CPA Exam Review News Blog

5 Best Cities for Young Professionals

Posted by Dr. Phil Yaeger on Jul 20, 2016 4:04:00 AM

Once you've gotten your degree, you'll either be looking for a job or an area to grow a career after passing the CPA Exam. This is a tumultuous time for the young professional considering the delicate balancing act between professional potential, current financial situation, and personal happiness. The process is complicated and has plenty of room for (inevitable) error. There are a few ways to approach this which make it a little less painful.


1) Ask Alumni from your university for advice. They've likely already made the move and will have better options than your parent's basement.

2) Check out the job market on LinkedIn and Indeed. The lure of large cities is obvious (and sometimes right) but small market towns can have great opportunity.

3) Talk to your friends who are looking for similar jobs and lifestyles. Approaching jobs and housing collectively is a great way to take a little stress away by making the whole process more efficient.


After considering those things check out lists like this one which give a birds eye view of what makes the city great (and not so great).


#5 San Francisco, CA

The Golden Gate touting city has extreme pros and extreme cons. Without the latter, this Norther California Coastal City would have ended up higher on our list but this city has its thorns before you get to the rose. The best thing about the city is the culture. There's plenty to do, lots of young people alongside established professionals, and great potential for career growth. According to Forbes, the average salary for those with experience 0-5 years is $70,000 and the unemployment rate is under 3.25%. You'll have plenty to do with your friends (using whatever money is left after paying rent as the cost of living is 57.68% higher than the national average) because there is world class food, sports, arts, and concerts all over the city year round. While the city is one of the most condensed and thus busy you can still easily get away (if rush hour hasn't started yet). You're less than 20 minutes away from John Muir Wilderness across the bridge with plenty of hiking, trees, and amazing views. A couple of hours to the North and you'll find yourself in Napa Valley and a little further west makes for a great weekend trip to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite.

#4 Chicago, IL

An obvious pick but for good reason. This sprawling city can land you in a highrise or out in suburbia (most start with the flat and move out when they get a family started). As far as the major cities go, it can be pretty affordable, and there is no shortage of great job opportunities with good starting pay and upward mobility to boot. You have the Lakeshore for fantastic summer nights and plenty of parks to stroll through and catch a concert. A major bonus is that you can ditch the car as public transportation makes getting around the city affordable and efficient. The Windy City also probably has the highest amount of young professionals flocking there which makes the social scene a breeze. A great part we already mentioned is the ease of making the transition from a tight city apartment to a spacious suburb home. There are plenty of amazing outlying communities built for commuters with great schools and universities. Be warned though, if you don't think you're capable of making it through brutally cold winters this might not be the city for you.

#3 Grand Rapids, MI

Speaking of cold winters, here's our only mid-sized city to make the list! Right across Lake Michigan from Chicago (located about 45 minutes from Michigans beautiful and never ending west coast beaches) is Grand Rapids. This city wouldn't have been anywhere on our radar ten years ago, but the resident entrepreneurs of Amway turned Billionaire families DeVos' and VanAndels have become de facto city planners who poured back into their community in the best way possible. The city has bloomed into a beautiful place of business, health, and art. The job market is rich with small businesses, sports teams, breweries on every corner, and is home to an astounding 15 different college campuses. Michigan State's School of Human Medicine is located right downtown and has become a cornerstone in a city on the forefront of medical research and facilities. The VanAndel Institute is doing amazing work in the field of cancer research, and the DeVos Children's Hospital is one of the best in the nation. The economic boost has poured money into the local downtown with restaurants and breweries that thrive. The amount of small businesses (who all need accountants) is stunning for a city of this size. One of our favorite parts about all this is the month long art competition and festival simply called Art Prize, which is the brainchild of Rick DeVos to bring people into the city. Since its first year in 2009, this competition has grown world renown and now touts two top prizes of $200,000 and overall winnings of $500,000 awarded to artists. The winners are picked by the attendees of the festival. The best part though is that the whole city is the exhibit. Artists are allowed to put their pieces in the rivers, on buildings, city streets, in the trees and parks. If you want a unique city with a small town feel and the most character you would find yourself immediately at home in GR!

#2 Washington D.C.

This city has the most bustling atmosphere of any on our list. If you want to feel like your part of something big then our nation's capitol might be for you. You'll find plenty of young people working with big titles (even if they are just putting their dues in). It's likely that the future president is walking the streets right now and that feeling defines the city. There's great potential everywhere. You might begin to feel like you're in House of Cards as this city is not for the light-hearted person, but it's magical at the same time. The experience is going to be great even if the pay isn't right away which means D.C. is going to be a city that invests in you if you invest in it. Even if you eventually move away to another market, the level of experience you get here is invaluable.

#1 Denver, CO

The Mile High City tops our list because it's the best mix of all the positive things from the other cities that made the list. It's close to the mountains but still has 300 days of sun a year, has a Grand Rapids feel with Chicago type lifestyle, D.C. bustle with the laid back professionalism of San Francisco. Prime time to move here would have been around 2009 because the word has gotten out and the population has boomed, but people are flocking here for good reason. The economy is booming, there's no shortage of jobs, and the people here are extremely happy. It's the most active city on the list because the people who move here are coming for the mountains as much as they are here for the city. You can find yourself hitting the slopes (just don't get caught in mountain traffic), going road or mountain biking, climbing, or hiking to the top of a 14,000 plus foot mountain summit. The housing has gotten more competitive, but there are still affordable options right outside town, especially when living with friends. Another great this is how Denver businesses have been on the forefront of changing the workplace by investing in their employee's happiness. There are more open office settings, kegerators, dog days, and implemented health incentives here than anywhere. We've seen a trend in companies consistently topping "Best Companies to Work For" having Denver roots. Our only con is that we're worried you might want to get here quickly as the level of growth (just like the gold rush that occured here) might not be sustainable.

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