The Best and Worst States to Change Your Career

States with low unemployment, steady job growth, and low cost of living are some of the best states to change your career in.
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  • Georgia may be the best state to change your career in, according to a new BestColleges study.
  • States with low cost of living, low unemployment rates, and decent job growth fared best.
  • Additional factors like politics, education, crime, and weather may play a role too.

Making a career change is no easy feat, especially when it requires you to relocate. With factors like earnings potential, cost of living, and well-being to consider, finding a place that has everything you may want or need can start to feel a little impossible. So at BestColleges, we decided to make it easier.

We looked at seven metrics for this study: median income, cost of living, job growth, unemployment, gender pay gap, well-being, and COVID-19 vaccination rate. We understand that priorities can vary and what's important to one individual may not be what's important to all. But at the very least, this should help you narrow down your search.

The Best States to Change Your Career

  1. According to BestColleges' findings, Georgia is the best state to change your career in. With prosperous economic hubs like Atlanta, a low cost of living, and decent job growth and unemployment rates, the Peach State stands out as a great place to shift careers.

    But it's not all peaches and sweet tea — Georgia falls a little below average for median income and well-being, and as of September 2021 had a fairly low vaccination rate.

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  3. Closely following Georgia is New Hampshire, earning its spot in the top five for its high median income and low unemployment rate. The state also has an impressive vaccination rate, ranking 10th in that category.

  4. Next is Utah. The state boasts an enviably low unemployment rate and ranks in the top 10 for job growth and well-being. But, if you're a woman hoping to maximize your earnings, Utah may not be the best place for you. The state ranked last for its gender pay gap, with women's median earnings being more than $22,000 lower than men's earnings in 2019.

  5. Vermont came in fourth on the list ranking highly in job growth, unemployment, earnings gap, and vaccination rates. But the state's overall score is brought down by its fairly high cost of living.

  6. Finally, Minnesota rounds out the top five with above-average rankings in every category. The state's big standouts are its high median income and low unemployment rate.

Other Factors to Consider

Though this study looked at a variety of factors to consider when choosing a state to move to when changing your career, it didn't look at all possible concerns. Things like political climate, educational opportunities, crime, and weather can play an important role in your decision to move somewhere new.

Additionally, much of this data is very recent, meaning variables like job growth from 2020 to 2021 may be skewed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore better represent job recovery than growth in some states.


BestColleges used an array of public and private datasets related to employment and relocation to create our ranking. Each metric was weighted by level of importance as follows: median income (25%), cost of living (25%), job growth (15%), unemployment (15%), earnings gap (10%), well-being (5%), COVID-19 vaccination rate (5%).

Median income data and median earnings data used to assess gender pay gap were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey. Cost of living was determined by the Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index for the second quarter of 2021.

Job growth and unemployment data was collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and represents figures as of August 2021.

For well-being, BestColleges used Sharecare's 2020 Community Well-Being Index that was released in May 2021. The index measures physical, financial, and social well-being as well as access to food, housing, economic security, and healthcare.

Lastly, vaccination data was collected from the Mayo Clinic and illustrates the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals by state as of September 2021.