New York City is named the worst city to start a career. So, which are the best?

best cities in the world
Source: Aurore Belot / AFP

New York City is often named one of the best cities in the world. It’s “the concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” a hub for talent and ambition that unites artists, entrepreneurs, humanitarians and more.

Above all, it’s known as a city of opportunity — where anyone who works hard enough can find success. 

While this is true, NYC is not ideal for fresh graduates entering the workforce. In fact, it has been crowned as the worst city to start a career in 2023.

This is based on a report by WalletHub measuring the best and worst places in the US for fresh graduates who are just beginning their careers. 

According to the report, the city ranked the lowest on 26 metrics, including that of professional opportunities and quality of life. The number of entry-level jobs per 100,000 working-age residents was also considered, as well as the average monthly starting salary, housing affordability and the average length of a work week. 

NYC is just too expensive for most people today — but especially fresh graduates. On average, New Yorkers say they have to make around US$100,000 to reasonably get by. Half of the households in the city are not able to afford to live there. This disproportionately affects single people, who pay US$19,500 more on average in all boroughs compared to couples living in the same area. 

Dreamy or not, starting a career in New York isn’t the rosy picture most graduates hope it to be. 

Fresh graduates are looking for safe, environmentally-friendly and opportunistic places to live. Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/AFP

The best cities in the world to start a career

The real list of the best cities in the world for fresh graduates may not be as exciting, but offer many practical aspects that make it ideal for starting out a career.

Outside of the average expected starting salary and cost of living, graduates are considering the number of jobs available, quality of life, workforce diversity, annual job growth rate, and more. 

Many of these cities are also at the helm of exciting new technological and social developments. Then there’s life outside of work — how dynamic a city’s art scene might be, or if they attract the world’s greatest chefs. 

Of course, many of these factors depend on any one individual’s priorities in life. For example, some students in the US prefer a quieter city where they can build the foundations of their future. 

Others — such as international students — are looking for cities with loads of opportunities and friendly visa rules. This is especially important if they are looking to relocate and begin a life in a new country. 

This list gathers six of the best cities in the world for fresh graduates. Cities are not ranked in any specific order; the information here was gathered by consulting various sources that considered both cities in the US, Europe, and globally. 

Glasgow ranks as one of the top places to live for international graduates. Source: Anna Urlapova/Pexels

Glasgow, Scotland

Situated in the southwest of Scotland, Glasgow brings together the best of a modern environment amidst a setting that’s full of heritage and the largest percentage of ethnic minority groups in all Scottish cities.

Sure, it can get pretty grey but this is a city that boasts the second spot for local satisfaction with the arts, a credit to institutions such as the Royal Concert Hall. 

It’s just as filled with job openings as it is with character.

Glasgow has a relatively low unemployment rate, with most employees earning around US$2,132.85 per month. At the same time, it’s not expensive to live here.

For a one-bedroom apartment in the city, city dwellers pay just under US$750 per month — compare that to nearly US$3,000 in San Diego. 

As many as 51% of Glasgow’s graduates choose to continue living here after graduation. 

Munich is home to some of the most successful automotive companies in the world, including BMW. Source: Christof Stache/AFP

Munich, Germany

As an epicentre of the electrical and automotive industries, Germany has been at the top of every engineering student’s list for the better part of a decade.

As a whole, the country has seen impressive economic growth; despite the challenges presented by the Ukraine-Russia war and unusually high inflation in certain regions, the German economy still grew by 1.9% in 2022

Germany is also home to the world’s biggest global players, from Volkswagen and BMW to Siemens. Throw in its free access to higher education and it’s no wonder that international students rush to get into German universities.

Munich is one of the best cities in the world for international graduates looking to relocate to Germany. As the third-largest city in the country, it is a hub of engineering, finance and publishing. It acts as the “focal point of business activity” in the region — led by the service sector, which contributes 78.2% of Munich’s GDP. 

This means jobs are much easier to come by — as reflected in its 64.3% employment rate, significantly higher than other cities like Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Berlin and Cologne.

Salary levels are decently high too, with an average earning potential of U$3,570 per month. For young professionals, this is a great location to gain experience in growing industries. 

Atlanta acts as a filming base for many popular movies, including those released by Marvel Studios. Sourc: Jesse Grant/AFP

Atlanta, US

Placed at the top of WalletHub’s list, Atlanta, Georgia is an ideal city for fresh graduates looking to start their careers.

The website gave it a score of 66.87, placing it second for professional opportunities and seventh for quality of life. 

This is for good reason. Metropolitan Atlanta is the centre of 13 Fortune 500 and 24 Fortune 1,000 headquarters.

It’s proven itself as an exemplary starting point for new businesses with a dynamic start-up culture.

In 2019, Atlanta saw $1.8 billion in venture funding and was ranked the fourth metro area for the number of women-owned businesses, speaking of a progressive and forward-looking environment. 

As a place to live, Atlanta has a slightly pricier cost of living than other cities in Georgia. However, opportunities in the city are vast and certainly easier to navigate compared to other areas in the US.

More than that, Atlanta enjoys a fairly diverse population, being the second largest majority Black metro area in the country. 

Toronto offers enough exciting opportunities for fresh graduates that it’s easy to forget the cold. Source: Vincent Albos/Pexels

Toronto, Canada

Canada has long been touted as one of the most desirable countries to live in. Much of this has to do with its friendly immigration policies that offer clear pathways to permanent residency and a fairly progressive political outlook.

Outside of that, Canada is home to some of the most breathtaking sights in the world, making it a wonderland for adventure-seekers. 

As a place to start your career, Toronto is certainly a great option. It’s the second-largest financial centre in North America, boosting economic growth in the city and creating a highly competitive business market.

At the moment, its GDP exceeds the national average, growing at an average of 2.4% annually compared to a national rate of 1.8%. 

Toronto provides just as many opportunities in other business sectors. This spans technology, green energy, fashion and design, food and beverage, film and television, music and digital media and more. 

In terms of quality of life, Toronto is one of the best cities in the world. In fact, InterNations ranked it among the top 20 best cities for expats, considering its quality of life index.

It was placed highly for its leisure options, travel and transit, health and well-being, safety and security and environment and climate. 

With pretty canals and possibly the warmest North Europeans you’ll ever meet, Amsterdam is beloved by many international students. Source: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Picturesque and serene — these are often defining factors of the Netherlands’ capital. Many travel to the city to experience its beautiful canals, quaint cobbled streets and vast culture. Above all, it’s known for its progressive and tolerant community, where any and all are accepted for who they are. 

In this, Amsterdam is already one of the best cities in the world for young professionals. None of this would be attractive, however, without the cherry on top: its booming economy and job sector. 

As a global hub for startups, tech and business, Amsterdam has been steadily climbing the ladder as an economic powerhouse. Thousands of international businesses have chosen the city to act as a European base, which has significantly impacted its economy.

More than that, its thriving startup culture is ideal for anyone with ambition — boosting employment rates and leading to the creation of new types of jobs. 

For all these businesses, there’s one common factor: they all chose Amsterdam for the fact that it is business-friendly, progressive and, ultimately, a very liveable city.

The use of cars is famously limited in Amsterdam, where most people travel by bicycle or public transport. This helps reduce one’s everyday costs by a large amount — making it the perfect destination for graduates looking to start a career. 

Prague offers culture, safety and affordability. Source: JÉSHOOTS/Pexels

Prague, Czech Republic

Another European city to top this list, Prague has been a haven of stunning architecture and travel inspiration for many around the globe.

It’s situated in the heart of Europe, giving its residents full access to many other historical cities on the continent.

Then there’s its affordability — being a much cheaper place to live compared to London, Dublin and Milan. 

In recent years, Prague has built a strong economy. Many companies have chosen to set up branches in the city, spanning a range of industries from automotive, electronics and technology to film production and tourism. This includes employers like Siemens, Honeywell and Skoda Auto. 

Residents of Prague report a healthy and happy life. It has a well-established transport system and architecture, making it easy to navigate and relatively cheap.

Prague offers a safe living space and ranks highly in housing, cost of living, startup culture, business freedom, environmental quality, leisure and culture and tolerance.

Combined, it makes for one of the best cities in the world to live — offering the perfect balance between work and life for the wide-eyed fresh graduate.