Students often ask me questions about where they should live. That is such a hard question that I am often dumbfounded in how to answer. So, I decided to do a little bit of research on to how to do the research to answer that question.
Below you find a list of resources that a graduating PhD in Computer Science should consider when picking a job. This is hardly a complete list and it totally depends on personal interests which are not factored here. For example, if you are an avid skier, then schools in Colorado might be near your list. Or if your family lives outside of the US and will travel to visit you frequently, then you might want to be near an international airport. For personal considerations like these, you are on your own. For more generic stuff, see below.
You want to have a sense of the cost of living of where you are moving to. This might be a consideration down the road when you are negotiating salary, but you want to have a sense of how the city you are considering spending the next 10 years of your life compares with other cities you know.
CNN's Money Magazine has a cost of living comparison calculator on the web. I like it because it gives you an aggregated comparison (e.g. the comparable salary in CITY X is $90,000) as well as individual measures in groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care.
Lets face it, when you begin your tenure-track life, you will not have any (life) to speak of. But, it is good to know that there is a good quality of life in your city or nearby so you can take a break and go listen to a good music concert or enjoy walking in public parks, etc.
Kiplinger's has several lists of the top cities to live, work and play in the country. They have a new one every year, but cities hardly become dull overnight. So, even a city that was ranked among the top cities in the last 2-4 years is good. Going further back is not advisable, as economic conditions can make vibrant cities go empty.
Not everything is about life and the pursuit of happiness. You also have to pick a good job (department, university, etc.). Here are some places that rank CS departments and universities.
National Research Council's study Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change also has a classification of programs based on several criteria.
CRA has an interactive tool to let you explore this data.
What should I make? The definitive answer to this question is the Taulbee survey. CRA has the most recent one, usually published in May with data for the previous year.
That's it. This is a short sample of information that you should look at before making any decision. Note however, that none of the info you find there should tell you where to apply. Instead, it should help you make a better informed choice.
Finally, if someone out there knows of a mash-up tool that shows this info on a map or in some integrated way, let me know. I'll link to it from here.
Happy job hunting.
Posted on 11/29/2008