By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Atlanta tops list of career-friendly cities for graduates

With graduation season upon us and many employers still experiencing labor shortages, the personal-finance website WalletHub this week released its report on 2024’s Best & Worst Places to Start a Career, as well as expert commentary, to help recent graduates launch their careers in the right place. Atlanta, Georgia came in as the top-ranked while New York, NY, was classified as the least career-friendly city for starting out. Highest rated California city was Sacramento, which came in at number 38 overall while the lowest rated was Santa Clarita, falling into the bottom five at number 179.

WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities based on 26 key indicators of career-friendliness. The data set ranges from the availability of entry-level jobs to monthly average starting salary to housing affordability.


Best Places to Start a Career

The top 10 cities for starting a career are Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Salt Lake City, UT; Tampa, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, ME; Charleston, SC; Austin, TX; Miami, FL; and Knoxville, TN.


Worst Places to Start a Career

The cities at the bottom of the list, ranking 173 through 182, are Oxnard, CA; Jackson, MS; Detroit, MI; Newark, NJ; Cape Coral, FL; Yonkers, NY; Santa Clarita; CA; Pembroke Pines, FL; Bridgeport, CT; and New York, NY.


Best vs. Worst

Austin, Texas, has the highest monthly average starting salary (adjusted for cost of living), which is three times higher than in Juneau, Alaska, the city with the lowest.

Columbia, Maryland, has the highest median annual household income (adjusted for cost of living), which is 3.3 times higher than in Detroit, the city with the lowest.

Oxnard, California, has the highest workforce diversity, which is 2.3 times higher than in New Haven, Connecticut, the city with the lowest.

Miami and Hialeah, Florida, have the lowest unemployment rate, which is 5.9 times lower than in Detroit, the city with the highest.

“Transitioning out of school and into the workforce can be a difficult and stressful process, but certain cities make things a lot easier than others. The best cities for starting a career not only have a lot of job opportunities but also provide substantial income growth potential and satisfying work conditions,” said Cassandra Happe, WalletHub Analyst. “It’s also important to consider factors such as how fun a city is to live in or how good of a place it is for raising a family, to ensure life satisfaction outside of your career.”

To view the full report, visit:


Expert Commentary

What can city policymakers and corporations do to attract and retain recent graduates?

“Incentives are a good way to get graduates to a city. This can include housing and transportation subsidies, tax breaks for property tax for the first few years, and social events attracting younger professionals.”

Dr. Aaron C. Clark, DTE – Professor; Co-Director for Engineering Education, North Carolina State University


“Some of the biggest issues I hear undergraduate and graduate students discussing as they consider where to live after graduation are the cost-of-living crisis and the availability of well-paying jobs in their field. The availability of jobs seems like common sense and is understandable given their career aspirations and desire to make their college years (and financial and personal costs) ‘pay off,’ but the cities that have lots of professional jobs also tend to be the most expensive. So, this is an increasingly difficult tension for them to manage, and if cities and employers want to continue to attract more top talent, they will want to seriously address this growing problem. Of course, people have been working on the cost-of-living crisis for years and it is especially difficult, but without more affordable housing and stabilizing expenses in other areas, the main solution seems to be higher wages, which is definitely within the control of employing organizations.”

Matthew T. Hora – Associate Professor; Founding Director, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, University of Wisconsin-Madison


What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

“The biggest career mistake that young people make is to talk more than listen and act as if they have all the answers. Listening is the unsung hero for developing strong relationships with coworkers and colleagues. Recent graduates who listen to their new colleagues, ask for their perspective on work issues, and respect their longer tenure in the field are the ones who typically position themselves for success and advancement within that organization. Conversely, recent graduates who lack humility and come across with an air of over-confidence and entitlement, are more likely to be overlooked during advancement opportunities.”

Bob Orndorff, D.Ed. – Senior Director, Career Services; Affiliate Associate Professor, The Pennsylvania State University


“Not exposing themselves to a robust range of job functions and industries outside of the common doctor, lawyer, business person ... (fill in the blank). There are thousands of potential occupations and it behooves young people to work with a career advisor to vet the categories and create a career action plan. This plan will help young people translate their values, interests, skills, and aspirations into the language of work. Another mistake we have all made is underestimating the value of cultivating personal and professional networks. The majority of opportunities, whether they are internships or post-graduate jobs, come through the ‘hidden job market.’

Don Kjelleren – Executive Director, ‘68 Center for Career Exploration, Williams College


What will the entry-level job market look like in 2024?

“Hybrid jobs are here to stay, in industries where work can be done from home. By working in person less than five days a week will allow some folks to live further away from their office. New graduates should know at least the basics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it will permeate every profession eventually. Get ahead of it now. Learn what else is coming. Be ahead of the curve to remain competitive. Use free or inexpensive resources to continue to learn and earn industry-recognized credentials, such as certificates and badges. Upskilling will be crucial to career growth.”

Robbin Beauchamp, MS, GCDF – Assistant Provost, Cooperative Education and Career Development, Wentworth Institute of Technology