Another spring graduation is in the books, and that means one thing: you did it! You aced your finals and defended your thesis. You made great friends and unforgettable memories. Now, you’re ready to bring everything you learned on campus into the real world. But where to start?
According to personal finance experts at The Balance, it takes college graduates an average of 6 months to find a job. If you’re entering the workforce for the first time, the journey from “undergrad” to “gainfully employed” isn’t always easy.
But, it’s not impossible. Rather than casting a country-sized net for job opportunities, focus on livable cities that have a high demand for professionals in your industry. The top 15 cities on our list fit into both categories — they boast solid job opportunities and exciting lifestyles.
Curious how we crunched the numbers? Our analysts gathered data on 542 U.S. cities, then compiled a comprehensive ranking based on four metrics:
Available IT Jobs
The total number of Information Technology jobs listed on Indeed.com at the time of publication.
The average salary for IT professionals relative to the average salary for all occupations. This data was gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cost of Living
The overall cost of living index, which includes food, housing, utilities, transportation and health costs. This data was gathered from BestPlaces.net.
The average median age of residents. This data was gathered from the United States Census Bureau.
San Antonio, TX ranked highest with Savannah, GA and Winston-Salem, NC close behind. (Turns out the South is tough to beat for IT.) Read on for the full list of top cities for young IT professionals.
1. San Antonio, TX
San Antonio ranked well across all four metrics, securing the top spot on our list. With its historic market square, world-renowned cuisine and picturesque landmarks, it’s easy to see why Alamo City is a popular tourist destination. But the draw to San Antonio is rarely just temporary. IT professionals who land in San Antonio can expect a higher median average annual salary than the city’s overall average. And in the heart of downtown, San Antonio’s bustling Tech District serves as a reminder of the city’s status as an emerging tech hub.
2. Savannah, GA
At spot #2, Savannah has a lot more to offer than southern hospitality. (Though there’s no shortage of pralines or po’boys.) The coastal city’s historic squares, antebellum architecture and quaint cobblestone streets make it one of the most charming cities in the region. Beyond its traditional roots, though, Savannah has become a tech industry disruptor. It’s home to both Savannah Technical College and Savannah College of Art and Design, which attract creative thinkers and tech-minded problem solvers from around the world.
3. Winston-Salem, NC
This small-but-mighty-city is known for its colonial history, diverse business community and vibrant arts scene. The Wake Forest University campus is located just a few miles from downtown, where it serves as both a research hub and a launch pad for young professionals. Winston-Salem historically thrived on tobacco and textile manufacturing but has embraced the 21st century’s tech-forward momentum. Today, it offers IT professionals an exciting place to live, high comparative salary and affordable living.
4. El Paso, TX
El Paso boasts big city living without big city expenses. Its sunny climate and sprawling mountains draw an energetic population — and the affordable cost of living makes it easy for newcomers and college grads to call home. El Paso is situated in western Texas along the Rio Grande, where you’ll find countless opportunities to get outdoors. Between the city’s exciting entertainment options and steady economic growth, El Paso is an excellent place to jump-start your career.
5. Columbus, GA
From the Chattahoochee River rapids to the Midtown historic district, there’s a lot to see, do and explore in Columbus. (And that’s before you count the city’s growing technology community.) In our ranking, Columbus scored exceptionally well for cost of living and comparative salary. According to the data, the median annual salary for IT professionals is significantly higher than that of the overall workforce. In addition to big dividends, Columbus is a great place to go if you’re looking for varied career options, affordable living and a new adventure each day.
6. Orlando, FL
Though sunny Orlando is best known as a vacation destination, the city has recently emerged as a global leader in a variety of cutting-edge industries. As digital media and technology companies flock to central Florida, Orlando has seen a surge in demand for high-tech, high-wage jobs. All this combined with the city’s local arts community, world-class theme parks and exciting downtown scene makes Orlando an ideal place to work and live. (Just ask Mickey Mouse.)
7. Dallas, TX
When it comes to great places for IT jobs, you’ll want to mess with Texas. North Texas, specifically. Dallas’ dynamic metropolis is the region’s undisputed economic and cultural center. Lately, the time-honored epithet, “everything’s bigger in Texas” has never been more fitting. Dallas’ tech sector is booming — and with it, demand for IT professionals. Choose Dallas for its one-of-a-kind culture and thriving economy, with competitive job offerings to boot.
8. Columbus, OH
Ohio’s capital city is home to major tech companies including Amazon and IBM — plus Ohio State University’s main campus. From Short North to historic German Village, Columbus has endless options for dining, music, art and nightlife. In addition to impressive IT opportunities with global corporations, you can expect a young population, an affordable cost of living and a big small-town vibe completely unique to Arch City. Pro tip: go ahead and start memorizing the lyrics to “Hang On Sloopy.”
9. Fort Worth, TX
Affectionately nicknamed “Cowtown” for its ties to the wild west, Fort Worth is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. That’s good news for aspiring IT professionals — Fort Worth’s IT positions offer an average median salary two times higher than the average median salary for all other occupations. Whether you opt to spend your weekends at Sundance Square or the rodeo ring, you’ll soon learn that Fort Worth offers the best of both worlds. It’s both a charming city steeped in tradition and modern tech hub with reach far beyond the Lone Star State.
10. Dayton, OH
When you hear “Dayton,” you probably think “aviation.” As the home of the National Museum of the U.S. Airforce and the birthplace of the Wright brothers, this Midwestern city has earned its place as a major player in the aerospace industry. But, Dayton has emerged as an up-and-comer in other realms of industry, particularly tech. Start your job search with the companies at Dayton’s Tech Town riverfront campus. This tech-centered business park is home base for a number of digital startups and industry thought leaders.
11. Fayetteville, NC
Fayetteville is centrally located about an hour from the beach, the mountains and the state capital. The city itself is home to Fort Bragg, which employs more than 55,000 active duty personnel and 10,000 civilians. As the country’s largest military base, there’s no shortage of demand for IT professionals. Beyond its military ties, Fayetteville is known for its revitalized downtown, its beautiful parks and hiking trails, and a variety of outdoor activities like zip lining.
12. Irving, TX
Though it’s a quick drive from major cities like Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving holds its own in both business and entertainment. The city is home to the global headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies. And with Microsoft on its short list of top employers, there’s a wealth of high-yield IT opportunities available. Irving’s bustling business district, historic sites and local attractions draw a diverse, lively crowd. If you move to Irving, you’ll find art, adventure and entrepreneurial spirit — all on a global scale.
13. Memphis, TN
In addition to its status as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll, Memphis has the makings of an incredible IT city. Bluff city boasts an affordable cost of living, a high average annual salary for IT jobs and a thriving tech sector. As Memphis’ major companies embrace digital trends, the demand for top IT professionals continues to grow. From the blues on Beale Street to the city’s budding tech sector, Memphis doesn’t miss a beat.
14. McAllen, TX
Located in the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen boasts entertainment options for every lifestyle. The historic downtown business district offers top shopping destinations, and 17th Street is always buzzing with excitement. McAllen residents enjoy tropical weather year-round, an incredible cost of living and plenty of job opportunities. Though McAllen has a smaller population than many cities on our list, it’s not lacking in personality — or the South Texas sun.
15. Houston, TX
This cosmopolitan city is a cultural melting pot with an unmistakable southern flare. More than 2 million Texans call Houston home, and if you’re looking for IT work in one of the country’s biggest metro areas, you should count yourself among them. H-Town’s demand for IT professionals is booming. And though living in Houston isn’t exactly cheap, housing costs are reasonable compared to similarly sized cities. Come to Houston to get your fill of exciting festivals, world-class nightlife and Texas’ best BBQ.