The most educated cities in America are special places. Almost always filled with greater economic opportunity, higher levels of entrepreneurship, cultural offerings, better schools, and all around better quality of life, many of the most educated cities in the US are also the nicest. While there are a number of rankings on the topic online that all contribute their own glimpse into what an “educated” city looks like, we feel that many of these rankings are missing out. Many of America’s most educated places don’t fit into individual cities within a certain size range, but are rather comprised of dense clusters of interconnected towns (often the suburbs of larger metropolises). For this reason we’ve looked at Census data on a county level. Looking at the percentage of people 25 and older holding a bachelors degree or higher, we’ve then worked our way back to the key cities and locales within that region that are highly educated. Notable inclusions that other rankings miss are large portions of the D.C. metroplex, Manhattan, and a number of suburb regions of other metropolises. Check out the 50 most educated places in America below.
50. St. Augustine, FL
The oldest city in Florida contains the largest portion of an estimated 136,822 people over age twenty-five in St. Johns County, 41.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to three high schools and four colleges and universities, including Flagler College and the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. The county school district is the city’s top employer with over 3,000 employees, while privately owned Flagler Hospital employs over 1,500 workers and the US Army National Guard, headquartered in St. Augustine, employs 1,300. Cultural offerings are mostly historical, as the Ancient City has exchanged national hands multiple times since its colonization by Spain in the early sixteenth century, which has resulted in a certain archaeological and cultural diversity throughout the surrounding area. The Castillo de San Marcos is the most famous of St. Augustine’s national historic monuments on a long list of the same, thirteen of which originated during the Spanish colonial era from sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, one from the British colonial era, eight from the Flagler era, and numerous that refer to the city’s Native American heritage. The city is also home to over ninety parks, greenways, and recreation centers, as well as the World Golf Hall of Fame.
49. Hempstead-North Hempstead-Oyster Bay, NY
This network of Long Island commuter-towns maintains the largest share of an estimated 920,469 people over age twenty-five in Nassau County, 41.5 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The area is home to three major public high schools, as well as a large number of public and private colleges and universities, including the State University of New York – Old Westbury, Hofstra University, Adelphi University, and the New York Institute of Technology. Serving as a wealthy, mostly residential suburban getaway for the more industrious NYC, the Hempstead-North Hempstead-Oyster Bay area is also home to the headquarters of several large, publicly traded corporations. These include Henry Schein Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., and CA Technologies Inc. Cultural opportunities include everything that New York City has to offer in the way of food, music, arts, and entertainment, as well as several of its own sports teams, including the NHL’s New York Islanders, the pro soccer team F.C. New York, the pro lacrosse team, the Long Island Lizards, and pro baseball team, the Long Island Ducks.
48. Oakland, CA
As the largest city in the East San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland harbors the largest proportion of an estimated 1,044,256 people over age twenty five in Alameda County, 41.8 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Oakland is home to three large public high schools, as well as eight public and/or private universities, including the California College of the Arts, Lincoln University, and Holy Names University. It is also headquarters for the University of California school system. The city’s top five employers are mostly in the public sector. They are, in descending order: Oakland Unified School District, the County of Alameda, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, and the City of Oakland. The largest private sector employer is the not-for-profit healthcare conglomerate, Kaiser Permanente, which makes its headquarters in Oakland. In addition to claims of being one of the top twelve arts communities in the U.S., cultural offerings include a wide variety of cuisines in restaurants throughout the city; a vibrant nightlife with live music from a wide range of musicians; as well as four museums, fourteen parks, and three sports stadiums, each for a professional sports team.
47. Waukegan-North Chicago-Lake Forest-Highland Park, IL
The second collar county of Chicago on our list, the Waukegan-North Chicago-Lake Forest- Highland Park area contains most of the estimated 448,708 people over age twenty-five in Lake County, 41.9 percent of whom holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The cities are home to seven high schools and eleven public and private colleges and universities, including Lake Forest College, Trinity International University, and Barat College. Top employers for the largest city of Waukegan are mostly in the public sector, including Lake County itself, Waukegan Community Unit School District, the Illinois Department of Human services, and the City of Waukegan. There are also two publically owned companies in the medical industry who call the area home. These are Cardinal Health and Vista Health System. Private sector corporations with large presences in the area are the Fortune 500 company Abbott Laboratories, Lake Forest College, and drug manufacturing company, Hospira. Cultural offerings include everything Chicago has to offer in the way of food, music, and entertainment within a commuters’ distance, seven kid-friendly museums in the county area, as well as Six Flags Great America.
46. Champaign-Urbana, IL
These twin college towns maintain an estimated 115,291 people over age twenty-five in Champaign County, 42.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Champaign-Urbana is home to three public high schools and at least two private high schools in Champaign, as well as private Parkland College and of course the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The cities’ top employer is the public university, while private sector technology corporations such as Riverbed Technology, Citrix Systems, Abbott Laboratories, and Yahoo! all maintain a growing presence in the area. Cultural offerings include seven museums, three state parks, and three theater venues: Foellinger Auditorium, Assembly Hall, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the latter of which is considered among the best performing arts centers in the nation with 4 acres of land, four theaters, an amphitheatre, and over 400 performances annually. The Roger Ebert Film Festival is also held annually at the historic Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign.
45. Bloomington-Normal, IL
Located in the heart of Illinois’ Heartland in McLean County, Bloomington-Normal harbors an estimated 102,383 people over age twenty-five, 42.8 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Larger Bloomington is home to one public high school, several private schools, one private university (i.e., Illinois Wesleyan University), and one trade school (Hairmasters Institute of Cosmetology). Neighboring Normal has two universities as well, one of these being Illinois State University. The cities’ top employers are in the private sector: State Farm Insurance company with over 14,000 employees; Illinois State University with 3,259 employees; and Country Financial with just over 2,000 employees. Along with State Farm Insurance, the popular snack food company, Beer Nuts, is also headquartered in Bloomington. Cultural offerings include nineteen historic sites, an annual summer Shakespeare festival, as well as four enormous sports complexes and five local sports teams.
44. Denver, CO
Colorado’s capital and surrounding Denver County maintain an estimated 427,755 people over age twenty-five, 42.9 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Denver is home to fourteen high schools, three major public universities contained within the Auraria Campus, and a large number of private colleges and institutions, including the University of Denver, Johnson & Wales University, Regis University, and the Art Institute of Colorado. Top employers are AIMCO headquarters, supporting the largest owner and operator of apartment communities in the U.S. with around 3,500 employees, as well as the headquarters and distributing office for Molson Coors Brewing Company, Lockheed Martin, United Airlines, Kroger, and MapQuest. Government agencies also hold a presence in the area and employ a fair share of the city’s population. Cultural offerings include Denver Pavilions, a popular arts, entertainment, and shopping center in downtown Denver; the second largest Performing Arts Complex in the nation next to NYC’s Lincoln Center; and numerous public arts initiatives and installations, including temporary and permanent exhibitions at the Art District on Santa Fe as well as the River North Art District, or RiNo. Professional sports teams also play a large role in the local economy and culture, as the city is home to four professional sports stadiums.
43. Troy-Farmington Hills-Southfield-Rochester Hills, MI
Part of a large network of cities northwest of Detroit that are connected by urban and suburban sprawl, Troy, Farmington Hills, Southfield, and Rochester Hills maintain the largest share of an estimated 838,729 people over age twenty-five in Oakland County, 43.1 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The county area is home to twenty-eight local school districts and nine public and private colleges and universities. Top employers in the area are the three largest American automotive companies: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Although these corporations were hit hard by the Great Recession, they have begun using their influence and resources in Oakland County’s more diverse economy to help develop a knowledge-based economic initiative known as “Automation Alley,” which has regenerated a large employment center for engineers and related occupation in the northern Midwest. Cultural offerings are include sports stadiums for the Detroit Pistons, Detroit Shock, Oakland County Cruisers, and Oakland United Football Club, as well as close proximity to everything that Detroit has to offer in the way of food, music, theater, and permanent and temporary public arts installments.
42. Marietta, GA
One of the largest and most well-known suburbs of the Atlanta metro, Marietta contains the largest concentration of an estimated 457,919 people over age twenty-five in Cobb County, 43.7 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Marietta is home to one high school that offers an International Baccalaureate program, as well as two universities: Polytechnic State University and Life University. The city’s top employer is Cobb County Public School District with 13,371 employees, followed by not-for-profit WellStar Kennestone Hospital at 4,700 employees, and then the private sector’s YKK zipper manufacturer with 2,500 employees, Alere healthcare diagnostics with 1,766 employees, and Columbian Chemicals with 1,410 employees. Cultural offerings are close proximity to Atlanta, six historic districts within the city proper, and two museums, including Marietta’s Gone With the Wind Museum (aka “Scarlett on the Square”).
41. Cumming, GA
The commuter’s satellite city of Atlanta houses most of the 116,454 people over age twenty-five living in Georgia’s Forsyth County, 43.8 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Cumming is home to six high schools, one of which is an online school called iAchieve Virtual Academy, and hosts a campus for the University of North Georgia. The area’s top employers are the Georgia Department of Labor, followed swiftly by franchise stores for Pizza Hut and Petsmart. As county seat of the wealthiest county in the state of Georgia, however, most residents commute to work in much larger cities outside of Cumming, chiefly Atlanta, but also Alpharetta and Duluth. Cultural offerings include everything that Atlanta has to offer in the way of music, food, nightlife, and theater, as well as Lake Lanier, a popular summer destination for fishing and other watersports. Cumming is also home to many small-town, annual events and festivals, including the county fair, a farmer’s market, and a rodeo.
40. Fort Collins, CO
As the fourth most populous city in Colorado, Fort Collins maintains the majority of an estimated 197,365 people over age twenty-five living in Larimer County, 43.8 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Fort Collins is home to four major high schools, as well as Colorado State University and satellite campuses for the University of Phoenix and Regis University. Most of the city’s top employers are in the public sector, including Colorado State University, Poudre School District, and the City of Fort Collins in the number one, four, and six spots. However, private sector computer hardware manufacturers, Hewlett Packard, Agilent, Eastman Kodak, and Avago Technologies all inhabit the top ten employer list at number two, five, and nine spots, respectively, with over 1,000 employees each. Cultural offerings include everything that a large college town has to offer in the way of food, nightlife, and music. The city popularly known as the home of a large and diverse brewing industry, including microbreweries for New Belgium, the Odell Brewing Company, and the Fort Collins Brewery as well as a brewery for Anheuser-Busch, which is run just outside the city limits. Several festivals and events are held annually, the largest of which is the Colorado Brewer’s Festival followed by the Colorado Marathon. As a proud arts city, the Center for Fine Art Photography, University Center for the Arts, Fort Collins Museum of Art, the Arts Incubator of the Rockies, and the Bas Bleu Theatre all represent performers of various art forms in the area. Finally, as a city surrounded by mountains, the area’s outdoor sports culture is a haven for residents who are also hikers, bikers, climbers, skiers, and boarders.
39. Tallahassee, FL
Florida’s capital city contains an estimated 160,509 people over age twenty-five in Leon County, 44.2 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Tallahassee is home to many high-ranking public high schools, as well as Florida State University, Florida A&M University, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The city’s top three employers are all in the public sector: the State of Florida, Florida State University, Leon County School Board, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, and the City of Tallahassee. The top private sector employer is Publix, with over 2,000 employees. Cultural opportunities include everything that large college towns have to offer in the way of music venues, nightlife, food, and entertainment, as well as three state parks, six museums, and myriad points of interest, such as Civil War battlefields.
38. Redwood City, CA
Just north of Silicon Valley, Redwood City harbors the largest share of an estimated 513,291 people over age twenty-five in San Mateo County, CA, 44.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to four public high schools and one community college, so most residents receive their college degrees from one of the many top-tier universities in and around the Valley. Top five employers are Oracle, Electronic Arts, Kaiser Permanente, Silver Spring Networks, and Stanford Hospital. Numerous private, tech-oriented companies are based in Redwood, including Ampex, Avangate, BigBand Networks, BroadVision, Shutterfly, Evernote, and iCracked. Cultural offerings include everything Silicon Valley has to offer in the way of performing arts theaters and museums, as well as some twenty-four parks of various shades, shapes, and sizes. Fun fact: the city’s slogan is “Climate Best by Government Test” because of global meteorological surveys that pinpointed it as one of three places in the early twentieth century where residents could practically get away with wearing T-shirts year-round.
37. Danbury-Stamford-New Canaan, CT
The best-known collection of NYC suburbs in Connecticut, the Danbury-Stamford-New Canaan tri-city area contains most of the 44.8 percent of 624,597 people over age twenty-five who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in Fairfield County. The cities are home to five high schools and five colleges and universities. These are Western Connecticut State University and Paul Mitchell the School in Danbury, in addition to the University of Connecticut-Stamford, and Bais Binyomin Academy in Stamford. Top employers within the surrounding county include a smattering of investment groups, including Bridgewater Associates, Aladdin Capital Management, and Point72 Asset Management. Although the recession caused many headquarters of multinational corporations to vacate their buildings, many of these headquarter buildings are still in the area: a boon to local startups looking for office space. Cultural offerings include having NYC within commuters’ distance, eight orchestras and symphonies, as well as six annual music and art events ranging from film festivals to oyster fairs.
36. Austin, TX
The self-dubbed “Live Music Capital of the World” maintains an estimated 687,221 people over age twenty-five in Travis County, 44.9 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Austin is home to 29 public school districts, including many award-winning public high schools, as well as the University of Texas at Austin, St. Edward’s University, Concordia University, and the Art Institute of Austin. The top ten employers in the city are as follows, in descending order: the Austin Independent School District, the City of Austin, Dell, the U.S. Federal Government, Freescale Semiconductor, IBM, St. David’s Healthcare Partnership, Seton Family Hospitals, the State of Texas, and Texas State University. High-tech companies, Apple, Facebook, and Google also maintain a business presence in the city. With the population growing exponentially, cultural opportunities are growing, too. In the home of Austin City Limits, live music can be found every night one of the many hundreds of live music venues in the city. Several film festivals are held annually. Museums include the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), the O. Henry Museum, the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, and with public art on most streets of the downtown area, the alleyways themselves can appear like veritable museums.
35. Durham, NC
This second major vertice of the North Carolina Research Triangle on our list contains an estimated 183,385 people over age twenty-five in its home of Durham County, 45.1 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Durham is home to twelve high schools, a number of private schools, Duke University, and the historically black college of North Carolina Central University. Duke and its University Health System are the city’s top employers, towering 24,000 employees above their closest competitor, IBM, which is also the top employer among private corporations in the area. GlaxoSmithKline, Fidelity Investments, Quintiles, RTI International, and Cree follow with more than 2,000 employees each. Cultural offerings include jazz and blues festivals, symphonies, and local music concerts, as well as public plays and arts exhibitions, the American Dance Festival, and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Home to the nationally acclaimed Scrap Exchange, the largest not-for-profit, creative arts reuse center nationwide, this art smart city knows how to appreciate its creatives.
34. Yonkers-Greenburgh-New Rochelle-Mount Vernon, NY
One of the first suburban metros to develop in the twenty-first century, this network of cities northeast of NYC harbor the lion’s share of an estimated 649,906 people over the age of twenty-five in Westchester County, 45.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher The area is home to both public and private high schools that consistently rank among the best in New York State and the United States. Fourteen universities have campuses in the county, with five of those residing in Yonkers and New Rochelle, three in New Rochelle alone. Top employers are in the biotech, healthcare, and medtech industries, including ContraFect, Regeneron, and Progenics Pharmaceuticals. Cultural offerings include a hop-skip-and-jump away from NYC, as well as a litany of famous historic sites and museums.
33. Merion-Abington-Cheltenham-Norristown, PA
These suburbs of Philadelphia maintain the lion’s share of an estimated 559,559 people over the age of twenty-five in Montgomery County. 45.5 percent of that population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher according to U.S. Census Data for 2013. The area is home to five public high schools and a number of colleges and universities, including Penn State Abington and Bryn Mawr College. Top employers are mostly governmental organizations, including Abington Memorial Hospital and local school districts. However, private sector medical corporations such as GlaxoSmithKline, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, and Pfizer all have offices in the area. Cultural offerings include everything that Philadelphia provides in the way of museums, music, theater, and national historic sites, all within a short commute. The Old York Road Symphony, founded in 1932 as one of the oldest all-volunteer orchestras in the country, is also based in Abington.
32. Minneapolis, MN
The largest of the two Twin Cities contains an estimated 795,357 people over age twenty-five Hennepin County, 45.8 percent which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to seven public high schools and thirteen technical schools, colleges, and universities, including the University of Minnesota. Top employers include the headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies: Target, U.S. Bancorp, Xcel Energy, Ameriprise Financial, and Thrivent Financial. Other top employers include the University of Minnesota, several financial industry companies like Wells Fargo, RBC Wealth Management, and TCF Financial, as well as a handful of medical industry companies and hospitals, such as Allina Health, Fairview Health Services, and Hennepin County Medical Center. Cultural offerings include one of the five largest modern art museums in the U.S., the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, voted the nation’s best arts district in 2015 with over 400 independent artists and recurring annual events, as well as a theater scene that rivals New York City’s
31. Hackensack-Teaneck-Mahwah, NJ
The most populous jurisdiction in New Jersey harbors the majority of an estimated 639,638 people over age twenty-five in Bergen County, 45.9 percent which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The Hackensack-Teaneck-Mahwah area is home to over forty-five public high schools, over twenty private high schools, as well as five colleges and universities, which include Saint Peter’s University, Ramapo College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. Top employers for the region are in the medical industry: Hackensack University Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, with over 12,000 employees combined. Large, private sector medical corporations also hire a significant number of the population, and include Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc., Express Scripts, and Quest Diagnostics. Cultural offerings include commuters’ distance from downtown New York City, the Bergen Performing Arts Center, and numerous museums located throughout the county. The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation also announced it was launching its ArtsBergen program to facilitate collaboration between local, regional, and national artists starting in 2014.
30. Wheaton-Naperville-Hinsdale, IL
These suburbs maintain the largest share of an estimated 618,755 people over age twenty-five in Chicago’s collar county of DuPage, 46.3 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to six public high schools, nine private schools, and eight college and university campuses. These include Northern Illinois University, DePaul University, The College of DuPage, DeVry University, Northwestern College, and a Business & Industry campus for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Top employers are Edward Hospital, Nicor Gas, Alcatel-Lucent, Indian Prairie School District, and Naperville Community Unit School District, all with over 2,500 employees. Private sector corporations, BP America, OfficeMax, Tellabs, and Nalco all maintain strong presences in the area, with each hiring over 1,000 employees as of 2010. Cultural offerings include a commuter’s distance to arts and entertainment hub Chicago, as well as a public library that consistently ranked number one in the U.S. for eleven years on Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings. Also home to the Naperville Independent Film Festival, the area appreciates art from all walks of life.
29. Santa Clara-Cupertino-Sunnyvale-Palo Alto (aka Silicon Valley), CA
These largest cities in Silicon Valley contain an estimated 1,220,205 people over age twenty-five in Santa Clara County, 46.5 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The area is home to dozens of public high schools, as well as thirty-six universities colleges and trade schools, including Stanford University, the UC Santa Cruz, as well as a satellite campus for Carnegie Mellon University. Top employers include the major high technology corporations, Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as e-commerce company, EBay. Top employers in other industries include restauranteurs Bon Appetit-Cafe Adobe, medical specialists Kaiser Permanente, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and Surgecenter of Palo Alto, as well as a government office for NASA. Cultural offerings include an extensive park system with four state and one country park, as well as one open space preserve. Many of the major tech companies also support local museums, such as the Intel Museum, Computer History Museum, and the Tech Museum of Innovation.
27. Madison, WI (tie)
Also known locally as “Mad Town,” Wisconsin’s capital harbors an estimated 323,991 people over age twenty-five in Dane County, 46.6 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Madison is home to five public high schools, a number of private schools, as well as three public universities. The largest of these is the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which in 2004 Forbes ranked as the university with highest number of PhDs per capita and third highest number of college graduates per capita. Universities outside of Madison also provide additional degree programs through satellite campuses, which include Cardinal Stritch University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, Globe University, Lakeland College, the University of Phoenix, and Upper Iowa University. While top employers are by and large in the public sector (i.e., the Wisconsin State Government and University of Wisconsin – Madison), private sector corporations in the industries of high-tech, health, biotech, and advertising have taken root and are growing noticeably, especially with global technology companies like Google, Microsoft, and Broadjam locating main offices inside the city limits. Cultural offerings include the largest producer-only farmer’s market (i.e., the Dane County Farmers’ Market) on Capitol Square every Saturday of the summer, as well as the Great Taste of the Midwest craft beer festival every August. Winter sports abound in the form of ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowkiting on Lake Mendota. The city is also the proud home of LGBTQ-famous music festival, Fruit Fest.
27. Seattle, WA (tie)
Known as the Emerald City, this largest city in the Pacific Northwest maintains an estimated 1,375,760 people over age twenty-five, 46.6 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Seattle is home to fourteen public high schools, twelve public schools, one public university (i.e., the University of Washington) and several small, private colleges and arts institutions, including Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, the Cornish College of the Arts and the Art Institute of Seattle. Seattle’s top employers are among the many Fortune 500 companies headquartered within the city limits, including Amazon.com, Starbucks, and Nordstrom. However, a growing cohort of entrepreneurs are creating jobs within the “new economy”: a hotbed for tech startups, Internet and mobile-based companies. Cultural offerings include the over one-hundred-year-old Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Well-known for its coffee culture, coffee purveyors provide the city with dozens of different styles of coffee shops, and as the birthplace of grunge, the city’s music scene, which is also the stomping ground for many avant-garde jazz musicians and popular alternative rock artists, has never disappointed.
26. Burlington, VT
Known locally as “Burly,” the Queen City contains an estimated 102,086 people over age twenty-five in Chittenden County, 47.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher according to U.S. Census Data for 2013. The city is home to one public high school, six private high schools, and three colleges and universities, including the University of Vermont, Burlington College, Champlain College, and UVM College of Medicine. The university medical center employs the largest portion of the workforce, while private sector and large corporations such as the G.S. Blodgett company, General Electric, and General Dynamics also make their home in Burlington. Smaller food and service industry companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and Rhino Foods also employ a fair share of the city population and maintain a headquarters within the city limits. Cultural offerings include those which come with most college towns, including ample bars and music venues (the University of Vermont can claim to be the place of origin for the band Phish) as well an annual local art series called “South End Art Hop,” for which artists, businesses, studios, and galleries join forces to show, promote, and vend their wares.
25. Raleigh, NC
The North Carolina capital harbors an estimated 601,061 people over age twenty-five in Wake County, 48 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to nine public high schools (three who offer International Baccalaureate programs and four early college high schools), as well as two public universities and ten private colleges and universities, seven of which are not-for-profit. Top employers are in the public sector: the State of North Carolina, the Wake County Public School System, and North Carolina State University, while private sector corporations WakeMed, Red Hat, Progress Energy, and First Citizens BancShares are all within the top ten employers for the local workforce, maintaining over 1,500 workers each. Cultural offerings include 15 museums, countless music venues (both indoor and outdoor), and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, which houses 4 performing arts venues: the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, the Fletcher Opera Theater, the Kennedy Theatre, and the Meymandi Concert Hall. As the first of two vertices on the North Carolina Research Triangle on our list, Raleigh is connected via transit lines to surrounding cities, Durham and Chapel Hill, allowing residents to enjoy the local, cultural, and information exchange that a region with so many opportunities for higher learning has to offer.
24. Atlanta, GA
The capital of Atlanta maintains an estimated 622,408 people over age twenty-five in Fulton County, 48.2 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Atlanta is home to fourteen public high schools, forty-two private schools, and more than thirty colleges and universities. These include Georgia Tech University, Georgia State University, and Emory University, as well as the largest college consortium of historically black colleges and universities, among which are Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Interdenominational Theological Center. Corporate operations comprise a large share of Atlanta’s economy, as the city contains the nation’s third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, including global headquarters for The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Airlines, and Newell-Rubbermaid, boasting an additional 75 percent Fortune 1000 companies that conduct business within its borders. As a national center for the arts, Atlanta’s cultural offerings include permanent, professional, and resident artists in all major performing arts disciplines, whether that be opera, ballet, orchestra, or theater. Museums include the High Museum of Art and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and music venues throughout the city, with impressive hip hop, country, and indie rock scenes to play them.
23. West Chester-Downingtown-Coatesville-South Coatesville, PA
The 2010 Census’s highest-income jurisdiction for Pennsylvania contains the lion’s share of an estimated 335,250 people over age twenty-five in Chester County, 48.5 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The four-city area is home to eight public high schools, while Chester County houses three private as well as three public universities. Top employers in the area include private sector corporations such as Vanguard Group, Inc., QVC Network Inc., Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc., whereas top public sector employers are the federal government, the County of Chester, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Cultural offerings include 316 properties and districts listed under the National Register of Historic Places for Chester County, in addition to being within commuters’ distance of one of the state’s main culture-hubs (i.e., Philadelphia) which offers numerous museums, theatres, public art installations, and national historic landmarks.
22. Quincy-Wellesley-Dedham, MA
The tri-city community southwest of Boston harbors the lion’s share of an estimated 469,777 people over age twenty-five in Norfolk County, 49.2 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The three cities are home to four high schools and four university campuses, including Wellesley College, which is consistently ranked among the top colleges in the nation. Top employers in Quincy are State Street Corporation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Boston Scientific. Top employers in Wellesley are Sun Life Financial, Wellesley College, and Babson College. Top employers in Dedham are the parent company to Viacom/CBS, National Amusements, as well as the regional mutual insurance company, Norfolk & Dedham Group. Due to the three cities’ close proximity to the state capital, cultural offerings include everything that Boston has to offer, as well as a myriad of annual festivals, including Wellesley’sWonderful Weekend, Quincy’sLunar New Year Festival, and Dedham’sAnnual Fall Fair and Pumpkin Fest.
21. McKinney-Allen-Plano-Frisco-Dallas, TX
These suburbs northwest of Dallas maintain the majority of an estimated 521,349 people over age twenty-five in Collin County, 49.3 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The cities are home to five independent school districts, as well as Collin College, with its seven campuses in the 5-city area, while Dallas Baptist University also maintains a satellite campus in Frisco. Top employers in the area include private sector corporations such as the high-tech companies, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, as well as food and retail giants, Cadbury-Schweppes, Frito-Lay, Blockbuster, and JCPenny. Top public sector employers include the Allen School District, the City of Allen, the City of Plano, and the Plano Independent School District. Cultural offerings include close proximity to Dallas-Fort Worth, where museums, theatres, and concerts abound, as well as three ghost towns in the surrounding county.
20. Parsippany-Troy Hills-Mount Olive-Randolph-Rockaway-Roxbury, NJ
These six townships contain the lion’s share of an estimated 342,610 people over twenty-five in Morris County, 50 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. As affluent Newark suburbs, their area is home to dozens of private secondary schools and universities, as well as the County College of Morris, which provides a transfer program through Rutgers university. Top employers in the area are Novartis Life Sciences, with over 5,000 employees, as well as Atlantic Health Healthcare, Louis Berger Group Services, Picatinny Arsenal Industrial, and Saint Claire’s Hospital, Inc., all with over 2,500 employees. Thirty-three Fortune 500 companies are also headquartered in the area, including AT&T, Honeywell, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson&Johnson, and ExxonMobil, helping make the median household income at $89,587 the seventh-wealthiest for counties in the nation. Cultural offerings include 28 county parks and 16 public and private golf courses. The cities’ proximity to Newark and NYC–where many of their residents also commute–make it a short distance away from the museums, theaters, and nightlife that make the Northeast so culturally vibrant.
19. Columbus, OH
Once known as “Biggest Small Town in America” and now known as “Discovery City,” Columbus harbors an estimated 115,356 people over age twenty-five in Delaware County, 50.5 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to nineteen public high schools, eighteen private colleges and institutions, as well as two public colleges. Ohio State University is the largest of these and employs the largest share of the local workforce, with over 17,000 employees, coming in behind only the State of Ohio, which employs over 26,000 workers. Top private sector employers include JP Morgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance, OhioHealth, and Honda. Cultural offerings include the Columbus Museum of Art, which houses a collection of European and American art up to the modern period, as well as the Center of Science and Industry Columbus, which was named one of the top ten best science centers in the nation. Annual festivals include one of the largest fairs in the country, the Columbus Arts Festival, and the Jazz and Ribs Festival, all of which occur downtown on the riverfront. One of the largest gay pride parades also occurs every year on the last weekend of June, reflecting the city’s sizable gay community of around 35,000 residents.
18. Cambridge, MA
The oldest college town in the U.S. maintains an estimated 1,056,080 people over age twenty-five in Middlesex County, 50.7 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Cambridge proper is home to three public high schools, ten colleges and universities, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Harvard University and MIT are the city’s two top employers, hiring over 20,000 employees combined. The closest competitors for number of employees are the City of Cambridge itself, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, and Biogen Idec, which employ between 2,500 and 3,000 employees each. Biotechnology firms dominate the private sector in the area, with companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Shire, and Pfizer expanding their presence around Kendall Square and East Cambridge yearly. Cultural offerings include expansive colonial era and contemporary architecture in the downtown area, the Harvard Art Museum, MIT Museum, as well as several public art installations, both permanent and temporary.
17. Somerset-Bridgewater-Franklin-Hillsborough, NJ
This community of NYC suburbs is one of many on our list, maintaining an estimated population of 223,940 people over the age of twenty-five in New Jersey’s Somerset County, 51.1 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The cities are home to one high school and two colleges: Somerset Community College and Raritan Valley Community College, the latter of which has a partnership with Rutgers University. Top employers aside from local government are in the pharmaceutical and tech industries, most of which hire out of Bridgewater and Somerset, including AT&T and Catalent Pharma Solutions Inc., respectively. Cultural offerings include extensive parks, walking trails, hiking trails and biking trails, as well as the Trump National Golf Club. The city is also home to many residents who commute to New York City for work, so the city is in close proximity to the largest veritable hub of culture in the Northeast.
16. Ann Arbor, MI
Affectionately known as “A Squared” or “Tree Town,” Ann Arbor houses an estimated 215,933 people over the age of twenty-five in Washtenaw County, 51.3 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to six public high schools (3 traditional and 3 alternative), as well as five public and private colleges and universities, the largest of which is the University of Michigan. Others include Concordia University, the University of Phoenix, Cleary University, and a large handful of law schools. The University of Michigan employs the largest share of the city’s workforce with greater than 30,000 employees. Automobile manufacturers General Motors and Visteon also hire a significant proportion of the Ann Arbor community, along with high tech academic companies such as JSTOR, ProQuest, and UMI, and high tech SEO companies such as Google’s AdWords. Cultural offerings include a number of performing arts troupes and facilities on the University of Michigan campus along with several museums. However, the city is known for its reputation in the realm of music, which the University Musical Society promotes with over 60 events each year, attracting hundreds of artists and musicians from around the nation and the world to perform once a week on average every year.
15. Overland Park, KS
The Kansas City suburb harbors an estimated 368,317 people over age twenty-five in Johnson County, 51.7 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to eleven public high schools and six public and private colleges and universities, including Cleveland Chiropractic College, University of Kansas-Edwards Campus, Baker University, and Kansas Christian College. The city’s five largest industries are in the service industries of health care, retail trade, professional and technical services, finance and insurance, and information technology. The city seeks to expand technology infrastructure and acts as the corporate headquarters for more than 40 companies, the largest of which is Sprint. Cultural offerings include the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, two golf clubs, a 12-field tournament-quality soccer complex, and an historic downtown area, all of which have been taken into account for Overland Park’s consistent ranking among the top 10 Best Places to Live in the United States.
13. Washington, D.C. (tie)
District of Columbia(source)
The country’s capital maintains an estimated 430,307 people over age twenty-five in the District of Columbia, 52.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to seventeen public high schools, seven private universities–including American University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University–and one public university: the University of the District of Columbia. The District is well known for its medical research institutions such as Washington Hospital Center and Children’s National Medical Center, as well as its higher educational provisions for all D.C. residents, who are eligible for a grant of up to $10,000 per year to offset the cost of tuition at any public university in the nation. Top employers are the federal government, which hires about 29 percent of D.C.’s employed population, followed by tourism, education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. Many private sector organizations make their headquarters in the nation’s capitol as well. Cultural offerings include the litany of national historic landmarks and artifacts of the United States government, as well as museums and theaters galore. The culture of political theatre is not without its fair share of venues both in and around the nation’s capitol, as television and newspaper media cover most every event in the city.
13. San Francisco, CA (tie)
The City by the Bay maintains an estimated 635,411 people over age twenty-five in San Francisco County, 52.4 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. It is home to nineteen public high schools, sixteen private high schools, and eleven colleges and universities, both public and private, including the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF), which is the only UC school dedicated entirely to graduate education in health and biomedical sciences and that maintains over 20 facilities across the entire city. Other well known colleges and universities include San Francisco State University, the University of San Francisco, Golden Gate UNiversity, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the California Culinary Academy. Financial services, tourism, and high-end technology employ most members of the community. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are both headquartered in San Francisco, helping make it one of the top ten global financial centers, while tourism accounts for more than one in every seven jobs in the city, and technology accounts for nearly one in every ten. The city’s top three employers are the city government itself at 25,000+ employees, the University of California San Francisco at 22,000+ employees, and California Pacific Medical Center, the largest private sector employer, at 8,500+ employees. Cultural opportunities are endless with household names such as the San Francisco Symphony orchestra, The Fillmore, and Haight-Ashbury. Museums include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the California Academy of Sciences, and the Exploratorium.
12. Franklin, TN
This small, southern Nashville suburb contains an estimated 122,207 people over age twenty-five in Williamson County, 52.8 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to Franklin and Centennial High School, as well as two colleges: Williamson Christian College and O’More College of Design. The city’s proximity to Nashville opens it up to multiple colleges and universities in the state capitol, including Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Tennessee State University. The city’s top five employers are CoolSprings Galleria, Community Health Systems, Williamson Medical Center, Nissan North America (headquarters), and Verizon, all of which employ over 1,000 community members. Cultural offerings include four annual festivals: Main Street Festival, Wine Down Main Street, Pumpkinfest, and Dickens of a Christmas. In addition, the movie premieres for Friday Night Lights and Elizabethtown were held at the historic Franklin Theatre, and numerous country music artists–including Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban–have called Franklin home at one point or another in their careers.
11. San Rafael-Navato-North San Francisco Bay Area, CA
The North Bay Area maintains an estimated 187,029 people over age twenty-five in Marin County, 54.6 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The cities are home to eight public high schools and two college campuses for the College of Marin, one in Kentfield, the other in North Marin. The area’s top five largest private-sector employers are Kaiser Permanente, Marin General Hospital, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, Autodesk, and BioMarin Pharmaceutical. Other companies with large shares of community employment include Safeway, Comcast, Macy’s, and Wells Fargo. Cultural offerings include George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch, the Marin County Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as famous geographic locations such as the Muir Woods redwood forest, Stinson Beach, the Point Reyes National Seashore, and Mount Tamalpais, where mountain biking is rumored to have been born. The nation’s oldest cross country running event also takes place annually and attracts thousands of athletes to the area.
10. Carmel-Fishers-Noblesville, IN
The central and most affluent jurisdiction in Indiana maintains an estimated population of 181,413 people over age twenty-five in Hamilton County, 55.1 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The cities are home to four public high schools and three college campuses for ITT Technical Institute, Hair Fashions by Kaye Beauty College, and Indiana Christian University. The fifth largest city in Indiana and selected as the Best Place to Live in the United States 2012, Carmel houses over 40 corporate headquarters for companies such as Allegion, CNO Financial Group, Delta Faucet, and ITT Technical Institute. Top employers in Fishers include large corporations such as Navient, ADT, Target, and Walmart. The tri-city area also offers multitudes of cultural experiences, including Noblesville’s Courthouse Square; Carmel’s Arts & Design District, which promotes and supports numerous small businesses, annual car shows, and the Museum of Miniature Houses; as well as Fishers’s dozen and more parks and conservation areas, which include Geist Reservoir, a lake that provides space for swimming, fishing, and a range of outdoor sports.
9. Highlands Ranch, CO
One of the wealthiest Denver suburbs maintains an estimated 188,063 people over age twenty-five in Douglas County, 55.8 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Highlands Ranch is home to 20 high schools and is located only 12 miles south of Denver. As a planned suburb of the capitol, many residents of Highlands Ranch can receive their education from the numerous colleges and universities that Denver has to offer, or from the University Center at Chaparral in neighboring Parker, which offers courses through Arapahoe Community College, the University of Colorado Denver, and University College of the University of Denver. Most residents (~58%) are employed in management, business, science, and the arts, while a large minority (~26%) are employed in sales and office occupations. The three industries with the largest percentage of the labor force are (1) educational services, health care, and social assistance; (2) professional, scientific, and management; and (3) finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing. Cultural offerings include everything that Denver has to offer in the way of outdoor sports, music, entertainment, and the performing arts.
8. Rockville-Germantown-Bethesda-Gaithersburg, MD
Also referred to as MoCo, the most populous county in Maryland contains an estimated 678,232 people over age twenty-five in Montgomery County, 57.1 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Its cities are home to twenty-five public high schools, as well as the facility for Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville, which offers access to baccalaureate and Master’s level degree programs from Towson University, Bowie State University, Salisbury University, and all University of Maryland campuses. As of 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services employs the largest number of workers in the area at 28,500, with Montgomery County Public Schools following closely at 25,429, the U.S. Department of Defense employing 12,000, the County of Montgomery employing 10,815, and the U.S. Department of Commerce employing 5,500. Private companies who call this region home include Lockheed Martin, Giant, Verizon, Chevy Chase Bank, and Marriott International, which is headquartered in the region. Cultural offerings include the occasional U.S. Open golf championship, as well as the annual AT&T National PGA Tournament at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club. The Montgomery County Agricultural fair is also held annually in Gaithersburg and is the largest of its kind in the state. And finally, religious diversity is a proud point for the area, as 40 percent of the population affiliate themselves with fifteen world religions, and of those fifteen religions, over half (i.e., eight) are represented equally among the total population.
7. Ashburn-Dulles-Lansdowne-Leesburg-Sterling, VA
The third most populous jurisdiction in Virginia maintains an estimated 207,248 people over age twenty-five in Loudoun County, 57.9 percent which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The cities are home to fifteen public high schools, nine private schools, and six colleges and universities, including the main campus for Patrick Henry College, satellite campuses for George Washington University, George Mason University, Marymount University, Shenandoah University, and Strayer University, as well as the Janelia Farm Research Campus for Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Loudoun County Public Schools employs the largest share of the community’s employees at 10,098, while the County of Loudoun, M.C. Dean, Verizon Business, and the Department of Homeland Security employ somewhere between the neighborhood of one thousand and five thousand workers. Cultural offerings include several Civil War battlefields, several colonial era homes and public buildings, as well as over 85 properties and districts on the National Register of Historic Places.
6. Boulder, CO
Boulder and the Flatirons(source)
The home of CU Boulder maintains an estimated 192,815 people over age twenty-five in Boulder County, 58.3 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The county is also home to fourteen public high schools–the two largest being Boulder High School and Fairview High School–as well as one one private university Naropa University. The Culinary School of the Rockies and eleven research institutes also have campuses within the city limits. Its largest employers include tech companies such as IBM, Seagate Technology, Micro Motion, Intrado Inc., Digital Globe, Lockheed Martin, Markit On Demand, and Google Inc., among many others. Large employers from other sectors include the medical supply company, Covidien, as well as the food industry giant, Whole Foods. Cultural offerings are myriad, including over 35,000 acres of recreational land that are ripe for outdoor sports like rock climbing and hiking at Chautauqua park. Summer music festivals like the Colorado Music Festival are also held at Chautauqua Auditorium, and the university’s annual 420 celebration is infamous for its largesse.
5. Fairfax-Clifton-Herndon-Springfield-Annandale, VA
Center for Advanced Technology(source)
Comprising the most populous jurisdiction of Virginia, Clifton, Herndon, Springfield and Annandale contain the lion’s share of an estimated 748,384 people over age twenty-five in Fairfax County, 58.6 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher according to U.S. Census Data for 2013. The area is home to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, which consistently ranks at or near the top of U.S. public schools for National Merit Semi-Finalists, as well as the central campus of George Mason University, the University of Fairfax, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine. The region’s largest employer is the Fairfax County Public School system with over 24,590 employees, followed closely by the United States government, which employs 23,586 people. Inova Health System, George Mason University, and Booz Allen Hamilton are the top-employing private sector companies in the region. Cultural offerings include annual festivals such as Celebrate Fairfax!, the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, and the International Children’s Festival. Arts in the Parks, Braddock Nights, Lee District Nights, Mt. Vernon Nights, and Nottoway Nights and just a few among many popular concert series that are held every summer just outside the City of Fairfax.
4. Borough of Manhattan, NY
The most densely populated borough in New York City maintains an estimated 1,198,681 people over age twenty-five in New York County, 58.9 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Manhattan is home to some of the best-known high schools in the city, including Beacon, Stuyvesant, High School of Fashion Industries, and the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, as well as internationally recognized colleges and universities. These include Columbia, Barnard, New York University, Juilliard, Pace, Berkeley College, and The New School. Accounting for nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the city, Manhattan’s largest employers are organized into sectors, with the financial sector, corporate sector, and technology sector maintaining the lion’s share of city employees. Cultural offerings number in the hundreds, including but nowhere near limited to the internationally recognized Metropolitan Museum of Art (i.e., the Met), the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, Museum of Modern Art (i.e., MoMA), as well as the Guggenheim Museum. The downtown neighborhood of Chelsea boasts over 200 art galleries alone.
3. Columbia-Clarksville-Dayton-Glenelg-Glenwood-West Friendship, Maryland
These D.C.-Baltimore suburbs maintain the largest portion of an estimated 196,576 people over age twenty-five in Howard County, 60 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The area is home to 12 public high schools that consistently rank first in Maryland for standardized test scores and graduation rates; an award-winning library; as well as several college and university campuses, including Woodstock College, University of Phoenix, and Johns Hopkins’ Computer Career Institute and Applied Physics Laboratory. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory employs the region’s largest number of people (5000+) with Verizon Wireless, Lorien Health Systems, Howard County General Hospital, and Howard Community College employing the second, third, fourth, and fifth largest number of people. Cultural offerings include the Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland, the open space preserve known as Blandair, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Howard County Library, and the Columbia Orchestra.
2. Alexandria, VA
Another high-income D.C. suburb like neighboring Arlington, Alexandria maintains an estimated 109,116 people over age of twenty-five in the area. 61.4 percent of that population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the city is home to two public high schools, several well-known private high schools, and four campuses maintained by national colleges and universities, including Virginia Theological Seminary, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, and George Washington University. Home to numerous government agencies and private corporations, some of Alexandria’s largest employers are the U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Inova Health System, and the Institute for Defense Analyses, all maintaining somewhere between 500 and 3000 employees. Cultural offerings include national and local landmarks such as the Little Theatre of Alexandria, the south cornerstone of the original District of Columbia, Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria Black History Resource Center, and the Masonic Temple / Observation Deck. Popular events include the Scottish Christmas walk and other parades through Old Town that celebrate various occasions such as Saint Patrick’s Day and George Washington’s Birthday. The city also maintains 70 major parks and 30 recreation centers.
1. Arlington, VA
Consistently ranked among the most affluent, educated, and forward-thinking D.C. suburbs, the city of Arlington maintains over half an estimated 161,322 people over age twenty-five in Arlington County, 71.7 percent of which holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. The city is home to four public high schools (i.e., Wakefield, Washington-Lee, Yorktown, and H-B Woodlawn) and eighteen campuses for both public and private colleges and universities. These include Marymount University, George Mason University, Virginia Tech, DeVry University, Strayer University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and the University of Oklahoma, as well as myriad technical and professional schools or institutes. Consistently maintaining the lowest unemployment rate of any jurisdiction in Virginia, Arlington’s largest employers are federal agencies: the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, and FDIC, all employing more than 2,000 workers. Cultural offerings include national landmarks such as Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and close proximity to everything Washington, DC has to offer in the way of music, food, nightlife, museums, arts centers, and theaters.