10 of the Best States for Graduates in 2024

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Today's undergraduates expect to make a killing one year after graduation, but is it possible? Salary expectations vary greatly depending on the location, job type, and market demand. Keeping their expectations high, recent graduates have a lot to consider.

The faraway hills often appear green. While some states offer higher pay and a bustling environment, others provide greater work-life balance and a lower cost of living. With that in mind, here are some of the best states for graduates in 2024.

1. New York

New York City, New York
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Despite being such an expensive state, New York has it all, including graduate job opportunities. Those who decide to work in New York City earn higher-than-average salaries in various industries, with a base salary of between $77,000 and $118,000 annually. 

Big Apple Opportunities

Winter in New York
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New York City receives more applications from early talent than any other city in the U.S. With the iconic Big Apple, Broadway musicals, and countless shops and restaurants lining Times Square, what's not to love?

2. California

San Diego, California
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Known as the “Golden State,” California is all sunshine and natural beauty. Like New York, Los Angeles has a large population and is among the most expensive cities. Graduate students enjoy lucrative salaries ranging between $75,000 and $121,000 annually.

California's Safeguards

Pacific beach, California
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California has many safeguards to protect its workers, including strict labor laws that provide equal opportunities for women. California also wins for being such a fun place for young people, with endless things to do and see. Workers can surf the waves, visit the redwood forests, or enjoy the fantastic night entertainment on weekends, to name a few.

3. Illinois

The Bean in Chicago, Illinois
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With the fifth highest GDP in the nation, Illinois stands out for its world-class infrastructure, thriving technology, and central location. Buying a home in Illinois is cheaper and easier than in New York or California, provided you manage your finances well.

Illinois' Surprisingly low Cost of Living

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Graduates in Chicago, Illinois, stand to make an average of $53,000-$84,000 per year, which may be less than the other cities. On the positive side, living costs are lower than the national average.

4. Texas

Texas A&M University in Bryan–College Station
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Texas, the second largest state by area, attracts many young adults to its major cities, such as Austin and Dallas. Those living and working in Texas can enjoy a lower cost of living and great job opportunities.

Texas' Opportunites for Various Fields

Butler Metro Park in Austin, Texas
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Graduates can expect vastly different experiences depending on where they choose to work. Austin is a vibrant city for young people known as the Live Capital of Music in the World. Dallas is a perfect blend of business and entertainment. Houston's energy capital is significant in the oil and gas sector, with plans to transition to a low-carbon future.

5. Colorado

Denver, Colorado
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Colorado ranks high on our list of best places for graduates to live. While offering high average entry-level paychecks, young people can enjoy a good quality of life near recreational facilities.

Colorado's Appealing Life-Work Balance

A ski resort area in Loveland, Colorado at the top of the mountain.
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Colorado has plenty to do in summer and winter, boasting four national parks and world-class ski resorts. On top of this, they can expect an average annual salary between $67,000 and $104,000, according to Glassdoor.

6. Virginia

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Virginia is one of the safest states in the country, making it an excellent place for families and graduates alike. Many consider Northern Virginia the “Gateway to the Nation's Capital” as it's just across the river from Washington, D.C.

Virginia's Focus On Small Business

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Virginia is full of small businesses, encompassing 99.5% of all businesses in the state. These 800,000 small businesses employ roughly 1.6 million people. In addition to its bustling job market, Virginia also has a rich history and culture. From colonial sites to beautiful beaches, there is always something to explore.

7. Massachusetts

Boston, MA
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With its metropolitan areas that boast universities such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts has some of the most prestigious universities in the nation. It is full of job opportunities for young professionals, with an average annual salary of between $78K and $118K in Boston.

How Massachusetts Makes up for the High Living Costs

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Massachusetts lags when it comes to the cost of living. However, its diversity, lower crime rate, job market, and working conditions give it an appealing edge.

8. Washington

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Washington is another state with one of the highest-earning college graduates, with recent graduates in Seattle earning between $62,000 and $92,000 annually. Graduates can expect a diverse workforce and a vibrant job market with ample opportunities.

Washington's Draw for Young Professionals

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Washington offers a compelling environment for young professionals. From its multiple volcanoes and glaciers to its 157 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, Washington has much to see and do. 

9. Michigan

Detroit, MI
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Michigan, the Great Lakes State, is another state that is an attractive option for young professionals. The many state parks offer a relaxing escape from the thriving cities, and graduates will benefit from the affordable real estate and friendly locals that reside there.

Michigan's Exciting Job Outlook

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According to Glassdoor, University of Michigan graduates earn a median salary of $56,728 per year. Career outlook projections appear positive, with high demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

10. Oklahoma

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Living costs make it challenging in some cities, but your budget goes further in Oklahoma. The average salary of a fresh graduate is $54,117, which works well with the cost of living.

Oklahoma's Focus On Growth

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An ideal destination for ambitious individuals looking to kickstart their careers, Oklahoma offers an attractive job market and plenty of opportunities for graduates to establish themselves.

Jobs Come and Go

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Graduates cannot expect to make the same salary across all states, and living costs determine what's left in their wallets. Safety, equality, and the political climate can significantly impact their prospects. Recent grads looking to break into the workforce have an important choice to make if they relocate for better job opportunities. As young working professionals with so much potential, now is the best time to make the leap!


Author: Caitriona Maria


Caitriona is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For seven years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.