Graduation is a special time as students look back on their accomplishments and transition to next stage of their life. Most college grads will be job-hunting this summer, preparing to take the next big step in their personal and professional lives.

But this search might be more challenging than most college grads think. Entry-level pay isn’t always desirable. If you choose a city with a high cost of living, you may find yourself in financial trouble, especially if you have student loans to pay off.

Job candidate competition is another major factor. It’s essential to get the lay of the land when it comes to job opportunities available. You want to ensure you can land a job with growth opportunity down the road.

If you’re going to graduate soon, or you’re a parent tasked with job search duty, here are the top least expensive and most desirable cities for college grads to call home.

Infographic For The Least Expensive and Most Desirable Cities to Live in For College Grads

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Temple, Texas

Temple, Texas is just north of Austin and is home to many manufacturing and industrial companies. There are also a number of security and intelligence companies, due to its proximity to Fort Hood military post, that are interested in hiring talented recent college grads.

The median age in Temple is 35, which is slightly higher than most desirable locations for young professionals. However, it’s one of the most least expensive with cost of living in Temple 13 percent lower than the national average.

The average salary may seem low at nearly $43,000, but rent, utilities, and transportation remain quite low. For instance, a large one bedroom apartment can be as low as $700 per month. If your salary is on pace with the average in Temple, you can expect to take home approximately $2,907 per month after taxes.

Memphis, Tennessee

When you hear Memphis, Tennessee you may think music. However, there are a number of Fortune 500 companies that call Memphis home, like FedEx and AutoZone. Memphis is also one of the largest metropolitan areas of the Southeast.

For a college grad, Memphis is a great city to begin a professional career in. The median age in Memphis is 33, there are plenty of young professionals to network with. Memphis cost of living is also 17 percent lower than the national average with an average salary of $47,000 per year.

Rent for a one bedroom apartment in the nicer area will run about $1,300. A monthly transportation ticket is $50. Federal and state taxes in Memphis are also low. With a yearly salary of $47,000, you can expect to take home approximately $3,200 per month.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

One of the least expensive cities for college grads is Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s about a three hour drive from Chicago, Illinois, and is home to plenty of industries. Besides manufacturing and industrial plants, Kalamazoo has job opportunities in pharmaceuticals. For instance, Pfizer has their HQ in Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo’s median age is 25, making it a hub for very young professionals. The cities cost of living is also enticing for college grads at 21 percent lower than the national average. Average monthly rent in Kalamazoo ranges from $700 (studio) to $900 (two bedroom).

The average salary in Kalamazoo is $46,000, making a monthly take home of approximately $3,000 after Michigan and federal taxes more than enough to make ends meet.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

City college grads can thrive in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma without missing out on big city creature comforts. There are industries like agriculture, oil, gas, energy, aviation, biotechnology, and more ready to hire the next generation workforce.

Oklahoma City also has sports teams, live events, and plenty of nature with The Lake of the Ozarks not far. The cost of living in Oklahoma City is 15 percent lower than the national average, making it one of the least expensive metropolitan areas in the country.

The average salary is around $48,000, and after federal and Oklahoma taxes, you can expect your monthly take home to be approximately $3,142. This is good news for college grads since monthly rent in Oklahoma City is quite cheap, ranging from $750 to $1000. Utilities are about $150 per month, and a public transportation monthly pass will cost you $48.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia is an affordable city ranking 10th in the top 100 for careers in business, science, management, and the arts. It is also a fairly young city with a median age of 33.

The median yearly salary in Atlanta is also enticing at nearly $60,000 per year with a cost of living a bit lower than the national average. At the median yearly salary in Atlanta, a college grad can live very comfortable with over $3,500 take home pay every month after taxes.

Monthly rent runs new grads in Atlanta between $780 (studio) in a normal area of the city and $1,586 (one bedroom) in the expensive part of town. Utilities per month are under $100.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin boasts a young professional culture with a median age of just 31. When it comes to job opportunities for recent grads, there are plenty in this vibrant northern U.S. city.

For instance, a quick search of business jobs in Madison netted nearly 5,000 possibilities on Indeed. The cost of living is a bit higher than the national average, at seven percent, but the general day-to-day costs are desirable.

A one bedroom in Madison is around $1,500 with utilities and public transportation only costing about $100 a month in total. This is certainly affordable for a college grad making the median monthly pay of approximately $3,100 after taxes.

Omaha, Nebraska

This may seem like an odd choice for most desirable cities to live in for college grads, but it may serve as a great professional stepping stone. Even Warren Buffett thinks so, “If I had to live some other place I’d be fine doing it, but I can’t think of a better place to live than Omaha,” he told The Associated Press.

Cost of living data also supports Buffett’s recommendation. Omaha cost of living is eight percent lower than the national average with a median yearly salary of around $50,000. This may not seem like much, but with monthly rent as low as $1,000 in the more expensive areas of Omaha, it is enticing for college grads.

After state and federal taxes, you could be taking home approximately $3,200 per month. Those extra savings could put a serious dent in student loans, setting you up to be debt free by 30.

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio is a very affordable city for new college graduates. This industry diverse city is making waves in logistics, cyber security, IT, and ecommerce. Columbus is also home to global companies, like Honda and Victoria’s Secret.

The cost of living in Columbus is very desirable at 10 percent lower than the national average. The median yearly salary in Columbus is just over $50,000. The city is also bustling with young professionals with a median age of 32.

Monthly rent ranges from $687 (studio) in a normal area to $1,383 (one bedroom) in a more affluent part of the city. Utilities will cost new grads around $100 per month, and monthly transportation is $56.

The monthly take home is approximately $3,200 after taxes on a median yearly salary. This makes Columbus one of the least expensive cities in the U.S. for new college grads to grow professionally.

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is home to Nike, Adidas, and a number of tech startups for new grads to build their resume on. A few hours south of Seattle, Portland still has a small city feel with plenty to do outside the city.

The median age in Portland is 36 with a median salary of about $55,000. Take home after taxes is approximately $3,300 a month. The cost of living is 29 percent higher than the national average. However, Portland public transportation is some of the best in the world. For a monthly transportation cost of $100 a month, new grads can find less expensive rent outside the expensive downtown area.

For example, monthly rent in a normal area of the city ranges from $1,140 (studio) to $1,550 (one bedroom), and monthly utilities can cost between $75 and $100. Portland is known for its cultural diversity and nuances, making it a very desirable place to live and work.

Raleigh, North Carolina

If you’re looking for a diverse community of young professionals and plenty of career opportunities, Raleigh, North Carolina is worth a look. The top industries in Raleigh are automotive, defense, biotechnology, aerospace, energy, and information technology.

The median salary in Raleigh is around $56,000 with cost of living at five percent lower than the national average. New grads could expect a monthly take home of about $3,400 after taxes. This makes living in Raleigh desirable.

Cost of living is less expensive than most cities with monthly rent in Raleigh ranges from $1,000 (studio) to $1,700 (one bedroom). Utilities run about $75 a month, and monthly transportation is $49.

More Expensive, Yet More Desirable Bonus Cities

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington is home to global corporations, like Amazon, Boeing, and Microsoft. It has a vibrant young professional scene with an average age of 35. Seattle also has plenty of outdoor adventure surrounding the city, making it a work-life balance wonderland.

The median yearly salary in Seattle is nearly $70,000. After state and federal taxes, you can expect to take home approximately $55,000 yearly, if you land a median salary job offer.

Cost of living in Seattle is 49 percent higher than the national average. Monthly rent ranges from $1,386 (studio) to $2,461 (one bedroom) in the more expensive parts of the city. Utilities will run a recent grad about $100 on average.

Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is a tech startup hub with plenty of industries primed for fresh thinking college grads. Industries include, biotechnology, advertising, aerospace engineering, big data, energy, and more. Fortune 500 companies like Dell and Whole Foods Market also call Austin home.

Austin has plenty of young professionals with a median age of 33. The median yearly pay is around $58,000 with a take home salary of about $47,000 after state and federal taxes.

The cost of living is three percent lower than the national average in Austin. You can rent an apartment in the more expensive part of the city for under $2,000 including utilities. This is about half of the estimated monthly paycheck, which is pretty decent for a college grad.

San Francisco, California

If you’re a tech grad, San Francisco, California is most likely on your list of very desirable cities. It’s a stones throw from Silicon Valley with plenty of tech companies and startups looking for fresh ideas in San Francisco proper.

But we’ve all heard that San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live. This is true with a cost of living 80 percent higher than the national average. However, like finance is to Wall Street, Tech is to San Francisco. This makes cost of living an afterthought.

The good news is that the median yearly salary is around $85,000 with a monthly take home of about $5,000 after taxes. The average monthly rent for just a studio in San Francisco is around $3,000 in the expensive area with utilities costing in the ballpark of $100.

With a careful budget, it is definitely doable. Maybe not the least expensive, but a San Francisco tech company on your resume is absolutely desirable for a tech-minded college grad.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts has a great young professional and academic community unlike most U.S. cities. Home to Harvard, MIT, and other prestigious universities, it is definitely an affordable and very desirable city to live in for college grads.

Business, science, technology, management, and the arts are industries thriving in Boston. The median age in Boston is 32 with average monthly salaries hovering at around $70,000.

The salaries are high, but so is the cost of living. Boston cost of living is 48 percent higher than the rest of the country. The high cost of living is overshadowed by the truly unique personal and professional culture Boston serves up.

Monthly housing in Boston can be as high as $2,700 for a one bedroom in the most expensive area of the city. A studio in a normal area will cost you about $1,627 with utilities and transportation costs averaging $160 per month.

After taxes take home could be approximately $4,300 a month with a median salary, so the high salary does balance the higher cost of living. Boston is also an attractive destination for college grads ready to start a graduate program.

What City is Right For You?

Didn’t see the city you have your eye on after graduating above? You can use the following tools to get a better idea of salary, costs, taxes, and more here:

There are a variety of affordable and fun cities to start your professional career in. Knowing the cost of starting a new after graduation is important, and often comes down to work-life balance, cost, and financial goals.

Financial goals are important and starting a new career in a new city can be expensive. From moving costs to first, last, and deposit on an apartment, you may need loan assistance. is here to help. We are a one-stop shop for new lending opportunities. Contact us today.