University graduate with moneyShopping King Louie / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Self.

With the cost of college education rising, finding a well-paying job after graduation is more important than ever. Over half of young adults entering college ran into debt on typical student loans in the $ 20,000 to $ 25,000 range after graduation. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average recent salary for full-time graduates is about $ 50,000 per year. However, the number varies greatly depending on city, major and occupation, among other things.

The good news is that the median wage of the youngest graduates (adjusted for inflation) has fluctuated over the past few decades, but the number hit a new high last year, rising nearly $ 4,500 from 2019 to 2020. As for the $ 50,000 per year wage numbers for 2020, it comes from survey data collected in March last year, so it does not adequately reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduates looking for work last spring faced the worst job market since the Great Depression, and it remains to be seen how wages will play out in the years to come.

While major is one of the strongest predictors of post-graduate income, so is location. In addition, large differences in the cost of living between locations affect how comfortable it is to live on a certain wage and how easy it is to repay loans. At the state level, graduates who work full-time in North Dakota and Montana have the highest median earnings after adjusting for cost of living at $ 53,751 and $ 51,337, respectively. While New Mexico has the lowest cost of living, New Mexico also has the lowest median wage for a full-time graduate at just $ 36,224 per year.

To find the highest-paying metropolitan areas for recent college graduates, Self's researchers analyzed the latest income data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the cost of living from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers ranked the metropolitan areas based on the average cost of living adjusted earnings for full-time college graduates aged 22 to 27 with only a bachelor's degree. The researchers also calculated the unadjusted median income of the youngest graduates and the proportion of the population of the youngest college graduates. Only the 50 largest metropolitan areas were included in the analysis.

Read on to find out about the highest-paying graduate metros in the United States.

15. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

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  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,565
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 44,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.4%
  • Cost of living: 9.4% below average

14. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

Minneapolis Nick Lundgren / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,591
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 3.0%
  • Cost of living: 2.9% above average

13. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

Chicago, Illinoisf11photo / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,638
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.8%
  • Cost of living: 2.8% above average

12. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA

Providence, Rhode IslandSean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,853
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 49,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.5%
  • Cost of living: 0.3% above average

11. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

Houston, TexasSean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 49,164
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 1.9%
  • Cost of living: 1.7% above average

10. Austin-Round Rock, TX

Austin, TexasRoschetzky Photography / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 49,345
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 49,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 3.2%
  • Cost of living: 0.7% below average

9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

Dallas, Texasmandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 49,407
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.3%
  • Cost of living: 1.2% above average

8. Columbus, OH

Columbus, OhioRandall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 51,856
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 47,500
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.7%
  • Cost of living: 8.4% below average

7. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA.

San Francisco, CaliforniaIM_photo / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,045
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 70,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 3.4%
  • Cost of living: 34.5% above average

6. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

Cleveland, OhioRudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,280
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 47,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.1%
  • Cost of living: 10.1% below average

5. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

Detroit seen from the air.Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,466
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.1%
  • Cost of living: 4.7% below average

4. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh esb-professional / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): 52,706 USD
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 48,700
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.8%
  • Cost of living: 7.6% below average

3. Kansas City, MO-KS

Kansas City Missouri HighwayReal Window Creative / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,802
  • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 49,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.3%
  • Cost of living: 7.2% below average

2. St. Louis, MO-IL

St. Louis, MissouriKENNY TONG / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 53,274
  • Median earnings for graduates (currently): $ 48,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.1%
  • Cost of living: 9.9% below average

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA.

San Jose, CaliforniaUladzik Kryhin / Shutterstock.com

  • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 56,827
  • Median earnings for graduates (current): $ 72,000
  • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 3.3%
  • Cost of living: 26.7% above average

Detailed results and methodology

Graduate with moneySean Locke Photography / Shutterstock.com

The highest-paying graduate metros are a mix of more expensive tech hubs and cheaper cities in the Midwest and Northeast. The highest-paid subway for these young professionals – San Jose, California – is one of the most expensive areas in the country, but college graduates make enough to make up for the high cost of living. Young graduates in the metropolitan St. Louis area earn a median of $ 48,000, but life in this Missouri city is so affordable that its median living-cost-adjusted wage ($ 53,274) is almost as high as that of their counterparts in San Jose.

Nationwide, the youngest college graduates, ages 22-27, make up 2.1 percent of the population, but some of the highest-paid metros attract larger numbers. Recent graduates in metropolitan areas of San Jose, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas make up more than 3 percent of the local population, about a third more than nationally.

To find the highest-paying metros for recent college graduates, Self's researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2019 Public Survey Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS) and the Bureau of Economic’s 2019 Regional Price Parity (RPP) dataset Analysis. Median earnings statistics were derived from the ACS PUMS and the cost of living index was derived from the RPP data.

To make profits comparable across locations, profits in expensive metros have been adjusted to reflect lower purchasing power, while profits in relatively affordable metros have been adjusted to reflect higher purchasing power.

The metropolitan areas were then classified according to the median income of the youngest college graduates, adjusted for the cost of living. Recent college graduates were defined as those aged 22-27 who only had a bachelor's degree and worked full-time (not in school). Only the 50 largest metropolitan areas were included in the analysis.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.

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