When job hunting, whether you’re beginning a career or moving on to the next employer, it stands to reason that you’ll be looking for the highest salary you can get.
After all, the farther it goes, the more of your expenses you’ll be able to cover, and the more you’ll be able to save — or invest.
But, of course, it goes beyond just salary — although that’s the major factor. If you’re calling a city like New York home, that paycheck won’t go anywhere near as far as it would if you lived in a place with a lower cost of living.
And then there’s the question of the job itself: How easy will it be to find one, and what sort of opportunities are available in the city you’re living in (or moving to)? There are plenty of places online to seek out information about salaries and about cities, but how to figure out the most advantageous combination of each?
Related: The 20 richest cities in America
Jobseekers might like to know that CareerCast.com has done the research, cross-referencing the salaries of the 200 careers it tracks in its Jobs Rated report, using data on metropolitan areas that comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Then it looked at average cost of living in cities that, according to Payscale.com’s cost of living calculator, paid fairly well in a range of sectors — including data from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
While checking out these cities still won’t necessarily get you the highest salary in, say, software engineering, since you’d have to head to Silicon Valley for that, what you will find are cities where you’ll get the most bang for your salary buck: a viable job market with good salaries and lower-than-average cost of living, where your check will go farther than the corner Starbucks.
Here are the 10 cities that CareerCast says provide the best return on salary:
Situated in north central Wisconsin, Wausau is divided by the Wisconsin River and is known for its woods, lakes, and hills. (Photo: iStock)
10. Wausau, Wisconsin
Wausau is a powerhouse for those interested in the medical field, and offers some of the highest salaries for surgeons and dentists. While its median household income is right at the national average, at $53,300, its cost of living is not, running a hefty 9 percent below the country’s average.
In addition, it has a low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.
The University of Arizona is in the heart of downtown Tucson, but not far from the mountainous ridges that surround the city. (Photo: iStock)
9. Tucson, Arizona
The median household income doesn’t sound all that high at $45,856, but Tucson has a cost of living 2 percent below the national average — and the health care field does extremely well here too, in particular the professions of psychiatrist and surgeon. Much of that is thanks to the University of Arizona Medical Center, which occupies a major position in Tucson’s growing health care sector.
In addition to an unemployment rate of 5 percent, the city does offer a diverse job market outside health care — and it’s growing fast, again thanks in part to the University of Arizona.
As the second largest city in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh offers big city amenities without big city costs. (Photo: iStock)
Pittsburgh’s median household income is $52,293, with a cost of living that’s 3 percent below the national average. And that’s despite the fact that many surrounding cities are actually higher than the national average, such as Allentown (+6 percent), Philadelphia (+20 percent), Baltimore (+9 percent) and Bethesda (+26 percent).
The unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, which is higher than many others among the top 10, but it’s not only an important presence in the insurance industry, it boasts a “thriving university landscape.”
As a whole, the state of Texas is known for its oil and gas economy, which can make for good salaries in cheap-living cities. (Photo: iStock)
7. Midland, Texas
This is just the first of four Texas cities to make the list. In Midland, the median household income is a substantial $77,574, the cost of living runs 3 percent below the national average and the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent — with a job growth rate of 8 percent in recent years.
Job opportunities to be found here include plenty in the energy sector, which is fueling those high salaries. Both petroleum engineers and geologists are well-paid positions here.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the state’s oldest university and a major driver of jobs in the city. (Photo: iStock)