Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates

Colleges and universities across the U.S. are sending another crop of newly-minted grads off into the real world. While this new world is filled with exciting challenges such as finding a job and an apartment, the first step is deciding where to live.

To make help make these big decisions a little easier, Apartments.com weighed the most important factors facing new grads including employment opportunities, salary, affordability, age and the city’s singles scene, to compile the 7th annual Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates list.

The Apartments.com list sets itself apart from other best-of lists by taking a comprehensive view of what qualifies a city to be considered. Our list takes into account affordability versus just median income, which gives advantage to cities where the average rent for a one bedroom apartment falls within the recommended 25% of gross median income. Additionally, unemployment was a major factor in determining this list. Cities with unemployment above 7% were eliminated.

Apartments.com 2014 Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates

10. Dallas, Texas

Dallas, TX

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $1,178

Dallas is one of the top employment centers in the country primarily based on banking, commerce, telecommunications, energy, health care and transportation. With big opportunities for employment, apartment availability and vibrant culture, Dallas is a great place for new grads, landing the #10 spot on the list.

9. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, NV

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $897

Internationally renowned as a major resort city famous for gambling, shopping, fine dining and night life, Sin City may not immediately come to mind for the #9 spot on the list. However, Las Vegas still has a large inventory of affordable apartments available because the city had a building boom before the Great Recession. Vegas is also a top tourist destination and hosts many major conventions and meetings that feed the retail and restaurant industries.

8. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis, IN

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $946

More than 10% of Indy residents are between the ages of 25 to 29, which makes it an ideal place for recent grads who want to be surrounded by their peers. Indianapolis also offers a diverse economy contributing to the fields of education, health care, finance and tourism. In addition to its youthful culture and number of job opportunities, Indy is home to many attractions like shopping, restaurants, theaters, museums, galleries and sports venues. Indianapolis has what it takes to rank #8 on the list.

7. Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, TX

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $864

With an unemployment rate of only 4.5%, and as home to many multinational corporations specializing in the high-tech, defense and health care fields, Fort Worth is a great place to build a career. The fifth-largest city in Texas, Fort Worth is home to the Kimbell Art Museum, considered to have one of the best collections in the state, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Amon Carter Museum. A strong economy coupled with a rich culture puts Fort Worth in the #7 spot for new grads.

6. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati, OH

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $707

The city with the lowest average monthly rent on the list, Cincinnati is an affordable option for newly-minted grads. In addition, Cincinnati is also home to many major corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Macy’s and American Financial Group. The largest employer is Kroger, followed by the University of Cincinnati. With so many opportunities for young professionals to live well, Cincinnati nabs the #6 spot on the list.

5. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, OH

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $732

This bustling Midwestern city scores big points for its singles’ scene with high percentages of male-only and female-only households. Other attractive qualities drawing new grads to Columbus are its affordable rents and diverse economy spanning education, government, insurance, fashion, energy, medical research and more. If all these job options weren't enough, Columbus has also been named an up-and-coming tech city. With so many appealing opportunities, Columbus secures a spot in the middle of the list.

4. Austin, Texas

Austin, TX

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $1,188

There’s no shortage of entertainment in The Live Music Capital of the World, and with an unemployment rate just over 3%, there’s also no shortage of jobs. Known as a center for technology and business, Austin is also emerging as a hub for pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies. Vibrant community and rich culture combined with a thriving economy placed Austin in the #4 position.

3. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, AZ

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $842

Compared to the rest of the cities on the lit, residents of the Valley of the Sun bring in the highest median household income. That coupled with reasonable rents and job options across a variety of fields—including real estate, financial services, manufacturing, health care and more—makes Phoenix an ideal destination for those just starting out, and #3 on the list.

2. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, NC

Average Rent 1 BR Apartment: $953

The southern hospitality of this world-class city appeals to both its large number of residents who are under 30 while attracting new grads. As the second largest banking center in the United States, the Queen City not only offers a multitude of jobs in the financial sector, but is also home to industrial technology companies and steel producers. With a vibrant culture catering to young adults coupled with a strong economy and affordable rents, it’s no surprise Charlotte, N.C. landed the #2 spot.

1. Denver, Colorado

Denver, CO

Average Rent 1BR Apartment: $1,248

With a solid combination of low unemployment, competitive salaries and high population of young adults, the Mile-High City soars to the top of the list, despite having the most expensive rent. Boasting a healthy economy, recent college grads can find job opportunities across a variety of disciplines including manufacturing, engineering, telecommunications, multi-housing, energy, government and the culinary arts.

Methodology

The 7th annual Apartments.com Top 10 Best Cities for Recent Graduates is based on the top 100 cities with the highest apartment unit availability (Apartments.com, January 2014). The list was then evaluated for unemployment rate (Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2013) and U.S. Census data (2010), reflecting median income, the percentage of men and women only households as an indicator of single residents and the percentage of people living in the city between the ages of 25 and 29. Unemployment and affordability in relation to median income and average rent for a one bedroom apartment (Apartments.com, January 2014) were weighted heaviest. Cities with a rate of unemployment above 7% were eliminated, along with cities that had significantly low or high median ages.