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.

Updated June 3, 2022

The Best and Worst States to Change Your Career
Photo by Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

  • 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.

  2. State
  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.


Methodology

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.


The Best States to Change Your Career

Georgia117.35296159133242
New Hampshire218.1837125301610
Utah318.51126102501032
Vermont419.52641252221
Minnesota519.7513302312221516
Massachusetts621.252475293615
Hawaii721.454501434217
Nebraska821.652517441241822
Rhode Island921.75154243410124
Maryland1022.314421352147
Virginia1122.4510313915291113
Texas1222.922141435343528
Kansas1323.12724912402628
Washington1423.5738133147811
New Jersey1523.553397454836
Idaho1624.153119183423947
Wisconsin1624.1521243814282521
Colorado1824.2934173545914
North Carolina1924.53923112163735
South Dakota2024.83327263263027
Tennessee2024.84272223164242
Arizona2224.95283293951728
Missouri2325.253884015193438
New York2425.61449848858
Nevada2525.65243635012131
North Dakota2625.820253711412045
Michigan2625.832122524433825
California2826548194915615
Illinois2926.0517203243371324
Maine3026.25354062611293
Iowa3126.4530114617383623
Delaware3226.616353132251919
Florida3326.653429272932420
Arkansas3426.7485361974941
Alaska3526.7512451641122332
Connecticut3627.0564320454672
Oregon3727.3518463026171411
Oklahoma3827.6433508324539
Alabama3927.7464427334447
Montana40284028289203336
South Carolina402841222419184040
Wyoming4228.719214126492847
Indiana4328.8537104517394137
New Mexico4429.145934459489
Pennsylvania4529.9523333341311718
Kentucky4630.5544174821144625
Mississippi4730.85013538235046
Ohio4830.8536134732353134
West Virginia4931.6549152925274750
Louisiana5036.747164339444342