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Here Are The 10 Smartest Cities In Virginia To Live In

Recently, we took at look at the cities and towns in Virginia with some of the top k-10 schools. Today, we are going to take a look forward. Where do all of these people with great educations end up?

Earlier this month, NerdWallet, an online personal finance information service, published a study onthe most educated and least educated areas in the nation. Not surprisingly, Virginia made 8 out of their top 100, with 10 Virginia cities in total making it into the rankings.

NerdWallet uses U.S. Census Bureau data from more than 2,000 places across the country to determine the levels of education attained in each area, then the varying degrees are weighted to determine the final ranking.

1. McLean (nationally)        


98.1% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 80.8% have a bachelor’s degree; 29% have a master’s degree; 7.4% have a Ph.D.; and 13.4% have a progressional degree. Named after John Roll McLean, the former owner and publisher of The Washington Post, McLean is part of the Washington Metropolitan area and is home to diplomats, Congress members and government officials. In addition to government agencies, including the CIA headquarters at Langley and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, companies like Mars Candy, Booz Allen Hamilton, Freddie Mac and Hilton Worldwide are based in McLean.

2. Arlington (21st nationally)


93.4% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 72.1% have a bachelor’s degree; 24.9% have a master’s degree; 3.9% have a Ph.D.; and 9% have a progressional degree. Located just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., Arlington (although technically a county) is home to many federal government agencies, including the Department of Defense (located at the Pentagon), the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Transportation Security Administration – just to name a few. Non-government employers based in Arlington include Deloitte, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International and medical groups like the Virginia Hospital Center.

3. Alexandria (86th nationally)


90.7% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 61.7% have a bachelor’s degree; 20.5% have a master’s degree; 3.4% have a Ph.D.; and 6.6% have a progressional degree. Like many of the others, Alexandria has been built, economically and socially, on its close proximity to Washington, D.C. Alexandria sits on the west bank of the Potomac less than 10 miles from the capital. As a political hub dating back to pre-Revolutionary times, Alexandria continues to be a hub for federal government employees, as well as government agencies and commercial businesses.

4. Virginia Beach (27th nationally among cities with 200,000 + residents


94% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 33.7% have a bachelor’s degree; 8.8% have a master’s degree; 1% have a Ph.D.; and 2% have a progressional degree. When looking at the numbers, NerdWallet also included a list of the top large cities – specifically, those with more than 200,000 residents. Virginia Beach, the largest city in Virginia, ranked 27th nationally for highest education levels. Although tourism is a big part of Virginia Beach’s economy, it is also home to a number of large military installations, as well as major employers like Amerigroup, the Christian Broadcasting Network and the American headquarters of Stihl. Forbes Magazine has included Virginia Beach in their Top 50 list of best places for business and careers.

5. Chesapeake (27th nationally among cities with 200,000 + residents)


90.4% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 28.6% have a bachelor’s degree; 8.3% have a master’s degree; 0.9% have a Ph.D.; and 1.3% have a progressional degree. As part of the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area, Chesapeake is the third largest city in Virginia. In addition to being home to 2 naval installations, Chesapeake is also home to employers like Sentara Healthcare, QVC, Cox Communications and Hewlett Packard.

6. Richmond (50th nationally among cities with 200,000 + residents


81.8% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 34.7% have a bachelor’s degree; 9.3% have a master’s degree; 1.4% have a Ph.D.; and 2.8% have a progressional degree. Richmond is not only the state capital, but also an important historical city. As the hub of much of Virginia’s history, particularly during the Civil War, Richmond has long been a center of law, finance, and government. Today, federal, state, and local governmental agencies are housed in Richmond, in addition to a number of large legal and banking firms. Both the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond are located in the city.

7. Norfolk (63rd nationally among cities with 200,000 + residents)


86.4% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 25.7% have a bachelor’s degree; 7% have a master’s degree; 1.3% have a Ph.D.; and 1.9% have a progressional degree. Considered the heart of the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area, Norfolk has a long history in both the military and transportation. In addition to the Naval Station Norfolk, the largest Navy base in the world, Norfolk is also home to one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters. Non-government draws include the corporate headquarters of Norfolk Southern Railway and Maersk Line, Limited, managers of the world’s largest fleet of US-flag vessels.

8. Reston (48th nationally)


96.1% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 66.6% have a bachelor’s degree; 21.1% have a master’s degree; 3.3% have a Ph.D.; and 4.1% have a progressional degree. Located in the western part of the D.C. Area, Reston is notable as a planned community, established in 1964. The U.S. Census Bureau records professional, scientific, and technical services as the most prevalent industries, followed by information services. With a number of high profile companies based here, as well as relatively easy-access to D.C., Reston draws workers from around the world. Plus, out of the 20 largest venture capital firms in the D.C. area, 5 are based in Reston.

9. Short Pump (26th nationally)


97.5% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 70.5% have a bachelor’s degree; 21.4% have a master’s degree; 3.1% have a Ph.D.; and 6.9% have a progressional degree. This relatively “new” center of commerce and trade just outside of Richmond seems to be attracting more than just new businesses. Now considered part of Richmond “far West End,” Short Pump is home to many people working in state and federal government jobs, as well as with larger financial institutions like Capital One. Historically a rural area, the last 2 decades have seen a massive influx of retail centers, including Short Pump Town Center, as well as hotels, planned suburban communities and apartment complexes.

10. Oakton (31st nationally)


93.7% of residents hold a high school diploma and/or associate’s degree; 68.6% have a bachelor’s degree; 26.4% have a master’s degree; 4.9% have a Ph.D.; and 5.1% have a progressional degree. Another Washington Metropolitan Area location, Oakton is an affluent suburb near Vienna. Like McLean, Oakton is home to diplomats, ambassadors, government officials and professors, as well as a number of notable editors and publishers.

While there aren’t too many surprises in this list, it is interesting to see how the concentration of types of employment correlates with the concentration of higher levels of education. What do you think about this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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