The Top 5 States and Cities Starting a New Career

FT Contributor  | 

After graduating from college, your next big life challenge is starting a career. You’ll find that jumping headfirst into a new industry with a full-time job in the hopes of advancing and earning a hefty salary is stressful. The pressure of paying off student loans and establishing yourself while putting your degree to good use can be exhausting.

However, if you choose a city that’s thriving and designed for success when starting a new position, you may find it easier to build your career successfully. Exploring different states and cities that are conducive to establishing a career can help you figure out where the most opportunities await you.

Concerns When Choosing a Place to Start Your Career

When you analyze where to settle down and find a job after college, there are many factors to take into consideration. It’s important to keep in mind your major and the industry you plan to enter. Some areas are better suited for certain specializations.

While other factors may seem satisfactory in one location, it’s important to ensure your specific industry is thriving in the area. For example, software engineers and computer programmers may find tons of opportunities in Silicon Valley. However, agricultural engineers may not thrive in this same location since there isn’t much opportunity for the farming industry there.

You should also consider the employment rate in an area. The higher the employment rate, the more likely it is that the area has many job opportunities. However, it’s also important to analyze the earnings in the area and ensure the position you’re considering pays well.

When you look into the average salaries in the area, you should take into consideration the cost of living. In some areas, the cost of living is much higher than in others. Even if the position you desire pays well, your salary won’t last as long since living expenses, such as rent and food, are higher in the area.  

Top States for Career Growth

When you’re analyzing the best states for career growth, it’s important to look into the employment rate and median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders, as well as the average cost of living in the state. Review the following states to learn more about growing industries and other important factors you should consider when deciding which state is the best place from which to launch your career.

Connecticut

  • Employment rate for bachelor’s degree holders: 84.1%;
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $61,933;
  • Average cost of living in the state: Median monthly housing cost is $1,417 and the median annual household income is $73,781.
  • Best career fields in the state: Health care and social assistance, finance and insurance, retail trade, manufacturing, educational services, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services.

The largest city in Connecticut is Hartford and, as of 2019, there were 2,560 open jobs in the city alone, according to Indeed. The Connecticut Department of Labor offers several job-seeking resources to college graduates and other job candidates, including the Connecticut Career Resource Network (CCRN) and the Office of Workforce Competitiveness (OWC).

Connecticut is also one of several states that is expected to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next few years, creating higher wages for those who are just starting their careers.

Maryland

  • Employment rate for bachelor’s degree holders: 85.8%;
  • Median salary for bachelor’s degree holders: $61,631;
  • Average cost of living in the state: Median monthly housing cost is $1,466 and the median annual household income is $78,916.
  • Best career fields in the state: Educational services, health care, and social assistance, professional, scientific, and technical services, construction, as well as accommodation and food services.

While the cost of living in Maryland is high, bachelor’s degree holders can earn an average median salary higher than $60,000. Maryland’s overall unemployment rate decreased to 3.6% in November of 2019 and many job opportunities can be found in Baltimore and other metropolitan areas in the state. The Maryland Jobs Now workforce organization assists college graduates and other unemployed individuals with finding jobs by providing business services and job search assistance.

Maryland is another state with a $15 minimum wage law on the books, which will see its minimum wage slowly working its way up to $15 per hour by the year 2025.

Massachusetts

  • Employment rate for bachelor’s degree holders: 85.4%;
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $60,715
  • Average cost of living in the state: Median monthly housing cost is $1,431 and the median annual household income is $74,167.
  • Best career fields in the state: Health care and social assistance, manufacturing, retail trade, educational services, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services.

Boston is the most populous city in Massachusetts and may provide the most opportunities for jobs and networking. MassHire for Job Seekers is a government program that helps college graduates and other job candidates connect with local companies that are currently hiring.

Minnesota

  • Employment rate for bachelor’s degree holders: 85.8%;
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $53,925;
  • Average cost of living in the state: Median monthly housing cost is $1,049 and median household income is $65,699.
  • Best career fields in the state: Manufacturing, retail trade, health care, and social assistance, professional, scientific, and technical services, as well as accommodation and food services.

According to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, 72% of all Minnesota college graduates were employed within two years of graduating from college. The city of Minneapolis is the largest city and may have the most job opportunities, depending on your desired industry.

North Dakota

  • Employment rate for bachelor’s degree holders: 88%;
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,945;
  • Average cost of living in the state: Median monthly housing cost is $782 and median household income is $61,285.
  • Best career fields in the state: Health care and social assistance, retail trade, manufacturing, accommodation and food services, finance and insurance, as well as transportation and warehousing.

The monthly housing costs in North Dakota are low, but it’s important to note that the median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders is also low and North Dakota’s minimum wage is relatively low, compared to some other states.

According to the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, Bismarck is one of the best small cities to live in when it comes to a steady job market. North Dakota also topped the list as one of the best states for young adults. It has the highest population of residents ages 18 to 24 years old than any other state in the nation.

Top Cities for Career Growth

To evaluate the best cities for career growth, it’s important to look at the employment rate and median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders. You should also consider the overall population of the city, the careers that may be available, and the lifestyle the city offers when choosing where you want to start your career.

Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa is home to many types of employers, but most of the top employers and establishments are in accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, retail trade, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services. Careers in these fields could include a registered nurse, computer services, architectural engineering, and merchandising.

The city is ranked as the fifth-best place to live by U.S. News & World Report due to its thriving and growing downtown area, as well as its low unemployment rate and reasonable cost of living. While there is a cold winter to contend with, residents of the city still enjoy outdoor activities in the spring and summer months, such as football and trips to local orchards.

Seattle, Washington

This large city has many thriving industries, including professional, scientific, and technical services, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, as well as retail trade. Within these thriving industries, you could land a career as a hotel manager, informational technology professional, or software consultant. The city’s high minimum wage also makes it possible to earn more at the start of your career.

Seattle is ranked as the ninth-best place to live in U.S. News & World Report’s analysis of metro areas in the nation. With the growth of the technology industry in the city, housing costs are rising. This has caused many residents to live farther outside the city, which has contributed to the growth of more affordable suburban areas.

Bismarck, North Dakota

The largest employment industries in Bismarck include retail trade, health care, and social assistance, finance and insurance, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services. Within these industries, you could start a career as a human resource officer, software sales consultant, insurance agent, or financial advisor.

As the capital of North Dakota, Bismarck is home to many new small businesses that show off local residents’ creative and artistic flair. The infrastructure is easy to navigate, making it a top choice for new college graduates and other workers looking for an easy commute. Bismarck was voted one of Livability’s Top 100 Best Places to Live due to its affordability and expansive job opportunities.

Austin, Texas

Some of the biggest industries in Austin, Texas with the most establishments and employees include professional, scientific, and technical services, retail trade, health care and social assistance, as well as accommodation and food services. Within these industries, you could begin a career as a restaurant manager, social worker, technology consultant, or bookkeeper. Among other cities in Texas, Austin has pledged to raise the minimum wage of its public employees, making it a great place to work for the city government.

Austin is known for its rich history and extensive art and music scene. It was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the number one metro to live in because of its thriving job market and value of living. Since Austin is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., home prices have skyrocketed. However, low state and income taxes can help make up for this leap in home prices.

Denver, Colorado

The most prominent industries in Denver, Colorado include professional, scientific, and technical services, retail trade, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, as well as finance and insurance. Depending on your education and experience, within these industries, you could start a career as an executive assistant, insurance underwriter, software engineer, or customer service representative.

U.S. News & World Report ranks Denver, Colorado as the second-best place to live when compared to other metros throughout the nation. Home prices in the city are high due to the recent population explosion, but mostly sunny, dry weather and an easily commutable light rail may make up for high real estate prices.

After graduating from college, it’s important to find an area that will allow you to snag a position with ease. These states and cities are known for their growth and opportunity, so you can look into these choices when deciding where to start your career.


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