After Pedro Argueta Marroquin graduated from the University of Connecticut last May, he took a job in human resources at Aetna in Hartford.
Marroquin could have looked for work anywhere but wanted to stay in the state where he grew up.
"What I like about Connecticut is that it's not that big of a state, so you can have a big-city feel and be in a rural town in no time," he said.
Marroquin, 22, considered a career in counseling. Following an internship working with Aetna providers, he decided to pursue a human resources job.
Marroquin is from Stamford and lives in Storrs.
"For me, being a local and growing up in Stamford, I love the city feel of Hartford. Everything is there and downtown is lively and exciting," he said.
"But Storrs gives you a different side of Connecticut. It's quiet."
Marroquin is not alone in choosing Connecticut to live and work.
A recent UConn report shows about 60% of the university's 2019 graduates were employed within six months of graduation—and six in 10 landed jobs in Connecticut.
Thirteen percent of those chose New York state and 12% settled in Massachusetts, with New Jersey (2%), and California (1%) filling out the top five destinations.
In addition, 75% of graduates from the state's 17-school college and university system also remain in Connecticut to start their careers.
Pratt & Whitney, Hartford Hospital, Travelers, Aetna, General Dynamics Electric Boat, PwC, Cigna, The Hartford, United Technologies, and Deloitte are the top 10 employers of UConn graduates.
A report released last month by financial planning website Fabric says the greater Hartford area offers the fourth-highest salaries in the country for millennials.
Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, Fabric reports that the median salary for Hartford millennials is $49,116.
UConn says the median starting salary for recent graduates is $55,000. Graduates with combined degrees from the business and engineering schools earn the highest median starting salary—$66,000 annually.
More than 90% of UConn's 2019 graduates are either working, enrolled in post graduate programs, or in the military or volunteer service programs.
For those graduates choosing Connecticut, many like the prospect of starting their career in a place they know without leaving family and friends.
For others, they can live at home while paying off student loans before venturing out on their own.
Although Samantha Brown could have gone many places with her talent, she chose to stay local.
"There's definitely a benefit to being close to family and friends, and knowing the area," said Brown, a 2017 UConn graduate in her third year as a design engineer at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford.
"There are a lot of jobs here in the state that are really great opportunities.
"Pratt & Whitney is a large company with an impressive name. Part of the draw is this is a really cool industry and not a lot of people get to do this work.
"The fact that we have a Pratt & Whitney and so many other companies in the defense industry provides a lot of opportunity for college graduates."
Quality of Life, Finances
Benjamin Bosco, who grew up in Glastonbury and graduated from UConn in May with a management information systems degree. Working at Aetna allows him to live at home, save some money—and enjoy the outdoors.
"I like living in Connecticut because I've always loved the New England seasons," he said. "I'm a big skier, and in winter you have easy access to ski mountains.
"You also have the ocean so you get the best of both worlds. And I like working in a smaller city like Hartford that has great businesses and is an easy commute."
Jordan Shauck said she always thought of Hartford as a business capital so when applying for jobs after graduating from UConn in 2019, she focused on Connecticut.
"Hartford is super convenient," said Shauck, who works as an underwriting associate at Aetna.
"I can still live at home, pay off bills, and save money. It's not a bad commute. I thought it would be harder."
For Krista Ambulos, who works as an analyst at the insurance company, it made sense to start her career while living home in South Windsor.
"Rent prices are crazy, especially with an entry-level salary," she said.
"It's hard to manage all those expenses plus your student loans, so this gives me an opportunity to get my finances in order."
UConn and Connecticut State Colleges and Universities officials are aware many of their graduates are landing jobs in Connecticut.
CSCU President Mark Ojakian notes that many of the system's students are from Connecticut and appreciate the state's high quality of life.
James Lowe, executive director of UConn's Center for Career Development, says the many employment opportunities in Connecticut lead to "great offers" for students.
"With all the federal defense contracts, we have students going to Electric Boat, UTC, and those companies," he said.
"But we've also got students going into insurance underwriting, HR, marketing, and accounting."
CBIA's Shannon King, who tracks workforce development policy issues, said the trend of college graduatess remaining here "is definitely welcome news."
"There are so many tremendous companies in Connecticut, so it's good to see more of our college graduates deciding to start their careers with these great employers," she said.
For many students, the job search begins at their school's career center.
CSCU career centers help students develop career plans, and bring in employers to meet with students.
Likewise, UConn's Center for Career Development sponsors job fairs and establishes relationships with Connecticut companies searching for talent.
"We do multiple career fairs during the year," Lowe said.
"In the fall, we have a two-day career fair that sees 300 employers and about 1,100 individuals associated with those companies. That's a huge event."
'Connecticut Is My Home'
Pratt & Whitney's Brown, who was introduced to engineering at Immaculate High School in Danbury, works to recruit women and minorities into the field.
The 25-year-old lives in Vernon, about 75 minutes from her family in New Fairfield.
Brown said there are many opportunities for college graduates to remain in Connecticut.
"Companies know it and employees like me are addressing it, working to show students they can stay in Connecticut and have a good career," she said.
Brown said she's thought about working out of state but imagines she'll always wind up living and working in Connecticut.
"Connecticut is my home so I wouldn't consider leaving here forever," she said.
"If I have a rotational opportunity, I might take it. But I always see myself returning here."