Best U.S. Career Cities

Cities of Success: Where College Students Should Move for Their Careers

There is more to life than Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.
December 18, 2019
9 mins read

College students constantly ponder over their future careers and all that entails. It’s just a fact. And accompanying this question arrive countless sub-inquiries, like what’s their dream job? Which company will they work for? And, most importantly, what cities will they live in?

Many industries boast the luxury of having an abundance of jobs across the U.S. — have you ever been somewhere that didn’t use the services of a firefighter or a teacher?

In turn, other jobs have more localized markets that require applicants to move in order to start their careers. In general, there is always a “best place” to find a job. Even industries with impartially selective markets still encompass jobs that fare better in certain parts of the United States.

Whether you’re in a highly competitive market or simply want to know where you have to go to make the most green, here is a comprehensive list of the best U.S. cities to find a job, relative to your industry. The places are ranked based on median salary, availability of jobs and/or prestige of companies in the area.


Getting ready to begin a career in information technology (IT), web development or programming? You may think that Silicon Valley is the most lucrative place to go, but you’d be mistaken. SmartAsset compiled a list of the best American cities for tech jobs, and they gave the top spot to Columbus, Ohio.

While the tech industry is booming overall, jobs in Columbus are making nearly twice as much as the national average. Combined with the low cost of living, trekking overt to Ohio could allow you go find a well-paying job that also leaves you with an impressive amount of disposable income.

But, if Ohio isn’t your cup of tea, the list also named Dallas, Raleigh and Cedar Rapids as top tech cities.


While Wall Street might seem like the most exciting locale to jump-start a career in finance, there are other cities to consider if you’re looking for something less competitive.

According to Business Insider, Washington, D.C. is the number one spot for finance workers with regard to salary and cost of living. In fact, their 2017 list ranks D.C. above both San Francisco and Sacramento, boasting the highest job availability and salary with a more reasonable cost of living.


We know that teaching jobs are infamous for their low rate of pay, so what’s your best bet if you’re an educator-to-be? Granted, you’ll find a job in education just about anywhere, but some cities offer better opportunities than others; according to USA Today, Johnstown, Pennsylvania is the most favorable city.

Interestingly, this pick features the lowest annual salary of the lot, but gets the top spot because the cost of living is so low. Residents can expect to allocate only 16% of their income toward rent (on average, millennials spend upwards of 45% of their salary on housing).

Not interested in Philly? They also recommend Springfield, Ohio and Rockford, Illinois; the latter boasts an impressive average salary of over $73,000.


It seems like many of our high school peers went to engineering school, and for good reason. The job market is expected to grow by 10% over the next decade. So, where can you make the most of your degree?

To answer your question, Forbes decrees Huntsville, Alabama the destination for you, Mr. or Ms. Engineer. Featuring a NASA flight center and an Army arsenal, there are plenty of prestigious positions available for prospective engineers. The area also offers astoundingly high salaries, averaging over $102,000 annually, as well as low rent of $725 per month.

If you’re looking for other options, you might not be able to escape the south. After Huntsville are Warner Robins, Georgia and the Palm Bay area of Florida, respectively.

Film and Television

Most people know Los Angeles and New York are the most competitive cities for aspiring filmmakers, but they’re certainly not for everyone. Luckily, there are other great cities that offer jobs for those in the movie biz.

MovieMaker magazine ranked both the best big and small cities for filmmakers. Surprisingly, their number one pick for the former was Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Albuquerque has gone from an attractive boutique city on the production map to a marquee player, attracting over 50 major productions in the last three years,” they write. In addition, Netflix announced that they are building a production facility in the town, which will certainly boost employment.

If small towns are more your speed, Savannah, Georgia takes the top spot. This year alone it played host to the crews for “Gemini Man” (which starred Will Smith), as well as Disney’s live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp.” Its beautiful and historical aesthetic — as well as the recent influx of incentives and rebates for filmmaker — have turned Savannah into an attractive location for all different types of film shoots.

Performing Arts

Not every theater kid wants to end up on Broadway, so if you’re an aspiring actor searching for an outlier city to call home, consider New York Film Academy’s suggestions of the top spots outside of New York City for performing arts professionals. While Chicago and LA are two obvious substitutes, NYFA also recommends Boston.

“Broadway shows often incubate in this college town, where theatres and conservatories abound,” they write. The city is home to Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, which has won 19 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.

Next on the list are San Francisco and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The golden city is home to three major theater houses, but also features a selection of black box theaters such as Z Space and Exit Theatre. Minneapolis lays claim to a handful of acclaimed theaters, including Guthrie Theater, Park Square and Orpheum Theatre.


Managers, executives and regional directors, it’s time to synergize and shift your paradigms in the Pacific Northwest. USA Today ranks Idaho Falls, Idaho as having one of the most rapidly growing markets for business services.

Since salaries in the business field range drastically, it’s hard to nail down where it is highest. However, Idaho Falls’ unemployment rate clocks in at 2%, which is one of the lowest in the U.S. compared to the 3.4% national average.

Where to Next?

Whether you’re an assistant principal or a key grip on a film set, some areas will have better job opportunities than others. However, while salary, cost of living and prestige are all crucial to consider, they don’t necessarily have to be the determining factors in where you ultimately decide to live.

Sometimes you can’t afford to relocate to the big city, or perhaps you don’t want to travel far from your hometown. In any case, the good news is that the careers of today aren’t contained to one setting, so any job seeker has opportunities to explore in cities all across the country.

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