Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Top 12 U.S. Cities for Creative Grads

With a new degree in hand, and the economy up in the air, planning your post-college life is bound to be a little nerve wracking, especially as a creative grad. But the good news is that the job market for creative professionals is on its way up, and there are several centers of creative commerce ready to welcome creative grads with open arms. Some have a long-standing tradition of supporting creativity, while others are surprisingly new creative hubs with lots of opportunity for growth. Whatever the situation, any of these 12 cities, listed in no particular order, are worth considering if you’re a new creative graduate.

  1. Boston: Boston is a great place for recent college grads, period, not just creative ones. Recent college graduates in the area enjoy an average salary of $63,000, a figure that’s 15% higher than the nationwide average. Consulting and venture capital are major industries, a great indicator that creative startups can really thrive here. Perhaps that’s why so many new startups we hear about are coming from recent Harvard or MIT grads, and the city seems to be dominated by the creative class. Plus, Boston boasts a 5.8% unemployment rate, way below the national 8.2%. Creative young Bostonians would do well to check out the area of Route 128, renowned as “the Magic Semicircle” for its high-tech way of life.
  2. Houston: With a low cost of living and an established non-profit and arts scene that’s been thriving for decades, you might actually be able to find a creative job here. Houston is one of the few cities that has been largely unaffected by the volatile national job market, and was recently ranked as the No. 1 city for job-hunting new grads. Houston is also ranked high for affordability, coming in as the sixth most affordable city in a Travel and Leisure survey. Boasting fun festivals like the Art Car Parade, International Festival, major art museums, a top-tier symphony, and a small army of ethnic restaurants, Houston is clearly a hub of all things cultural with an economy to back it up.
  3. New York: New York is a rough town to start your adult life in, but even with that in mind, the sheer amount of resources and opportunities available to recent grads in the city is just too amazing to pass up. NYC is well known as a world center for the creative arts, with a huge artistic economy. New York’s Lincoln Center alone generates more than $1.52 billion in sales and employs 15,200 creative workers. Although it’s certainly easy to fail miserably in this expensive city, there is a huge potential for hitting it big as well. According to Gotham Gazette, New York creatives who have made it are doing quite well: “the top quarter of most creative groups earned as much or more than the top quarter of New York City workers as a whole.” Resources like NY Creative Interns also offer lots of help to new creative grads making their debut in the Big Apple.
  4. Santa Fe, N.M.: Although Santa Fe isn’t typically regarded as a thriving young town, it’s hard to pass up its incredible creative culture and resource. This city has slam-dunked it in terms of attracting and retaining creatives, with a well-established history of creative tourism. Naturally, Santa Fe has been named the third largest art market in the U.S., and was even added as an UNESCO City of Design, Crafts, and Folk Art, the only U.S. city in this category. Santa Fe supports creative development with the Santa Fe Business Incubator, a small business development center that is considered to be one of the best of its kind in the nation. In addition to countless opportunities for creatives, Santa Fe is just an all-around nice place to live, with a great showing in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, particularly in health categories.
  5. Los Angeles: LA is a world capital of creativity with a thriving economy in the arts; creative industries in the area generate almost a million jobs and over $100 billion in sales revenue. Like New York, LA is a tough town to make it big in, but its status as an industry center largely makes up for that. One in every six jobs in LA is in a creative industry, and we like those odds. Plus, the city’s location in between the startup hubs of Silicon Valley and San Diego makes it a great place to launch your creative career.
  6. Seattle, Wash.: Seattle is a great city for artists, geeks, and artists who are also geeks. It is well-suited for recent grads who work in creative tech industries like graphic design and computerized creativity, as there is a wealth of startups and VC firms that specialize in creative tech within the city. Seattle boasts a strong job market, too, particularly in the city’s growing tech sector. Creatives who specialize in mobile apps and user experience are in particular demand.
  7. Chicago: Chicago is already recognized as a creative capital, and it’s working even harder to create more cultural opportunities with a Chicago Cultural Plan sponsored by the city itself. Paired with an optimistic job market for new grads, this means young residents of Chicago can enjoy plenty of creative opportunities today and in the future. Not a bad situation, considering that Chicago has the third largest creative economy in the U.S., generating more than $2 billion annually and employing 150,000 people.
  8. Wilmington, Del.: Delaware is not a state that you’d really expect to be a hub of creativity, but with a world-class art museum, a fashion district in development, and a monthly Art on the Town Loop since 1988, we’re really impressed by Wilmington’s potential for creative college grads. Perhaps most impressive of all? As a state, Delaware offers the second-highest salary for the creative class, only behind California, a location that has a much higher cost of living.
  9. Iowa City, Iowa: Another hidden gem for creatives is humble Iowa City. This unlikely candidate turns out to be a hub of literature, offering an incredible arsenal of resources for teaching and supporting writers. In fact, it’s been called a “nursery” for writers, and was even designated an UNESCO City of Literature. This honor is well-deserved, with destination bookstores, 11 literary presses, an overwhelmingly large percentage of libraries for its population, and more than 180 literary events held each year. The city’s inhabitants have made it famous as a proving ground for writers, with residents including Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Flannery O’Connor, and John Irving.
  10. Washington, D.C.: D.C. hasn’t always been known for its creative class opportunities, but we simply have to point out the potential for growth in this city. A 2010 survey from The Atlantic shared that the greater Washington, D.C. area was prepared to add over 143,000 creative jobs, second only to NYC and LA. That is perhaps thanks to a major plan unveiled by the city, Creative DC Action Agenda aimed at further strengthening D.C.’s creative sector. The city plans to leverage its role as a world capital to bring in major cultural events, diverse creative talent, and foreign missions that will boost D.C.’s culture and creative economy. Combined with a healthy job market with roughly one advertised job opening for every unemployed worker in the D.C. area, recent creative grads have a great opportunity to find a job in this city.
  11. Boulder, Colo.: Boulder’s natural beauty is an amenity that draws many creative companies to set up shop in the city. Although it’s certainly not cheap to live there, opportunities abound in this college town. It has become a “mecca for new high-tech startups” in search of qualified creative grads, and the numbers are staggering. The New York Times reports that venture capitalists invested $1.9 in 275 Colorado startups from 2007 to 2009. All that money’s got to go somewhere, might as well be your ski fund.
  12. Minneapolis: Like D.C., Minneapolis doesn’t have a great track record of supporting the creative class, but they’re poised to make a serious change in the near future. The city recently named its first Director of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy, a position that is designed to help Minneapolis become more competitive with creative jobs. Naturally, that means this city is soon to be flush with opportunities for creative grads. And they’re not just talking about it either, they’re actually making things work: Minneapolis has a great median income for design professionals, ranging from $50,000 to $60,000. Plus, according to, Minneapolis has the sixth hottest job market in the country, creative and otherwise.
Taken From Online Degrees

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