Graduates earning diplomas in the lucrative fields of science, technology, engineering and math cannot do much better than accept a job in the Tri-Cities, according to NerdWallet.
The financial literacy website ranked the Tri-Cities as the sixth best place in the nation for grads in those fields, coming in just after the Seattle area, which was No. 5.
NerdWallet scored 354 metropolitan areas in the United States to come up with the rankings based on communities having ample jobs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering or math, plus a good wage that would go far.
The Tri-Cities has just over 91 STEM jobs for every 1,000 jobs, according to NerdWallet. Employers include Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Department of Energy and contractors supporting complex environmental cleanup at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
While most of the high-ranking places on the list are tech hubs with many computer-related jobs, that’s not the case for the Tri-Cities.
The Tri-Cities Index of Innovation and Technology, prepared as a recruiting tool by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in late 2010, found the Tri-Cities’ technical strengths are in areas that include physics, chemical engineering and engineering degrees.
If software engineers are excluded, Benton and Franklin counties together have the greatest number of engineers per capita in the state, according to the PNNL report. With computer engineers included, King County has the most.
The average annual salary for a STEM job in the Tri-Cities is $91,297, and the money goes a long way. It has the second lowest median rent of the top 10 areas for STEM jobs, according to NerdWallet.
That low rent helped boost the Tri-Cities in the rankings, despite an average salary that falls short of those offered to STEM employees in large cities.
Grads looking for top pay might want to consider the San Jose, Calif., area where the average salary is highest at $117,783, according to NerdWallet.
But unless Mom and Dad have a basement apartment they can move into there, rent will take a good chunk of their salary. The median rent there is the highest among metropolitan areas considered at $1,640 a month.
Median rent in the Tri-Cities is $833 a month, according to NerdWallet, which pulled statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.
Seattle wages also were higher than the Tri-Cities at $98,493. But rent also was pricier at $1,135.
And grads might want to pick the Tri-Cities over Seattle if they value sunny skies or a relatively short commute. The PNNL report said the average commute in the Tri-Cities was 20 minutes compared to 27 minuets in Seattle and 30 minutes in San Jose.
PNNL did not look at opportunities for night life in its recruiting document, sticking with leisure activities for which the Tri-Cities outranked Seattle — miles of paved bike trails, public golf courses, park acreage and wineries per 100,000 people.
The metropolitan area NerdWallet ranked top in the nation for STEM grads was Huntsville, Ala., which it called the STEM heart of the South with a history of space flights and the aerospace industry.
The next four on the list were San Jose; Boulder, Colo.; Chapel Hill, N.C., and the Seattle area.
For more of the NerdWallet findings, go to www.nerdwallet.com/blog/cities/best-places-stem-grads-2015/.