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Top US College Towns to Start a Career

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College marks the transition to adulthood for many people and, oftentimes, starting a full-time career after graduating that symbolizes the end of that transition. Entering the working world can be a daunting proposition, even after spending years in college learning the ins and outs of a chosen industry.

As graduation nears, looking for and finding jobs you want can be stressful, especially when you consider resume preparation, interviews and all the waiting. Once you have the job, there is the added pressure of putting the skills and knowledge that were primarily theoretical instruments months earlier into practical use.

Something that can help ease this transition is to move into an environment where you feel comfortable. For many recent college graduates, such an environment would look a lot like a stereotypical college town, one of those places throughout America where students and their lifestyles are an integral part of the city they share with locals.

With that in mind, we wanted to see if we couldn’t find which college towns across the country are the best places to start a career by evaluating them on a number of metrics encompassing job availability and pay, social life, climate and more.


We started our evaluation by looking at which cities the ten largest colleges in every state are located in. After making some strategic cuts in certain states we were left with over 430 different cities across the country to evaluate.

To determine which cities to rank as the “best” college towns for starting a career, we collected data from the US Census, Yelp, Indeed, official government climate data and more for every single city we looked at. All told, we used that information to compare these cities across more than 20 different touch points, broken into six larger categories: Similar State [Of Life] Population, Job Market, Climate, Culture, City Infrastructure and Financial.

Using proprietary formulas, we were able to take these objective measures and assign each city a score of 1-10 in each category. Those scores were then added together to give each city a final score between 1-6. The higher the score, the better suited the city was as a place to begin a career.

In the graphic above, you can see the 50 cities that scored the highest overall in our evaluation, with Notre Dame, Indiana leading the way. Interestingly, almost all of the top overall cities in this analysis were east of the Mississippi, with only three cities being located west of Texas.

That being said, we understand that not everyone will want to venture to those eastern cities to start their working life. For those who want to stay a little closer to home while still venturing to a city that gives them a career leg up, we found the number one college town for starting a career in every state and mapped that out as well.

While our evaluation was meant to be as all-encompassing as possible, taking into consideration work/life balance, environment and more, for some people salary is the only thing that matters when looking for a job. To that end, we looked at US Census data on the average salary people in all of these cities earn in specific industries and mapped out the top 25 highest-earning cities in major career fields, starting with tech, where we were surprised to see Bedford, Massachusetts and Paramus, New Jersey actually outperform the Silicon Valley hotspot of San Jose.

For people interested in careers in finance, living in relatively close proximity to Wall Street, the business capital of the nation, makes logical sense in theory and in practice. Of the top dozen cities where finance workers make the most money, only one is farther away from New York than Virginia.

While healthcare workers would similarly be wise to try and find work in the New England/Mid-Atlantic region, the best place for them is actually in the Midwest, where Mequon, Wisconsin – a suburb of Milwaukee – has the best average salaries for those that keep America healthy.

Finally, we looked at where those seeking to educate the next generation of Americans should focus on when job hunting. For these careers, a pair of New York towns top the list, with Stony Brook, New York far outpacing anywhere else in the nation with an average educator salary over $80,000. Interestingly, the only time the state of Alaska is represented in any of our evaluations of top cities for specific industries is when evaluating education careers, where four different Alaskan cities make the list.

Starting your career can be a daunting experience, but if you have a great education under your belt and a city you can be comfortable in, you can find great success in your new chapter.

No matter what kind of career you want to pursue, or where you want to start that career, however, Grand Canyon University can offer a leg up by providing students a top-notch education and career prep in any number of fields.