There are few things more thrilling than getting that first pay check from your first real job after college. Seeing an (often expensive) degree pay off literally can be tremendously rewarding. However, that glow can start to dim after your first few post-grad billing cycles, especially if you're living on your own. After Uncle Sam claims first dibs, the bites come from every possible direction: your rent, any student loan debt, groceries, and transportation. Even a non-matinee movie starts to feel like a luxury after a while.
To figure out where people might have the best running start, ZipRecruiter recently released a list of the 20 best job markets for recent college graduates. Specifically, it looked at the availability of entry-level professional jobs in cities across the United States, and the ratio of those open jobs to the number of applicants for those positions in each city. Researchers also controlled for cities with an unemployment rate above the national average of 4.7%.
The Western U.S. came out as the champion with eight cities on the list. The South followed with seven, and the Midwest and the Northeast rounded out the list, with three and two cities, respectively. New York City, L.A., and Chicago didn't make the list. The top industry was tech followed by business. So, if you're a writer dreaming of living in Brooklyn, go pursue those dreams, just know you're not heading into a growth market.
"Project manager positions in the tech industry are a popular career choice for recent college graduates, and a vast majority of these project manager roles can be found in the West and the South, particularly Texas and California," says Cathy Barrera, the chief economic adviser at ZipRecruiter. While the median rent in San Francisco (number 8 on the list) is $4,325, the top three cities were much more affordable.
Cost of living is always important to new grads, but it's especially notable since "growth potential" (54%) came before pay and benefits as the number-one thing the 2,000 job seekers ZipRecruiter surveyed were looking for in their first job out of college. Pay came in second at 26.7%, and benefits came third at 11.6%. One might expect people to chase the largest pot of gold from the start, however, Barrera says young people, who are more likely to change jobs, may be trying to accumulate skills earlier in their careers that will yield bigger payoffs further down the line.
"Grads who are paying special attention to the growth opportunities of their job options can cherry pick the skills they want to learn and use them to create a launch-pad to their dream job. Also, by taking a job that offers growth, a young college grad can put themselves on a path of high salary growth," she says. "Even with a lower base salary, this is better in the long run because the growth accrues, like compound interest."