The traditional American Dream often involved packing your bags and heading to the bustling metropolises of New York or Los Angeles for a corporate job. However, in today's landscape of soaring living costs, remote work opportunities, and shifting priorities, young professionals are looking elsewhere.
New cities have emerged as prime destinations for early-career GenZ professionals due to their affordability, vibrant culture, and outdoor activities.
If you're a recent graduate contemplating your next move, we've got you covered. According to a report by consumer financial services company Bankrate, which analyzed government data on affordability, quality of life, and employment opportunities in the top 50 metro areas, here are the 10 best U.S. cities to begin your career, complete with stats on employment, cost of living, and more, and why they make sense for early career Gen Z professionals.
Employment: Austin has seen a remarkable 62% increase in tech jobs over the past decade, surpassing gains in all other industries, and now boasts a tech job share of 17%, compared to 9.2% nationally.
Cost of Living: The cost of living in Austin is relatively affordable compared to tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Seattle, making it an attractive option for young professionals. According to ZipRecruitier,he average annual salary in Austin is $68,326, while an average single person estimated monthly costs are 1,199.8$ without rent.
Quality of Life: Known for its live music, outdoor activities, and vibrant culinary scene, Austin offers a high quality of life that resonates with Gen Z's desire for balance.
Employment: Seattle ranks first for employment opportunities, particularly in the tech sector, with major players like Amazon and Microsoft.
Cost of Living: While Seattle's cost of living is higher, the city's strong job market compensates for it, especially in tech-related fields. ZipRecruiter reported that the average annual salary in Seattle is $75,759 /year, but the cost of living is 35.7% higher than the national average.
Quality of Life: Surrounded by stunning natural landscapes and a commitment to sustainability, Seattle offers a unique quality of life for outdoor enthusiasts.
Employment: Salt Lake City's job market is growing, providing ample opportunities for career growth.
Cost of Living: The city balances a high quality of life with an affordable cost of living, allowing young professionals to thrive without breaking the bank. The average cost of living is 2% lower than the country’s average, with most people making around $35,426.
Quality of Life: Nestled among picturesque mountains, Salt Lake City offers outdoor activities year-round, making it an attractive destination for nature lovers.
Employment: Raleigh is part of the Research Triangle, known for its research and tech companies, offering a thriving job market.
Cost of Living: With a cost of living than major metropolitan areas, Raleigh provides financial flexibility for early-career professionals. Payscale shows that the average cost of living in Raleigh is 4% lower than the national average, while the average yearly salary is $70,663.
Quality of Life: Raleigh's mix of career opportunities and a relaxed Southern lifestyle creates a unique quality of life.
Employment: Nashville boasts a growing job market with a unique focus on its thriving music and entertainment industry.
Cost of Living: The cost of living in Nashville is reasonable, making it an excellent choice for those looking to kickstart their careers without overspending. The average cost of living is a 2% lower than the country’s average, with most people making around $66,963 a year.
Quality of Life: Known for its vibrant music scene and cultural offerings, Nashville provides a distinct quality of life that appeals to young professionals.
Employment: Indianapolis is emerging as a hub for young professionals, with a growing job market in various industries.
Cost of Living: The city offers an affordable cost of living, allowing early career professionals to make the most of their earnings. Payscale shows that the average cost of living in Indianapolis is a whopping 7% lower than the national average, while the average yearly salary is $30,933.
Quality of Life: Indianapolis provides a balanced lifestyle with a range of leisure options.
Employment: Dallas-Fort Worth offers a wide range of job opportunities across various industries.
Cost of Living: The city's affordable cost of living allows for a comfortable lifestyle while pursuing career goals. ZipRecruiter reported that the average annual salary in Dallas is $43,699/ year, but the cost of living is 3% higher than the national average.
Quality of Life: The diverse economy and vibrant lifestyle options in Dallas-Fort Worth make it an attractive destination for young professionals.
Employment: Kansas City's job market is growing, offering career opportunities in a central location.
Cost of Living: The city's lower cost of living compared to coastal cities allows early career professionals to enjoy a comfortable life. ZipRecruiter reported that the average annual salary in Kansas City is $42,308/ year, and the cost of living is 8% lower than the national average.
Quality of Life: Kansas City's cultural offerings and central location contribute to a fulfilling quality of life.
Employment: Atlanta offers a diverse economy and numerous career opportunities.
Cost of Living: The city's reasonable cost of living makes it an attractive choice for young professionals. While the average cost of living in Atlanta is 2% higher than the national average, most people make about $41,614 /year.
Quality of Life: Atlanta's blend of Southern charm and cultural richness enhances the quality of life for those starting their careers.
Employment: San Jose, at the heart of Silicon Valley, offers unparalleled tech opportunities, with a tech sector employment rank of fourth.
Cost of Living: Despite a higher cost of living, the city's tech jobs compensate for it, making it a hub for tech-savvy professionals. Coming in at the most expensive, the cost of living in San Jose is 49% above the national average, with the typical worker making $59,534 a year.
Quality of Life: San Jose's tech innovation and cultural diversity create a unique quality of life for young professionals.
The ost of living can be affected by multiple factors. For a more accurate calculation, you can use this Forbes cost of living calculator, to show how much you need to make based on moves.
Before making the big move for your career, consider these important factors:
Selecting the right city to launch your career is a pivotal decision that should align with your goals, values, and industry of interest. These 10 cities, offering a mix of affordability, job opportunities, and quality of life, cater to the unique needs and aspirations of early career Gen Z professionals. Whether you're drawn to the vibrant tech scenes of Austin and Seattle or the cultural richness of Nashville and Atlanta, the best city to kickstart your career ultimately depends on your individual preferences and priorities.