10 Best Cities For Starting A New Career

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“I wake up in the morning and am excited to go to work and do what I love.” “The work I do is challenging but it’s fulfilling and rewarding.” “I’m eager to grow and become better at what I do.”

If none of these statements resonate with you, you aren’t alone. The Conference Board’s consumer research center reported that only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. If you’re someone who falls into that other 55%, it might be time to consider making a career change.

While there are many elements that factor into the decision for a job switch, it comes down to what’s best for you and your family. It’s hard to thrive and be truly happy if you spend 40+ hours a week doing something that doesn’t excite and fulfill you.

If you’re in the market for a career shift or if you’re looking to start your own business, ask yourself this: Is the city you live in providing you with the best platform to do so? If that answer is no or if you’re unsure, take a look at our list of the best cities for a career change.

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In addition to our list of best cities for making a career change, we’ve provided some advice for making that transition as smooth as possible. The career change resources include info about the importance of finding your passion, risks and benefits of a career change, factors to consider and actionable tips to help you make it all happen.

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What Makes A City Great For A Career Change?

If you know that a career shift is in your future, a change of scenery might open up some new opportunities. Some factors to consider when looking at cities for possible relocation include:

  • Low unemployment rates and a high number of job openings in your field
  • Business growth and grant opportunities for aspiring business owners
  • Affordability and availability of housing
  • Potential for increased home value if you’re considering putting down permanent roots
  • Average pay for your desired field or job position versus the cost of living
  • If you’re planning to take an entry-level job, consider those salaries as well

Another important point to consider is the lifestyle in the location. Does this new area have things to do that align with your hobbies and interests? You wouldn’t want to put down roots somewhere for a job if it’s not going to be a great place for you after you’ve clocked out. This is something we kept in mind when selecting our top cities for restarting your career. In addition to the economic factors, we only considered cities that ranked highly for well-being and happiness by their residents from this study by Gallup-ShareCare.

See our methodology section below for the specifics of how we made our top picks.

 

The 10 Best Places To Restart Your Career

Peruse our selections for the best cities to reboot your career, and maybe even find your potential new home and launchpad for your career.

 

10. Austin, TX

Best cities for a career change visual of Austin, Texas' stats

Kicking off our list at number 10, Austin is a well-known state capitol, but its tech and real estate growth have changed its cultural and economic landscape dramatically over the past decade. According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, employment in the tech industry has grown by 24.9% over the past 5 years. This has brought opportunities in other fields to the area, as well as supported Austin incentives and grants. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, try taking it to the Lone Star State. Texas was also named the best state to start a business in 2019. Austin’s music and art scene has grown tremendously and is becoming a diverse destination with plenty of activities to keep you entertained on the weekends.

  • Unemployment rate: 2.9%
  • Average commute time: 24 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $31,635
  • Average salary: $49,532
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,513

 

9. Colorado Springs, CO

Best cities for a career change visual of Colorado Springs, Colorado's stats

Positioned against sweeping mountainscapes, Colorado Springs is full of beauty and opportunity. Some of their largest industries include scientific and technical services, health care and public administration. Check out their business resources for more insight into their economic development and opportunities. Colorado Springs is a great place for those who love the outdoors, as there are ample opportunities for camping, hiking and other outdoor adventures.

  • Unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • Average commute time: 21.8 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $30,459
  • Average salary: $47,691
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,243

 

8. Aurora, CO

Best cities for a career change visual of Aurora, Colorado's stats

Aurora is the third-largest (and the safest) city in Colorado with booming business opportunities. It’s also close enough to Denver to access their job market while allowing for a lower cost of living. Aurora offers many business incentives for those looking to forge their own path. Since the city is steps away from the mountains with beautiful hiking and biking trails, there is a big fitness community present there as well. Don’t underestimate their food scene just because they’re health-conscious – there’s an abundance of delicious and diverse cuisine to enjoy after work.

  • Unemployment rate: 2.7%
  • Average commute time: 29.3 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $32,101
  • Average salary: $50,262
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,313

 

7. Minneapolis, MN

Best cities for a career change visual of Minneapolis, Minnesota's stats

When making a career shift, don’t forget to consider this Twin City. Minneapolis has a great cost of living-to-income ratio and great average commute time for a bigger city. Small businesses can find ample support from the city as well as ongoing bids and Request for Proposals (RFPS) for funding from their procurement office. Located on the Mississippi River, Minneapolis has a great balance of urban and outdoor activities. Along with a great nightlife and bar scene, the city’s sprinkled with many lakes and parks, like the gorgeous Minnehaha Park.

  • Unemployment rate: 3.1%
  • Average commute time: 22.9 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $33,341
  • Average salary: $52,203
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,282

 

6. Scottsdale, AZ

Best cities for a career change visual of Scottsdale's stats

This desert city’s tech and software scene has been heating up in recent years. This has brought many jobs to Scottsdale and its sister cities of Tempe and Phoenix – this uptick in employment has been a big reason for its high job potential ranking. Scottsdale attracts entrepreneurs and skilled workers alike. Check out some tools and tips to help with relocation and getting started, and make note of this “Opportunity Zone” map and size-up business research tool. After hours, enjoy striking sunsets, golf at one of their numerous clubs, energetic nightlife or maybe a hike to explore interesting geological features at Papago Park.

  • Unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • Average commute time: 22.1 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $31,461
  • Average salary: $49,260
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,634

 

5. Burlington, VT

Best cities for a career change visual of Burlington, Vermont's stats

Home of the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. and the Ben and Jerry’s headquarters, Burlington is a sweet spot to reboot and start fresh. Some of their most common industries include education, health care, and accommodation and food services. There are also a ton of resources if you’re looking to start up a business in Burlington. Looking to unplug and disconnect? Explore the natural beauty in surrounding state parks and at Lake Champlain.

  • Unemployment rate: 1.8%
  • Average commute time: 18.5 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $32,056
  • Average salary: $50,191
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,449

 

4. Boston, MA

Best cities for a career change visual of Boston, Massachusetts' stats

Boston provides business startups with many exciting opportunities, including grants and loans ranging from $25,000 – $150,000, with some loans up to $250,000. There are also special initiatives to create lively main street districts enriched by a variety of businesses as well as state-provided grant matching to pay for employee training. Boston’s old port city background makes it a historical hotspot – check out the Freedom Trail route that takes you by important sites and museums.

  • Unemployment rate: 2.7%
  • Average commute time: 30.4 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $35,247
  • Average salary: $55,187
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,869

 

3. Washington, DC

Best cities for a career change visual of Washington DC's stats

Our nation’s capital isn’t all politics – it’s also brimming with ample opportunity for a career reset. According to the District of Columbia’s official job outlook, the top five fields with the most in-demand jobs are finance, law, PR/fundraising, computer systems and HR. If you’re looking to stay busy and explore outside of work, DC is full of attractions, museums, art, nightlife and places of historical significance.

  • Unemployment rate: 3.3%
  • Average commute time: 30 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $34,488
  • Average salary: $53,999
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,899

 

2. Emeryville, CA

Best cities for a career change visual of Emeryville California's stats

This city is prime for a career restart. It offers affordable housing while being close enough to other Bay Area cities like San Francisco and Oakland to enter those job markets as well. Take an easy 30-minute commute to potentially rake in an even higher salary. Emeryville offers a variety of small-business rebates and incentives to make it easier to turn dreams into reality. Emeryville is also a hop, skip and a jump away from other great destinations – take a ferry across the gorgeous bay to a hidden gem like Sausalito or take a scenic drive to Napa Valley or Lake Tahoe.

  • Unemployment rate: 2.9%
  • Average commute time: 32.1 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $36,405
  • Average salary: $57,002
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $2,184

 

1. Portland, ME

Best cities for a career change visual of Portland, Maine's stats

Nestled along a gorgeous New England peninsula, Portland, Maine, is not only beautiful, it’s also an ideal location to reboot your career. It boasts short commutes, the second-lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. and low housing costs. The city offers loans as a resource for those looking to start their own businesses as well. Portland is known for its 19th-century architecture, scenic shore views and nightlife, so there’s a lot to enjoy outside of work hours.

  • Unemployment rate: 1.9%
  • Average commute time: 19.1 minutes
  • Average entry-level salary: $31,833
  • Average salary: $49,842
  • Average monthly cost of housing: $1,390

 

Additional Cities for Career Restarts

Below you’ll see some other options and honorable mentions. Do you think we missed a great city? Let us know in the comments below what makes your city an ideal option for a restart.

Rank City Unemployment Rate Commute Time (minutes) Entry-level Salary Average Salary Cost of Housing (per month)
11 San Diego, CA 3.6% 24 $33,288 $52,121 $1,940
12 Orlando, FL 3.2% 25.4 $30,152 $47,210 $1,295
13 Pittsburgh, PA 4.5% 23.8 $31,301 $49,009 $1,008
14 Madison, WI 2.6% 19.4 $31,735 $49,688 $1,338
15 West Palm Beach, FL 3.4% 22.7 $32,600 $51,043 $1,368
16 Dallas, TX 3.4% 26.8 $32,733 $51,252 $1,232
17 Nashua, NH 2.7% 26.9 $32,500 $50,886 $1,573
18 Sunnyvale, CA 2.8% 24.4 $37,691 $59,014 $2,591
19 Atlanta, GA 3.5% 26.3 $32,770 $51,309 $1,396
20 Tampla, FL 3.4% 24 $30,280 $47,411 $1,275

 

Tips to Restart Your Career

Making the decision to change or shift your career is exciting but can also be intimidating. See the visual below for actionable tips and insights you can use to help restart your career on the right foot. 

Visual with tips for making a career change. Including the importance of finding the right career, how to align your perspective, overcome obstacles and well as some inspirational words about career change.

At the end of the day, it’s in your hands to go after what inspires you and fulfills your goals. The thought of selling your home and moving somewhere new or entering a new field may seem daunting. Try to reduce that anxiety by considering the tips above, taking it step by step and keeping your sights set on the reward of doing what you love for a living.

 

Methodology

To select the cities that made this list, we cross-referenced the 181 cities in Wallethub’s 2018 study on the best cities for jobs and 186 cities from Gallup’s 2017 study on the communities with the best well-being. Selecting cities that were ranked in both studies, we completed a weighted average of each city’s ranking position. Job study rankings (X) were given a weight of 75 out of 100 while well-being rankings (Y) were given the weight of 25 points (weighted rating =((X*3+Y)/4)). These rankings are supported by and displayed with supplementary data from the US Census (2013–2018), ZipRecruiter’s Salary tool (2019) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) The average cost of housing was determined by averaging median mortgage costs with median gross rent.