Certain cities just seem to hold up a shining beacon to recent graduates, crying out, “Move here, move here!” If you’ve got a BA in performing arts, for instance, chances are you’re already working on your LA tan. Econ and finance majors can’t get to New York’s Wall Street fast enough. And where else would a graphic designer go besides the Golden Gate City itself, San Francisco? Certainly not Bridgeport, Connecticut!
But wait … why not? Moving to a city that lacks the pedigree and allure of a major market at first might not seem like a great idea, but it could be just the place to lay down a strong career foundation—and lead to bigger doors opening down the road. According to career development counselor and coach Eric Goldsborough, “They might be less competitive markets, not just at entry level but also for career advancement.”
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Recent research suggests that in the 10 years following graduation, many students end up working in fields unrelated to their college major. It’s possible that some simply find other types of jobs they like, outside their area of expertise. But perhaps the problem isn’t finding the right job for your skill set, it’s finding the right place for the job you want.
When deciding where to move after graduation, it can’t hurt to look in the obvious locations. But you also might want to consider other options, including these diamonds in the rough, as places to forge a path for yourself. Here are 12 cities you might not have considered moving to, but should—based on your major.
1. Fashion design majors → Columbus, OH
Fashion heavyweights Limited/Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, DSW, Hollister, and Victoria’s Secret are all headquartered in or just outside Columbus, where fashion designers are in high demand. In 2018, SimplyHired.com listed, on average, 600 fashion jobs per month based in this Midwest city. If you’re interested in becoming a buyer for retail stores, Big Lots, Inc., and J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc., also do most of their corporate hiring in Columbus.
As home to one of the country’s largest colleges, The Ohio State University, Columbus lends itself as a marketplace for young, hip fashion. Thanks to the influx of students and their visiting families, the city supports a robust collection of clothing boutiques and bespoke shops, as well as a penchant for promoting new designers whenever possible. After New York and Los Angeles, Columbus boasts the third-largest concentration of fashion designers in the country.
2. English and education majors → Daegu, South Korea
Before completing a master’s in education or writing the Great American Novel, why not spend a year abroad building up a small nest egg? Teaching English in South Korea doesn’t just offer the opportunity for adventure travel; it will earn you, on average, around $2,000 per month. But wait, that’s not all. Some employers will pay prospective English teachers’ airfare to Daegu and even provide free living accommodations. They’ll also hold your hand throughout the visa application process.
South Korea generally has a low cost of living, and since Daegu isn’t a major city—while still a large metropolis at 2.5 million, it’s a lot more manageable than chaotic Seoul—that cost of living is even lower. Imagine spending a year here, then paying off your student loans when you get home.
3. Graphic design majors → Bridgeport, CT
Though you might not have noticed, Bridgeport often makes top 10 lists of “best cities for graphic designers.” The average salary for graphic designers in Bridgeport hovers around $60,000 per year—that’s one of the highest in the nation. Its marketing and public relations industries are booming, and they’re hungry for talent. Area companies range from boutiques such as Hatch 130 (which focuses on local and small businesses) to Madison Mott to large corporate firms like HMS Design, whose campaigns include Heineken USA, Sun Products, and Snuggle fabric softener.
4. Business management majors → Kalamazoo, MI
Everybody’s heard how Detroit has been reinvigorating itself after a years-long economic depression by encouraging business startups. But fewer people know that, 2 hours away, Kalamazoo is only a few steps behind—and similarly motivated.
What does that mean? First off, lower business costs. The Michigan Small Business Development Center has become one of the premier business startup resources in the country, helping companies with everything from writing business plans to securing funding. (If you’re thinking toward the future, Kalamazoo, a bustling college town, offers free college tuition to the state’s public colleges, universities, and community colleges for all kids who go through Kalamazoo high schools.) With 8 billionaires living there (3 of whom are leaders at the medical equipment and manufacturing behemoth Stryker Corp., a local mainstay), Kalamazoo might just become the next big business player in Michigan.
5. Performing arts majors → Prague, Czech Republic
When Hollywood films are looking to re-create an old-European setting, they’ll often shoot in Prague. That’s what Barrandov Studios did—they produced Academy Award–winner Amadeus and blockbusters Mission Impossible, Hellboy, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Which means they’re always on the lookout for English-speaking talent, as is the newer Prague Studios, whose films include Alien vs. Predator and Underworld: Blood Wars.
TV shows also get in on the action. NBC’s Crossing Lines is predominantly shot in this Central European city, and Amazon Prime’s new series Carnival Row (starring Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom) recently wrapped its first season there.
Prague offers the unparalleled beauty of a medieval European city along with some of Hollywood’s favorite words: access and tax breaks. If theater’s your thing, The Prague Shakespeare Company, run by Texan Guy Roberts, often searches for talent stateside to bring English-language theater to Prague. Acquiring a work visa typically isn’t too difficult; often these companies want you so badly, they’ll help you with any bureaucratic legwork.
6. Computer science majors → Huntsville, AL
First of all, NASA’s flight center is based in Huntsville. So it’s the perfect place to launch a tech career, no pun intended. Even better, the area is in desperate need of qualified candidates. For every 1,000 tech jobs, there are fewer than 70 people who apply. Entry-level software engineering jobs average $62,801 per year. Even better, while starting salaries are on the high side, the cost of living is low: two-bedroom apartments hover around $800 per month. Huntsville needs you, and even if you never realized it, it’s possible that you need Huntsville.
7. Psychology and social work majors → Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you speak Spanish, Buenos Aires just might be the place to embark on a career in clinical therapy or analysis. Residents there consider having a therapist like having a car: It’s how you get from point A to point B in your life (which may include speed bumps and detours).
Therapy, and psychoanalysis in particular, has grown into the predominant self-help tool for Argentinians since the 1950s. Whereas in the US there are roughly 34 therapists for every 100,000 people, in Buenos Aires, that number is almost sixfold. With an expat population of around 30,000 Anglophones, even if your Spanish isn’t up to snuff, your English language services might still help to bridge some cultural gaps.
And whereas the culture in many other countries tiptoes around the idea of therapy, the people of Argentina brag about their therapists with pride. Starting your career in an environment like that could really grow your confidence.
8. Chemical and mechanical engineering majors → Midland, TX
Want to be at the forefront of safer energy creation? Midland, Texas, might be calling your name. Though the oil industry is at the heart of Midland’s economic growth, renewable energy companies are gaining a foothold. The infrastructure needed to support the energy boom means that the skill set mechanical engineers bring to the table is highly prized. The average chemical engineering salary may top $140,000, and jobs are plentiful with just 20 qualified candidates for every 1,000 opportunities.
9. Game design majors → Vancouver, BC
Fifty-four game development studios call Vancouver home. Fifty-four. That’s more development studios than Shades of Grey! Even better, 12 of them employ between 50 and 200 people, and EA Canada, the largest designer of NHL video games, employs more than 500 people at any given time.
You’re probably familiar with many of the best-selling games that have exploded onto the scene from these companies. (The Vancouver-released soccer game FIFA 12 is the UK’s highest-grossing sports video game ever.) Although the city’s average salary for game developers lingers around $47,000 per year, that’s pretty close to what everyone else there earns, too. Though housing costs can be high, living in a stunning coastal city like Vancouver has its built-in perks, including lots of outdoor activities and a charming culture.
10. Sports medicine majors → Winchester, VA
You’re probably thinking, “Virginia? Sports? I don’t think so.” And you’re right. Winchester doesn’t have a major league sports team, though the NFL’s Washington Redskins and NHL’s Washington Capitals have practice facilities nearby. But what Winchester lacks in professional sports, it makes up for with a summer baseball league for promising college players. Perhaps that’s one reason Winchester has one of the nation’s highest demands for athletic trainers and fitness directors. Valley Health, an enormous medical facility, provides plenty of opportunities and keeps employment steady as well.
11. Biology majors → San Diego, CA
As home to a whopping 1,300 employers in the field of biotech, San Diego, not San Francisco, is the city you should be heading to. The growing pharmaceutical industry there makes it the fourth largest in the nation. If traffic is a concern (as it should be in Southern California), consider this: The average commute time to work is a mere 22 minutes—half the time you’d spend in your car if you lived in the Bay Area. Even better, this coastal city has amazing weather, plus the median age of San Diego residents is 35 … and steadily decreasing. Sunshine and youthful energy make it a win-win.
12. Female entrepreneurs in all fields → Chicago
Chicago, home of the White Sox and the Bears and the first stop for the national rollout of the Broadway hit Hamilton, offers comprehensive social programs and deep pockets to female entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses. In fact, no city in the country has more female-founded companies than Chicago! Of the city’s 3,000 startups, 34% are run by women, including premier natural baked goods company Simple Mills and Monica + Andy, a baby clothing company.
The tech startup scene shows no signs of slowing down. InvestHer is one nonprofit dedicated to helping Chicago-based women launch their businesses. And as the nation’s third-largest city, Chicago certainly isn’t short on culture and entertainment when you need a break from work.