By Matt Woolsey, Forbes.com
If you’re a recent graduate looking to jump-start your career, New York City isn’t the only destination you should consider.
Head to the Big Apple, and your chances of getting the corner office might not be as far off as you think. That’s because New York City tops the Forbes list as the No. 1 city for young professionals.
That likely comes as a shock to, well, no one. Many of America’s best companies, as determined by Forbes’ rankings of the best 400 big businesses and best 200 small businesses, including financial giant Goldman Sachs and media conglomerate News Corp., are in New York. Throw in New York’s bars, clubs and world-class dining, and you get a city teeming with young professionals.
San Francisco clocked in at No. 2 and Atlanta at No. 3. Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston and Seattle filled spots four through seven, and Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Denver closed out the top 10.
The list was compiled by tracking where the graduates of top universities across the country ended up 10 years after commencement, where the best business opportunities exist, which cities had the most young and unmarried people, and which cities paid young professionals the best.
To see where graduates of elite schools chose to pursue their careers, we looked at Class of 1997 alumni location data from six elite universities across the country — Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern and Rice. The data indicated where graduates have settled 10 years later and where their professional lives have matured.
Alumni who remained close to school were excluded. Harvard grads in Massachusetts — nixed; Dukies who stayed in North Carolina — gone; Stanford Cardinals roosting in California — tossed. The goal: to determine which cities offer such strong opportunities for young professionals that they’re willing to pick up and move across the country for them.
Some cities are bigger than others, of course. So we adjusted where elite grads ended up against overall population size to measure the respective concentrations of young professionals. This allowed smaller cities such as Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, to compete equally with heavyweights such as New York and Los Angeles.
Then, we stirred the locations of prized jobs into the mix. Each year, Forbes selects America’s 400 best big businesses and 200 best small businesses. We used the locations of those 600 companies to determine which cities had the best professional opportunities for the under-35 set.
Money is important, too. To figure out how far yearly income will go, we measured cities’ variations in starting salary using data from Mercer Human Resource Consulting of New York. We adjusted it for cost of living with our own Forbes index; the idea being that the more greenhorn grads a city can attract with a decent salary-to-cost-of-living ratio, the more likely they’ll stay and develop in that area.
Of course, even the most driven young professionals need to let off steam. With that in mind, the final metric measured which cities had the highest share of never-married people in their 20s and 30s. Never married is an important qualifier. For example, of the 40 largest cities, Salt Lake City has the third-highest population share of people ages 25 to 34, but its standing as No. 27 in the never-married category really puts a damper on the nightlife.
The bottom 10 cities were brought down by a variety of causes. Salary to cost of living submarined Miami, Norfolk, Va., and San Antonio. The inability to attract top grads and top companies hurt Detroit and Las Vegas, and all our measurements converged on Tampa, Fla., beating it down to last place on our list.
The top 5 cities:
1. New York
2. San Francisco
4. Los Angeles
5. Washington, D.C.
To view Forbes.com’s full slide show on top cities for young professionals, click here