Would you be willing to pull up stakes if you needed to find a new job? Sixty-seven percent of people surveyed by staffing firm Robert Half said they’d consider relocating for work, and 37% believed moving to another city would improve their career prospects.
Not all cities are equally good bets when it comes landing your dream gig, though. Before you pack your boxes and call the movers, you need to find a city where the odds of building a successful career are strong. San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston are among your best bets if you’re considering moving for your work, according to the Robert Half Career City Index.
The index, which was developed by the Economist Intelligence Institute, ranked 25 major cities in the United States on career prospects, quality of life, cost of living, and cultural environment. Researchers looked at 25 separate indicators in the four categories to determine each city’s rank, including unemployment rate, measures of income inequality, projected employment outlook, quality of health care, crime rate, average cost of a basket of groceries, the availability of entertainment, and overall diversity.
By including numerous factors in their calculation, the list captures not only which cities have strong economies and good job opportunities, but also which ones would be great places to live. Generally, cities with a high number of people with bachelor’s degrees and a younger population did better in the rankings than those with older and less educated populations.
Looking at more than employment and salary statistics is important if you’re considering relocating for work, the experts at Robert Half noted.
“Think beyond the job offer and consider the stability of the organization, your long-term career path, and what appeals to you about living in the new area,” Paul McDonald, a senior executive director at Robert Half, said. “Your satisfaction level with relocating depends on more than just a great starting salary.”
If you’re ready for a chance of scenery, here are the 10 best cities for your career, according the Career City Index.
10. Des Moines
Iowa’s capital city might seem sleepy, but there are opportunities in the Hawkeye State if you know where to look. Insurance is a big industry in the greater Des Moines area, which has a population of roughly 600,000, as is publishing (the town is home to Meridith Corporation, which publishes Better Homes & Gardens and other magazines). A combination of low cost of living and decent salaries means that Des Moines is a good place for young people looking to build wealth, according to Money Under 30.
Commutes are also short in this midwestern city and crime is low. Yet it’s a little off the beaten path. There are no international flights from the city’s airport and it’s lacking in the entertainment and nightlife options compared to larger and more diverse towns.
Houston is well-known as a hub for the U.S. energy industry, but the city’s economy is more diverse than many realize. The fourth-largest city in the country is home to more Fortune 500 companies than all but one other U.S. metro, including big names like Halliburton, Sysco, Group 1 Automotive, and Waste Management.
The cost of living is also low in this Texas metropolis, due in part to the lack of a state income tax and cheap groceries. Houston doesn’t do as well in terms of income inequality; oil and gas money means great wealth for some, but there’s also a large population of poorer immigrants.
Denver may be the perfect city for new graduates who are just starting out in their careers. The Mile High City has strong employment prospects, a relatively low cost of living, and scores well on quality of life indicators, with lots of sunny days and easy access to the great outdoors. Start-up companies are taking note of the city’s growth and highly educated workforce, which should mean even better job prospects in the future.
7. Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the smallest city in the top 10 in terms of population, but unemployment is low and career prospects are good. The city also has less income inequality than other cities, though at $46,711 the average household income is a bit below the national average of $53,657. The city also has the fifth-lowest cost of living among cities ranked.
Cultural diversity is Salt Lake City’s weak spot, with the area lacking the food and entertainment amenities of most other cities on the list. Yet abundant recreational opportunities help make up for deficiencies in other areas.
The career prospects in Dallas are good (the city ranked 8th out of 25, according to the Robert Half survey) and the cost of living is low (it came in 4th overall). The Dallas area is home to big companies like Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, and Kimberly-Clark. Dallas is also one of the best cities to move to if you hope to get rich, according to a study by Bankrate. Yet the city earned only middling scores for quality of life and cultural diversity, which might be a turn-off to some who are considering relocating to the area.
Raleigh’s position as part of North Carolina’s research triangle translates to a strong job market in a variety of industries, especially for young grads. Tech jobs can be found at companies like IBM, Cisco Systems, and Red Hat, and the financial services and insurance industries are also strong. The city also scored well in terms of quality of life, cost of living, and cultural diversity.
4. Washington, D.C.
Many people in the D.C. area either work for the government or in higher education, and the prevalence of those relatively secure jobs means the nation’s capital is better able to weather economic downturns than many other cities. Yet the tech industry in the city is also growing, which means there are opportunities for people who aren’t interested in working in politics.
Plenty of walkable neighborhoods and a strong public transportation network, plus cultural institutions like the Smithsonian led D.C. to a strong showing in the quality of life category. But a high cost of living could be an obstacle for those thinking about relocating to the area. Eighty-one percent of D.C. renters spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, by some accounts.
3. San Francisco Bay Area
Well-educated tech workers flock to the Bay Area to work for companies like Google and Apple. Smaller companies and new startups are also attracting people to the region, which is also appealing because of its cultural diversity and access to great restaurants and entertainment. Still, the area’s notoriously high cost of living is a challenge for many residents, especially those who are just starting off in their careers.
Boston is one of the most highly educated cities in the country, with nearly half of population holding at least a bachelor’s degree. The presence of schools like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also give the city a strong research and educational infrastructure. Jobs in the financial, insurance, and health care industries are abundant, but the cost of living is among the highest in the nation.
Seattle’s vibrant job market and comparatively low cost of living (at least compared to other west coast cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles) propelled it to the first place spot in the Career Cities Index. Opportunities at companies like Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Costco draw people to the Seattle area, and the city also has strong biotech, aerospace, health care, and manufacturing industries.
“The city [is] a prime target for young entrepreneurs, technology developers, and families,” the report noted. Those transplants aren’t too put off by Seattle’s poor weather and low rental vacancy rate, which caused the city to finish in last place for quality of life.