a panoramic view of Pittsburgh and the three rivers
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TV writers love this premise: A bunch of 20- or 30-somethings navigating their lives, careers, and relationships in the big city. And so very often, their stories are set in New York City (from Sex and the City and Friends to The Bold Type and Younger and Harlem to…well, the list is way too long to continue). Or maybe their shenanigans take place in Los Angeles (OK, New Girl) or Chicago (I see you, Happy Endings).

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But none of these locations made the top 10 in Rent.com’s list of top cities for young professionals released in December 2021. Chicago is 14, Los Angeles is 24, and New York City—gasp!—doesn’t appear at all. (But relax, all you folks out there in NYC—the city was excluded due to missing data. The report author says it probably would’ve been roughly comparable to LA.)

via GIPHY

Pop culture is hardly a reliable measure of reality, so it’s not shocking that the cities where TV creators choose to plant their characters aren’t the only places real young adults can thrive. But where should you consider living and working?

“Young professionals are drawn to places where there are people in similar life stages that they can enjoy the pleasures of youth with, including food, drink, art, and nature,” says Jon Leckie, the data journalist who conducted the research for Rent.com’s recent report. “They can afford the rents and then some, and they can further their career with plenty of job opportunities and rising wages.” For the purposes of the report, Leckie defined “young professionals” as folks between the ages of 25 and 34. “They are at a minimum college educated, they are physically active, intellectually curious, without children, and have a level of disposable income.”

So, yes, that definition is limited. In reality, some young professionals don’t have a four-year degree, some are definitely having kids within this age range, etc. Take it with a grain of salt. And consider the criteria it was based on. The report scored various cities according to four broad, equally weighted categories: demographics (how much of the population is 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher?), housing costs (what's the rent-to-income ratio?), recreation and community (how many bars, restaurants, arts and culture venues, and parks/nature areas there are per capita and how many people are migrating in from different states or countries?), and economics (what's the labor force participation and unemployment rates for this age group and what was the change in median income from 2015 to 2019?).

Keep in mind that some of the data used reflects pre-pandemic realities. And of course, make sure you consider what else is important to you—whether it’s opportunities in your particular field or industry, proximity to family, racial diversity, political leanings and state laws, climate, and more—and remember you can use The Muse to filter your search results accordingly.


Here are the top 10 cities for young professionals, according to the report, starting with number 10 and counting down to the winner (no spoilers!):

10. Boston, MA

Total score: 62.9
Demographics score: 20.62
Rent score: 22.8
Recreation and community score: 4.54
Economics score: 14.94

Find jobs in Boston, MA on The Muse

9. Madison, WI

Total score: 62.92
Demographics score: 16.6
Rent score: 23.3
Recreation and community score: 6.66
Economics score: 16.36

Find jobs in Madison, WI on The Muse

8. Atlanta, GA

Total score: 63.39
Demographics score: 18.46
Rent score: 23.92
Recreation and community score: 8.34
Economics score: 12.67

Find jobs in Atlanta, GA on The Muse

7. Austin, TX

Total score: 64.4
Demographics score: 17.6
Rent score: 24.64
Recreation and community score: 5.33
Economics score: 16.83

Find jobs in Austin, TX on The Muse

6. Minneapolis, MN

Total score: 65.27
Demographics score: 17.65
Rent score: 23.96
Recreation and community score: 8.5
Economics score: 15.16

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5. Washington, DC

Total score: 66.39
Demographics score: 20.27
Rent score: 23.96
Recreation and community score: 8.42
Economics score: 13.74

Find jobs in Washington, DC on The Muse

4. Denver, CO

Total score: 66.41
Demographics score: 18.68
Rent score: 24.05
Recreation and community score: 7.42
Economics score: 16.26

Find jobs in Denver, CO on The Muse

3. San Francisco, CA

Total score: 66.7
Demographics score: 21.2
Rent score: 23.5
Recreation and community score: 6.22
Economics score: 15.78

Find jobs in San Francisco, CA on The Muse

2. Charleston, SC

Total score: 66.92
Demographics score: 19.27
Rent score: 20.41
Recreation and community score: 11.76
Economics score: 15.48

Find jobs in Charleston, SC on The Muse

1. Seattle, WA

Total score: 68.94
Demographics score: 21.89
Rent score: 23.96
Recreation and community score: 7.22
Economics score: 15.87

Find jobs in Seattle, WA on The Muse

And cities 11 through 50…

With total scores. Click on each city name to search for open jobs!