The Best States to Find a Job in Your Field

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

College graduates looking for work are often drawn to big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, under the assumption that living in a major metropolis means a bigger job market and greater opportunities. Yet that may not always be a smart move, according to the findings of a recent report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

The study’s authors analyzed online ads for jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree to determine the best states for college grads looking for work. Not surprisingly, populous states like California, Texas, and New York had the most online job ads for people with bachelor’s degrees, while sparsely populated states like Wyoming and South Dakota had far fewer openings.

Few people would be surprised by those findings, but the researchers took their analysis one step further. To account for the fact that larger states also have more people with bachelor’s degrees and more people seeking work, the researchers controlled for the number of workers with at least a bachelor’s degree in each state, so that they could look at the number of job ads relative to the number of people who might be able to fill those positions.

Using that approach, the researchers determined that people with bachelor’s degrees were most likely to find a job in Massachusetts, Delaware, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska. The least-promising job markets for college grads were Hawaii, Mississippi, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. “The college-educated job seeker who is willing to move to a state with a high concentration of job ads per worker has a greater likelihood of landing a job than remaining in or moving to states with fewer job ads per worker,” the authors explained.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The report also identified the states with the greatest concentration of online job postings in major industries like financial services, healthcare, and education. Some states had much higher concentrations of jobs for college grads in these areas than others. In some cases, states had experienced large job growth in certain industries, but were still weak job markets for college grads.

Generally, the states offering the greatest opportunities for college graduates weren’t the country’s biggest cities. That hardly means that it’s impossible to find a job in California or New York, but it does suggest that people looking for work might be wise to expand their search to other states. We’ve highlighted some of the best and worst states for college graduates in five different industries, based on the Georgetown report. To give you an idea of what grads might expect to earn in their new jobs, we’ve also provided the average entry-level salary for a person with a bachelor’s degree, according to Payscale.com.

1. Consulting and business services

Average entry-level salary for business consultants: $48,844

Jobs in consulting and business services grew by 12% overall from 2010 to 2013. This broad category includes jobs in accounting, management, and the legal field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Best states for consulting and business jobs: Delaware, Ohio, and Massachusetts

Worst states for consulting and business jobs: New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Rhode Island

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Health care services

Average entry-level salary: $50,090

The Georgetown report ranked the health care field as one of the best bets for college grads. Overall, there were 1.04 job ads in health care services per 100 workers.

Best states for health care jobs: Montana, Colorado, Washington

Worst states for health care jobs: New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia


 3. Financial services

Average entry-level salary in financial services: $50,235

There were 1.29 job ads in financial services per 100 workers, according to the Georgetown study. Overall, employment for college grads in financial services grew by 7% from 2010 to 2013. Unemployment rates also tend to be low in this field, with just 3.1% of people previously employed in the financial services industry without jobs as of February 2015, according to the BLS.

Best states for financial services jobs: Delaware, Alabama, and Massachusetts

Worst states for financial services jobs: Utah, Mississippi, and South Carolina

4. Education services

Average entry-level salary for education jobs: $40,402

Roughly 6% of people graduating from college in recent years have earned degrees in education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A glut of people with education degrees combined with cuts in education budgets means a rough job market for these grads. Employment in educational services fell by 2% between 2010 and 2013, though the job market is stronger in some states than in others.

Best states for education services jobs: Alaska, Vermont, and Massachusetts

Worst states for education services jobs: Alabama, Hawaii, and West Virginia


 5. Government

Average entry-level salary for government jobs: $49,006

Employment in government jobs grew by 12% from 2010 to 2013. While that job growth has occurred across the country, many of the states that offer the best prospects for college grads seeking a job in government are west of the Mississippi, while states with fewer government job openings are concentrated in the east.

Best states for government jobs: South Dakota, Colorado, and Oklahoma

Worst states for government jobs: Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Rhode Island

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