The Best Cities For Business & Finance Grads

McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University. Courtesy photo

College graduation is an exciting time. It’s a time of change and an opportunity to put down roots in a new space. In case that’s you (or you’re an already-graduated alum), and teamed up to produce a list of the “Best Cities for Business Grads to Move” based on open business and finance positions, cost of living, and unemployment rates. According to the research, Washington, D.C. is the best city for business graduates.

With 10.3% open business positions, D.C. beats all other metro U.S. areas for number of business-specific positions up for grabs, according to the report. The nation’s capital also boasts the second-best cost of living, defined as money still available for “discretionary spending after subtracting each metro area’s average cost of living from the median hourly wage of business professionals.” Furthermore, D.C.-based business grads have the nation’s highest median hourly wage at $42.74 and an annual income of about $90,000.

“The world comes through the Greater Washington region. There’s no shortage of opportunities and activities here, and we’re always looking for people who are willing to work hard to fill positions,” says Jim Dinegar, director of the Center for Business in the Capital at American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington D.C. “Climbing the (corporate) ladder here takes just a matter months. We don’t have high turnover, we’re continuing to grow, and there’s a high demand for high-quality people.”

Besides being home to many top business schools like American University’s Kogod School of Business, George Washington University, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the area is also home to top firms like PwC and Deloitte. Nestlé moved to the D.C. area in February 2017, and both Apple and Amazon are considering setting up headquarters in the city. D.C. also boasts hundreds of startups and incubators: Dinegar adds that the number of nonprofit organizations and charities with headquarters in the area, as well as hotels, are often overlooked.


Next on the list is the Denver, Colorado metro area, resting at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Besides its proximity to many outdoor activities and 300 days of annual sunshine, the area is a burgeoning tech hub. Denver’s metro area boasted the second-highest business-specific job opening rate at 8.3%, only behind Washington, D.C. The Mile High City, resting at 5,280 feet above sea level, also had the fifth-best unemployment rate of the 30 metro areas studied, at 6.6%. Rounding out the top five were Boston, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, respectively.

While the specific average weights each category received were not disclosed, the report says that job rates, defined as the “number of job openings per 1,000 in a business or financial occupation,” was weighted as the “key ranking factor,” followed by the cost of living compared to minimum wage, and the unemployment rate of 20- to 29-year-olds. Bureau of Labor Statistics stats were used for the job rates category.

After Washington, D.C. and Denver, Sacramento, California boasted the next highest job openings rate at 8%. Seattle was next at 7.7% and Boston rounded out the top five at 7.3%.


For cost of livability, Riverside, California, which sits east of Los Angeles and has a population of about 350,000 scored the highest with 73.6% of discretionary income still available after living expenses. D.C. followed with 64.7%. Rounding out the top five were Houston, Texas at 64.2%, San Antonio, Texas at 63.1%, and Dallas, Texas at 62.9%.

Dinegar, who served as president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade for over a decade before joining Kogod in February this year, says that group homes are popular among fresh graduates and young professionals in Washington, D.C.

“These houses are on Capitol Hill, in the suburbs, everywhere. It’s like a rite of passage,” he says. “Between six and 10 young people share a house, and at 8 in the morning, they all go to their respective jobs, and bring home experiences and learning that they exchange, while bringing down the cost of housing.”

Another way in which Dinegar feels Washington D.C. makes living affordable is that cars are optional. Between an efficient public transportation system, and the sharing economy, which includes car-share, bike-share, and even scooter-share, Dinegar says getting around without a car is simple.


For employment rates, Portland, Oregon had the top spot with a low 5% of 20- to 29-year-olds unemployed. San Diego, California followed at 5.5% with Minneapolis next at 6.3%. Following closely were Seattle at 6.5% and Denver at 6.6%.

“Looking at the 20- to 29-year-old group alone can turn out high unemployment rates because most of them are still in college. We have 350,000 to 400,000 enrolled in college and universities around the Greater Washington area,” Dinegar points out. “If we looked at people with some college degree in the area, there’s virtually no unemployment, and still not enough people to fill jobs.”

An example is San Francisco. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in San Francisco was just 2.3% last November. However, according to the survey, 9.6% of 20- to 29-year-olds are unemployed. Similar to D.C., San Francisco has a large population of students in the area, including the University of California-San Francisco, the University of San Francisco, and the University of California-Berkeley a short distance outside of the city.

On the other hand, Boston, which is known globally as one of the top university cities, is 10th on the list with an unemployment rate for 20-somethings at 7.6%.


Last April, SmartAsset, a financial technology company, published a survey that found three cities within the D.C. metro area ranked among the top 10 cities in the U.S. where women are the most successful. In Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., women pulled in the highest salaries. While making slightly less than their counterparts across the river, women in Washington, D.C., made up 40% of business owners, and the city is listed as a hub for women in tech.

And from Dinegar’s 11 years of experience in the market, leading a regional business organization representing all industries, to deal with business concerns affecting the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, he says women do have a competitive advantage in Washington, D.C.

“Women here get to take on more responsibilities as executives than any other place in the country,” he boasts. “We have women in leadership everywhere from Lockheed Martin and PwC to Deloitte, and the growth potential for women executives here is immense.”

Yet, Dinegar says that survival and success in Washington, D.C. is very much affected by how hard a person is willing to work. That can often mean sacrifices on the family front.

“I’ve been in Washington for a long time. This is a place where hard things get done. And if you’re a hard worker, who’s reliable, and dependable, you’ll get far,” he says. “Washington, D.C. is not 9-to-5. It’s earlier than that and later than that. And in many jobs, you’re always on. For some people, it’s too intense, and this isn’t the place for them.”

(See the next page for the ranking and data.)

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