50 U.S. Cities with the Most Doctoral Degree Holders

By Luke Paton and Amy Bell

Lead

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There are big incentives for graduates who invest the extra five years or so of study to pursue a doctoral degree. For one, there’s the prestige of earning the highest academic qualification possible; then you can factor in the prospect of a successful career in a chosen field. What’s more, doctorate holders tend to bring home bigger paychecks, and they are less likely to be out of work.

However, despite the perks, in 2013 the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that fewer than 2 percent of Americans aged 25 and over had studied for a doctorate.

Future doctoral students may be wondering where this relatively small academic elite ended up once their research was complete. Well, this list profiles the 50 U.S. cities with the highest percentage of doctorates held by their inhabitants. In addition, the article endeavors to explain why these urban centers might be so attractive to academic high-fliers.

Methodology

The core source of information for the ranking of this article was City-Data.com – specifically its list of the “Top 101 cities with the most people having Doctorate degrees” in American urban centers with populations of 50,000 or more.

However, the original list appears to contain figures from the 2000 U.S. Census, so it is in need of updating. With this in mind, to compile our ranking we used city-data.com’s current “Educational Attainment” statistics, relating to 2012, from the individual cities’ pages (see, for example, Palo Alto). These graphs show the percentage of each city’s inhabitants who were in possession of a doctoral degree during said year. We also utilized 2012 population estimates – or 2010 statistics where necessary – from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Our list now represents an up-to-date look at the 50 U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or greater that feature the highest percentage of doctorate holders.

50. Norman, Oklahoma

50. Norman, Oklahoma

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Norman, Oklahoma’s roughly 115,643 inhabitants – as of 2012 – have a number of research opportunities right on their doorstep. Chief among them is the University of Oklahoma, the state’s premier public research institution. Indeed, the school even has its own Research Campus in the area. Described as “a collaborative environment where academia, industry and government build on the university’s intellectual vitality,” the campus was singled out as the Association of University Research Parks’ 2013 Outstanding Research Park. The school also has numerous doctoral degree programs listed among its 232 graduate majors. Plus, aside from this, doctorate holders could be drawn to the National Weather Center or the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In 2012, 3.6 percent of the city’s total population possessed doctoral degrees.

49. Reston, Virginia

49. Reston, Virginia

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Between 2008 and 2012, almost a third of everybody employed in Reston, Virginia had a job in the “professional, scientific and technical services” industries, with computer specialist figuring as one of the most popular vocations. This may have something to do with the fact that Reston forms part of Northern Virginia’s Dulles Technology Corridor – so christened owing to the sheer number of technology businesses that have offices in the area, including Apple, AOL, AT&T and Symantec. One section of the Dulles Technology Corridor has even been referred to by Gizmodo as “the bull’s-eye of America’s internet.” Reston had 58,404 denizens as of 2010, while in 2012 3.6 percent of the population held a doctorate – and it wouldn’t be a stretch to picture many of them working in the Corridor.

48. Seattle, Washington

48. Seattle, Washington

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Seattle is a big place. The U.S. Census estimated that it was home to 634,635 people in 2012, and in 2014 it was said to have become the 21st largest city in the country. As for advanced-level education, in 2012, 3.7 percent of Seattle’s inhabitants were in possession of doctorates, which equates to approximately 23,481 people. The city’s major public research school is the University of Washington (UW), which awarded 723 doctoral degrees during the 2010-2011 academic year and was allotted more than $1.2 billion in research support in 2013. Besides UW, two further doctorate-granting schools are located in the area: Seattle Pacific University on 3rd Avenue West and Seattle University in Capitol Hill. Moreover, in Amazon.com and Starbucks the city has a couple of the world’s most recognizable brands headquartered within its limits.

47. Washington, D.C.

47. Washington, D.C

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Given that Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House are all based in Washington, D.C., it’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that as of 2012, over 29 percent of the city’s estimated population of 633,427 were employed by the government. Furthermore, if those people weren’t picking up a government salary, then it’s likely that they were working at a university, hospital or university hospital. In the 2012-2013 financial year, Georgetown University and The George Washington University ranked as the top two non-government employers in the city. What’s more, Washington Hospital Center and the Children’s National Medical Center took up the third and fourth spots respectively, providing great opportunities for those with medical doctorates. According to data covering 2008 to 2012, more than half of the city’s inhabitants aged 25 or over had achieved a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, 3.7 percent of the 2012 populace – or roughly 23,436 people – held doctorates.

46. West Hartford, Connecticut

46. West Hartford, Connecticut

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The appeal of West Hartford, Connecticut for doctorate holders perhaps lies as much in the town’s location and sense of community as it does in the area’s academic opportunities. The University of Hartford employs much of the city’s population of 63,268 – the figure as of 2010 – although it is a private school with only a limited doctoral program. West Hartford itself, however, was included among the “Coolest Suburbs Worth a Visit” list compiled by Travel + Leisure in 2010. That year it also made Kiplinger’s “10 Best Cities for the Next Decade” and CNNMoney.com’s “Top 100 Places to Live,” with Kiplinger commenting that the area is “an idyllic place to raise a family” and that “the town couldn’t be better situated.” As of 2012, 3.7 percent of West Hartford’s inhabitants held doctoral degrees.

45. Fort Collins, Colorado

45. Fort Collins, Colorado

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As of 2013, education and healthcare jobs offer the most popular work opportunities in Fort Collins, Colorado, with Colorado State University alone having had 7,317 employees on its books that year. The school enrolled 1,514 doctoral students in 2013-2014, while in the 2012 budget year it spent some $340 million on research-related activities. Moreover, thanks to the school and its research assets, technology companies – including the likes of Hewlett Packard and Intel – have made their presence felt in Fort Collins. This is also perhaps a contributing factor to the following statistics: according to information spanning 2008 to 2012, more than half of the city’s inhabitants aged 25 and up were in possession of a bachelor’s degree or above; what is more, 3.8 percent of 2012’s total population – placed at 148,938 – held a doctorate.

44. Arlington, Virginia

44. Arlington, Virginia

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In 2012 the average household in Arlington, Virginia pulled in an income of $137,216, making the area among the richest in the country. Much of the populace was likely to be working for either the federal or local governments – which during the 2012-2013 financial year together accounted for over a quarter of all employment in Arlington, with 41,419 people on their payroll. Possible jobs for doctorate holders also include working for the United States Department of Defense at the Pentagon, the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was estimated by the U.S. Census that 224,906 people lived in Arlington in 2013, while in 2012 4 percent of inhabitants held a doctorate – equating to a fair number of highly educated individuals.

43. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

43. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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According to the U.S. Census, in 2012 roughly 306,189 people called the city of Pittsburgh home, and 4.2 percent of them possessed a doctoral degree. This last figure amounts to about 12,860 highly educated citizens; and given that, as per data covering 2008 to 2012, only some 35 percent of inhabitants aged 25 or over had earned a bachelor’s degree or above, the number becomes even more impressive. Although the city is still known for its steel and bridges, in 2013 nearly 14 percent of those employed worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – which was ranked among the top dozen hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2014. Moreover, there are numerous universities in the area providing employment opportunities for doctorate holders, including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Then let’s not forget the National Energy Technology Laboratory site as well as countless technology companies.

42. Bryan, Texas

42. Bryan, Texas

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In the financial year ending in September 2013, among the top six employers in Bryan, Texas were two construction-related companies and a window-fitting business. In addition to this, U.S. Census information has it that only some 25.8 percent of Bryan’s population aged 25 or older held a bachelor’s degree or above between 2008 and 2012. So how come a significant chunk – 4.3 percent, or roughly 3,349 people – of the estimated populace of 77,880 could that same year also claim to hold a doctorate? One possible explanation is that neighboring city College Station is home to Texas A&M University. The school is one of the biggest universities in the U.S. and boasts a research budget in excess of $820 million. A campus of the Texas A&M Health Science Center is, moreover, located in Bryan itself. Plus, the center’s focus on research in dentistry, pharmaceutics and medical science, as well as other healthcare fields, may appeal to past and present doctoral students.

41. Sunnyvale, California

41. Sunnyvale, California

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Silicon Valley is a major player in the economy of Sunnyvale, California, as tech firms Apple, Yahoo!, NetApp and Juniper Networks were all among the top five employers in the city during the financial year ending in June 2013. The number one spot, however, went to Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which might entice doctorate holders in view of the fact that the Lockheed Martin subsidiary specializes in satellites, missile defense measures and spacecraft. In 2012 the city had roughly 146,292 inhabitants, with 4.3 percent of them having earned a doctoral degree. What’s more, neighboring cities include Cupertino and Mountain View, both of which feature on this list and are home to Apple and Mozilla respectively.

40. Gaithersburg, Maryland

40. Gaithersburg, Maryland

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It’s a fact that 4.4 percent of Gaithersburg, Maryland’s approximate 2012 population of 62,943 could lay claim to holding a doctoral degree. Furthermore, as per estimates spanning 2008 to 2012, over half of the city’s inhabitants aged 25 or older were educated to at least bachelor’s degree level. That said, there are no universities to speak of in Gaithersburg; nor is there the marked presence of many major corporations. The biggest employer reported for the financial year ending in June 2013, for example, was the National Institute of Standards and Technology – but with 2,289 workers, it accounted for only 0.43 percent of overall employment in the area that year. Perhaps, then, it’s the city’s location and development that is key to its appeal. Gaithersburg is a little over 25 miles from Washington, D.C. and has also adopted the “new urbanism” concept of designing its neighborhoods as pedestrian-friendly communities. Kentlands, Lakeside and “The Rio” have already attracted an affluent population, while further new urbanist communities are planned as well.

39. Encinitas, California

39. Encinitas, California

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A little over 13 miles south of Encinitas, California lies the University of California, San Diego, which makes for an easy commute for academics working or studying there. This may go some way toward explaining why out of Encinitas’ estimated 2012 populace of 60,901, 4.5 percent held doctoral degrees. Encinitas itself more than holds its own when it comes to recreational pursuits, hosting events like the yearly April Street Fair and Oktoberfest, as well as quirky boutiques, art exhibitions, museums and restaurants. Sand, sea and surf are also on hand at the beautiful Moonlight State Beach, where those taking a break from the books can paddle in the Pacific or have a shot at volleyball.

38. Fayetteville, Arkansas

38. Fayetteville, Arkansas

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A 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of Fayetteville, Arkansas’ top employers saw the University of Arkansas leading the list, followed by the Washington Regional Medical Center. Assuming academia and medicine appeal to a lot of highly educated individuals, it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that as of 2012, 4.5 percent of the city’s population of approximately 77,015 people had earned doctorates. What’s more, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.’s headquarters are just a relatively short drive away in Bentonville, giving folks with plenty of book smarts the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder at a multinational giant. Meanwhile, Fayetteville’s vibrant mix of beautiful historic buildings, abundance of green spaces teeming with wildlife and a plethora of entertainment and retail options may also help attract the nation’s brightest and best.

37. Towson, Maryland

37. Towson, Maryland

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It seems that education is high on the priorities list in the Maryland community of Towson. As well as Towson University and liberal arts school Goucher College, there are six public elementary and three public high schools, in addition to various private schools. These all serve a population placed at 55,197 in 2010. Moreover, of the total number of inhabitants, 61.9 percent aged 25 or over held at least a bachelor’s degree, according to figures covering 2008 to 2012, while in 2012, 4.6 percent possessed a doctorate. Perhaps the brightest and best have been drawn to the area by the ample teaching opportunities, with Towson University and Goucher College between them having had nearly 4,000 personnel under their employment in 2013 alone. Alternatively, the college town’s leafy, bookish charms or location close to the more bustling amenities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. could be determining factors.

36. Durham, North Carolina

36. Durham, North Carolina

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As per estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau covering 2008 to 2012, 46.6 percent of Durham, North Carolina’s inhabitants aged 25 and up had earned a bachelor’s degree or above. Moreover, 4.6 percent of the 2012 population – placed at 239,633 – held doctorates. This is perhaps unsurprising given that the city plays host to prestigious Duke University and is part of the sprawling Research Triangle Park. Duke itself spent over $1 billion on research activities in 2012 and is considered the joint seventh best university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Research Triangle Park, meanwhile, boasts two other esteemed universities and over 170 international businesses, among them IBM and GlaxoSmithKline. According to official figures, Duke University and its medical center were responsible for more than a quarter of Durham’s employment total during the 2012-2013 financial year.

35. Santa Cruz, California

35. Santa Cruz, California

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Santa Cruz is renowned as one of the prime surfing locations in the U.S. Here, an array of state parks and beaches provide real natural beauty, while annual events like the Santa Cruz Film Festival and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music add more than a dash of culture to this famously liberal city. Such attractions make Santa Cruz an appealing place to call home, and they’re perhaps some of the reason why the doctorate-holding 4.7 percent of the city’s 2012 population of some 61,997 gravitated to this sunny slice of California. The University of California, Santa Cruz also offers excellent work and study opportunities for those with a flair for academia – and this no doubt has had an influence on the number of inhabitants who have doctoral degrees to their names.

34. Cary, North Carolina

SAS Building C Aerial

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Headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, the Statistical Analysis System (SAS) Institute pulled in a staggering total revenue of just over $3 billion in 2013. That same year, the software company had 5,131 people from the area in its employment – possibly including more than a few who possess a doctorate. SAS CEO Jim Goodnight is himself a Ph.D. holder, having achieved this postgraduate degree at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Aside from its proximity to North Carolina State, Cary is also very close to Duke University in Durham and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2012 the city had an estimated total population of 145,794, and 4.7 percent of those people held doctoral degrees.

33. New Haven, Connecticut

33. New Haven, Connecticut

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With New Haven being the home of Yale University, it makes sense that some of the nation’s most academically able choose to reside here. Moreover, the figures bear this out, as among New Haven’s population of around 130,829 in 2012, 5 percent had doctoral degrees. Southern Connecticut State University also bolsters the city’s academic credentials, while the Yale-New Haven Hospital – second only to Yale University as the city’s leading employer in the 2012-2013 financial year – is highly regarded nationwide and is bound to additionally draw in sharp, capable minds. Perhaps the city’s array of architectural attractions also appeal, spanning as they do the breadth of U.S. history. Meanwhile, New Haven’s eclectic culinary scene, arts facilities, music venues and college sports teams offer something for everyone.

32. Irvine, California

32. Irvine, California

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By far and away the largest employer in Irvine, California is the University of California, Irvine, which was responsible for the employment of a massive 10.8 percent of the city’s working population during the financial year ending in June 2013. The school considers itself “one of the nation’s top research universities” and enrolled nearly 3,000 doctoral students in the fall of 2013. Famous alumni include Paul Mockapetris, who achieved his Ph.D. in computer and information sciences in 1982 and the following year applied his knowledge to the co-invention of the internet’s Domain Name System. Interestingly, the third biggest employer in the city in 2012-2013 was Blizzard Entertainment Inc., the video game company behind World of Warcraft. In 2012, 5 percent of Irvine’s approximate population of 229,373 held doctoral degrees.

31. Oak Park, Illinois

31. Oak Park, Illinois

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Oak Park, Illinois ranks among the most scholarly cities in the country. As per estimates spanning 2008 to 2012, some 67.2 percent of the people residing in the municipality aged 25 or over were educated to bachelor’s degree level or above. Meanwhile, 5.1 percent of the 2012 population of approximately 51,942 held doctorates. West Suburban Hospital Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital represent the chief local employment prospects for inhabitants, and to work at these institutions a doctoral education could very well be a big plus point. Besides which, Chicago itself is packed with universities, colleges and graduate schools and forms part of the same metropolitan area. Oak Park is further noteworthy as the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway and as the location of 25 structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The acclaimed architect was presented with an honorary doctoral degree in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1955.

30. Walnut Creek, California

30. Walnut Creek, California

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The Californian city of Walnut Creek is ideally placed adjacent to highways leading to San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose, giving the doctorate-holding portion of its population – 5.3 percent of an estimated 65,598 in 2012 – plenty of options for both work and play. That said, great employment opportunities exist within the city limits, too: for example, healthcare provider John Muir Health and non-profit care network Kaiser Permanente both have bases here. According to the 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Walnut Creek, the two organizations together had close to 7,000 people under their employment during the 2009-2010 financial year, making the city a potential draw for those using their doctoral degrees to establish a career in the medical arena. In 2012 U.S. News & World Report also deemed the city the “greenest place to retire” in America.

29. Lawrence, Kansas

29. Lawrence, Kansas

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In 2012, out of an estimated total population of 89,661, 5.3 percent of Lawrence, Kansas’ denizens held a doctorate. Lawrence’s reputation as an excellent place in which to study could very well have brought the highly- – or soon-to-be-highly- – educated to the city, as in 2012 it was deemed by Livability.com to be among the top ten college towns in the U.S. Furthermore, the American Institute of Economic Research gave the city a similar accolade in 2013. Both Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas are situated in Lawrence, and the latter is the largest employer in the city, according to 2013 statistics. A healthy music scene, too, may act as a major draw for Ph.D. holders who also fancy themselves as culture vultures.

28. Pasadena, California

28. Pasadena, California

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Pasadena is the home of the California Institute of Technology, the world-famous research school with a particular focus on engineering and science, which is no doubt an attraction for highly educated doctoral students and professionals. Furthermore, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – a nexus for some of the smartest minds in space technology – is also located in the area. It’s probably no surprise, then, that 5.3 percent of Pasadena’s population of approximately 138,443 held doctorates in 2012. Outside of its employment opportunities, though, the city has lots else to offer – from cultural attractions such as the Norton Simon Museum and The Pasadena Playhouse, to the retail, dining and nightlife options in Old Pasadena.

27. Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

27. Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

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In 2013 the most prevalent job title in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia was postsecondary schoolteacher, and during the financial year ending in June 2013 the largest employer in the area was the University of Georgia. It’s perhaps telling that the school also has a substantial research program – with a considerable $245.2 million having been spent in this area in 2011 – and this no doubt helps bring in both new doctoral students and those already qualified. Moreover, the University of Georgia and Augusta’s Georgia Regents University have joined forces to form the GRU/UGA Medical Partnership. This partnership promises to deliver the “future of medical education” as well as conduct collaborative research into spheres of human wellbeing – likely another hub for high academic achievers. In 2012 the area had a population of some 118,999 people, 5.3 percent of whom held a doctorate.

26. Madison, Wisconsin

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In 2012 there were an estimated 240,441 people living in Madison, Wisconsin, and 5.4 percent of them held a doctorate. Most jobs in the city, meanwhile, are to be found in the educational sector. This last circumstance is almost certainly largely down to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which in 2012 had more than 21,600 local personnel in its employment. The school is in the top 50 of all universities in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Moreover, it could be further appealing to graduates given the fact that it awarded 1,451 doctorates during the 2012-13 academic year alone and was the third biggest research spender in the U.S. in 2012 – when it laid out nigh on $1.2 billion.

25. Somerville, Massachusetts

25. Somerville, Massachusetts

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According to the area’s 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, two of Somerville, Massachusetts’ top three non-city employers are Tufts University and healthcare network Cambridge Health Alliance. These organizations together had more than 3,200 people under their employment in the financial year concluding in June 2013. Such opportunities for those with considerable intelligence and academic prowess may explain why 5.7 percent of Somerville’s estimated 77,724 inhabitants possessed a doctorate in 2012. Furthermore, Boston – whose metropolitan area is a haven for multiple universities and colleges – is only two miles southeast. This makes it easy for bright minds residing in Somerville to take advantage of the work and recreational possibilities that a bigger city provides. Plus, adding to its appeal, Somerville itself is bursting with national landmarks, green spaces, artistic communities and a lively night scene.

24. Columbia, Maryland

24. Columbia, Maryland

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Columbia, Maryland and the neighboring community of Ellicott City were placed joint eighth on Money magazine’s 2012 list of “America’s best small cities.” Columbia is a planned city, and its multiple “villages” give the locality an intimate feel. However, Columbia’s recreational opportunities rival those of bigger towns. An array of sports facilities, community centers, entertainment venues and shopping spots give the 99,615 inhabitants – as of 2010 – the best of both worlds. This thriving atmosphere may have helped to attract and retain the 5.7 percent of the population that held doctoral degrees, as per 2012 statistics. Some doctorate-granting schools, including the University of Phoenix, Loyola University Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, also have campuses here.

23. Ellicott City, Maryland

23. Ellicott City, Maryland

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The community of Ellicott City is located in Howard County, Maryland, which made Forbes’ 2014 list of “America’s Richest Counties,” thanks to its households pulling in annual average earnings of $108,234. Both this and the relatively high number of doctoral degrees held by Ellicott City’s inhabitants might be partly explained by the nearby Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. This institution is around 10 miles from Ellicott City, no doubt offering excellent work opportunities for a significant proportion of the 6 percent of the town’s population – placed at 65,834 in 2010 – holding a doctorate as of 2012. The quaint, historic nature of Ellicott City itself may also appeal to those who appreciate what Newsmax magazine describes as the place’s “balance between metropolitan convenience and small-town living” – with a well-used library system providing an added draw for book lovers.

22. Goleta, California

22. Goleta, California

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Given its magnificent position right next to the Pacific Ocean and a year-round balmy climate, the Californian city of Goleta is a beautiful haven for anyone who appreciates sun, sand, sea and surf. Some of those individuals might like hitting the books, too, and in 2012 Goleta’s estimated 30,252 inhabitants featured a doctorate-holding population of six percent. The city’s proximity to the University of California, Santa Barbara may in some measure explain this figure, as perhaps does the proliferation of tech companies in the area. These include Goleta’s top employer for the financial year ending in June 2012, the Raytheon Company – and an exceptional technical knowledge would no doubt come in handy if working at the biggest producer of missiles on the planet.

21. Columbia, Missouri

21. Columbia, Missouri

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Columbia, Missouri had a 2012 population of roughly 113,285, and 6.2 percent of those people are said to have been in possession of a doctorate. Perhaps fittingly, the educational sector is booming in the city. The Columbia Public Schools system signed up 17,905 students in 2013-2014, while the University of Missouri, based in Columbia, took on just shy of 35,000 learners in fall 2013. Combined, these two major employers accounted for over 11.5 percent of all those working in the city during the 2013 financial year – and that’s not including university hospitals and clinics, also an area in which doctorate holders can be found. Aside from which, the city boasts possible work opportunities for doctoral graduates in Stephens College, Columbia College and the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center, which is home to a ten-megawatt reactor.

20. Gainesville, Florida

20. Gainesville, Florida

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In 2014 the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville was ranked in the top 20 of the nation’s best public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The school has an extensive catalog of doctoral options and plunged $619 million into research activities in 2013 alone. Including UF Health Shands Hospital, the university system also accounted for nearly a quarter of all jobs in Gainesville in the fiscal year ending in September 2013, which may go some way to explaining why in 2012, 6.5 percent of Gainesville’s approximately 126,636 inhabitants held a doctoral degree. Interestingly, Gatorade fans in particular can thank one historic doctorate holder who was based at UF. The energy drink was invented at the school in 1965 by a unit led by researcher Robert Cade, who earned his M.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1954.

19. Silver Spring, Maryland

19. Silver Spring, Maryland

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Biotechnology company United Therapeutics has its headquarters in Silver Spring, while governmental scientific agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also based in the Maryland community. Both organizations are likely to require personnel with specialist technical knowledge, such as doctoral graduates. Perhaps this helps explain why out of Silver Spring’s population – placed at 71,452 in 2010 – 6.6 percent had doctorates in 2012. Still, it’s not all work and academic achievement in Silver Spring, which is just a subway ride from Washington, D.C. Following substantial redevelopment, the downtown area has been transformed into what The New York Times in 2007 called “an arts and entertainment center.” With eclectic eateries and both a jazz and a documentary festival staged each year, Silver Spring may prove to be as much of a draw for culture vultures as it is for bookworms. The worldwide offices of major nonfiction media firm Discovery Communications are here, too.

18. Cupertino, California

18. Cupertino, California

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Business Insider ranked Cupertino, California seventh on its 2014 “Happiest Suburbs in the U.S.” list, stating, “You name it and this city has got it.” According to estimates spanning 2008 to 2012, 74.2 percent of inhabitants aged 25 and up held a degree of some sort. Meanwhile, in 2012, 6.6 percent of the city’s population – which that year totaled approximately 59,712 – had earned a doctorate. This could be explained by the number of prestigious colleges in the area, including San Jose State University, Santa Clara University and Stanford University. However, the city is perhaps most famous as the location of Apple’s college-like Apple Campus headquarters. Indeed, Apple Inc. had 15,000 people in the area working for it during the 2012-2013 financial year, which equated to an incredible 46.6 percent of Cupertino’s employment total – and it’s likely that some doctoral degree holders were in there, too.

17. Champaign, Illinois

17. Champaign, Illinois

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Champaign sits within what has been dubbed Illinois’ “Silicon Prairie,” an area that harbors many high technology companies. On top of the prestigious University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, several Fortune 500 firms are based in Champaign, with the likes of IBM, the Dow Chemical Company and Deere & Company all having offices in the city. The myriad of employment opportunities for the smart and accomplished perhaps goes some way to explaining why 6.9 percent of the city’s estimated 82,619 inhabitants in 2012 were in possession of a doctoral degree. Of course, though, life can’t be all work and no play, so it’s good to know that in 2013 NerdWallet.com labeled the combined Champaign-Urbana area as the fifth best locality in the country for “work-life balance” – something that even Ph.D. grads need from time to time.

16. Catalina Foothills, Arizona

16. Catalina Foothills, Arizona

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Its location at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains makes wealthy census-designated place Catalina Foothills in Arizona a draw for anyone with a hankering for living amid magnificent natural wilderness. Moreover, maybe a love for nature has helped bring in some of the country’s most academically accomplished, as the upscale community can boast that as of 2012 seven percent of its population – which numbered 50,796 in 2010 – were in possession of a doctorate. Those doctoral graduates might also aspire for their children to be similarly well-educated – and Catalina Foothills High School was in 2014 deemed by The Washington Post to be within the top five percent of the most challenging public high schools across the nation.

15. College Station, Texas

15. College Station, Texas

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As its name suggests, Texan city College Station plays home to an institution of higher learning – and that institution comes in the shape of Texas A&M University. The university has sea-, land- and space-grant accreditation and serves as a hub for research, sponsored as it is by the prestigious likes of NASA and the National Science Foundation. The highly educated, therefore, are likely to be in demand, and this perhaps explains why, out of College Station’s population of approximately 97,907, 7.2 percent held a doctorate as of 2012. Within its dedicated business parks, the area also boasts a host of research facilities and technology businesses, offering further scope for graduates educated to the highest level to use their often considerable specialist knowledge.

14. Iowa City, Iowa

14. Iowa City, Iowa

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In 2014 Forbes placed Iowa City 13th out of 184 on its nationwide “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” list. That might provide a clue as to why so many doctorate graduates call the city home, with 7.9 percent out of an estimated population of 70,231 holding the esteemed educational achievement as of 2012. Among this tally is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, who gained a Ph.D. in English from Seattle’s University of Washington back in 1977. Robinson teaches at the highly-regarded Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the local University of Iowa, with the university itself offering numerous Ph.D. programs for the academically excellent. The workshop, meanwhile, is linked with the annual Iowa City Book Festival, which is also likely a draw for bookish doctoral graduates.

13. Mountain View, California

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

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Mountain View, California is a major player in the tech company haven of Silicon Valley, so it probably makes sense that 7.9 percent of Mountain View’s 2012 population of 76,479 had earned a doctorate. High-profile tech companies such as Symantec and LinkedIn have headquarters in the Bay Area city, but undoubtedly its biggest name is Google. The tech behemoth operates its multi-billion dollar enterprises from the Mountain View-based “Googleplex” and, according to the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, boasted 11,332 employees in the 2012-2013 financial year. El Camino Hospital, meanwhile, provides an excellent base at which to practice for doctoral graduates who are more medically minded.

12. Boulder, Colorado

12. Boulder, Colorado

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In 2010 Portfolio.com named Boulder, Colorado as having the “strongest brainpower” of any metropolitan district in the U.S., based on city inhabitants’ learning achievements. The website also found that over 80 percent of Boulderites had been to college. By 2012 an impressive 8.2 percent of Boulder’s approximately 101,771 denizens had earned a doctoral degree. Moreover, Upstart Business Journal states that Boulder is “blessed with an economic mix that places a premium on education.” The city features a number of scientific institutes where doctorate-level knowledge would be a major advantage, as well as the University of Colorado Boulder, and start-ups abound here, too. Still, maybe Ph.D. holders are smart enough to know where they’ll be most content, as the Boulder metro area clinched the top spot in a 2010 Gallup survey aimed at finding the cities that boast the highest levels of well-being in America.

11. Evanston, Illinois

11. Evanston, Illinois

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According to 2013 statistics, Evanston, Illinois’ top employers may favor those with exceptional academic knowledge, since Northwestern University, the NorthShore University HealthSystem and Saint Francis Hospital accounted for over 14,400 workers in total that year. Perhaps this explains why out of the city’s around 75,368 inhabitants in 2012, 8.3 percent of them held doctorates. Aside from this, there are easy transport links from Evanston to Chicago, offering residents access to a major city while ensuring they can still reap all the benefits of suburbia. That said, Evanston itself is no slouch when it comes to potential leisure options; for example, there are an abundance of independent stores and dining options, some of which provide that small town feel a more bustling metropolis might be lacking.

10. Berkeley, California

10. Berkeley, California

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Notable physicist Steven Chu graduated from the University of California, Berkeley back in 1976 with a Ph.D. in physics. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 and functioned as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013. Perhaps not all of Berkeley’s roughly 9,570 doctorate holders – which represented around 8.3 percent of its 115,301 inhabitants as of 2012 – can claim to have had such an illustrious career. Yet that hasn’t stopped people flocking to the city all the same. Maybe it’s Berkeley’s location on the banks of the San Francisco Bay that has drawn them there; or it could be the promise of jobs at the university, the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center or the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which collectively accounted for almost a third of all employment in the city during the financial year ending in June 2013.

9. Bloomington, Indiana

9. Bloomington, Indiana

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Indiana University Bloomington presented its inaugural Ph.D. in 1883, and as of 2014 it offers over 190 graduate-level degree programs. Interestingly, actress Meryl Streep was given an honorary doctorate when she went to the school’s grounds in Bloomington, Indiana in April 2014. The school also has a substantial research program and was handed an astounding $533 million in external grants in 2012. This can perhaps account for why the education sector is such a popular occupational draw for Bloomington’s inhabitants, and it may also explain why 8.8 percent of the city’s estimated 2012 population of 82,212 had doctorates. Bloomington in addition boasts a 65-acre Certified Technology Park, which provides space for a number of technology businesses that could themselves appeal to those with exceptional academic smarts.

8. Ames, Iowa

8. Ames, Iowa

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Ames, Iowa had an approximate population of 61,153 people in 2012, and some 9.5 percent of those individuals held doctorates. This could be down to two of the city’s prominent research centers: the Iowa State University of Science and Technology and the National Animal Disease Center. Iowa State University granted 349 Ph.D.s in 2013 alone. What’s more, the school has a rich history of innovation that includes the invention of an early digital computer called the Atanasoff-Berry Computer – a device credited to doctorate-holder John Vincent Atanasoff and built between 1939 and 1942. The National Animal Disease Center, meanwhile, is part of the United States Department of Agriculture and works to prevent economic damage caused by sick livestock. Alternatively, the highly educated populace could simply be drawn to Ames’ 36 lovely parks.

7. Newton, Massachusetts

7. Newton, Massachusetts

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In 2012 Newton, Massachusetts’ mayor Setti Warren said, “Education is the bedrock of our community.” And it’s true, as Boston College has 40-acre grounds in Newton, and the city is home to more than a dozen public elementary schools. Newton also houses teaching medical center Newton-Wellesley Hospital, which has been consistently ranked as among the best places to work at in the area. Add in the city’s close proximity to Boston, and it perhaps becomes more understandable why 10.4 percent of an estimated 87,180 Newtonians were in possession of a doctoral degree as of 2012. Famous doctorate holders who have previously taken up residence in the city include sci-fi author Isaac Asimov, who achieved a Ph.D. in chemistry from New York City’s Columbia University in 1948.

6. Ann Arbor, Michigan

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The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor had some 27,003 people under its employment during the financial year ending in June 2012, which was close to an astounding two thirds of the entire city’s employment total. Perhaps in view of the fact that so much of Ann Arbor’s economy weighs on its shoulders, the university has placed research at its heart. It spent over $1 billion on such academic activity in 2009 alone and ranks as having among the most sizable research portfolios in the U.S. With research opportunities come doctoral candidates, and the school hosted 108 Ph.D. programs of study in 2013, which may well help to account for the 10.4 percent of Ann Arbor’s roughly 116,328 inhabitants who had earned a doctorate as of 2012. St. Joseph Mercy Health System, a 340-acre campus teaching hospital, is the second biggest employer in “Tree Town.”

5. Bethesda, Maryland

5. Bethesda, Maryland

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The fact that it borders Washington, D.C. and is part of the metropolitan area that had the fifth-highest gross domestic product in the country in 2013 seemingly gives Bethesda, Maryland an advantage when it comes to having a highly educated population. Annually, more than one million Americans take advantage of the healthcare offered by the city’s prestigious Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which once a year even admits the U.S. President for his twelve-monthly once-over. Aside from which, the headquarters of the 27 centers that make up the National Institutes of Health are based in Bethesda, meaning there are many attractive opportunities for doctorate holders in the field of medical research. Alternatively, worldwide protection agency and research facility Lockheed Martin is located in the area, too. In 2010 the U.S. Census reported Bethesda’s population as 60,858, while in 2012 some 11 percent of Bethesda inhabitants are said to have earned a doctorate.

4. Cambridge, Massachusetts

4. Cambridge, Massachusetts

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The Principal Employers section of Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Comprehensive Annual Financial Report makes for interesting reading. In the 2012-2013 financial year, celebrated educational institutions Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology topped the list. Meanwhile, the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research figured in fourth position, and biotechnology firm Biogen Idec and research center Draper Laboratory featured at six and ten respectively. Between them, the ten employers appearing on the 2013 list accounted for over 30 percent of all jobs in the city, and it seems fair to say that those institutions might appeal to denizens with a doctoral degree. Or perhaps said academic high achievers are purely interested in the area’s many museums and beautiful 17th-century architecture. Either way, as of 2012, 11.7 percent of Cambridge’s estimated 106,172 inhabitants had earned themselves a doctorate.

3. Palo Alto, California

3. Palo Alto, California

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As of 2012, 13.1 percent of Palo Alto, California’s approximately 66,063 inhabitants held a doctorate, which equates to around 8,654 people. This might have more than a little to do with esteemed Stanford University being only minutes from the center of the city – and the 1,114 doctoral degrees the school awarded in the 2012-2013 academic year alone. Another contributing factor could be that Palo Alto is also a key part of world-famous Silicon Valley, which is home to major technology businesses like Google, Facebook and Apple. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that one of the most widespread job titles in the area is computer specialist.

2. Davis, California

2. Davis, California

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An estimated 18.6 percent of employees in Davis, California use their bicycle to get to work, which is the highest rate throughout the entire U.S. for small cities. Another major circumstance Davis is renowned for is that it is home to the University of California, Davis, a school that boasted 3,252 doctoral students in fall 2013. Whether these two facts are related is, of course, up for debate, but what can’t be contested is the fact that as of 2012, 13.5 percent of Davis’ some 65,796 inhabitants had earned themselves a doctorate. This no doubt helped toward CityLab naming Davis on its 2013 “Top 10 Brainiest Cities” in the U.S. list.

1. Brookline, Massachusetts

1. Brookline, Massachusetts

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Brookline, Massachusetts will be best known to some as the birthplace of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy – but it also has a reputation for being among the best college towns in the country. After all, Harvard University, Boston College and Boston University are each within three and a half miles of Brookline, and all three offer substantial doctoral programs. Factor in an additional 0.4 miles and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology becomes another academic point of interest, seemingly spoiling Brookline’s population – which numbered 58,732 as of 2010 – for choice. With such intellectual temptations abounding, it’s entirely understandable that an incredible 14 percent of the city’s inhabitants held a doctorate in 2012.