How to Find a Job Outside the Big City

How to Find a Job Outside the Big City

August 13, 2021

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Many college students dream of landing a job in the big city, whether that's New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston. But while densely populated areas offer unique advantages, they also come with significant drawbacks, such as a higher cost of living, a more competitive job landscape, and even cultural differences that may prove difficult to navigate.

If urban living doesn't appeal to you, consider looking for job opportunities in less populous parts of the U.S. Here, we go over how to maximize your career potential in a small town without the resources of a major metropolitan area.

What Jobs Can You Get Outside Major Urban Areas?

While some jobs are highly location-dependent ⁠— marine biologists must live near the water, and petroleum engineers must live in oil-rich regions ⁠— others boast strong demand throughout the country.

Teachers, for example, are needed in every state. According to the National Education Association, many school districts — especially poorer districts — are reporting worse teacher shortages than what industry experts had anticipated, and the COVID-19 pandemic has merely exacerbated this trend.

A major in a STEM field or health-related discipline will also likely provide job stability for those hoping to work outside large cities. Both urban and rural communities need more nurses to help treat the country's aging population. Rural nurses make a pretty good living, too: Hospitals with shortages sometimes offer signing bonuses to attract new employees.

In-Demand Jobs in Rural and Urban Areas

Job Median Salary (2020) Job Growth Rate (2019-29)
Registered Nurse $75,330 7%
Accountant/Auditor $73,560 4%
High School Teacher $62,870 4%
Middle School Teacher $60,810 4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Another popular career, regardless of location, is accounting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for accountants and auditors will grow 4% between 2019 and 2029, due in part to a widespread talent shortage.

Accounting also offers a solid income. Even in sparsely populated states like North Dakota and West Virginia, accountants earn an average annual salary of at least $65,000.

Finally, you can consider a variety of location-specific careers. Prominent corporations like Cessna and Skullcandy maintain production facilities in smaller cities like Wichita, Kansas, and Park City, Utah, respectively. In researching companies with headquarters near you, you may find entry-level jobs that require a bachelor's degree in fields like supply chain management, market analysis, and human resources.

More College Grads Are Seeking Remote Jobs

Technology and the COVID-19 pandemic have reshaped the workplace, with many employees now working remotely either part or all of the time. This has led more college graduates to prioritize flexible, work-from-home jobs.

Before committing to a remote job, make sure you have a reliable computer and a strong internet connection. Some states maintain laws about reimbursing employees for expenses related to remote work. The California Labor Code, for example, stipulates that employers must cover employees' "necessary expenditures or losses," including costs incurred by remote workers.

Since not all jobs are computer-based, not all industries and companies offer work-from-home opportunities. You'll most likely find full-time remote positions in fields like writing, web development, and social media management.

Popular Freelance Jobs

Job Median Salary (2020) Job Growth Rate (2019-29)
Web Developer/Digital Designer $77,200 8%
Writer/Author $67,120 -2%
Editor $63,400 -7%
Graphic Designer $53,380 -4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

College grads interested in establishing their own schedules and workloads may consider freelancing. As of 2019, around one-third of U.S. workers freelance. Though freelancing doesn't offer conventional job security, it's a solid option for grads who want the flexibility to work from anywhere, whether that's in a big city or out in the countryside.

Creative industries offer numerous freelance opportunities. Given the constant need for fresh content, freelance writing and editing jobs are especially prevalent, with huge media outlets like BuzzFeed and Forbes routinely employing freelancers to come up with new material.

Graphic design also offers a slew of freelance opportunities. Students who majored in fields like art and graphic design can highlight their abilities online to attract clients seeking design work for their businesses, websites, and social media campaigns.

Securing a Job Outside the Big City Requires Ingenuity

Landing a remote job and/or freelancing can prove challenging at first. The Writing Cooperative advises finding a niche and becoming an expert in it. Generally, gigs that require less expertise pay less than those that do.

College graduates with full-time remote jobs may need to travel on occasion. Employers can require on-site orientations or periodic in-person workdays, so prepare to spend some time away from home. Companies may also ask staff to commute to shared office spaces.

Although a 2018 report found that a lower percentage of rural workers commute 30 minutes or more than employees in big cities, be aware that some rural workers aren't as lucky. Given the small populations in many rural communities, job applicants who want to work in-person jobs without moving may have to commit to a longer commute.

Finding a career that allows you to live in small towns and rural areas is possible — it may just require some ingenuity, a little creativity, and a few sacrifices along the way.


Feature Image: Peter Gudella / Shutterstock

Hear from one of our experts on which factors are the most important for you to consider when choosing a college. Students launched the #BlackburnTakeover movement on October 12 with a sit-in and social media campaign documenting poor living conditions. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by a conservative, anti-affirmative action activist.