “A” grade for both its high percentage of 25-year-olds with a Bachelor’s degree and low unemployment rate. Given top employers such as Amazon and Starbucks, Seattle is a great city to find employment opportunities.
4. Columbus, OH
While its grade for median income falls in the lower half of our scores, Columbus’s affordable rent makes this a desirable city for recent graduates looking to take advantage of more affordable housing. The median rent price for a 1-bedroom apartment in Columbus is $925. Columbus also received an “A” for the population of young people (aged 18-34), and populations of 25-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree, making this city a great destination to meet other young professionals. However, Columbus received a “C” mark for median income of 25-year-olds and younger, with an average annual salary of $32,108.
5. San Francisco, CA
Taking the fifth spot on our list of best cities for college grads, San Francisco is at the top of the class for median income of 25-year-olds and younger, with an average annual income of $87,946. San Francisco also ranks high in both the population of young people and restaurants per capita, which speaks to the abundance of options to socialize and entertain. San Francisco’s rent prices are less desirable, with the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment coming in at $2,895, attributing to its “F” in that category.
6. Phoenix, AZ
Young people have their sights set on this sunny city. Receiving “A’s” for population of young people, unemployment rate, and people with a bachelor’s degree, Phoenix is holding strong in our sixth spot. Graded a “C” for both restaurants per capita and single population, you could call Phoenix an average student overall. Definitely room for improvement.
7. Raleigh, NC
Raleigh, North Carolina has become a popular destination for young professionals in recent years with the increase in tech startups opening operations in the city. Raleigh ranks significantly well in our grades for low unemployment rate, with 4.3 percent. Combined with a median monthly rent price of $1,158, Raleigh’s number seven ranking on our list is indicative of prospective job opportunities and a manageable cost of living for recent college grads.
8. Washington, DC
Our nation’s capital city, Washington, DC is an exceptional choice for graduates looking to enter the workforce in a political career. DC falls in the top 20 for both the population of young people and population of 25-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree, as well as restaurants per capita. However, with a higher unemployment rate of 7.1 percent and a “D” grade for median rent, grads should evaluate prospective job opportunities before moving to the city.
9. Atlanta, GA
Claiming the ninth position on our list of best cities for college grads is Atlanta, GA. Atlanta received straight “A’s” for both population of singles and restaurants per capita, making this city an excellent choice for graduates looking to expand their social circle and enjoy the coveted Southern cuisine offered in the area. Atlanta received a below average grade for median rent, and consistent “B’s” in all other categories.
10. Oklahoma City, OK
Rounding out our list of best cities for college graduates is Oklahoma City, OK. Oklahoma City received particularly high marks in median rent prices, with the average monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment at $849. With an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, Oklahoma city is a prime destination for professionals looking for employment opportunities in a low-cost Midwest city.
Cities ranked by top categories
The top 5 for highest median income for ages 25 and younger is mostly comprised of cities in California. With the exception of Scottsdale, our data shows that the West Coast provides the highest earning potential for recent graduates.
The cities with the lowest unemployment rate as of 2020 are those with a rate of 4 percent or lower, the lowest being Madison, WI with an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent. Geographically, these cities fall in the Midwest to Western regions of the country.
Detroit had the highest percentage of singles, with 77 percent of the population defined as unmarried. Cleveland, OH and Rochester, NY follow closely, each with 75.3 percent. Rounding out the top 5 is Baltimore, MD and Syracuse, NY with 73.4 percent and 72.8 percent, respectively.
To determine the cities with the highest concentration of young people, aged 18-34, we used the 2019 American Community Survey to analyze the population of each city. New York, NY is leading the pack significantly with 2,176,187 residents falling within this age group.
Cities that need to retake their final
The following five cities received the lowest grades in the class:
Receiving “F’s” for both population of young people and restaurants per capita, Boise doesn’t exactly scream party town. While Boise does have a particularly low unemployment rate, its consistent “D’s” in all other categories didn’t boast well for the cumulative average.
A popular air transit hub, Newark doesn’t score well for young people with a bachelor’s degree. This could be due to its below average median income for people 25 and younger, with an average annual salary of $30,019.
Despite being a well known college town for top universities including Brown and RISD, Providence doesn’t seem to have the same appeal post-grad. With high grades for the population of singles and low unemployment rate, you’d think this coastal town would receive higher honors. But, due to lower median income and higher median rent prices, young professionals seem to be settling elsewhere.
With a median rent price of $940, Augusta has a low cost of living. Combined with a large population of singles, this Southern city could be a great place to meet your next partner. But, with failing grades for restaurants and population of young people, the chances of having opportunities to mingle with peers is less likely for new grads.
Holding the bottom spot on the list of 100 cities is Laredo, TX. Laredo scored well for median rent prices and unemployment rate, but the median income, volume of restaurants, and young people with a bachelor’s degree were enough to secure its failing marks.
To identify the best cities for college graduates, we analyzed the top 100 US cities on seven key metrics. These metrics included the following:
- Median 1-bedroom rent from Zumper.com
- Population of 18-34-year-olds (for highest concentration of ‘young people’) from American Community Survey 2019
- Population of 25-year-olds with Bachelor’s degrees from American Community Survey 2020
- Median income of 25-year-olds and younger from American Community Survey 2020
- Non-married population from American Community Survey 2020
- Restaurants per 100 thousand people from OpenStreetMap API
- Unemployment rate from American Community Survey 2020
Each city received a ranking and a weighted score for each metric. Median rent prices, median income for 25-year-olds and younger, and 2020 unemployment rate each accounted for 20 percent of the weighted score. The unmarried population accounted for 15 percent. The population of young people and the population of young people with a bachelor’s degree accounted for 10 percent, and restaurants per capita comprised the last 5 percent. We assigned letter grades to each city based on the quintiles for each data point:
This product uses the Census Bureau Data API but is not endorsed or certified by the Census Bureau.
How each city ranked in the individual categories
|Population of People w/ Bachelor’s||Single|
|5||San Francisco, CA||F||A||A||B||A||A||A|
|10||Oklahoma City, OK||A||B||B||D||A||C||D|
|11||Kansas City, MO||B||B||B||B||A||C||A|
|15||Colorado Springs, CO||B||B||B||D||B||A||B|
|18||San Jose, CA||D||A||A||D||A||A||B|
|19||St Louis, MO||A||D||C||A||B||D||A|
|20||New York, NY||F||A||A||C||B||A||C|
|21||Fort Worth, TX||B||A||B||D||A||B||D|
|25||San Antonio, TX||B||A||A||B||B||D||F|
|27||Los Angeles, CA||D||A||A||B||B||B||B|
|29||San Diego, CA||D||A||A||D||B||B||B|
|35||Virginia Beach, VA||C||C||B||D||A||A||D|
|45||Las Vegas, NV||C||B||B||C||B||C||B|
|51||El Paso, TX||A||B||C||C||B||D||F|
|54||Salt Lake City, UT||B||D||D||C||A||C||A|
|57||Des Moines, IA||A||F||F||B||B||C||C|
|73||Long Beach, CA||D||C||C||B||B||C||C|
|75||Corpus Christi, TX||A||D||F||D||A||C||F|
|76||St Petersburg, FL||C||F||D||C||A||C||D|
|77||Santa Ana, CA||D||C||F||C||A||A||D|
|86||Fort Lauderdale, FL||D||F||D||B||B||A||C|
|87||New Orleans, LA||C||C||C||A||B||F||B|
|90||Winston Salem, NC||A||F||D||C||A||F||F|
|91||Baton Rouge, LA||A||D||F||A||B||F||F|