Thanks to its dedication to higher education, North Dakota features higher levels of degree attainment than most other states. As of 2013, 45.8 percent of North Dakota adults held a two-year degree or better, compared to 40 percent on a national level. Further, that percentage appears to be on the upswing, considering just 45.2 percent of North Dakota adults held a two-year degree or better in 2008.
Still, recent data from the Lumina Foundation's A Stronger Nation through Higher Education study shows where North Dakota may have room for improvement. As the report shows, 25.59 percent of North Dakota adults held just a high school diploma through 2013, and another 23.35 percent had some college experience, but no degree. In contrast, 15.98 percent of adults had an associate degree, 22.13 percent held a bachelor's, and 7.71 percent possessed graduate degrees. In other words, despite North Dakota's high levels of degree attainment, more than half of its adult population was without a college degree in 2013.
North Dakota hopes to change that in the future, of course, which is why it's working hard to expand educational offerings statewide. It helps that the state has such a wide range of institutions to choose from, some of which now offer online degree programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), North Dakota was home to 30 colleges, community colleges, universities, trade schools, and career centers in 2014. While some schools focus on traditional programming, others offer distance education or even hybrid options, which combine online courses with classroom-based learning. Together, the schools in the state boast an array of educational opportunities to fit almost anyone's academic goals.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in North Dakota?
Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures show that North Dakota's labor force included 440,420 individuals in 2014. Together, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $44,100 that year. Certain careers for college graduates featured higher-than-average pay and levels of employment, however. The following chart highlights some of the top careers in the state in terms of wages and employment figures:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||58,350||$37,550|
|Sales and Related Occupations||37,850||$39,640|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||36,740||$45,080|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||34,690||$24,740|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||32,680||$53,660|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||25,730||$73,160|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||23,200||$49,970|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||22,640||$54,100|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||17,050||$63,810|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||16,630||$29,930|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||14,660||$31,040|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||12,440||$34,230|
Students who hope to earn a degree in North Dakota will find plenty of options when it comes to higher education. A full 30 institutions reside in the state, offering a wide range of college degrees as well as technical certificates and career diplomas.
And tuition prices are relatively low in North Dakota. According to recent figures from the College Board, average tuition and fees for a two-year degree in the state came out to just $4,192 (in current dollars) for the 2014-15 school year, while tuition at a public, four-year school was $7,513. Even private schools are affordable when compared to other states; as of the 2014-15 school year, tuition at private, four-year schools in North Dakota averaged out to just $16,953.
Although North Dakota doesn't have an established online learning cooperative, many schools offer flexible, online degrees in the state. Even large, public schools like North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota have gotten on board with distance learning by offering their share of fully-online and hybrid degree programs.
In addition to its wealth of colleges, schools, and job prospects, North Dakota features a relatively low cost of living. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the median housing value was just $132,400 in 2013, which compares favorably to the national average of $176,700. The median household income in North Dakota was $53,741 that year, which is slightly higher than the national median income of $53,046. Additionally, only 11.9 percent of North Dakota residents lived in poverty in 2013, compared to 15.4 percent of the population nationwide. As of August 2015, North Dakota's unemployment rate was just 2.9 percent, lower than any other state in the nation.
Still, North Dakota has more to offer than just colleges, jobs, and cheap housing.
What Makes North Dakota Ideal for Online Education?
In a state like North Dakota, access to higher education has historically been limited to those who live near major metro regions. However, online education has broken down many of the barriers that students faced just decades ago. According to Heidi Flaten, Assistant Director at the Office of Extended Learning at the University of North Dakota, online education has increased access for students who may not be able to pursue a degree otherwise.
""North Dakota is a very rural state,"" says Flaten. ""And even with 11 colleges and universities in the statewide system, residents can be a hundred miles or more from the nearest campus, thereby making online education their only feasible option.""
Geography aside, there are other reasons online education in North Dakota is ideal, including the type of student these programs cater to. As Flaten notes, distance learning in North Dakota is most popular with non-traditional students. Most of the time, online learners are represented as ""an older-than-average student, the working adult who has a full-time job, someone with a family and a home in a community that they aren't willing or able to leave,"" she says.
By pursuing an online education, these busy adults can continue caring for their families, working full-time, and tending to their other responsibilities. This flexibility might make for the most compelling argument for online degrees in North Dakota. These programs ""offer students the flexibility to be able to take courses, and pursue a degree, while being able to stay in their community, remain at their job, not uproot their family to move to a college town, but still be able to continue their education,"" notes Flaten.
""Online degrees offer the same admission and program requirements, and an online student's transcript looks the same as it does for an on-campus student,"" she adds. ""The learning outcomes are the same -- the difference is the delivery method.""
Top 10 Degrees in North Dakota
When it comes to choosing an on-campus or online degree program in North Dakota, it's important to do some research ahead of time. Based on employment projections and wage data, some career fields in the state could be more promising than others. With that in mind, we used a wide range of data to create this list of top majors in the state through 2022:
With so many natural resources up for grabs in North Dakota, it makes sense this field would be in demand. According to labor data from the U.S. Department of Labor, job openings for petroleum engineers could increase by as much as 74 percent in North Dakota from 2012 to 2022. High wages also add to the popularity of this degree choice. As of 2014, petroleum engineers earned a mean annual wage of $121,530 in the state.
With the use of foreign languages on the upswing, a degree in nearly any foreign language could pay off. Most of the time, this degree leads to a career as an interpreter or translator, a field expected to see 50 percent job growth in North Dakota from 2012 to 2022. As of 2014, interpreters and translators in the state earned a respectable mean annual wage of $34,110.
Earning a two-year degree in industrial engineering could put you on the fast track towards a career as an industrial engineering technician. Because of the ongoing demand for these workers, employment is supposed to surge 49 percent in this field in North Dakota between 2012 and 2022. Relatively high wages for a two-year degree also add to the allure of this major. Industrial engineering technicians in North Dakota earned a mean annual wage of $45,250 in 2014.
Technology careers have also become popular in North Dakota, which is good news for workers with a degree in computer science. As the U.S. Department of Labor notes, information security analysts could see employment surge by as much as 44 percent in the state through 2022. Meanwhile, job opportunities for computer hardware engineers are projected to increase 26 percent.
Mining and Geological Engineering
Due to the state's abundance of natural resources, a degree in mining or geological engineering could be an especially safe bet for North Dakota students. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of these professionals could rise by as much as 40 percent from 2012 to 2022. High pay also makes this degree a good investment. Through 2014, mining and geological engineers in North Dakota earned a mean annual wage of $90,540.
Occupational Therapy Assisting
Like many fields in health care, occupational therapy is booming. Because of this, a degree in occupational therapy assisting could be a smart move. Thanks to ongoing demand in the state, employment of occupational therapy assistants is projected to rise 38 percent in North Dakota between 2012 and 2022. Further, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $44,520 in 2014.
Across the nation, businesses rely on marketing professionals to create comprehensive plans that will boost sales of their products or services. That's true in North Dakota as well. Through 2022, U.S. Department of Labor figures show that employment of market research analysts and marketing specialists could increase by as much as 37 percent in the state. A mean annual wage of $51,160 for these workers in 2014 also boosts the value of this degree choice.
With tourism such a high priority in North Dakota, earning a degree in hospitality management could pay off. That's especially true if you use your degree to become a meeting, convention, or event planner. According to U.S. Department of Labor data, job openings for these workers could increase by as much as 36 percent in North Dakota through 2022.
If you're a numbers guy or gal, a degree in finance could be a good investment. Certain jobs in this field are expected to see huge employment gains in North Dakota over the coming decade. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor projects 35 percent job growth for financial analysts from 2012 to 2022. The fact that these workers are paid rather well adds to the value of this degree. As of 2014, financial analysts in North Dakota earned a mean annual wage of $68,180.
Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Since North Dakota produces so many agricultural and energy products, professionals are needed to ensure their safe transport. A degree in logistics and supply chain management could come in especially handy in this respect. And thanks to the ongoing demand for these workers, employment of logisticians is expected to increase 34 percent in North Dakota through 2022. And with a mean annual wage of $59,550 in 2014, you can see why this degree made the list.
Top Cities for North Dakota College Students
Fargo is North Dakota's largest city, with a population of 115,864 in 2014. As sister city to Moorhead, Minnesota, its part of the Fargo-Moorhead, ND-MN metropolitan area. In addition to its own unique northern culture, Fargo offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, including its own entertainment venues and acts such as the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, and the Fargo Theatre.
Formerly reliant on agriculture, the Fargo area now boasts a multi-faceted economy built on strong health care, banking, and education industries. Top employers in the area include Sanford Health, North Dakota State University, the public school system, and Microsoft.
As home to a major university, the Fargo area features higher than average levels of educational attainment. Through 2013, 39 percent of adults ages 25-64 held a bachelor's degree, and 94.6 percent possessed a high school diploma or better. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists seven institutions of higher education as active in the Fargo area. Here are the most prominent:
North Dakota State University
One of the state's flagship schools, North Dakota State University had a student population of approximately 14,516 during the fall 2015 semester. The school currently offers 100 undergraduate majors, 86 master's degrees, and 50 doctoral programs, with affordable in-state tuition of just $7,940 per year (as of 2014-15). Here are a few programs the school is known for:
- Master of Accountancy
- Bachelor of Business Administration
- Bachelor of Computer Science
Rasmussen College - North Dakota
Rasmussen College is a private school that offers two-year and four-year degrees in a wide range of disciplines. Approximately 793 students attended the school in 2014, with an average student-to-faculty ratio of 18:1. Tuition and fees remain affordable, too. For the 2014-15 school year, costs averaged out to just $10,764. Here are a few of the school's most popular programs:
- Bachelor's in Accounting
- Associate in Medical Lab Technician
- Associate in Professional Nursing
Lynne's Welding Training
Lynne's Welding Training is a vocational school that focuses on teaching students the art of welding. Enrollment was made up of only 25 students in 2014, but each enjoyed small class sizes with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 12:1. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to just $11,750. Popular courses include:
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding
- Gas Metal Arc Welding
- Uphill SMAW Pipe Welding
As the capital of North Dakota, Bismarck was home to a population of approximately 68,896 in 2014. The city is a hub for retail, health care, and state government, with top employers reflecting those industries. In terms of recreation, Bismarck has a whole lot to offer. The capital city has an extensive network of parks and outdoor areas, its own symphony orchestra, and several theatre and musical companies who perform live shows.
According to the NCES, six institutions of higher education can be found in the Bismarck area. Here are a few of the most prominent:
Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College is an innovative community college that focuses on preparing students for quick entry into the workforce or transfer to a four-year school. The college offers a wide range of associate degrees and certificate programs, some of which can be completed online. Tuition and fees were just $3,520 for in-state students for the 2014-15 school year, and a few of their most popular programs are as follows:
- Associate of Applied Science in Petroleum Engineering Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
Rasmussen College - Bismarck
Rasmussen College has 24 campuses across six states, one of which can be found in Bismarck. The school offers a number of popular degree programs in business, design, education, health sciences, justice studies, nursing, and technology at their Bismarck location. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to just $10,764. Some of their popular programs include:
- Bachelor's in Accounting
- Associate in Medical Lab Technician
- Associate in Professional Nursing
University of Mary
The University of Mary is a four-year, private school that offers 54 undergraduate majors, 14 master's degrees, and three doctoral degrees. Enrollment included more than 3,000 students in 2014, and the school offers some of its programs online. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year worked out to $15,665. Here are a few programs the University of Mary is known for:
- Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering
- Online Bachelor's in Business Administration
- Online Bachelor's in Accounting
The third-largest city in North Dakota, Grand Forks had a population of approximately 56,057 in 2014. Along with its twin city East Grand Forks, Minnesota, the city is part of the Grand Forks, ND-MN metropolitan statistical area. Large cultural venues in the area include the North Dakota Museum of Art, the Chester Fritz Auditorium, and the Alerus Center.
The top industries in Grand Forks are agriculture, higher education, defense, food processing, and scientific research. Meanwhile, the city is home to the oldest institution of higher education in the state, the University of North Dakota. Through 2013, 34.9 percent of Grand Forks adults held a bachelor's degree, while 92.4 percent had a high school diploma or better.
Two institutions of higher education can be found in the Grand Forks area:
University of North Dakota
As the oldest institution of higher education in the state, the University of North Dakota offers one of the most diverse offerings of degree programs, majors, and minors. Currently, students can choose from more than 225 fields of study, with affordable tuition and fees that worked out to just $7,741 for in-state students in 2014. In addition to its on-campus offerings, UND offers many flexible, online degrees. Top program options include:
- Online Bachelor's in Civil Engineering
- Online R.N. to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Bachelor's in Business Economics
Josef's School of Hair Design - Grand Forks
A beauty and cosmetology school, Josef's School of Hair Design offers programs in cosmetology, skin esthetics, massage therapy, and nail technology. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year worked out to $17,000, and enrollment was made up of 51 students. Their most popular programs include:
- Massage Therapy
- Nail Technology
Scholarships and Financial Aid
If you're considering an on-campus or online degree in North Dakota, it's important to find out if you qualify for financial aid. Your first step should be filling out a Free Application for Federal Student AID, or FAFSA form. This helps state and federal agencies determine what type of aid you may be eligible for, and how much. Types of federal aid can include Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, or Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
In addition to federal aid, different types of state aid may be available. The North Dakota University System lists a number of state-based aid options on its website, including scholarship, grant, and loan opportunities. Some examples include:
- North Dakota Academic Scholarships
- North Dakota Career & Technical Education Scholarships
- North Dakota Indian Scholarships
- North Dakota Scholars Program
- North Dakota State Student Incentive Grant Program
Additional state-based aid may be available depending on income, resident status, and other criteria. Students interested in on-campus or online degrees in North Dakota should also check with their school aid office to determine if institution-based aid is available.
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Economy at a Glance, Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Dakota, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.nd.htm
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Dakota, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nd.htm
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North Dakota Facts, North Dakota Tourism, http://www.ndtourism.com/articles/north-dakota-facts
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