How Missouri Works

How does Missouri work? With more than 2.8 million payroll employees across the state in industries that are growing and looking for recent graduates of colleges, universities, technical schools, credential programs, and apprenticeships. The numbers show that Missouri has plenty of room in the workforce for those that are interested in a whole host of careers and industries. So, how are you going to work?

Five reasons to choose a Missouri College

1. Missouri schools rank among the best for affordability, student satisfaction, and quality of education.

College Choice ranks Washington University in St. Louis as No.17 in the nation for having the happiest freshmen. U.S. News and World Report lists Missouri Southern State University No.6 in top public schools in the Midwest, with Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis tying for seventh. State Technical College of Missouri, in Linn, was named the third-ranked two-year trade school in the country by Forbes. 

A student at State Tech working with some technology.

Not only are Missouri education options top-notch, they’re affordable too. Missouri State University in Springfield is listed as number two, overall in the state for affordability and the number one public university for affordability in the state. Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau is listed as the No.3 school for affordability and No.62 by US News and World Report for value in the Midwest and No.16 in Top Public Schools. Couple the affordability of most Missouri educational institutions and all of the other advantages to living, learning, and working in Missouri, and you can’t go wrong. 

2. Missouri is a fun place to live!

A sunny day at the lake of the Ozarks with a boat cruising over the water.

No matter what part of the state or college you choose, there is fun to be had close by. Missouri was actually chosen as the fourteenth most fun state in America by Wallet Hub thanks to a recent study. The organization compared states using 26 different metrics and Missouri landed as No.14. Missouri scored fifth in the nation for having the “highest variety of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments.”

With Lake of the Ozarks in the central region of the state, Kansas City on the west side, St. Louis on the east side, Branson in the southern Region, and everywhere else over, under, and in-between, residents can find many different types of fun and entertainment. You can find waterskiing, parasailing, amusement parks, water parks, theatres, movies, wine tasting, breweries, caves, casinos, hiking, hunting, fishing, festivals, fairs, museums, bars, restaurants, zoos, and unique things to do all over Missouri.

3. Missouri currently has the 12th lowest cost of living in the nation

Cost of living is an important factor when considering where you should live, learn, and work. Missouri scores nearly 10 points below the national average overall. Groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care costs less here, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. The housing cost index in Missouri scores 82.1,  just over 18 points below the national average.

To compare, take a look at Illinois’ largest city, Chicago, and Missouri’s largest city, St. Louis. The median cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago is $1,550, according to renthop.com. Renthop.com says that the median cost of rent in St. Louis for the same apartment is $650. And what can you get for the same money in St. Louis that you would pay for that one-bedroom apartment in Chicago? The answer is at least a two-bedroom and likely larger because the top 25 percent of the market, in St. Louis, for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,100 ($400 less than the median market price for the one-bedroom in Chicago). So if you want to live off campus, Missouri is definitely affordable.

The arch at sunset with the STL skyline in the background.

4. Missouri offers lifestyle and living options for everyone!

A person silhouetted by the sunset at Elephant Rocks State Park

Missouri offers lifestyle and living options for everyone from the city lover to the quiet country enthusiast. For those looking to begin learning or working in the big city, St. Louis and Kansas City both offer great learning opportunities between colleges and technical schools. Living in these two big cities is extremely affordable as well.

If you’re interested in urban living but for a more mid-sized city situation, St. Joseph, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, or Joplin might be just what you’re looking for. Great colleges can be found in all five of the places mentioned and all are affordable options for living, learning, and working.

There are even rural options and small-town living for those who are interested in the beautiful views and outdoor lifestyles available in rural Missouri – check out communities surrounding Rolla, home to Missouri S&T, or Cape Girardeau, home to Southeast Missouri State University.

5. Missouri's star is on the economic rise.

Missouri is moving through the ranks from 42 in job growth to 22 in the last five years. The future is looking bright and only keeps getting brighter. Two Missouri cities have been named in the top three cities in the nation for recent college graduates.

St. Louis has been ranked No.2 in the nation for recent college graduates, promising a median income of around $48,000 per year, according to a report from Self Financial. The median income is even higher when cost of living is considered because St. Louis has a cost of living nearly 10 percent below the national average. Taking the cost of living into account, the median earnings of recent college graduates is $53,274 in St. Louis. This is just an average and is dependent upon factors such as career field and type of degree.

Kansas City, Missouri, came in at No.3 on that list of best cities for recent college graduates. KC boasts actual median earnings of $49,000 per year, with an adjusted salary of $52,802, thanks to a cost of living that sits at 7.2 percent below the national average. Both cities have plenty to offer college students as they work towards their chosen degrees, knowing that the post-graduation future is looking pretty bright.

The plaza fountain in Kansas City

This information is accurate as of December 16, 2021.

Find your Best Fit in Missouri

Two-Year Vs. Four-Year vs. Technical College

Missouri is home to over 65 colleges and universities that each offer their own unique culture and opportunities. So whether you’re looking for a change of scenery or to stay close to home, there are plenty of options to choose from. Degree program, size, location, distance from home, sports, culture, and student resources are all important things to consider while trying to find the best fit. We’ve highlighted several of these characteristics for you to consider below and a corresponding Missouri school to consider.

Big City vs. Small Town

Do you want to be in the heart of it all or in a small community with a lot of heart?

Big City vs. Small Town

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) is nestled just south of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City – a well-known area for shopping, events, and art. Kansas City is packed with unique and vibrant neighborhoods and offers pro-sporting events, live concerts, and some of the best BBQ in the country. But if you’re looking to slow it down, consider Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau. This small, historical river community is known for being friendly and having a great downtown area of its own. You can see a show at the annual Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival, or explore the Mississippi River at Cape Rock Park. Also, with St. Louis and Memphis being nearby, there’s always the opportunity to change it up, visit the big city, but come home to a small town.

Big School vs. Small School

Big School Versus Small School

Do you want to get to know all of your peers or do you want to see new faces every day?

Going to a school with a large student population versus a small student population can make a big difference. Missouri State University is one of the state’s largest schools with over 26,000 students. If you’re looking for a fresh start and to make a lot of new friends – this could be the school for you. A larger student population can also offer many benefits including more activities and organizations, more networking and potentially more diversity. However, if you’d rather spend the next several years making lifelong connections, a smaller school like College of the Ozarks is a great option. With a population of under 1,500 – you can expect small class sizes and a tight-knit community.

Two-Year vs. Four-Year vs. Technical School

What degree are you looking for? How much time and money are you prepared to invest?

Two-Year Vs. Four-Year vs. Technical College

The type of school you attend can make a big difference in your college experience, especially in the classroom and in your bank account. Two-year institutions offer certificates and associate degrees, and many students choose these schools to save money in the long run. State Fair Community College in Sedalia is a great example because it offers a wide range of two-year programs while also being one of the most affordable in Missouri. A four-year university offers bachelor’s degrees, which provide both a well-rounded education outside your major and an in-depth coursework in your chosen field. Truman State University in Kirksville is a great option because it offers a variety of excellent programs and top professors while being the number one best value school in the region. Technical schools can be a different experience altogether, offering certificates and associate degrees while giving students affordable hands-on learning and career guidance. State Technical College of Missouri in Linn offers small class sizes, unique career options, and a job placement rate of 99 percent.

There’s plenty to consider when deciding what will fit you best after high school. Missouri offers a lot of options. If you are considering multiple options and you’d like to compare them side-by-side, use the printable Best Fit Worksheet or the College and Degree Search compare option. No matter what you decide, you’ll make it the best fit for you.

Five Great Jobs for Recent College Grads

Regardless of whether you have chosen a major, your career path might be in a different field than the one you studied for in college. That is normal. It happens all the time. Journalism students work for PR firms; biology majors go to dental school; communications grads join sales teams; etc.

Finding a first job that matches your major isn’t nearly as important as finding a job that matches your skills and passions, as well as the demands of the labor market.

It’s also worth noting that the labor market is constantly in flux. At any given time, some career fields will have an abundance of job openings, while others are scarce.

With that in mind, here are several occupations that are projected to grow over the next decade and hire a lot of recent college graduates. 

Registered Nurse

Annual Openings in Missouri: 5,525
Average Wage in Missouri: $65,130 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 16.2%

A Registered Nurse who means business. Ready to save your life.

Because the U.S. population is getting older and health issues such as COVID-19 have entered the scene, quality health care demands are on the rise. That means registered nursing will be an in-demand occupation for years to come. You can work in the health care field and become a nurse with either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. Regardless, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) after earning your degree.

The bachelor’s degree route can lead to a higher salary, faster career advancement, and more professional autonomy. Earning an associate degree in nursing instead takes less time and is less expensive.  

Registered Nurse

Because the U.S. population is getting older and health issues such as obesity are common, quality health care demands are on the rise. That means registered nursing will be an in-demand occupation for years to come. You can become a RN with either a Bachelor’s or associate degree. Regardless, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) after earning your degree.

The Bachelor’s degree route can lead to a higher salary, faster career advancement, and more professional autonomy. Earning an associate degree in nursing instead takes less time and is less expensive.  

Annual Openings in Missouri:
5,525
Average Wage in Missouri:
$65,130 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
16.2%

Hover over the image for more information!

Medical and Health Services Managers

Annual Openings in Missouri: 762
Average Wage in Missouri: $113,120 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 17.8%

A group of people in scrubs. Presumably one of them is a Medical and Health Services Manager.

Americans spend $11,000 per capita on health care annually – more than any country in the world. So hospitals are hiring — much like nurses — a lot of medical and health service managers to meet the high demand for quality care. Medical and health services managers (also called health care executives or health care administrators) plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They may manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Americans spend $11,000 per capita on health care annually – more than any country in the world. So hospitals are hiring — much like nurses — a lot of medical and health service managers to meet the high demand for quality care. Medical and health services managers (also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators) plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They may manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians.

Annual Openings in Missouri:
762
Average Wage in Missouri:
$113,120 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
17.8%

Hover over the image for more information!

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increase. Information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field.

Annual Openings in Missouri:
352
Average Wage in Missouri:
$91,210 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
37.5%

Hover over the image for more information!

Information Security Analyst

Annual Openings in Missouri: 352
Average Wage in Missouri: $91,210 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 37.5%

Two people at a computer surrounded by hard drives and other technical equipment. The one in the foreground is typing on a computer as the person behind him is pointing at the screen. He is an Information Security Analyst.

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increase. Information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field.

Software Engineering

Interested in designing and programming computer applications? The software engineering occupation is not only high paying and rapidly growing, its barrier to entry is lower than you might think. While a bachelor’s degree in computer science will give you the theoretical knowledge that many employers are looking for, you can still get an entry-level job with an associate degree. There are also Coding Bootcamps, a relatively newer path to a software engineer career. These Bootcamp programs often take just 8 to 12 weeks and equip students with the training needed to land an entry-level job.  

Annual Openings in Missouri:
1,710
Average Wage in Missouri:
$93,880 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
26.9%

Hover over the image for more information!

Software Engineering

Annual Openings in Missouri: 1,710
Average Wage in Missouri: $93,880 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 26.9%

Software Engineer at her computer

Interested in designing and programming computer applications? The software engineering occupation is not only high paying and rapidly growing, its barrier to entry is lower than you might think. While a bachelor’s degree in computer science will give you the theoretical knowledge that many employers are looking for, you can still get an entry-level job with an associate degree. There are also Coding Bootcamps, a relatively newer path to a software engineer career. These Bootcamp programs often take just 8 to 12 weeks and equip students with the training needed to land an entry-level job.  

Sales Representative, Wholesale Manufacturing -
Technical and Scientific Products

Educational requirements vary for sales representatives and depend on the type of products sold. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to a rising total volume of sales, a wider range of products and technologies will lead to increased demand for sales representatives. Although wholesale sales are increasingly being conducted online, these online sales are expected to complement, rather than replace, face-to-face selling. Therefore, online sales are not expected to have a negative effect on employment growth for these workers.

Annual Openings in Missouri:
653
Average Wage in Missouri:
$84,150 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
8.1%

Hover over the image for more information!

Sales Representative, Wholesale Manufacturing

(Technical and Scientific Products)
Annual Openings in Missouri: 653
Average Wage in Missouri: $84,150 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 8.1%

A group of Sales Representatives studying something on the computer.

Educational requirements vary for sales representatives and depend on the type of products sold. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to a rising total volume of sales, a wider range of products and technologies will lead to increased demand for sales representatives. Although wholesale sales are increasingly being conducted online, these online sales are expected to complement, rather than replace, face-to-face selling. Therefore, online sales are not expected to have a negative effect on employment growth for these workers.

Data provided by Missouri Economic Research & Information Center and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Operational Outlook Handbook.

What makes Missouri a Great Place for new Grads

An overhead view of the town of Hermann. The bridge is illuminated over the Missouri River

If you have just graduated college or are about to graduate college, you have probably spent a lot of time thinking about your next move.

Maybe you want to stay and work in your college town. Maybe you want to go back and work where you grew up. Maybe you’re looking for something new – a change of scenery, a clean slate.

Whether you’re looking for a big city, a smaller town, or anything in between, the state of Missouri has a lot to offer new grads.

Midwest Momentum 

For many college grads, the cost of living in America’s coastal cities is too high. Even a high paying entry-level position will only land you a small apartment with multiple roommates in places like San Francisco, Boston, and Washington D.C. However, that’s not the case in the Midwest.

Every year, Porch, a paid service for current and aspiring homeowners, ranks the best cities for recent college graduates to live. The ranking factors in affordability, job market, and recreational activities available in a given city.   

In 2021, according to Porch, seven of the ten best cities for new college grads are in the Midwest. All ten cities are in landlocked states.

St. Louis

The state of Missouri fared well in Porch’s rankings. St. Louis scored the second-highest score among large metros to move to after college. This high ranking can be mostly attributed to St Louis’ low cost of living, which is about 10 percent less than the average large-size U.S. metro. And with large employers such as Ascension Health Alliance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Emerson Electric, the unemployment rate for recent graduates in St. Louis is 1.8 percent.

The riverfront of St. Louis showing the Gateway Arch and other buildings at night. There is a slight reflection on the water.

Kansas City

The plaza fountain in Kansas City

The city on the west side of the state also ranks high among large metros for recent grads. Porch lists Kansas City at No.8.

Recent grads, especially those from Missouri’s colleges and universities, have been flocking to Kansas City for years – more so than St. Louis even.

With a championship NFL team in the Chiefs, an elite concert venue in the T-Mobile Center, awesome shopping at the Plaza, and a great late-night scene at Westport– on top of a strong job market and relatively low cost of living — Kansas City is a preferred destination for young people just starting their careers.   

Smaller Cities

If you’re looking for something a little smaller, less crowded, more cost effective, Missouri has some great small and midsize cities. Porch ranked Jefferson City the No.1 small metro for recent college graduates because of its low cost of living and strong job market. There are large companies headquartered in the state’s smaller cities, such as Bass Pro Shop and O’Reilly Auto Parts which are both headquartered in Springfield. St. Joseph’s cost of living is lower than the Missouri average, yet you’d still be only a one-hour drive away from Kansas City. Exploring Missouri’s small and mid-sized city options can offer the recent college graduate plenty of opportunity to choose from.   

Missouri State Capitol in the Spring. There are tulips in front of it.