• San Francisco, CA, leads large cities with the highest median income for college grads at $106,552, making it the top choice among metropolises, followed by Atlanta, GA, and Minneapolis, MN.
  • Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, VA, stand out with high percentages of jobs accessible to college grads (6.5%), followed by Bellevue, WA , (5.9%) in the mid-sized cities category.
  • Boosted by the high percentage of the population with a BA (68.8%), Cambridge, MA scored best among small cities, followed by Greenville, SC.

Congratulations, Class of 2024! Graduating college is no easy task, and adulthood brings its own challenges and difficult decisions. You’ll face a competitive job market with more degree holders than ever. In this landscape, one factor stands out above the rest — location, location, location! So, whether you’re aiming for a big city or seeking hidden gems, we’re here to help you decide. And we have the data to back it up!

Continuing our best cities for college grads series, we’re delving into the best cities for recent graduates by pinpointing their advantages and appeal for young professionals. Below, our analysis evaluated U.S. cities based on various factors, including the number of coworking spaces per 100,000 residents. And, with 98% of employees expressing a desire to work remotely at least some of the time, the class of ’24 will surely follow this trend, as well, as they look for a place to develop their next big idea outside of the traditional office.

For this report, the results were weighted to generate comparable overall scores. For simplicity, these scores were grouped into three primary categories — employment, financial and lifestyle. Then, to ensure a fair comparison, we categorized the cities into three population sizes: small cities with up to 150,000 residents; large cities with 400,000 or more; and medium cities in between.

Post-Grad City Slickers: The Best Large Cities for College Graduates

College grads are more attracted to big cities — and for good reason: Urban settings are usually the backdrop for better employment opportunities and higher wages. However, keep in mind that these advantages come with huge competition. With that in mind and starting with the top 10 largest U.S. cities, we can see a change in the podium compared to last year, as well as two new entries.


San Francisco, CA, secures first place this year after landing in second in 2023, despite a lower score. The City by the Bay led the way in the employment category, with a whopping 72% share of the population holding a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, it scored one of the lowest unemployment rates on our list, 3.3% (even lower than the national average of 3.9%). Furthermore, from the financial point of view, San Francisco is the only large city that provides a six-figure income for graduates, with 79% of its population also benefiting from health insurance.

Even so, San Francisco remains an expensive city: its 18% above the national average cost of living sets it apart from its urban counterparts. Nevertheless, it continues to be a hotspot for industries such as technology, finance, healthcare, and professional services.

On the opposite side of the country, Atlanta, GA, became 2024’s runner-up, dropping one spot from last year. Here, the most significant changes were in the employment category, Atlanta managing to maintain its scores for the financial and leisure brackets. The high unemployment rate of 6% can be attributed to certain industries, such as manufacturing and information, experiencing declines in employment numbers. The post-pandemic economic adjustments have also played a significant role.

However, the Big Peach fared well in the financial category, scoring a low cost of living (-1% compared to the national average), claiming a median income of $79,914 for graduates, and providing employer-based health insurance to 69% of its population. At the same time, the whopping 725 leisure amenities — coupled with the highest number of coworking spaces per 100k residents (23) — gave it the needed push to stay on the podium.


Next, Minneapolis, MN, landed in third this year, mostly due to a significant uptick in the employment score. More precisely, the low unemployment rate of 3% and high availability of jobs for graduates (6.6%) in the area pushed the Twin Cities up six spots from 2023, with the biggest change in rank. The area also consistently sees job growth across various sectors. For instance, the education and health services sectors have shown steady employment increases, contributing to overall job stability​.

Kansas City, MO, and Charlotte, NC, are this year’s new entries, sitting in the ninth and 10th positions after finishing in 13th and 11th, respectively, in 2023. Kansas City boasts the lowest cost of living among our top ten (7.9% lower than the national average). Charlotte follows suit with a low cost of living paired with an even lower unemployment rate (4% vs. KC’s 5.2%).

Mid-Sized Career Magnets: Best Mid-Sized Cities for New Grads to Begin Their Careers

While larger cities generally mean more job opportunities, it’s not an universal truth, with mid-sized cities rising to the occasion and providing their residents with the best of both worlds. Through our research, we uncovered 10 outstanding cities with populations between 150,000 and 400,000 that are ideal for recent graduates seeking to jumpstart their careers.


Having the overall score in mind, Arlington, VA, manages to keep its status as the reigning champion in the mid-sized category. A majority of the city’s young population (80%) holds a bachelor’s degree — the most out of all the mid-sized cities analyzed.  Notably, Arlington is near several prestigious universities and colleges, such as Georgetown University, George Washington University, and American University, making it convenient for graduates to settle here after completing their studies.

A BA makes 6.5% of Arlington’s jobs accessible to college grads, which was also the case in nearby Alexandria, VA. Arlington’s proximity to Washington D.C. means that many federal agencies, non-profits, and consulting firms that often demand at least a bachelor’s degree, are located in the region.

And speaking of Alexandria, it joins Arlington as its runner-up after jumping three spots from 2023. The small unemployment rate of 1.8% in the region stands testament to the booming employment sector. The lower percentage of population with a BA (65%), however, makes the region less competitive than Arlington. Alexandria benefits from robust local economic policies and initiatives aimed at business development and job creation. Programs to support small businesses and startups, as well as incentives for larger companies, help maintain a dynamic job market​.


Rounding out the top three is Bellevue, WA, eclipsing Arlington and Alexandria with the highest median income available for graduates among mid-sized cities – $108,000. Additionally, 85.3% of Bellevue’s residents benefit from employer-based healthcare.

At a more granular level, Chattanooga, TN, scored the lowest unemployment rate among mid-sized cities, while Fort Lauderdale, FL, stays ahead of the pack when it comes to leisure establishments and coworking spaces.

Small Cities, Huge Opportunities: Top Small Cities for Graduates Seeking Stability

Meanwhile, if your work/life balance leans more towards the life side, there’s no better place to put down roots than a smaller city. Lower cost of living, less competition and a stronger sense of community are just some of the perks that cities with a population of less than 150,000 can offer. Let’s dive into our list!


In this case, Cambridge, MA, claimed this year’s crown among small cities after the Boston suburb scored best nationwide in the employment category. It boasts the highest percentage of the population with a BA (68.8%) as well as one of the highest percentages of jobs reserved for grads (6.9%). Considered one of U.S.’s epicenters for academia, Cambridge, MA, is home to world-renowned institutions such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These institutions attract a large number of graduates who either attended these schools or seek to be part of their influential academic and research communities.

Coming in second place, Greenville, SC, shines when it comes to cost of living, which registered at 6.8% below the national average. What’s more, the impressive 1,133 leisure establishments gave it the additional boost needed to land on the podium. The presence of reputable educational institutions — such as Clemson University and Furman University — contributes to a strong educational and research environment. As such, 5.4% of the jobs in the area are reserved for employees that hold a bachelor’s degree.


Looking at income as a standalone indicator, two Silicon Valley figureheads lead with the most attractive offers. Santa Clara and San Matteo each boast a median income for college grads of $122,000 and $104,000, respectively. Granted, these tech hubs also score some of the highest percentages of population with a degree (outdone only by Cambrige), making the competition in the area more intense for job seekers.


For this analysis, CoworkingCafe relied on information from the most recent American Community Survey (ACS) and County Business Patterns (CBP) reports by the U.S. Census Bureau, along with additional data points from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Coworking space market data was provided by Yardi Matrix.

Metrics were selected based on their potential influence on career prospects and quality of life of recent college graduates. Metrics were then assigned a weight based on their importance in determining the overall attractiveness of a city. The base categories, underlying metrics and their weights in the final score were as follows:

Employment category
  • Population with Bachelor’s Degree (15%) – Percentage of population aged 18 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher (Source: ACS 2021)
  • Jobs for Recent Graduates (15%) – Share of employed population currently working in a job requiring a bachelor’s degree and a considerable amount of work-related skill and knowledge, but no more than one year of experience (Source: BLS 2021)
  • Unemployment Rate (10%) – Unemployment rate within the local population aged 20 to 29 (Source: ACS 2021)
Financial category
  • Median Graduate Income (15%) – Median annual earnings of the local population aged 25 and older holding a bachelor’s degree (Source: ACS 2021)
  • Regional Price Parity (15%) – Price index, expressed as a percentage of the overall national price level (Source: BEA 2021)
  • Employer-Based Health Insurance Coverage (10%) – Percentage of population with employer-based health insurance, aged 19 to 34 (Source: ACS 2021)
Lifestyle category
  • Leisure Establishments Density (15%) – Number of restaurants, bars, entertainment/ leisure establishments per 100,000 residents (Source: CBP 2021)
  • Coworking Space Density (5%) – Number of coworking spaces per 100,000 residents (Source: Yardi Matrix 2024)

Cities were ranked based on their total scores, with higher scores indicating better overall prospects for college graduates. This means there were three top-performer cities for each metric, one from each population bracket.

Scores and rankings indicate a city’s performance as compared to other cities within the same population bracket and are not comparable across different groups.

Fair Use & Redistribution

We encourage and freely grant you permission to reuse, host or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to CoworkingCafe.com or this page so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.



Andreea Neculae is a creative writer at CoworkingCafe, with a passion for bringing human-interest stories to light. Writer by day and bookworm by night, she loves reading and reviewing anything from the classics to sci-fi and fantasy. Her writing skills are complemented by a special interest in graphic and web design. From research about the rental market to home décor and interior design, Andreea’s articles cover many layers of a renter’s universe. With an academic background in Language Arts, Andreea is always looking to develop new skills and further her knowledge.