Recent college graduates face stiff competition for white collar work, but prospects are brighter in some cities than others, according to Forbes' Best Cities for Young Professionals List.

Forbes based their rankings on seven factors, weighting them equally: local unemployment rates and 2010 to 2012 job growth projections; the number of small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) per capita; the median salaries for 24-to-34-year-old employed college graduates; the cost-of-living index; and the percentage of population aged 25 and older with college degrees in the area.

The top 15 best cities:

  1. Des Moines, Iowa
  2. Raleigh, North Carolina
  3. Madison, Wisconsin
  4. Salt Lake City, Utah
  5. Omaha, Nebraska
  6. Portland, Maine
  7. Denver, Colorado
  8. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  11. Austin, Texas
  12. Boston, Massachusetts
  13. Greenville, South Carolina
  14. Little Rock, Arkansas
  15. Fairfield, Connecticut

In years past Forbes ranked only metro areas with one million residents or more. This year they started with the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which Forbes says resulted in a show of opportunity in a number of Midwest towns generally overlooked because of their smaller size.