Looking to start your journey to a successful career? These are the cities that have proven track records of harboring success. 

It’s hard to define success, especially in an age where people choose to live as homeless nomads. Everyone’s ideas of success may vary, but for the purposes of simplicity, we gauged how successful a city is first by looking at its gross domestic product (GDP)1—defined as the value of all goods and services made during a specific period (in our case, a year). Then we factored in how many colleges and universities were in the area, how many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered there, and the average salary2.

Here are the top 10 cities that produce the most revenue and opportunities, and will set you up on the road to success. 

10. Seattle, WA

(Including Tacoma and Bellevue3)

GDP: $427 billion
Average Salary: $84,000

This jewel of the Pacific Northwest is a thriving shipping center and rivals San Francisco as the capital of the tech industry. Research firm CBRE ranked Seattle the second best city to source tech talent in a 2021 report. That comes as no surprise: Two of the biggest tech giants—Amazon and Microsoft—are headquartered in Seattle (not to mention the biggest coffee chain in the world, Starbucks). 

Atlanta9. Atlanta, GA

(Including Sandy Springs and Alpharetta)

GDP: $425 billion
Average Salary: $71,000

While Atlanta trails Seattle in GDP, it makes up for it in prestigious colleges and universities. High ranking universities like Emory, Georgia Tech, and Spelman are located in Georgia’s capital. Job opportunities abound as well. Sixteen Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Atlanta, including the Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola. On top of that, CBRE ranked Atlanta the eighth best city to source tech talent. 

8. Philadelphia, PA

(Including Camden and Wilmington)

GDP: $439 billion
Average Salary: $71,000

The City of Brotherly Love is a great place to start your journey to success. With several prestigious colleges like Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia metro area puts a strong emphasis on academics. Big companies like Comcast, CIGNA, and Aramark also call Philadelphia home. 

7. Dallas, TX

(Including Fort Worth and Arlington)

GDP: $535 billion
Average Salary: $73,000

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including their college system. Dallas boasts over 100 colleges and universities, so there’s no shortage of opportunities for academic growth. It’s also home to Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, American Airlines, and Tenet Healthcare. It also counts some very successful residents among its citizens including businessman and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. 

6. Boston, MA

(Including Camden and Newton)

GDP: $480 billion
Average Salary: $81,000

Beantown is home to some of the most prestigious colleges in America, including Harvard, MIT, and Boston College. It also boasts world-class medical institutions like the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts. So, it’s no surprise that Boston has long been a place where the best and brightest in medicine and academia live. In addition, it’s a bustling finance hub with headquarters for big banking and insurance companies like State Street and Liberty Mutual. 

Washington D.C.
5. Washington, DC

(Including Arlington and Alexandria)

GDP: $561 billion
Average Salary: $79.000

It’s not hard to see how the city where all the heavy hitters in politics rub elbows would be one of the most successful cities in the US. On any given day, you’ll find senators, diplomats, heads of state, and maybe even the president out and about in the country’s capital and the home of our government. Washington, DC, is also home to many prestigious colleges like Georgetown, George Washington University, and the consistently top-ranked HBCU Howard University as well as companies like Fannie Mae and Lockheed Martin.

San Francisco
4. San Francisco, CA

(Including Oakland and Berkeley)

GDP: $588 billion
Average Salary: $103,000

Surprisingly, San Francisco beats out the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose, when it comes to GDP. Not surprisingly, it’s a place where well-educated, successful people with high salaries congregate (with a high cost of living to match). San Francisco has the second highest number of billionaire residents in America with 48 according to Forbes. With prestigious universities like UC Berkeley and Stanford to the south, this West Coast financial hub and Silicon Valley neighbor is an incubator for success (and your next great start-up idea). 

3. Chicago, IL

(Including Naperville and Elgin)

GDP: $693 billion
Average Salary: $74,000

While it’s a major hub for manufacturing, printing, and publishing, Chicago has a very diverse economy that also relies on finance, transportation, and food processing. It’s home to Fortune 500 companies like Excelon, Boeing, and United Continental as well as prestigious schools like Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago. A relatively affordable cost of living combined with serious earning potential makes Chicago one of the best cities to set yourself up for success. 

Los Angeles
2. Los Angeles, CA

(Including Long Beach and Anaheim)

GDP: $1 trillion
Average Salary: $80,000

While Los Angeles is best known as the home of the entertainment industry, its largest revenue stream actually comes from manufacturing, especially apparel manufacturing. But the biggest Fortune 500 company in LA does live up to the city’s reputation—the Walt Disney Co. Educational opportunities are also big in LA with approximately 230 colleges and universities in the greater Los Angeles area. While LA trails New York and San Francisco as home to the most billionaires, it is home to the most expensive homes. In fact, the most expensive house in America is in LA’s famous Bel-Air neighborhood. The 105,000-square-foot home listed for $295 million in early 2022. 

Wall Street, New York
1. New York, NY

(Including Newark and Jersey City)

GDP: $1.8 trillion
Average Salary: $82,000

Coming as a surprise to few, New York City solidly holds first place as far as GDP. As the finance capital of the country, a whopping $1.8 trillion is generated by the businesses in the Big Apple—primarily through megabanks like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Telecom giant Verizon is also headquartered in New York. New York is also home to the most billionaires in the US, including its former mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, and Ralph Lauren. All this success is buoyed by the fact that there are over 200 colleges and universities within 25 miles of the city, beat only by Los Angeles. There’s a reason why ambitious people from all over the world flock to New York.

1All GDP estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis 2020 GDP summary.
2All average salaries from PayScale.
3All cities include metro areas.

Elizabeth Yun
Liz has been a writer and editor for over 15 years. Over the course of her career she has covered real estate, tech, health and wellness, and fitness for a variety of print and digital publications. Her writing has appeared in Men's Journal, Everyday Health, Muscle & Fitness, and HuffPost. She spends the majority of her free time rock climbing, making ceramics, experimenting with new cuisines, and exploring the outdoors.

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