15 Best Big Cities for New Grads 2019

Big-cities

Graduating from college and preparing to make your mark on the world is one big feat. There are so many questions that pop up at this time of life, including where to live, how to land your dream job and what to do with your spare time.

It may be that big city life is for you. You may be the type of person who likes urban commutes, museums, the arts, the theater, ball games and more. If you are still deciding what place might be best, OnlineDegrees.com has made a list of the best big cities for college graduates in the U.S. Average median rent, the number of arts and entertainment centers and median earnings for bachelor's degree holders were just some of the factors used to compile this list. This year, two new metrics were used to provide more perspective, including commute time to work and the crime rate per 100,000.

List of 15 Best Big Cities for New Grads

For this particular list we examined cities that had a population of more than 750,000 and used a nine-factor 10-point scale to rank the top 15 locations. Some of these cities, like Austin, Texas and Columbus, Ohio return to our list for another year, but others — like New York City — are new. Keep on reading to find out which big city might be right for a new college graduate just like you.

1. Austin, Texas

Austin-Texas

Austin returns to our list of one of the top big cities for new graduates, moving up to the #1 spot from #2 last year. Several factors pushed it up to the top of the list, including low unemployment, an average commute time of less than 25 minutes and average median earnings for bachelor's degree holders that are close to $60,000.

New college grads may be drawn by some of the city's major employers, which include Apple, Inc., Cirrus Logic, Cisco Systems, Dell, Inc., Intel, 3M and Texas State University. Entertainment is an attraction, too, and includes the city's Sixth Street, which is home to a hip music scene along with restaurants, shops and bars, including a dueling piano bar. Graduates with a bend toward history may enjoy visiting the state capitol, which opened in 1888 and offers free 30-minute tours. Young adults who want to settle close to this city of 950,000, can find lovely suburban communities in Rollingwood, Shady Hollow and West Lake Hills.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 30.1%
  • Median rent, 2017: $1,217.64
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $59,301.93
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 16.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 304
  • Average commute time to work: 24.9 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 8,296

2. San Francisco, California

San-Francisco

New to our list this year of best big cities for new grads, San Francisco scored a spot for being #1 of all the cities on our list for entertainment. This may come as no surprise, as entertainment in San Francisco includes diverse options like the theater, Giants baseball, the ballet, opera, 49ers football and countless activities that range from biking tours of the Golden Gate Bridge to food tours in the Chinatown district.

There are economic factors making this city of 884,000-plus attractive, too. For example, San Francisco ranks second on our list for a low unemployment rate of 3.8% and a high state projected employment. New grads might look for employment with some of the city's largest employers, which include Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanante, Uber and Salesforce. Of course, there are plenty of start-ups in this innovative city, too, including HotelTonight, reinventing hotel booking, and Cloud Passage, a cloud-based security company.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 29%
  • Median rent, 2017: $1,252.35
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $57,437.29
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 10.7%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 516
  • Average commute time to work: 33.8 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 13,861

3. Houston, Texas

Houston-Texas

Home to the largest medical center in the world, Houston, Texas could be a great city for new grads looking for fast-growing jobs. The Texas Medical Center contains more than 50 different medicine-related institutions, but that's not the reason this city of 2.3 million (yes, 2.3 million!) returns to our list of best big cities for new grads for another year. Houston ranked second of all cities overall for median earnings for bachelor's degree holders (above $61,000) and sixth for the number of entertainment venues.

New residents may want to start their entertainment explorations in Houston's downtown tunnels, a network of air-conditioned walkways that provide a way for downtown workers to quickly get about. Restaurants like Cafe Basil, Fuddruckers and Salata can be found there. Entertainment in Houston stretches far beyond what's underground to include kite festivals, children's festivals (if you already have kids!), music, magic, state fairs and more.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 25.7%
  • Median rent, 2017: $943.53
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $61,806.02
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 16.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 269
  • Average commute time to work: 27.8 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 10,757

4. San Antonio, Texas

San-Antonio

The San Antonio River Walkway may be one reason that new grads want to make this city of 1.5 million people their home. However, this city returns to our list of best big cities for new grads for a plethora of other reasons. San Antonio ranks third on our list for average lowest commute time (Interstates like 10, 35, 37 and 410 may help!) and also took the 5th spot for lowest median rent.

Compare this rent to other large cities on this list (like San Francisco and Austin, Texas) and it's easy to see the potential savings that could go into your pocket. Additionally, the percent of renters in this city also is among the lowest on our list, at 45.2 percent, suggesting that people may like to lay down roots here. Why not, when the cost of a median home is lower than other large cities and the attractions are endless and include the likes of the Alamo, Natural Bridge caverns, golfing caving, and, of course, that beautiful river walk?

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 24%
  • Median rent, 2017: $860.54
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $56,100.02
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 16.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 234
  • Average commute time to work: 24.6 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 11,251

5. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus-Ohio

The capital city of Ohio boasts a number of highlights that help it again return to our list of the best big cities for new grads. With a population of more than 880,000 and the lowest commute time of all cities on this list (21.6 minutes!), it has major employers that include JPMorgan Chase & Co (employing more than 20,000 people), Nationwide, Honda of America Manufacturing and Amazon.

Columbus also has a low median rent, the third lowest of cities on this list, and ranks fairly low among cities on this list for unemployment rate, too. Of course, Columbus has plenty of other interests to pull in new grads, too, whether that's the Ohio Girls Roller Derby Team (which ranks among the top 10 in the nation), the large horse show hosted there every October or the opportunity to enjoy a craft brew at one of its many distilleries.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 29%
  • Median rent, 2017: $812.93
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $53,970.89
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 4.4%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 244
  • Average commute time to work: 21.6 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 9,008

6. Dallas, Texas

Dallas -Texas

New to our list of best big cities for new grads, Dallas has a population of more than 1.34 million and the highest ranking for median earnings for bachelor's degree holders. This modern city in northern Texas is home not just to the Dallas Arts District, which features nearly 20 blocks of galleries, museums and venues, but also to the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars.

Dallas, which ranked eighth on our list of best cities for new grads for lowest crime rate, is home to two airports and an Amtrak station. New grads looking for jobs might investigate Fortune 500 companies in the greater Dallas area that include AT&T, Exxon Mobile, JC Penney and Texas Instruments. While there are more than 200 golf courses in the area, Dallas also can get snow: a whopping average of 1.3 snow days a year.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 27%
  • Median rent, 2017: $944.62
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $62,125.99
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 16.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 227
  • Average commute time to work: 27.9 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 8,295

7. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte-City

Charlotte joins this year's list of best big cities for new college graduates for numerous reasons, not just for its historical charm, its large banking center or the fact that it just celebrated its 250th anniversary. Charlotte has impressive rankings on several key points, including median earnings above the national average for bachelor's degree holders, an average commute time of less than half-an-hour and a 10th place ranking for overall number of entertainment venues.

The city was named after King George III's wife, Queen Charlotte, and the city's center still reflects a grid of square blocks highlighting its colonial heritage. At the same time, it features modern day entertainment venues as diverse as Bojangles Coliseum, Spectrum Center and the Belk Theater. College grads also might enjoy the city's 30 miles of greenways or Jetton Park, a 105-acre waterfront park to the north.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 25.3%
  • Median rent, 2017: $1,001.29
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $60,288.11
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 10.1%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 255
  • Average commute time to work: 25.4 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 8,915

8. San Diego, California

san-diego

Averaging close to 3,000 hours of sunshine every year, San Diego is the second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States. Seventy miles of beach line are accessible to its residents, but so are more than 90 golf courses and 6,000-plus places to eat. Balboa Park is just one well-known enticement, boasting art galleries, 15 museums, gardens and the city's San Diego Zoo.

This city of 1.3 million returns to our list of best large cities for college graduates for several factors, including a low crime rate (#3 overall on our list), strong projected state employment, more than 280 entertainment venues and an average commute time of less than 25 minutes. While the median earnings for bachelor's degree holders is low compared to other cities on this list, there are plenty of companies with strong growth, including Arctic Zero, Innovative Commercial Environments and Zeeto, all included on the Inc. 5000 list.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 28.2%
  • Median rent, 2017: $1,092.73
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $40,397.29
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 10.7%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 284
  • Average commute time to work: 24.7 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 4,973

9. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis-city

Returning to our list of best big cities for new grads, Indianapolis, known as "Indy," rose from a #14 ranking on last year's list to #9 this year. Factors contributing to its upward move include a low average commute time (second lowest overall on our list!), the percent of the population between ages 20 to 34 and a low median monthly rent rate. In fact, Indianapolis has the lowest median monthly rent, at $778.69, of all 15 cities on this list.

At the same time, the city's median earnings for bachelor's degree holders reaches above $50,000, beating out the city of San Diego, which also has higher median rent. Money saved in this capital city can mean more discretionary income for enjoying the surroundings, which include the Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center, 250 acres of green space at White River State Park and the Theater District.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 24.2%
  • Median rent, 2017: $778.69
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $51,735
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 7.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 264
  • Average commute time to work: 23.4 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 12,157

10. Fort Worth, Texas

Fort-Worth-Texas

New to our list of best big cities for new grads, Fort Worth, Texas — nicknamed "Cowtown" — offers upscale shopping, cowboy cuisine, NASCAR racing and a multitude of primary entertainment districts — eight, in total. The city of 876,000-plus ranked #10 on our list of best big cities for new grads for its impressive median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, strong state employment and a low crime rate.

With an average commute time of 27 minutes, new employees in the city can easily make it from their place of business to any cultural spot or place of interest. Entertainment options include the zoo, botanical gardens and even the Stockyards District, which features historical landmarks, night clubs, unique shops and restaurants — and yes, even rodeo shows. To help pay for some of these diversions, new grads wanting to settle in Fort Worth might look for jobs in aerospace, education, healthcare and government, with AMR/American Airlines and Lockheed Martin being two of the area's largest employers.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 23.9%
  • Median rent, 2017: $928.24
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $61,405.23
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 16.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 167
  • Average commute time to work: 27 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 8,239

11. Los Angeles, California

Los-Angeles

A city of 3.9 million, Los Angeles joins our list of best big cities for new grads this year. Compelling as it is for its entertainment industry — and the Hollywood stars that might be spotted there — Los Angeles has much to offer new graduates in terms of arts and entertainment centers, percentage of young adults living there and low median rent. In fact, compared to other large California cities on our list, Los Angeles may be the most attractive in terms of rental affordability.

While most people know Los Angeles for its famous Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame stars, the employment opportunities in this southern city stretch far beyond arts and entertainment. Leisure and hospitality is a key industry in the city, but there are other industries well entrenched there. Nearly 200,000 people work in aerospace or technology and about 700,000 are employed in biomedical or health services in the greater L.A. area.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 25.4%
  • Median rent, 2017: $894.43
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $36,491.87
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 10.7%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 396
  • Average commute time to work: 31.8 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 6,017

12. New York City, New York

New-York

It may be hard to imagine the Big Apple making this list, but this city of 8.6 million (Wow!) attracts all types of people. New grads settling here may be drawn by the city's large number of arts and entertainment venues, the percentage of young adults who call the Big Apple their home or the relatively low crime rate compared to other large cities on this list.

Of course, New York City's entertainment opportunities are endless, but include everything from Radio City Music Hall to Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center. The city's well-known Central Park features yoga classes, walking tours and bike rentals, as well as a landscape of green. Enjoy restaurants and cafes in the city's Financial District — home to Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, Statue of Liberty and financial deals. New grads landing here may want to turn to major employers like JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup, Inc., Pfizer, Inc., and PricewaterhouseCoopers to look for stellar job opportunities.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 24.7%
  • Median rent, 2017: $932.01
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $44,760.45
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 12%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 315
  • Average commute time to work: 41.8 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 4,208

13. Phoenix, Arizona

phoenix

The largest city in Arizona, Phoenix offers light-rail service, ride-hailing services and bike-sharing programs, all of which provide various transportation options in this city of 1.62 million. New grads settling in Phoenix can take the light rail to the Central Avenue district to get a drink or a bite to eat right after work, stopping in at places such as Bitter & Twisted, Durant's or Southern Rail.

A median rent of $866 makes this city affordable for grads obtaining their first job or looking to start off in a new place. The average pay for bachelor's degree holders in this sunny city is well above $50,000, meaning the young adults could find a rent payment easily manageable. Of course, anyone living in this city — which averages 299 days of sun a year — might enjoy catching a Phoenix Suns or Arizona Cardinals game in their free time or after work.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 22.9%
  • Median rent, 2017: $866.22
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $52,488.01
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 18.6%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 175
  • Average commute time to work: 26.3 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 4,208

14. San Jose, California

San-Jose

Returning to our list of best big cities for new college grads for a consecutive year, San Jose is a tech area located in Silicon Valley. Rent may be on the higher end, but the major employers in this city of 1.03 million people include Adobe Inc., Maxim Integrated Products, Inc., and Prime Materials.

This state scored points to make this list for its overall low unemployment rate — compared to other large cities — and strong state projected employment. The third largest city in California, the city was once the first capital of California. It also has an airport, a relatively low crime rate and prohibits the use of plastic bags by retailers. Additionally, pet lovers may want to be aware: there also is a pet quota of five licensed animals total.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 22.7%
  • Median rent, 2017: $1,402.83
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $54,169.64
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 10.7%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 203
  • Average commute time to work: 31.3 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 5,522

15. Chicago, Illinois

chicago

Some theories that exist about this windy city suggest that Chicago got its name more from the politicians full of hot air there than the number of actual windy days. Whatever the reason, new college graduates may find this big city a good choice for its high median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, the large number of art and entertainment centers and an affordable average rent at less than $1,000.

Believe it or not, the first Ferris wheel made its debut in Chicago in 1893, but that is hardly the most interesting thing to entice young adults there. Attractions in this city of 2.7 million include an 18.5-mile lakefront path, more than 5,000 restaurants, over 50 museums, 200-plus music venues and 8,100 acres of green space. Of course, anyone who loves pizza knows that the Chicago deep dish pizza is something to write home about.

Featured data points:

  • Percent of population between 20 and 34, 2017: 27.6%
  • Median rent, 2017: $972.33
  • Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders, 2017: $59,230.37
  • Average projected job growth rate statewide among jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or above, 2016-26: 5.8%
  • Art and entertainment centers: 255
  • Average commute time to work: 34.9 minutes
  • Crime rate per 100K people: 7,719
Article Sources
Article Sources

Methodology

For this analysis, we ranked 17 U.S. cities that had a city population of 750,000 or more according to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Each city was ranked on a 10 point scale, using the following seven data points and the weights specified.

  1. Median monthly rent adjusted to the Cost of Living Index, American Community Survey, 2017
  2. Percent of housing units that are occupied by renters rather than owners, American Community Survey, 2017
  3. Percent of the population between the ages of 20 and 34, American Community Survey, 2017
  4. Median earnings for bachelor's degree holders adjusted to the Cost of Living Index, American Community Survey, 2017
  5. Arts & Entertainment: The number of performing arts, spectator sports and related industries; museums and historical sites; restaurants; and bars per 100,000 residents in each metro area, U.S. Census Population Estimates, 2012; County Business Patterns, 2012
  6. State job growth projections: The average projected growth rate and the projected number of new jobs per 100 people in each metro area, 2016-26, Projections Central, 2016
  7. Unemployment rate, American Community Survey, 2017
  8. Average Commute time, American Community Survey, 2017
  9. Crime rate per 100,000 people, Uniform Crime Reporting, 2015

Methodology Sources:

  • American Community Survey, 2017, U.S. Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/
  • 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2016-26 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com
  • Uniform Crime Reporting, 2015, Federal Bureau of Investigation, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015

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Best Big CitiesMedian EarningsJob Growth Statewide

Houston, Texas

$58,244

17.71%

Austin, Texas (tie)

$50.854

17.71%

San Antonio, Texas (tie)

$50,261

17.71%

Denver, Colorado

$52,912

22.02%

Columbus, Ohio

$51,514

3.58%

San Diego, California

$53,601

12.95%

Phoenix, Arizona

$50,982

18.63%

Boston, Massachusetts

$60,058

4.07%

San Jose, California

$75,038

12.95%

Baltimore, Maryland

$60,225

15.47%

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

$45,024

7.78%

Nashville, Tennessee

$46,417

11.45%

Omaha, Nebraska

$47,972

9.07%

Indianapolis, Indiana

$49,535

8.26%

Minneapolis, Minnesota (tie)

$54,313

2.33%

Bakersfield, California (tie)

$58,423

12.95%

Best Big CitiesMedian EarningsJob Growth Statewide
Denver, Colorado$52,83321.7%
Austin, Texas$50,89221.5%
Houston, Texas$57,36621.5%
San Antonio, Texas$50,27921.5%
Dallas, Texas$54,52021.5%
Seattle, Washington$58,62417.5%
San Francisco, California$63,95415.9%
San Diego, California$53,92515.9%
San Jose, California$75,10315.9%
Nashville, Tennessee$46,16713.8%
Boston, Massachusetts$59,11812.8%
New York, New York$59,23811.4%
Columbus, Ohio$51,79410.5%
Cincinnati, Ohio$51,95110.5%
Washington, D.C.$66,01310.3%