Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Where should you live after you graduate or leave your childhood town or city? Sure, New York and San Francisco seem like great places to live for young people, but they’re also some of the most expensive cities in the country. (Not to knock them, of course; I live in New York and love it, but it’s a tradeoff.) When you’re considering where to live as a millennial or a gen Zer, you’ll take into account factors like cost of living, average entry-level salary, city culture, presence of other young people in the area and other factors.

To that end, we’ve rounded up some of the best cities for young professionals. Keep reading to learn more about opportunities, top industries and more.

10 best cities for young professionals

1. Denver, CO

Average entry-level salary: $32,826/year 

Why it's great for your career: 

SmartAsset ranks the city 20th for job diversity and commends its wide range of industries available. It also notes that nearly 23% of Denver’s population is between the ages of 25 and 34, with a more than 89% employment rate among these young professionals. Industries range from aerospace, tech and bioscience to outdoor activities and recreation. That last one is no surprise, give the much-hyped skiing and hiking opportunities. The cost of living is just 12% higher than average.

2. Cambridge, MA

Average entry-level salary: $60,725

Why it's great for your career:

Just outside of Boston, Cambridge has a similar feel to its more urban counterpart. It’s home to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, including Harvard and MIT, and many graduates stay in the city to live and work. 

The cost of living is a somewhat steep 74% higher than the national average, but entry-level professionals have an average salary much higher than the average entry-level salary across the United States of $39,444.

3. Seattle, WA

Average entry-level salary: $43,463

Why it's great for your career:

Home to Amazon and many other businesses in the tech sector and beyond, Seattle is known for its lively culinary and coffee scene. Young professionals flock to neighborhoods like Capitol Hill to take advantage of the sites, restaurants and bars. 

The cost of living is 49% higher than the national average, however.

4. Berkeley, CA

Average entry-level salary: $36,420

Why it's great for your career:

If you love the Bay Area but prefer something a little quieter than San Francisco, Berkeley is one of the best cities for young professionals. Although it’s a suburb, it still retains a somewhat urban feel and is just outside the city. Many graduates of UC Berkeley stay in the area, the university attracts professionals across numerous industries. 

The cost of living, unfortunately, is on par with San Francisco, at 80% higher than the national average. 

5. Nashville, TN

Average entry-level salary: $31,680

Why it's great for your career:

Known for its music scene, Nashville’s opportunities extend far beyond entertainment. Top industries including technology manufacturing, finance, health care, education and tourism. Not only is it one of the best cities for young professionals, but it’s affordable to live there — 3% lower than the national average. 

6. Charlotte, NC

Average entry-level salary: $35,381

Why it's great for your career:

Another relatively affordable option with a cost of living on par with Nashville is Charlotte. The southern city is known for its charm, as well as its impressive bar and culinary scene. Residents also praise the picturesque views. The city is also home to 25 colleges and universities, bringing plenty of employment and education opportunities. 

7. Chicago, IL

Average entry-level salary: $33,379

Why it's great for your career:

The largest city in the Midwest, Chicago is great choice for young professionals, with an impressive bar and restaurant scene and plenty of job opportunities across industries such as publishing, energy, biotech, finance and food manufacturing.

The cost of living is 23% higher than the national average.

8. Austin, TX 

Average entry-level salary: $31,635

Why it's great for your career:

Home to University of Texas’ flagship campus, Austin offers opportunities in education, as well as industries including tech and life sciences. Residents enjoy the music, parks, restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

Your money will go a long way, given that the cost of living is 3% lower than the national average.

9. Columbus, OH

Average entry-level salary: $47,513

Why it's great for your career:

Columbus offers a rapidly-growing tech industry, as well as numerous opportunities at Ohio State University, one of the largest college campuses in the U.S. (currently, it’s ranked third in size, behind the University of Central Florida and Texas A&M University). Columbus also has many parks, museums, nightlife and more.

You’ll get plenty of bang for your buck, too: the cost of living is 10% lower than the national average. 

10. Washington, DC

Average entry-level salary: $47,513

Why it's great for your career:

The nation’s capital is certainly one of the best cities for young professionals. With a cost of living that is 39% higher than the national average, it’s not cheap, but compared with cities like New York, it’s fairly affordable. The average entry-level salary is much higher than the U.S. average. Plus, you’ll have access to culture galore, from the free-entry Smithsonian museums to national landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument — and many, many others. 

When people think of Washington, DC, government jobs are probably the first thing that comes to mind, and while it’s true that there are plenty, industries like education, law, healthcare and tourism are also booming.

11. Arlington, VA

Average entry-level salary: $41,692

Why it's great for your career:

Just outside of D.C., Arlington is ranked the no. 2 in Niche's Best Cities to Live in America — and it's an excellent destination for young professionals. The nightlife and social scene are excellent, and if you plan to commute to the nation's capital, it's an easy trek, whether you drive or take public transit. But there are also plenty of top businesses, such as Bloomberg and Deloitte, right in Arlington, too.

Arlington is also an extremely diverse city, with nearly a quarter of citizens born outside of the U.S.

12. Minneapolis, MN

Average entry-level salary: $33,642

Why it's great for your career:

Vibrant culture, plenty of bars and restaurants, plenty of job opportunities, sports — what more could a young professional ask for? The cost of living is low, while the satisfaction is high. These are just some of the reasons why young people flock to this urban haven in the Midwest, where opportunities for work and play abound.

These are just a few of the best cities for young professionals in the U.S. When you’re considering where to start your “adult life,” you’ll want to think about your budget, your desired industry, climate and weather, your personal likes and dislikes, the culture and more. There are numerous opportunities for young people throughout the country; keep in mind that wherever you start won’t necessarily be your forever home, either, so don’t overthink it. Chances are, you’ll thrive wherever you end up, and if you don’t, you can always set up shop elsewhere.