The 10 best U.S. cities for new college grads based on job prospects, average income and more
The class of 2023 has made it pretty clear that they are ready and willing to move for job opportunities — and the destination doesn’t have to be a metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles. Zillow revealed exclusively to CNBC Make it, the marketplace’s 2023 ranking of the best places in the U.S. for recent college graduates.
- Rent-to-income ratio
- Average salary for recent college graduates
- Job openings
- Share of the population in their 20s
“Navigating rent affordability can pose challenges for recent graduates entering the housing market, especially if they are doing it for the first time,” Nicole Bachaud, Zillow senior economist, tells CNBC Make It.
“It is important for these graduates to remain mindful of impending student loan repayments that will soon come into play, which will factor into the budgets of many and may impact housing decisions.”
Zillow’s report found that the second-largest markets across the U.S. can offer college graduates a higher quality of life and an accessible cost of living.
Top 10 best U.S. cities for recent college graduates
- Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Spokane, Wash.
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Phoenix, Ariz.
- Buffalo, Ariz.
- Albuquerque, N.M.
- Bakersfield, Calif.
- Albany, N.Y.
- Portland, Ore.
- Little Rock, Ark.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, ranked no. 1 on Zillow’s list of the best U.S. cities for recent college graduates. The Zillow Observed Rent Index found that the average rent in the Colorado city is $1,824, compared to $2,031 in Denver, about 90 minutes away. The study found that the average salary for a recent college grad in Colorado Springs is $63,190—which means the rent ratio is 35%. Colorado Springs is home to the University of Colorado: Colorado Springs, and Colorado College, both places that offer employment opportunities to their own recent grads and graduates of nearby colleges like Pikes Peak Community College.
Spokane, Washington, ranks second on the list. The average rent in Spokane is $1,563, compared to Seattle, where it’s $2,223, according to Zillow. And the average salary in the city is $61,162 making the rent-to-income ratio 31%. Like Colorado Springs, Spokane, Washington, is the second-largest city in its state. During the pandemic Spokane saw a rise in remote job postings and has been able to maintain that rate, specifically in areas of technical services, health care, social assistance, finance and insurance.
Rounding out the top three is Des Moines, Iowa. The city is a hub for recent college grads looking to get into the insurance and financial services sector. Some major companies with a significant presence in Des Moines include Wells Fargo and UPS. According to Zillow, the typical rent is $1,202, while the average salary for recent college grads is $59,697. The rent-to-income ratio in Des Moines is 24%, which is less than a quarter of the average salary for 2023 college graduates, $59,600, according to The National Center for Education Statistics. “With strong job growth and affordable rents, Des Moines becomes an attractive city for recent grads to build their careers and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle,” Emily McDonald, Zillow rental trends expert, tells CNBC Make It.