September 21, 2023


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The 10 best places for Gen Z to start a career

3 min read
The 10 best places for Gen Z to start a career

We all know the trope: Young, relatively fresh-faced, and ready to join the workforce, new graduates collect their belongings in a couple of suitcases and take a stab at playing their dreams in a major city. But it might be time for a new story, or at least a new setting for it.

Big cities like D.C., NYC, Los Angeles, and even Chicago often come to mind as job-filled places where young professionals move. But in today’s cost-of-living crisis, more Southern cities have begun to edge out the usual suspects thanks to their affordability, vibrant culture, and outdoor activities. So finds consumer financial services company Bankrate in its report on the best U.S. cities to start a career, which analyzed government data to gauge the affordability, quality of life, and employment opportunities in the America’s top 50 metro areas.

Austin is leading the way, as it “offers a solid balance between affordability, job opportunities, and lifestyle factors that young professionals want,” Bankrate analyst Alex Gailey tells Fortune, citing its status as the live music capital of the world, restaurants and nightlife, and warm weather.

It’s easy to see the appeal of the offbeat city (with a slogan that Riverdale’s self-professed fellow weirdo Jughead would appreciate), which ranks 12th on Bankrate’s affordability index, first in quality of life, and third in employment opportunities. Just last year, the city was named the fastest-growing area for entry-level jobs by LinkedIn, as hiring grew by 21% from 2020 to 2021. 

That might largely be due to the fast rise of tech jobs in the area. Austin has long had a growing tech scene thanks to the presence of companies like Dell, which helped earn the city its “Silicon Hills” nickname. That presence expanded during the pandemic as more companies like Tesla and Oracle moved their headquarters there. Tech workers followed suit, and in 2021, Austin became the top city that benefited from migration related to the tech sector. Young and prospective hires are no exception, as Gailey says the city has seen the largest influx of 25-to-34-year-olds over the last five years.

The city has spent $20 billion on infrastructure projects to build a Southern Silicon Valley, Austin Mayor Steve Adler told Fortune’s Jessica Matthews last year. The problem is that the more Austin grows, the more expensive it gets. It’s become one the least affordable cities in Texas, even though it remains more affordable than other superstar cities. But “the gap between median income and median rent in Austin is wider than most major cities on the East and West coasts, so young workers are able to keep more of what they’re bringing in,” Gailey says.

Young workers just want to be (mostly) in the south

Austin is an example of how many rising-star cities benefited from the new age of remote work, which coincided with the 40-year-high rise in inflation that posed a problem for urbanites in major metro areas already dealing with a high cost of living. Emboldened by their new freedom, they packed up for greener pastures, with many flocking to the Sunbelt and expanding job market prospects along the way.

Half of the cities in Bankrate’s list are in the South—Raleigh, Nashville, Dallas, and Atlanta sit alongside Austin. There are some notable opportunities out west as well in Seattle and San Jose, which are known for their tech jobs despite having a higher cost of living (they rank first and fourth for employment opportunities, respectively). Even as the tech sector experiences layoffs and instability, it seems it’s still a career path of interest to young adults. Notably missing on the list were northeastern cities.

Here are the top 10 metros to start your career, according to Bankrate.

  1. Austin–Round Rock–Georgetown, TX
  2. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  3. Salt Lake City, UT
  4. Raleigh-Cary, NC
  5. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN
  6. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN
  7. Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, TX
  8. Kansas City, MO-KS
  9. Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Alpharetta, GA
  10. San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, CA


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