Which Is The Best U.S. City For Well-Paid Entry-Level Jobs?

By U Cast Studios
January 9, 2024

Which Is The Best U.S. City For Well-Paid Entry-Level Jobs?
Image Courtesy Of Visual Capitalist

A map of the U.S. with the percent of entry-level jobs in fifty cities with listed salaries above the state's median pay.

The anxieties around a first-job are immense: fear of the unknown, performance pressure, and the need to navigate new professional environments.

This article was written by NeoMam Studios and originally published on Visual Capitalist.

But good pay can help manage these worries. Lots and more has been written on which careers are the highest-paid, but how does geography factor into the equation?

To find the best U.S. city and state for well-paid entry-level jobs, NeoMam Studios visualizes data from Resume.io showing the percentage of local entry-level job listings that offer a salary above (and below) a city or state’s median hourly wages.

Ranked: 50 U.S. Cities By Entry-Level Job Pay

This dataset covers each U.S. state, as well as Washington, D.C. and 50 major cities. Median wage data is sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of entry-level jobs and their pay rates from Indeed.com.

Bozeman, Montana (nicknamed “Boz Angeles” for its constant stream of celebrity visitors) and Iowa City both have nearly 88% of their entry-level jobs promising above their state’s median pay.

For an apples-to-apples comparison however, Iowa City’s median wage comes in slightly higher at $22.52/hour compared to Bozeman’s $20.71/hour.

Note: Toggle the embedded table between U.S. cities and states ranked by best entry-level jobs.

Another Midwestern urban center, Kansas City, ranked fourth, promises a high likelihood of above-media pay for first-job hunters (83.1%).

Generally, the more populous the city, the more jobs, and the higher the likelihood of beating median pay. However larger cities that are not the state capital also seem to do well on this metric: Fort Smith, Arkansas (ranked 5th), Lexington, Kentucky (6th), New Haven, Connecticut (7th), and Oakland, California (8th).

Ranked: U.S. States By Entry-Level Job Pay

Click to view this graphic in a higher-resolution.

A map of the U.S. with the percent of entry-jobs in all U.S. states with listed salaries above the state's median pay.

In South Dakota, and Montana, ranked first and second in the state by best entry-level pay ranks, more than three-quarters of junior role listings offer pay above the state’s median wage.

This works out more than $19.17/hour ($39,900/year) for South Dakota and $20.29/hour ($42,200/year) for Montana for their entry-level jobs.

In fact the first nine states on the ranks, where nearly 70% of the entry-level job listings offer above-state-median pay, are from the Midwest or West.

Kentucky, ranked 10th, has 67% of their starter job openings stating above median pay ($40,200/year), the highest from the American South.

Predictably, states with higher median pay (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, New York) have lower numbers of entry-level job openings which promise pay above that level.

However, exceptions occur. For example, Wyoming’s median pay comes in around the same as Maine ($21.80/hour) but 68% of its entry-level job listings offer median-beating pay, compared to Maine’s 57%.

Hawaii is the worst state for a decent starting salary, with two-thirds of the analyzed listings offering below the median pay of $48,600/year. Most of the state’s jobs are concentrated in the tourism industry, part of the service sector, known for long hours, seasonal work, and low pay.

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