15 Cities With the Most College Graduates

Woman college graduate
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on HireAHelper.

College graduates tend to have higher lifetime earnings, more job opportunities, and better economic stability. The proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has steadily increased over time, and according to U.S. Census Bureau data, currently stands at just over one-third. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many potential two-year college enrollees to rethink their plans and hold off on college, enrollment in four-year institutions has actually increased slightly.

The proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 13 percentage points since 1995, when less than 1 in 4 adults had a college degree. In 2014, women surpassed men in college degree attainment, and that gap has continued to widen since then. In 2019, 36.6% of adult women had college degrees compared with 35.4% of men. While overall enrollment in four-year institutions increased in 2020 compared with 2019, this increase was fueled solely by increases in female enrollment. The number of men who enrolled in four-year colleges fell by 1.2%.

At the state level, women have achieved higher levels of education than men everywhere but in Utah, where significantly more men hold at least a bachelor’s degree. While the male-female higher-education gap is largely the norm across the U.S., the overall proportion of adults with college degrees varies widely. Massachusetts and Colorado claim the largest proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, at 45.0% and 42.7%, respectively. Southern states tend to have lower levels of college-educated adults than other parts of the U.S. With just 22.3% and 21.1%, respectively, of adults having completed college, Mississippi and West Virginia have the lowest levels of educational attainment in the country.

Large Metros With the Most College Graduates

Graduates looking through a frame.
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To find the locations with the most college graduates, researchers at HireAHelper analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Researchers ranked metropolitan areas according to the proportion of adults (aged 25 and over) with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Researchers also calculated the five-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, median earnings for various levels of educational attainment, and the proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, separately for men and women.

Keep reading for the large metros (populations of 1 million or more) with the most college graduates.

15. Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT

The skyline of Hartford Connecticut, where median rents are relatively low
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.7%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: N/A
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $65,819
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $81,999
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $37,058
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.1%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 40.3%

14. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

Atlanta, Georgia
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.9%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.5%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $58,156
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $75,042
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $31,848
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 38.6%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 41.1%

13. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA

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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.9%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 7.5%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $62,806
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $89,813
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $31,552
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.8%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 40.0%

12. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

Portland skyline
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 40.3%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.9%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $60,441
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $76,950
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $34,322
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.4%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 41.1%

11. New York City-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

New York City
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 41.8%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 10.3%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $68,433
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $90,960
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $34,801
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 41.2%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 42.3%

10. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 41.9%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.1%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $63,782
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $85,226
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $37,247
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 41.5%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 42.2%

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

Minneapolis
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 43.2%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 8.0%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $62,590
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $80,495
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $36,192
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 42.4%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 44.0%

8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Seattle, Washington
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 44.1%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.9%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $70,458
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $96,262
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $40,082
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 44.4%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 43.9%

7. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

Denver skyline
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 45.8%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.3%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $63,807
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $75,343
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $35,953
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 45.2%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 46.3%

6. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

Austin, Texas
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 46.2%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.3%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $59,540
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $75,074
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $31,844
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 46.1%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 46.2%

5. Raleigh-Cary, NC

Raleigh, North Carolina
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 48.0%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 10.6%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $62,009
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $75,994
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $31,897
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 47.5%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 48.4%

4. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

Boston
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 49.3%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 9.1%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $70,034
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $90,102
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $39,572
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 48.7%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 49.9%

3. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

San Francisco, California
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.4%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.0%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $81,628
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $113,098
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $40,870
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.3%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.4%

2. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

Washington, D.C.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.4%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 4.3%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $72,305
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $100,873
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $36,628
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.3%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.5%

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

San Jose California
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  • Proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 52.7%
  • 5-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 10.9%
  • Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $88,470
  • Median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders: $131,291
  • Median earnings for high school graduates: $39,688
  • Proportion of men with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 54.1%
  • Proportion of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.2%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

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Many of the large metros with the largest proportion of college-educated adults are tech hubs that have well-paying, highly-skilled jobs. With almost 53% of adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree, the San Jose, California, metro area boasts the largest proportion of college graduates among large metros. With an average proportion of 45%, these large metros have substantially higher levels of college graduates than the national share of 33%. Median earnings across all levels of education skew higher in these metros than the national levels as well.

To find the locations with the most college graduates, researchers at HireAHelper analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Researchers ranked metropolitan areas according to the proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher. In the event of a tie, the metro with the larger number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher was ranked higher. Researchers also calculated the five-year change in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher (2014 to 2019), median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders, median earnings for graduate/professional degree holders, median earnings for high school graduates, and the proportion of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, separately for men and women. All statistics are for adults aged 25 and up.

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