Recent study provides college graduates with best US cities to launch a career

BYU graduate, Ashley Wennerholm, enjoys living in New York City for her internship.
BYU graduate Ashley Wennerholm stands in Times Square while interning for an advertising company Young and Rubicam. A study named New York City the best palce for launching a career. (Ashley Wennerholm)

University graduates are ready to take on the challenges of the world with college finally over and a degree under their belts. Often the first challenge lies with deciding where to start their careers.

There are many factors that play into that decision: opportunities for career growth, pay opportunities, social experiences and overall quality of life.

A recent study released by took 100 of the most economic and populated U.S. cities and rated them in order from best to worst places to launch a career.

New York City ranks No. 1 according to this study. The study showed New York as highly competitive but full of career advancement opportunities.

BYU alumna Ashley Wennerholm said New York City had a positive influence on her professional career.

“There is this palpable energy in the city that no others have,” Wennerholm said

Wennerholm graduated from BYU in December of 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in advertising. She attended a career fair in Sundance, Utah, where she was recruited by New York City-based advertising company, Young and Rubicam.

Other companies tried to convince Wennerholm that moving to a place like New York City wouldn’t really affect her professional life, but she didn’t buy it.

“My internship in NYC has changed my life,” Wennerholm said.

Wennerholm’s story is right in line with the advice from Claes Bell, a CFA and banking analyst at and one of the professionals who directed the study. Bell recommended that college graduates do a lot of research before any decision making.

“Get an internship in the city you want to have a career in,” Bell said.

Bell and his team mainly used the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the ranking of these 100 cities. They based the quality of life in each city on a paper published by David Albouy in 2015 called “What are Cities Worth?” They found the top four best cities to launch a career after New York City are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and San Jose, California.

Cities that earned a spot on the bottom of the list are Fayetteville, North Carolina (100th), Mobile, Alabama (99th), Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (98th), Jackson, Mississippi (97th) and Montgomery, Alabama (96th). Bell and his team made sure to note on the study website that some of the lower-ranked cities may be desirable to certain students based on their needs and interests.

Helena Haueter, a recent BYU graduate, said the most important factor to her in choosing where to begin her career is the ability to take care of her future children.

“I think the biggest thing that I look for is the flexibility, like for my family,” Haueter said.

Many college students like Wennerholm and Haueter have different priorities when it comes to deciding where they’d like to begin their professional careers. Some grads put social experience above career advancement while others put pay above all else. has created a helpful tool to use in the process of deciding where to go in addition to the study.

Students can use the tool to rate their priorities, such as housing, social, economic, pay and weather. Users are given a list of five cities that match those priorities based on their answers. Haueter said she knows she should utilize all of the resources available to prepare to launch her career.

She advised students to be open to networking when they are searching for a career in addition to using available tools and resources.

“Try to network as much as you can,” Haueter said. “You can have different job connections and options.”

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