Class of 2021, These Are the Hottest Jobs for You and the Best Metros to Find Them

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  • 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, RentCafe 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

RankJob TitleProjected 10-Year ChangeMedian WageOpportunity Score
1Nurse practitioner52.4%$109,820 147.5
2Physician assistant31.3%$112,260 146
3Medical and health services manager31.5%$100,980 141.5
4Software developer/Quality assurance analyst/tester21.5%$107,510 140
5Information security analyst31.2%$99,730 140
6Computer and information research scientist15.4%$122,840 139
7Nurse anesthetist13.7%$174,790 138.5
8Actuary17.6%$108,350 138.5
9Data and mathematical scientist30.9%$94,280 135.5
10Statistician34.6%$91,160 134.5
11Economist14.1%$105,020 131.5
12Nurse midwife11.6%$105,030 128.5
13Operations research analyst24.8%$84,810 125
14Genetic counselor21.5%$81,880 120.5
15Speech-language pathologist24.9%$79,120 119.5
16Occupational therapist15.9%$84,950 119
17Political scientist6.1%$122,220 117
18Sales engineer6.3%$103,900 112.5
19Construction manager8.5%$95,260 117
20Database administrator and architect9.7%$93,750 117
21Industrial engineer10.1%$88,020 112.5
22Management analyst10.7%$85,260 111.5
23Administrative services and facilities manager6.5%$96,940 110.5
24Atmospheric and space scientist6.4%$95,380 108.5
25Computer systems analyst7.4%$90,920 107.5
26Diagnostic medical sonographer16.8%$74,320 107.5
27Chemical engineer4.4%$108,770 107
28Education administrator8.1%$85,450 107
29Sales manager3.5%$126,640 106.5
30Petroleum engineer3.2%$137,720 105.5
31Airline pilot/Copilot/Flight engineer2.8%$147,220 104
32Electrical engineer4.6%$98,530 102.5
33Radiation therapist7.1%$85,560 102.5
34Orthotist and prosthetist16.9%$68,410 101
35Social and community service manager17.0%$67,150 101
36Aerospace engineer2.8%$116,500 100.5
37Agent/business manager for artists, performers and athletes11.8%$73,740 100
38Film and video editor21.6%$63,780 100
39Computer scientist5.7%$88,550 99.5
40Urban and regional planner11.0%$74,350 99.5
41Market research analyst/Marketing specialist17.7%$63,790 98.5
42Mathematician3.0%$105,030 98
43Geoscientist4.9%$92,040 98
44Financial examiner7.3%$81,090 97.5
45Producer and director10.0%$74,420 97.5
46Occupational therapy assistant34.6%$61,510 97.5
47Computer hardware engineer1.6%$117,220 97
48Bioengineer and biomedical engineer4.7%$91,410 97
49Education administrator, postsecondary3.7%$95,410 96.5
50Materials scientist3.4%$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:

RankMetro AreaHot Jobs per 1,000
1San Jose, CA166
2Washington, D.C.113
3Seattle, WA111
4San Francisco, CA96
5Boston, MA91
6Madison, WI89
7Durham, NC87
8Denver, CO83
9Austin, TX81
10Minneapolis, MN80
RankMetro AreaHot Jobs per 1,000
11Raleigh, NC79
12Colorado Springs, CO78
13Hartford, CT76
14Baltimore, MD75
15Palm Bay, FL74
16Charlotte, NC73
17Des Moines, IA72
18San Diego, CA69
19Dayton, OH69
20Sacramento, CA69

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, Knoxville, TN, Oklahoma City, OK, Augusta, GA, Grand Rapids, MI, Cleveland, OH, Buffalo, NY, Milwaukee, WI and Wichita, KS while information security analysts might find Albuquerque, NM, Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, Virginia Beach, VA, Raleigh, NC, Knoxville, TN, Colorado Springs, CO, and Dallas, TX 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 RentCafe, 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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Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she's covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance to interior design tips. Very familiar with the renter lifestyle herself, Alexandra enjoys researching and writing about renter demographic shifts and residential real estate market trends as much as she loves writing about how to get along with roommates. You can connect with Alexandra via email.

Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Forbes, Architectural Digest, Marketwatch, Bisnow, and Curbed. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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