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Conway Named Best City in State to Start Career

With a population that has doubled in size since the mid-1990s and the growth of professions in the healthcare and technology industries, Conway is one of the fastest developing cities in the state, and recently earned the title of best city in Arkansas to start a career at.

Zippia, an online career guidance database, recognized Conway as such in a ranking last month that considered population, percent of population who are millennials, unemployment and cost of living.

The unemployment rate in Conway is 3.3 percent, below the national average of 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Conway’s median household income is $47,190, 11.5 percent above the state median of $42,336.

Of the population of 65,782, the median age is 27.3, according to the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. As the City of Colleges, Conway is also home to a high proportion of college-educated residents, with 38 percent of the population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher as opposed to 21.5 percent of the state population, according to the Census Bureau.

Along with its low unemployment rate and young and college-educated population, Conway has also benefited from the development of new companies over the years.

“Because of our college population, employers know that there is a pipeline of talented potential employees,” Jamie Gates, executive vice president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “Because of that, we’ve attracted and grown companies that are built around people early in their careers.”

Marie Smallwood, associate director of career services at UCA, said the healthcare and technology fields are major employers of UCA alumni and have experienced growth in recent years.

In addition to its two hospitals and several clinics and nursing homes, Conway is home to a slew of technology companies. The database marketing company Acxiom is the largest employer in Conway with 2,000 employees according to the City of Conway. In the past two years, technology firm Edafio and IT consulting firm Ensono both opened offices in Conway.

Gates said that technically skilled graduates in the health sciences and from the College of Business have a lot of employment options in Conway.

“For the last 30 years we’ve been visibly migrating towards a more ‘knowledge-based’ economy. It’s not a trend that’s going to go away,” he said.

Starting their careers in Conway can help students maintain their circles of professional contacts and friends.

“From experience, I can tell you that it is really fun to start and continue your career in the same place you went to college,” Gates said. “It’s a rare opportunity to continue some really important friendships and relationships. A lot of people would stay in college longer if they could. This is the next best thing.”

Smallwood said that a benefit from starting a career in Conway is that graduates are still welcome to attend career fairs and make appointments with Career Services and other UCA offices.

“You’re grounded. You know the culture. You have already built your network of people that are your support around you,” she said. “And the good thing about the faculty and staff at UCA is that, it sounds cliche, but once you’re a Bear, you’re always a Bear.”

Students can launch their careers while still in college by pursuing networking, study abroad and internship opportunities, Smallwood said, adding that if students are wondering when to start the internship search, the answer is always now.

“Companies are wanting you to come in with some form of experience,” she said. “You have the education, you have the background, you have the knowledge, but they want to know if you can apply that knowledge that you’ve learned. That’s why they’re really pushing internships.”

Students can start their internship search with the Bears4Hire Portal on the Career Services website.

Career Services offers multiple networking and professional development programs throughout the year, including career fairs, etiquette dinners, mock interviews and resume review days.

A full list of Career Services programming is available at uca.edu/career.

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