6 Best Cities To Live in for Young Professionals

Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, USA Skyline Aerial.
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Remote work has made it possible for young professionals to live and work just about anywhere in the United States. But how can young professionals find the best cities to live in?

GOBankingRates evaluated the 100 largest U.S. cities to narrow down the top 15 where Gen Z can live well on a budget. GOBankingRates also looked at 100 of the most populous cities to discover affordable options with a strong labor force where millennials and Gen Z can thrive in their professional careers. These findings have been narrowed down to a list of six cities that strike the perfect balance of livability, affordability and career opportunity.

Make a move without missing out on earning potential to one of these top cities.

1. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh is one of the three primary counties in the Triangle of North Carolina. Several well-known universities are based out of Raleigh, including North Carolina State University, North Carolina’s largest university known for STEM. 

Recent grads have a wealth of working, moving and lifestyle opportunities. The Triangle is the second-fastest growing tech hub in the U. S., with over 4,000 tech companies employing more than 60,000 in software development and information security. The Triangle is also the fifth-largest life sciences hub in the U.S., with nearly 600 life science companies in operation. 

Raleigh is one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the U.S. and offers a healthy housing market for every lifestyle. Pick from modern townhomes, suburban tract homes, rural homes with plenty of breathing space or urban apartments when making a move.

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2. Knoxville, Tennessee

There are plenty of benefits young professionals may enjoy in Knoxville, Tennessee. The charming and innovative Southern community offers several tax incentives, including no personal income tax, which makes for an affordable cost of living. 

Knoxville prides itself on its ability to educate, recruit and maintain a skilled workforce. Young professionals may earn post-secondary degrees and work in internships throughout the Knoxville area. Check in with the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Retention and Attraction Task Force. This team works to develop strategies for building a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline that allows everyone in the region to receive equitable economic opportunities.

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is home to several Fortune 500 companies including General Mills, Target and U.S. Bank. These institutions employ thousands of workers and position Minneapolis, Minnesota, as a strong job market for young professionals looking to start their careers in a booming metropolitan city. 

Minneapolis also goes above the national average salary. In a 2021 study conducted by U.S. News & World Report, the average salary in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is nearly $6,000 above the national average.  

4. Portland, Oregon

If you would like to move to the West Coast, but prefer to skip the sticker shock of pricey cities like Seattle or Los Angeles, consider moving to Portland. The average annual salary in Portland is $58,240 — about $6,000 above the national average. 

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Need help getting to and from work? Programs like BIKETOWN for All offer young professionals affordable and accessible biking transportation options. Sign up for a BIKETOWN membership (discount options available to those who qualify) and receive a free helmet, access to bike safety education and the ability to safely bike around town and get where you need to go.

5. Denver, Colorado

It was tough to pick just one city from Colorado for this roundup. Many cities, including Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Boulder, are ranked among the best cities for young professionals. Denver stands out specifically because it is one of the nation’s strongest metropolitan economies. 

According to Visit Denver, the median household income in the Denver metro area is 15.6% higher than the national median income. Denver is also positioned to keep growing. By 2030, the Denver metro population is anticipated to increase by nearly 50%. This means there will be almost 3.9 million living in Denver with 800,000 new jobs created to work across a wide variety of industries.

6. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, is regularly hailed as one of the best cities for young professionals for a slew of great reasons. Living in Austin means committing to a better quality of life. There is no state income tax, a low cost of living and warm weather. Perhaps the strongest pro that Austin has in its corner is its workforce. According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, nearly 47% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. The Austin workforce is young, highly educated and excited about innovation. Major corporations and tech startups see and recognize this workforce and are establishing their corporate headquarters in Austin to draw in talent from the job market. The Austin economy is so healthy that Austin is often considered one of the top cities for young professionals.

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How To Pick the Best City for You

Before you start daydreaming about making a move to one of the cities listed above or anywhere else, it’s important to factor in the cost of living and career opportunities. Helen A. Dietz, CFP managing director and partner at Aspiriant, recommends looking at these key considerations.

First, target a city that is in a state offering lower taxes on income. Dietz said that you can start finding these cities by reviewing the top growing sectors of the economy. In addition to lower income taxes, look for cities in areas with affordable starter homes and where there is a sense of community.

You should also look at long-term trends in sectors like technology, fintech, healthcare, biotech, green infrastructure and scientific research. Even if you aren’t planning to work in these fields, watch where these businesses decide to relocate. Their moves could be a big win for the ongoing growth of your professional and personal life.

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