Once the joy of graduation day is over, recent graduates must begin planning for the future. Many fortunate students have already found a graduate job or managed to secure a spot on a top graduate scheme.
But, if you are still pondering, ‘What’s next?’ and debating where to go after university, you may be wondering which UK cities offer the best prospects.
From the capital to Northern power cities like Leeds and Sheffield, there are numerous locations with great opportunities for graduates. Before deciding on a move, research what matters most to you.
Do you want a bustling cultural atmosphere? Are you looking to land a graduate job in a certain profession? Or, is being close to family and friends your priority?
To help give you an understanding of the cost of living, we looked at some of the top UK cities, the average salary in the area, and the average monthly rent.
If you’re searching for cities with the best graduate schemes, then some of our top choices are sure to please. Here are the best cities to move to as a graduate:
Table of Contents
You might think of Cambridge as a student city due to the presence of the renowned Cambridge University – but CNBC recently voted it the best city for graduates.
As one of the world’s best universities, there are plenty of opportunities for graduates in related fields, such as science, publishing, academia, and university-focused services. Many of the UK’s top companies and best graduate schemes hire from Cambridge.
Living in Cambridge as a graduate has its advantages. There are plenty of things to do in the city, from the classic punting on the Cam to visiting the many museums and galleries. Plus, being a student city, there are plenty of bars and pubs to explore.
The average salary in Cambridge is £34k (Payscale), and the average monthly rent for a one-bed property is £1,092.
Moving to London isn’t a new concept for graduates. They come from all over the UK to kickstart their career. A study from Target Jobs showed that 45% of all graduate vacancies were in the capital.
It’s important to note that the average salary in London is higher. However, the rent is also much higher than in other cities. Finding a place to stay in London can be difficult.
Despite this, many industries are based in London, such as journalism, publishing, film, finance and government.
It’s clear why London was included in the list – while other cities are becoming more popular if you want to pursue a career in London specifically, then the capital is the place for you.
The average salary is £39k, according to Payscale.
Leeds is a popular destination for graduates in Yorkshire, with 39% of graduates from one of the three universities in the city deciding to stay.
Recently, Channel 4 selected Leeds as its new home in the North, making it a hub for the tech, media, and digital sectors. Major employers like TPP, Asda, Sky Betting and Jet2 offer plenty of graduate job opportunities.
Apart from the strong job market, Leeds has a lot to offer. There are many independent bars and restaurants, from rooftop cocktail bars to speakeasy jazz clubs like the Domino.
The city has a strong cultural scene, with multiple theatres, museums, and a dedicated concert venue. Plus, Leeds is just two hours from London by train so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds – a bustling city and the Yorkshire Dales on your doorstep.
The average salary in Leeds is £29k, according to Payscale, while the average monthly rent for a one-bed property in the city centre is £719.
Sheffield is a great place for graduates looking for employment. It is the former steelmaking centre of the UK and a modern, connected city with plenty of opportunities outside of the steel industry.
The University of Sheffield, Plusnet and Go Outdoors are all based here, making it the perfect place to kickstart your career.
Aside from the employment opportunities, Sheffield is also a great place to live. It has an abundance of green spaces, with 80 parks and 650 designated green areas. This hilly city offers some amazing views from its higher points, too.
To top it off, the average salary in Sheffield is £27k (Payscale), and the average monthly rent for a one-bed property in the city centre is £625. All in all, Sheffield has plenty to offer graduates and those looking to move to a new city.
Glasgow is a great choice for graduates looking to start their career in Scotland. With average graduate salaries, a wealth of career opportunities and plenty of amenities to enjoy, this city is the perfect place to begin.
With three universities in the city, there are lots of job prospects for those in academia. Glasgow is also a great place to develop a career in finance and business, thanks to the investment in these sectors.
The cost of living in Glasgow is considerably lower than in London, with prices around 20% cheaper. Despite this, the city still offers plenty to do, with numerous museums, art nouveau landmarks and other cultural attractions.
The average salary is £29k, according to Payscale. On average, the monthly rent for a one-bed property in the city centre is £651.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Never be bored in Newcastle. This vibrant city in the North of England is growing steadily and has a cost of living that is lower than other UK cities. You can go out for a night, admire the architecture, or learn about the history of the city, and Newcastle won’t disappoint.
It may have been an industrial city, but it is also warm and friendly, with amazing local history, food markets, and scenery.
The energy, banking, and financial services industries are thriving in Newcastle, which makes it the perfect place for new graduates to start their careers. Plus, big employers like Greggs and Sage Group plc are located here.
Graduates in Newcastle have a higher earning potential than in other UK cities, and this is expected to increase in the future.
Belfast, Northern Ireland’s delightful capital, has some of the most affordable accommodation in the UK, making it a great option for graduates. But that’s not all the city has to offer.
It is increasingly becoming renowned for its vibrant culture, friendly locals and stunning natural scenery. Plus, with an impressive 38.5 new start-ups per 1000 inhabitants, it is perfect for new graduates looking to get a foothold in their chosen industry.
Once an industrial hub, Belfast is now a major tech centre. It is also home to many prestigious graduate employers, such as Marks and Spencer, Asda and Tesco.
In recent years, the city has become a top tourist destination, creating numerous graduate jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Leicester is one of the UK’s oldest cities and a great place for graduates to find jobs. Its central location makes it easy to get to other major cities.
Leicester has been named one of the five most affordable cities in the UK, making it an ideal choice for graduates. Whether you want to explore the city’s history, try some English cuisine, or have a night out, Leicester has it all.
Graduates can find a variety of jobs in Leicester. The city is home to businesses from the finance, retail, and leisure industries. In addition, some well-known companies have headquarters here, such as Next.
There are plenty of job opportunities, with Amazon, Santander Bank, and Barratt Developments all having offices in the city. So, whatever your background, Leicester is the perfect place for graduates.
Known as ‘The Silver City’, Aberdeen is the third-largest city in Scotland and boasts a world-class bus and rail network.
It is also ranked as the best city in the UK for work-life balance and has an incredibly low unemployment rate of just 2.6%. It’s an ideal location for new graduates hoping to start their careers.
What’s more, Aberdeen is incredibly affordable. Rent costs average 66% less than in London, which is great news for those starting on an entry-level salary. Once the UK’s biggest exporter of granite, Aberdeen is now a global leader in the gas and oil industry.
Other key industries include renewable energy, technology, life sciences, and food and beverage. With such a thriving economy, there are plenty of graduate opportunities in Aberdeen.
Cardiff is renowned for its affable locals and breathtaking countryside. It’s even earned the title ‘city with the most castles in the world’. Moreover, the Welsh capital is well-connected to most UK cities and is home to one of the UK’s top universities.
Plus, it’s a budget-friendly capital city in which to live. If you’re a graduate, Cardiff has something for everyone, regardless of whether you’re into sports, music, or nature.
The main industries in Cardiff are financial and professional services, creative and digital industries, life sciences, tourism, and retail. Consequently, there are plenty of graduate job opportunities in these sectors.
Notable graduate employers based in Cardiff include PwC, Tesco, Starbucks, Amazon, Asda, and Deloitte. As it offers such a variety of industries, Cardiff is an ideal choice for graduates from all walks of life.
Birmingham is a great choice for graduates looking for jobs in the UK. The city has a long history as an engineering hub, but today it has become a hub for finance, education, health, defence, and transport industries.
Banking institutions like HSBC, Barclays, and RBS have relocated to Birmingham, making it a great option for those interested in finance.
Birmingham has also earned the nickname “the city of 1,0001 trades” due to the variety of industries in the city. Logistics, construction, and public administration are well represented, and the city is also home to the UK’s fastest-growing tech sector.
Despite its vibrant economy, Birmingham is still one of the most livable and affordable cities in the UK. It ranks 2nd in livability and 5th in expenses, making it a great option for graduates looking for a place to start their career.
Logistics, life sciences, financial and business services, and creative and digital are just some of the major industries in Nottingham. It’s quickly becoming a top city for small business growth, too.
It has the largest business centre in the East Midlands. Many industry giants, such as Boots, Speedo, Capital One, and Experian, have their headquarters in Nottingham, which is currently going through a period of economic regeneration.
If you’re looking for graduate jobs in the area, Nottingham is a great place to be. Not only is it affordable, giving graduates more disposable income, but it’s also culturally rich.
You’ll find plenty of independent retailers, top-class restaurants, and the incredible Sherwood Forest. Plus, as the UK City of Culture, you can enjoy live music, contemporary art spaces, and gorgeous theatres.
For those wanting to try the digital nomad lifestyle, why not look for remote graduate jobs? All you need is a laptop and a strong internet connection, and you can live and work from anywhere in the UK.
Relocating can be a big change and seem overwhelming, but you can do a few things to ensure that your move is as smooth as possible. Here’s a checklist to help you get started.
- Do your research: Before you make a final decision on where to live, make sure you do your research. Take a look at the safest neighbourhoods, check out the local amenities and activities, and consider the commute.
- Get organised: Start planning your move early by creating to-do lists, timelines, and packing little by little. Don’t forget to book vans, pick up keys, and plan deliveries. Use this as an opportunity to declutter and only bring the essentials with you.
- Sort out admin tasks: It’s important to ensure you have the right level of insurance to suit your needs. Tenants insurance is recommended for renters, while those buying a house should consider both buildings and contents insurance.
- Explore your new home: Once you’re settled in, make sure you get out and explore your new city. Look for your new favourite bar or coffee shop, and try to get involved in sports teams or classes—this will give you a chance to meet some new people.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself: It’s normal to be a little nervous before a big move. Plan as much as you can ahead of time, explore your new home, and don’t compare yourself to what others are doing.
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