Hottest Jobs for Graduates and the Metros to Find Them

  • Healthcare occupations outrank computer jobs as the hottest jobs for 2021 grads with nurse practitioners the fastest-growing on the list.
  • San Jose, Washington, D.C. and Seattle metros boast the most well-paid & in-demand positions for fresh graduates.
  • Ohio metros like Dayton, Cleveland and Toledo are top locations for one-third of the hottest jobs for college grads.
  • Use the interactive map at the end of the article to see the best metro for graduates in each profession.

As millions of college students are graduating and looking for a job, RENTCafé analyzed BLS data to reveal the fastest-growing, best-paid jobs in 2021, and the metros where the new grads have the best shot at landing them — with little or no experience and a college degree.

Recent reports show that employers plan on hiring 7.2% more 2021 college graduates than they did in 2020 and the average starting salaries for recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees are expected to rise. And, one industry, in particular, is booming with job demand and promising financial benefits: healthcare.

Jobs in the medical field take the top three spots on the hottest jobs list of 2021, outranking jobs in computer sciences. To rank the hottest jobs for recent college graduates, we turned to the freshest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to see which positions are projected to grow the most this decade and what is the median annual wage for each job. Notably, while the median wage does not directly correlate with the starting salary, it does provide a measure of the earning power of each job. And, since we’re talking fresh-faced grads, we included only jobs that require a bachelor’s, master’s or associate degree and less than 5 years experience or none at all, per BLS classification. The fastest-growing jobs with the highest wages, that met our degree and experience criteria, received an “opportunity score”.

Top 50 Hottest Jobs for 2021 College Graduates

Rank Job Title Projected 10-Year Change Median Wage Opportunity Score
1 Nurse practitioner 52.4% $109,820 147.5
2 Physician assistant 31.3% $112,260 146
3 Medical and health services manager 31.5% $100,980 141.5
4 Software developer/Quality assurance analyst/tester 21.5% $107,510 140
5 Information security analyst 31.2% $99,730 140
6 Computer and information research scientist 15.4% $122,840 139
7 Nurse anesthetist 13.7% $174,790 138.5
8 Actuary 17.6% $108,350 138.5
9 Data and mathematical scientist 30.9% $94,280 135.5
10 Statistician 34.6% $91,160 134.5
11 Economist 14.1% $105,020 131.5
12 Nurse midwife 11.6% $105,030 128.5
13 Operations research analyst 24.8% $84,810 125
14 Genetic counselor 21.5% $81,880 120.5
15 Speech-language pathologist 24.9% $79,120 119.5
16 Occupational therapist 15.9% $84,950 119
17 Political scientist 6.1% $122,220 117
18 Sales engineer 6.3% $103,900 112.5
19 Construction manager 8.5% $95,260 117
20 Database administrator and architect 9.7% $93,750 117
21 Industrial engineer 10.1% $88,020 112.5
22 Management analyst 10.7% $85,260 111.5
23 Administrative services and facilities manager 6.5% $96,940 110.5
24 Atmospheric and space scientist 6.4% $95,380 108.5
25 Computer systems analyst 7.4% $90,920 107.5
26 Diagnostic medical sonographer 16.8% $74,320 107.5
27 Chemical engineer 4.4% $108,770 107
28 Education administrator 8.1% $85,450 107
29 Sales manager 3.5% $126,640 106.5
30 Petroleum engineer 3.2% $137,720 105.5
31 Airline pilot/Copilot/Flight engineer 2.8% $147,220 104
32 Electrical engineer 4.6% $98,530 102.5
33 Radiation therapist 7.1% $85,560 102.5
34 Orthotist and prosthetist 16.9% $68,410 101
35 Social and community service manager 17.0% $67,150 101
36 Aerospace engineer 2.8% $116,500 100.5
37 Agent/business manager for artists, performers and athletes 11.8% $73,740 100
38 Film and video editor 21.6% $63,780 100
39 Computer scientist 5.7% $88,550 99.5
40 Urban and regional planner 11.0% $74,350 99.5
41 Market research analyst/Marketing specialist 17.7% $63,790 98.5
42 Mathematician 3.0% $105,030 98
43 Geoscientist 4.9% $92,040 98
44 Financial examiner 7.3% $81,090 97.5
45 Producer and director 10.0% $74,420 97.5
46 Occupational therapy assistant 34.6% $61,510 97.5
47 Computer hardware engineer 1.6% $117,220 97
48 Bioengineer and biomedical engineer 4.7% $91,410 97
49 Education administrator, postsecondary 3.7% $95,410 96.5
50 Materials scientist 3.4% $96,810 95.5

Pandemic Steps-up Demand for Healthcare Occupations

This past year solidified the evergreen need for healthcare professionals. The healthcare sector and those who work in it have proven to be literally vital in the context of the pandemic.

However, even before the pandemic, the healthcare industry was expected to grow exponentially — driven by the aging population, medical advances and a constant need for services and qualified personnel. This explains why the hottest job for 2021 college grads is nurse practitioner — a position that’s projected to grow by more than 52% by 2029 and has a median annual wage of around $109,800. 

The next two fastest-growing jobs for  2021 college graduates are also in the medical field and not physician jobs. Physician assistants (about $112,300 median wage) and medical and health services managers ($101,000) are both expected to grow by more than 31%. Also making the Top 10 is a healthcare position that promises almost $174,800 — the highest median annual wage on the list — nurse anesthetist (to go up by 13.7%).

Check out the table below to see the best metros for graduate-friendly jobs.

Meanwhile, STEM-related majors maintain their popularity among students, given strong employer demand and technological advancements. In the fourth spot are software developers, projected to grow by 21.5% by the end of the decade. This sought-after career offers a $107,500 median annual wage and kicks off a string of computer and math occupations on our list that are expected to grow in the next decade, such as information security analyst or computer and information research scientist.

Metro Areas with Highest Share of Hot Jobs for Recent College Grads

To find out the best metros for graduates, we ranked the top U.S. metros where recent grads have the best chance of finding these in-demand jobs. And, while Silicon Valley continues to be the leading area for the hottest jobs, on the East Coast, the best metro to find a job as a recent grad is actually in Washington, D.C. — not New York. When it comes to the highest concentration of jobs for recent college graduates, some metros on the list might come as a surprise, such as  Madison, WI (89 grad-friendly jobs in 1,000) or Durham, NC (87 in 1,000). Here are the best metros for graduate jobs where you will find the highest concentration of today’s hottest occupations:

Rank Metro Area Hot Jobs per 1,000
1 San Jose, CA 166
2 Washington, D.C. 113
3 Seattle, WA 111
4 San Francisco, CA 96
5 Boston, MA 91
6 Madison, WI 89
7 Durham, NC 87
8 Denver, CO 83
9 Austin, TX 81
10 Minneapolis, MN 80
Rank Metro Area Hot Jobs per 1,000
11 Raleigh, NC 79
12 Colorado Springs, CO 78
13 Hartford, CT 76
14 Baltimore, MD 75
15 Palm Bay, FL 74
16 Charlotte, NC 73
17 Des Moines, IA 72
18 San Diego, CA 69
19 Dayton, OH 69
20 Sacramento, CA 69

The San Jose metro has the highest share of hot jobs for 2021 college graduates — 166 per 1,000. In fact, some companies here are already making design changes to better suit Gen Z employees. An attractive option for businesses of all types, San Jose welcomes young professionals, especially if their major had anything to do with computers or management. Most recent graduate jobs here are in software development, computer-related fields (offering $88,600, to go up by 5.7%) and marketing ($63,800, up by almost 18%).

Looking to bring your skills over to the National Capital Region? With 113 in 1,000 jobs deemed the hottest for this years’ grads, the D.C. Metro Area is all about business and finance — so computer science, management and marketing majors would fit right in.

Seattle metro is the third-best bet to start a career, with a potpourri of fast-growing jobs for fresh college grads. The Emerald City earned its spot because 111 of 1,000 jobs here are on our “hot list”. Here you can build your career as a software developer or market researcher, but Seattle may actually be the best choice for management entry-levels in sales, construction, medical and health services or administrative services.

Click on the interactive map below to find out the top graduate-friendly jobs in the metro of your choosing:

Among the best metros for graduates are Madison, WI and Durham, NC. Home to the University of Wisconsin and an emerging tech hub, Madison is a great option for computer, management and marketing professionals as well as industrial engineers, much like Durham. However, as part of the Research Triangle, Durham is also an attractive option for those kicking off careers as medical and health services managers.


What’s the Best Metro for Your Job when You Consider Cost of Living? Chances Are It’s in Ohio

Jumpstarting a career is like picking an apartment – it’s all about location, location, location. And, as it turns out, big cities don’t always equal bigger chances or a bigger paycheck.

When you factor in the cost of living in addition to the share of graduate-friendly occupations and the median annual wage, some metros shine bright with opportunity — but it primarily depends on the job itself. For example, physician assistants and medical and health services managers should consider Durham, NC, while information security analysts might find Albuquerque, NM more fitting. However, smaller metros in Ohio are actually the best job markets, coming up repeatedly as the top location for a wide array of fast-growing professional fields.

Specifically, Ohio metros are the best option for 17 of the 50 hottest jobs for grads. For instance, if you’re looking for jobs for new nurse grads, Toledo is the place to be — an area that’s already on Gen Z’s radar. Cleveland distinguishes itself as the best metro for the second highest-earning titles on our list: airline pilot, copilot or flight engineer ($147,200). And, while it might not have the most hot jobs for grads (67 out of 1,000), Dayton metro is the best for several entry-level careers on our list, in various fields, including — aerospace engineering, computer science, urban and regional planning, education, occupational therapy and the list goes on.

Use the interactive map below and select the occupation you’re interested in to see the best metros for the job:

While graduates last spring faced the worst job market on record, things are looking up for the Class of 2021. Taking those first steps into the workforce is never easy, even more so in the backdrop of a global health crisis. However, it’s reassuring to know that there’s hope in starting a career in the right place — even if it’s not at the right time.


  • This report was prepared by RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States. To compile it, we analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics data on occupations that are projected to grow the most between 2019-2029, requiring an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree and less than 5 years’ experience or no experience at all.
  • The ranking of the “hottest graduate-friendly” jobs is based on 50% weights attributed to the main metrics: highest percentage increase (2019-2029) and highest annual wage estimate. In case of ties,  the highest annual wage estimate was used as tiebreaker. 
  • To determine the metros with the highest concentration of graduate-friendly jobs we looked at the 100 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas and analyzed employment per 1,000 jobs.
  • The top “hot jobs” per metro were ranked based on employment per 1,000 by occupation and the respective median annual wage.

  • The ranking for the best metros for an occupation is determined by equal weights attributed to: employment per 1,000 jobs, median annual wage and cost of living as per the BEA Cost of Living Index.

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