Where you live can have a big impact on your career. It shapes the type of professional opportunities available, the frequency with which they’ll be offered to you, and the salaries you can command.
Start your work life in an area with a sluggish economy, and you’ll likely fall short of your full potential; research has shown that your post-college salary can affect your payover the rest of your career. But launching your journey in a place ripe for growth can give you the momentum you’ll need to point you toward that six-figure salary, C-suite role, or whatever professional goal you’ve set for yourself.
To help you get the best head start, MONEY went through our Best Places to Live database of 2,400 towns and identified the spots in the U.S. that offer the best blend of affordability and strong economic performance.
We incorporated many of the same factors as in our overall Best Places to Live ranking, such as cost-of-living metics, local amenity counts (including bars, restaurants, and other attractions that would appeal to young professionals), as well as things like commute time. But we gave even greater weight to factors like job growth, economic opportunity, and unemployment rates, to ensure these were places that could propel your professional success over time.
The underlying database includes towns within the U.S. that have a population between 10,000 and 100,000 people and meet other thresholds for economic health, public safety, and diversity. We also limited results to one destination per state.
What follows, in order, are MONEY’s 10 best places to launch your career.
3. Brentwood, Tennessee
• Projected job growth, 2016-2021: 12.3%
Recognized for its greenery and rolling hills, this affluent suburb of Nashville has been home to country music stars and athletes. Median income here is almost three times the state median. And although home prices are relatively high, compared with many of our other winning towns, Brentwood delivers plenty of economic bang for your buck.
The area currently has a low unemployment rate of 3.5%, and is expected to see 12% job growth by 2021, according to Moody’s Analytics. Big employers include Comdata, an electronic payment solutions company, and the Tractor Supply Company, a large rural lifestyle retail store chain.
Crime rates are quite low, and the thriving Brentwood Library welcomes about 1,000 daily visitors. The town’s 13 parks include Smith Park, which has over 400 acres of open fields, as well as walking trails and the historic Ravenswood Mansion. Frequent fliers may like another amenity: The town is located just minutes away from the Nashville International Airport.
Brentwood has family-friendly attributes as well: Brentwood High School was named the fifth-best in the state by U.S. News & World Report this year. Overall, the town’s high school graduation rate is 96%.