Forbes Ranks Jacksonville #3 On “Happiest Cities For College Grads” List

There’s plenty of great advice out there for new college grads (see: ‘Don’t Go To Law School,’ ‘Move To Asia,’ And 28 Other Pearls Of Wisdom For 2012 Grads by Kashmir Hill), but you may consider adding “relocate to St. Louis” to the list. That’s the best city for job-seeking college grads right now, in terms of overall career happiness in conjunction with the average cost-of-living-adjusted salary, according to

Our list of the 10 happiest cities for job-seeking college grads, compiled by online career site, is based on analysis of more than 140,000 data points from reviews submitted by employees with jobs that require less than two years of work experience. Employees all over the country were asked to evaluate 10 factors that affect workplace happiness. Those include one’s relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks, and control over the work done does on a daily basis. They evaluated each factor on a five-point scale and also indicated how important it was to their overall happiness.

To determine the best cities for job-seeking college grads, CareerBliss also took into account the average cost-of-living-adjusted salary, which they found by looking at the median pay for new grads in each city, and then examining the cost of living in each area, measured by the American Council For Community and Economic Research. “This indicates how far a dollar can go in those cities, which is very important when someone is just starting out in the workforce,” says Matt Miller, chief technology officer at CareerBliss.

Heidi Golledge, CareerBliss’ chief executive, adds: “We want to ensure everyone has the resources and tools available to them to make the happiest decision regarding their career. For the class of 2012 it is especially important to understand not only what the economic climate is, but also where opportunities and overall happy work environments are. Plus, knowing how far their paychecks can stretch is something that can help graduates budget and provide financial flexibility.”

St. Louis heads the list with an index score of 4.12 out of 5, and an average cost-of-living-adjusted salary of $50,900. CareerBliss found that recent graduates in St. Louis with less than two years of work experience were particularly content with their work environment, co-workers, and their senior managers, Miller says. The great pay doesn’t hurt, either.

“You often think cities such as New York are the most attractive to a young professional, but our data shows cities where grads can actually have more disposable income are the most attractive to them,” he adds.

In the No. 2 spot is Salt Lake City, with an index score of 4.11. The average cost-of-living-adjusted salary is $43,010.  Trailing close behind is No. 3 Jacksonville, with a score of 4.08 and an average adjusted income of $45,736.

“In Salt Lake City and Jacksonville we found young professionals ranked very high for how they feel about their company, as well as the people they work with, those they work for, and the type of work that they do,” Miller says.

Memphis, Houston and Birmingham also made the list, all with relatively high salaries when adjusted to the cost of living. The adjusted pay for new grads in Memphis (No. 4) is $56,158, in Houston (No. 7) it’s $47,615 and in Birmingham (No. 10) it’s $47,491.

“How far a dollar goes is always important, no matter where one is in their career,” Golledge says. “CareerBliss data shows that smaller or mid-size cities often provide new graduates jobs, which not only foster happy work environments, but allow the graduates to have more disposable income,  based on the cost of living in that city.”

So if you’re hoping to land a job, rake in a decent salary, and be happy—consider moving to one of these cities after graduation.

Jacquelyn Smith