The Best and Worst States to Start Your Career

Despite their high cost of living and rent prices, states like New York and California topped the list.
20 min read

Share this Article

  • New York may be the best state to start your career, according to BestColleges' findings.
  • States with higher entry-level salaries and job openings beat out states with low cost of living and rent prices.
  • Other factors like women's equality and level of fun helped states move to the top of the list.

There are tons of factors to consider when looking to move somewhere new to start your career. For most college students, affordable cost of living and ample job opportunities are top priorities for relocation after graduation. But that's not all that matters when making a big move.

We looked at nine variables in each state for this study to make your search a little easier: average rent price, cost of living, average entry-level salary, number of job openings, racial/ethnic diversity, percentage of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, women's equality, educational attainment, and level of fun (entertainment, recreation, and attractions).

We understand that priorities vary and what's important to one individual may not be what's important to all. But this list can be a useful starting point for your job search.

The Best States to Start Your Career

  1. According to BestColleges' findings, New York is the best state to start your career. Despite its high cost of living and average rent price, those beginning their careers can expect to find higher entry-level salaries, significant job openings, and high percentages of diversity and young people. New York also ranks highly for women's equality, educational attainment, and overall fun.
  2. Up next is California, which ranked second due to its high number of job openings and diversity, as well as its average entry-level salary rank, percentage of young people, and fun. California additionally ranks highly for women's equality and educational attainment, but takes a hit due to its high cost of living and average rent price.
  3. Following California is Illinois. The state ranks highly for its number of job openings and fun factor, but also stands out for its women's equality and diversity rankings. Illinois has the lowest cost of living of all the states in the top five, but ranks well below average for its entry-level salary.
  4. Texas tied with Illinois, earning the fourth spot for its significant number of job openings, percentage of young people, and high diversity ranking. The Lone Star State also stands out from its counterparts for its high fun ranking and lower cost of living.
  5. Finally, Colorado rounds out the top five due to its high average entry-level salary, high percentage of young people, educational attainment, and fun. Colorado also ranks highly for women's equality, but has below average rankings for cost of living and rent.

Other Factors to Consider

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

Additionally, much of this data is very recent, meaning variables like average rent prices and number of job openings may be skewed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


To complete this study, BestColleges used an array of publicly available datasets related to young adults entering the workforce. Each variable we considered was weighted by level of importance as follows: average rent price (15%), cost of living (15%), average entry-level salary (15%), number of job postings (15%), racial/ethnic diversity (10%), percentage of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old (10%), women's equality (10%), educational attainment (5%), and level of fun (5%).

Average rent prices were taken from Apartment List's May 2022 state-level rent estimates.

Cost of living figures were obtained from The Council for Community and Economic Research and reflect the first quarter of 2022. Though cost of living encompasses housing costs which are already noted in rent prices, it additionally covers estimated expenses for groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and other goods and services.

Average entry-level salaries were obtained from ZipRecruiter and reflect 2022 data.

Data for racial/ethnic diversity, the percentage of young people, and educational attainment were all obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. We define young people as adults between the ages of 25 and 34. Educational attainment data looked at adults over the age of 25 with a bachelor's degree or higher. All Census Bureau data is as of 2020.

For the number of job openings by state, figures were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reflect March 2022.

To determine women's equality, data was obtained from Georgetown Institute's 2020 U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Index.

Lastly, for our "fun" metric, which looked at the level of entertainment, recreation, and attractions by state, we used WalletHub's 2022 Most Fun States ranking.

Complete List of the Best and Worst Starts to Start A Career

Hint: Scroll right to view the full table