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By: Noel Dahl on March 16th, 2017

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3 best cities for art school graduates

San Francisco | College Locations

You've put in four or more years of work, walked the stage in your cap & gown, and celebrated with friends and family. College graduates have much to be proud of, but they also have long professional journeys ahead filled with tough decisions.

One of those decisions is where to live. While it's great to be in a bustling artistic hub with lots of culture and opportunity, you must consider those benefits alongside the drawbacks of these places - high living costs and competitive job markets, to name two big ones.

Still, if you are looking for a place with an artistic vibe, plenty of museums and galleries, and a thriving job market, there are options all across the country. Here is an in-depth look at three of the best cities to live for art school graduates looking to pursue a creative career:

(rent prices are from a December 2016 survey by housing research company Zumper)

San Francisco

Average 1 BR apartment rent: $3,330

Job market: Projected to grow between 3 and 3.3% by UC Riverside's Center for Economic Forecasting and Development.

Yes, the cost of living can be eye- (and wallet) popping if you aren't used to it, but rent prices in three of the Bay Area's major cities – San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose – all decreased in 2016. Plus, San Francisco is just a stone's throw from Silicon Valley, one of the premiere locations for innovation and technology in the entire world. 

It's also home to a huge range of different artist collectives, an active design community, performance venues, museums, and galleries. From the renowned San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,  there are places here for artists and creators from all walks of life. The job market in San Francisco is growing at nearly double the pace of the state of California. When you throw in the awesome weather year-round, and its history of innovation and activism, it’s obvious that San Francisco ranks highly on the list of great cities for an aspiring artist.

New York City

Average 1 BR apartment rent: $3,000

Job market: Growing faster than the rest of the country and New York State, according to management consulting company Mullin International.

The Big Apple has been home to some of the world's most legendary artists, from Bob Dylan to Andy Warhol. Cost of living isn't cheap, but it's slightly less expensive than the Bay Area, and financial company Bankrate lists New York as the number one city for college graduates to launch a successful career. If you’re studying fashion, it’s hard to rank another city above New York’s thriving international scene.

The city also has more museums than you could explore in a lifetime, like the venerable Metropolitan Museum of Art, with 2 million square feet of floor space, or the iconic, cylindrical Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The job market is competitive but steadily growing, and once your foot is in the door, few cities can rival Gotham's opportunity for advancement – even if you don't wear a suit to work.

Los Angeles

Average 1 BR apartment rent: $2,030

Job market: Grew 2.2% in 2015 according to the Los Angeles Times, higher than both California state and the U.S. average

Los Angeles doesn't have the huge tech sector that San Fran has, but its fine art scene rivals New York. If you can get past the traffic, it is a fantastic (and affordable) option for art school graduates. In recent years, the City of Angels has become something of a western mecca for artists in search of community support, reasonable housing prices, and plenty of opportunity. The New York Times even published a piece in 2015 on the exodus of artists from NYC to L.A.

After learning more about the city, it's easy to see why. Besides Hollywood's obvious appeal for graduates interested in the cinematic arts, more than 50 new art galleries have sprung up since 2013. With lots of sunshine and plenty of nearby parks and beaches for inspiration, plus a large population of journeyman artists, Los Angeles can be a great place to launch a career in art and animation.

The final word on choosing a city for art school graduates

When choosing a place to live, there's much more to consider than rent prices, job opportunities, and the number of art galleries in the area. Even if you aren't planning to make a career in any of the cities on this list, the advantages they share offer a valuable lesson in what to think about while choosing a place to start your life as a creative professional.

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About Noel Dahl

Noel Dahl is director of graduate admissions at California College of the Arts, where he oversees the recruitment, admissions, and enrollment functions of the school's graduate programs. He received his MFA in Fine Arts and has worked in higher education for the past 15 years.

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