Amy Thaci is the Director of Engineering Career Services.
Whether you're searching for a place to live while doing a co-op/internship or for a full-time job offer upon graduation, it is extremely important to remember to factor in the cost of living for that specific location. The cost of living is crucial to making a fully informed job search decision, and many times students forget to take that into account. Costs vary depending on region, size of city, and at times, the length of stay. As a graduate student, I will be interning with an out-of-state company this summer, and was undoubtedly worried about not only finding a place to live that was safe and practical, but also a place that allowed me to save some of my income.
You may be considering working for Company X in Atlanta, Georgia as well as Company Y in Boston, Massachusetts. At this point your ideal steps would be to first and foremost compare the two job offers and their salaries. Does one have a higher starting salary, but offer more benefits than the other (such as a company car, credit card, fuel reimbursement, etc.)? If they are both very similar as far as starting salary goes, you then want to compare the cost of living in that city. A salary offer of $60,000 a year maybe great in one location, but in actuality quite low when factoring in cost-of-living in another.
There are a couple of helpful sites that you can use to do your research. We advise students to primarily use the NACE Salary Calculator. This can be found on our website under “Statistics”®”Salary Calculator”, and allows you to fill out the exact details of your offer, including the city and state you'll be residing in. The calculator then gives you what you should “expect” to receive when considering all primary factors (amount of experience, degree level, GPA, location, major, etc.). CNN Money also has a quite useful calculator that breaks it down even further: cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care in that specific area. This will give you a clear idea as to how much you should or will likely be spending per month for living in that area.
Use these resources wisely, and be sure to do your research before blindly accepting an offer!
“Excellence is in the details. Give attention to the details and excellence will come.”