When it comes to educational attainment, the state of Oklahoma has a long way to go -- but holds potential promise. According to a recent study from the Lumina Foundation, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the percentage of Oklahoma adults ages 25-64 with at least a two-year degree came in at only 32.7 percent in 2013. When you compare that to the national average of 40 percent, it's easy to see how the state has room for improvement. Still, it appears that educational attainment is at least moving in the right direction. To illustrate this, let's take a look at the percentage of adults in Oklahoma with various degree types. Courtesy of the Lumina Foundation, the following percentages are current as of 2013:
- High school diploma or GED: 31.6 percent
- Some college, no degree: 23.9 percent
- Associate degree: 7.93 percent
- Bachelor's degree: 17.23 percent
- Graduate or professional degree: 7.52 percent
As you can see, a large percentage of the state's population has begun their journey towards a college degree, but stopped along the way. Also keep in mind that, although the percentage of Oklahoma adults with at least a two-year degree is lower than the national average, it has improved since 2008. That year, only 31.3 percent of Oklahoma adults had graduated with a degree.
In Oklahoma, all signs point to the fact that educational attainment is on the rise. Many schools offer traditional and online education in Oklahoma, with plenty of degree options to choose from. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics lists a total of 153 community colleges, trade schools, colleges, and universities as active in the state. Interested in pursuing a degree in Oklahoma? Check out the guide below.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Oklahoma?
Earning a college degree in Oklahoma could be an excellent investment. Not only does the state have a wealth of education options to choose from, but they also boast a healthy economy based on a number of growing and thriving industries. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Oklahoma's labor force was made up of approximately 1,577,330 workers, who earned a mean annual wage of $40,850. The following chart includes some of the top professions for college-educated workers in the state during 2015:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||255,960||$34,590|
|Sales and Related Occupations||162,610||$35,270|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||156,740||$21,130|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||106,020||$35,550|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||96,150||$70,390|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||91,970||$40,160|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||81,480||$43,470|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||71,820||$44,560|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||69,400||$63,750|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||46,790||$28,540|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||44,610||$24,330|
From its small mountain ranges to its prairie lands and eastern forests, Oklahoma has a lot to offer residents. The state's biggest metropolitan areas currently include the regions surrounding Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Fort Smith. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state was home to a total of 3,878,051 residents in 2013.
Culture and cost of living play a huge role in the reason many students choose Oklahoma to earn their degree. Through 2013, the median housing value in the state was only $112,800. Meanwhile, its urban and rural mix, obsession with jazz, and rich history in ballet, music, and theatre continue to inspire people.
Of course, the state's healthy economy also does its part to attract newcomers. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce reports that industries such as aerospace and defense, agriculture and biosciences, energy, information and financial services, and transportation and distribution continue to add jobs and drive economic growth. Currently, the state's welll-known employers include American Airlines, Devon, IBM, Chesapeake Energy, Boeing, Google, and Goodyear.
Since many of these industries and employers need educated workers, it's a good thing that Oklahoma has such a strong infrastructure for both on-campus and online education. Oklahoma State University, for example, offers several campuses statewide with both traditional and online degree options. Other big schools nearby include the University of Central Oklahoma, Rogers State University, and Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Even better, tuition and fees for Oklahoma students remain extremely low when compared to the national average. As College Board statistics show, the average tuition for a public two-year college came out to only $3,493 for the 2014-15 school year. For four-year schools, average tuition was only $6,895.
But Oklahoma isn't just about education and jobs; it's also steeped in culture, uniqueness, and natural beauty. Here are some facts about Oklahoma that you probably didn't know:
- Although Oklahoma is landlocked, it is still the perfect place for anyone who loves water. In fact, the state boasts 55,646 miles of shoreline along its lakes, rivers, and streams.
- Oklahoma City is home to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and the American Banjo Museum, among others.
- Beaver, Oklahoma is the Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World. A ""cow chip"" is a pile of dried cow dung. The World Championship Cow Chip Throw is held there every year.
- Nature lovers will relish in the fact that the state contains four scenic mountain ranges -- the Ouachitas, Arbuckles, Wichitas, and Kiamichis.
- If you're interested in Native American heritage, Oklahoma may be your place. The state is home to a large community of Native American population, with 250,000 American Indians still living there.
What Makes Oklahoma Ideal for Online Education?
While the importance of a college degree is taking hold in most parts of the state, some areas in Oklahoma have higher levels of educational attainment than others. The Lumina Foundation lists the following Oklahoma counties as having the highest percentage of adults with at least a two-year degree in 2013:
- Payne: 43.40 percent
- Cleveland: 41.16 percent
- Tulsa: 40.04 percent
- Oklahoma: 37.10 percent
- Canadian: 36.00 percent
However, levels of educational attainment are much lower in rural areas that sit far away from the vast majority of schools in the state. That's part of the reason why online education in Oklahoma is so important; the ability to earn a flexible, web-based degree from home expands educational access to nearly anyone in the state.
According to Marcy Tanner-Garrett, Southwestern Oklahoma State University RN to BSN Coordinator, distance learning in Oklahoma can help students earn the same high quality degrees as on-campus students, but with more flexibility. And that added flexibility can mean a lot to students who need it -- including the ability to continue working full- or part-time while pursuing a degree. According to Tanner-Garrett, this is especially important to certain segments of the state's population.
""Online education in Oklahoma, specifically in western Oklahoma, allows students access to the highest-quality education in a format that recognizes the diversity of learning needs,"" explains Tanner-Garrett. ""For example, not all students are able to commit to taking courses on campus.""
And in certain disciplines, flexibility is not only important, but absolutely essential for student well-being.
""The majority of our online RN-BSN students are working professionals who often work 12-hour shifts. This is not always conducive to attending regularly scheduled on-campus courses,"" she notes. ""By offering a fully online nursing program, students are assured that their education is of the highest quality and offered in a format that respects their needs as working professionals. Additionally, many students have other demands on their time such as family and workplace responsibilities that make online learning a more viable option to meet their needs.""
Another benefit to online education in Oklahoma may just be the overall exposure to technology. As more and more jobs become high tech, a mastery of computers and basic software becomes increasingly important. According to Tanner-Garrett, in that respect, online degrees can actually do more to prepare students for their careers than on-campus programs.
""For example, our students participate in online discussions, online patient assessments, community projects, group collaboration, and online examinations, all of which involve the use of technology,"" she says. ""Many students have told me that the program increased their confidence in the use of technology.""
10 Featured Degrees in Oklahoma
Although Oklahoma has plenty to offer workers in all industries, some fields hold more promise than others. Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor, we compared wage data and employment projections to create this list of hot degrees for Oklahoma students:
Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Sonography
Careers in health care are booming all over the country, and Oklahoma is no exception. Earning a degree in diagnostic medical sonography can help students master the ultrasound technology that helps other health care professionals diagnose illnesses and injuries. In most cases, students who earn this degree begin a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer. In 2014, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $66,200 in Oklahoma. Even better, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts employment in this field to increase 41 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022.
A growing need for animal care means that a degree in veterinary technology could be a good investment. Most of the time, students who earn this degree transition into a career as a veterinary technologist or technician. In 2014, the mean annual wage for these workers came out to $28,480. Meanwhile, job openings for veterinary technologists and technicians in Oklahoma are expected to increase 39 percent from 2012 to 2022.
Physical Therapy Assistant
Another booming job in health care can be found in a physical therapist's office. In most cases, graduates in this field go on to become physical therapy assistants. Factors contributing to the popularity of this degree include high pay and huge demand. As the BLS notes, physical therapy assistants earned a mean annual wage of $53,900 in Oklahoma in 2014. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts employment in this field to surge 37 percent in Oklahoma during the decade leading up to 2022.
A degree in biomedical engineering can lead to a number of careers, including one as a biomedical engineer or medical equipment repairer. Thanks to a huge demand for professionals who work in the technical side of health care, employment for both of these professions is expected to surge. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job openings for medical equipment repairers will increase 33 percent from 2012 to 2022, and for biomedical engineers, the growth is expected to be around 20 percent. High wages also add to the appeal of this degree. In 2014, medical equipment repairers in Oklahoma earned a mean annual wage of $37,220, while biomedical engineers earned $69,080.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Another health care field with huge potential is occupational therapy assisting. In most cases, students use this degree to do exactly what you probably assume -- work as an assistant in an occupational therapist's office. Because of the growing need for occupational therapy, the demand for these professionals is huge. Between 2012 and 2022, employment in this field is expected to rise 33 percent. High wages also add to its popularity. In 2014, occupational therapy assistants earned a mean annual wage of $57,660.
A degree in dental hygiene can help you begin a career as a dental hygienist in a dentist's office. And thanks to the ongoing demand for dental care, these professionals are highly sought after. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment of dental hygienists could increase by as much as 31 percent in Oklahoma from 2012 to 2022. Salaries in the field remain high as well. As of 2014, dental hygienists in Oklahoma earned a mean annual wage of $64,900.
Earning a degree in a foreign language can put you on a quick path towards a career as an interpreter or translator in a number of industries. And since languages other than English are becoming more commonplace, the need for translation services is bound to increase. U.S. Department of Labor figures show that employment of interpreters and translators in Oklahoma could increase by as much as 32 percent between 2012 and 2022.
A degree in computer science could open the door to a number of promising careers. In Oklahoma, a few that hold the most potential include information security analyst, computer systems analyst, and software development. Because of the demand for trained technology workers, job opportunities for information security analysts are expected to increase 27 percent in Oklahoma from 2012 to 2022. For computer systems analysts and software developers, growth is expected to reach 21 percent and 20 percent, respectively. High wages may also be possible with a degree in computer science. For example, information security analysts earned a mean annual wage of $65,830 in 2014.
Since businesses rely on marketing professionals to sell their products and services, a degree in marketing is generally a good investment. In Oklahoma, employment of market research analysts and marketing specialists is expected to increase 27 percent from 2012 to 2022. High pay also adds to the popularity of this degree and its potential career paths. In 2014, market research analysts and marketing specialists earned a mean annual wage of $57,620.
As the race to find fossil fuels continues, demand for professionals with the know-how is bound to increase. A degree in petroleum engineering could prepare you for a career in this field. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, employment of petroleum engineers in Oklahoma is expected to increase 26 percent from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, pay remains extremely high. As of 2014, petroleum engineers in the state earned a mean annual wage of $148,550.
Featured Cities for Oklahoma College Students
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Oklahoma City had a population of around 610,613 residents in 2013. As the county seat of Oklahoma County and part of the Oklahoma City metro area, the region is one of the state's most urban. Oklahoma City also has plenty to offer in terms of educational attainment, cost of living, and culture. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median housing value in Oklahoma City came in at an affordable $132,900 in 2013. Meanwhile, the region is home to a wealth of the state's most prestigious and popular schools, including Epsworth University, Oklahoma City University, and the University of Oklahoma. Lovers of music, arts, and culture will also find plenty to do and see with access to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the art deco Civic Center Music Hall, and a number of small, local theaters. Here are a few of the city's popular schools for on-campus and online students:
Oklahoma State University - Oklahoma City
As part of the Oklahoma State University System, this school offers a wealth of on-campus and online degree options in a variety of disciplines. Enrollment in 2014 reached 6,712 students during the fall semester, and 54 percent of the school's students take at least one online course. Current offerings include 67 associate degree programs, 17 certificate programs, and two bachelor's degree programs. The school is known for the following popular degree options:
- Associate of Applied Science in Cardiovascular Ultrasound Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Wind Turbine Technology
- Online Associate of Science in Health Care Administration
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City University is an urban, private university located in the city's Uptown District. With an average student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1, the school currently offers 60 undergraduate programs, 12 graduate degrees, and a distinguished adult studies program. For the 2014-15 school year, tuition and fees averaged out to $30,726. However, a wide range of student aid options are available. The school is also known for the following programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Online Bachelor of Science Completion Program
Oklahoma City Community College
As the area's largest community college, Oklahoma City Community College serves more than 29,000 students each year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Current academic options include a wide range of associate degree and career training options aimed at preparing students for entry into the workforce or transfer to a four-year school. As of the 2014-15 school year, tuition and fees averaged out to $3,241 for in-state students. A few of the school's most popular programs include:
- Associate of Arts in Philosophy
- Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies
- Diversified Studies Degree Program
Oklahoma's second-largest city, Tulsa was home to more than 398,000 residents in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is the principal municipality of the Tulsa metropolitan area and a region ripe with economic activity and industry. Sitting next to the Arkansas River and at the foothills of the Ozarks Mountains, Tulsa offers a wealth of outdoor activities in addition to an active arts and music scene. A low cost of living also adds to the allure of this dynamic city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median housing value in Tulsa was only $122,200 in 2013. Here are a few of Tulsa's most popular schools:
University of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa features an enrollment of approximately 4,597 students and a wide range of undergraduate degree programs that span across nearly every discipline. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $35,855. However, plenty of student aid options are available. Among the school's prominent programs, these degree options stand out:
- Bachelor of Science in Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts in Management Information Systems
- Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
Tulsa Community College
As Oklahoma's largest community college, Tulsa Community College offers an astounding 235 associate degree and certificate programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The school aims to prepare students for quick entry into the workforce or transfer to a four-year school. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year were an affordable $2,820 for in-state students. Here are a few of their key programs:
- Associate of Science in Computer Information Systems
- Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
- Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering
University of Oklahoma - Tulsa
The University of Oklahoma at Tulsa boasts 30 graduate and select undergraduate degrees in disciplines such as health care, education, engineering, liberal studies, and nursing. As a state school, the University of Oklahoma continues to offer fairly affordable tuition as well. For the 2014-15 school year, tuition and fees for in-state students averaged out to $9,495. Some of their popular programs include:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Lifespan Care Administration
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Administrative Leadership
- Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Norman, Oklahoma, the state's third largest city, was home to approximately 118,197 residents in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As part of the Norman metropolitan area, the city is home to a diverse landscape of neighborhoods and cultures, many of which feature the region's famous "Cherokee Gothic" architecture. In addition to an established college and university scene, Norman features an array of establishments focused on displaying and celebrating the arts. Included are the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the Catlett Music Center. The following schools are some of the area's most prominent:
University of Oklahoma - Norman Campus
As the school's main campus, the University of Oklahoma at Norman boasts an enrollment of more than 27,000 students. With 150 college majors currently on offer, U of O's students can choose to earn a degree in nearly any in-demand discipline or subject of study. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $9,495, and the school is known for the following degree programs:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Administrative Leadership
- Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Online Bachelor of Arts in World Cultural Studies
Moore Norman Technology Center
The Moore Norman Technology Center is a career-oriented community education center aimed at preparing adults for a wide range of vocational and technical careers. Current offerings include 70 career majors in 21 separate fields, and many programs are offered in flexible online or hybrid formats. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to only $1,873. Here are a few of the school's most popular options:
- Accounting and Finance
- Writing and Publishing
- Design and Composition
Scholarships and Financial Aid
A wide range of financial aid options are available to Oklahoma students who meet certain criteria. Different types of federal aid that may be available include, but are not limited to: Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. Determining whether you qualify almost always involves filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. Filling out a FAFSA with the appropriate information can help federal and state agencies determine what kind of aid you may be eligible for.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education website lists several resources that offer more information on financial aid for Oklahoma students. Some of the state-based scholarships featured on the site include:
- Academic Scholars Program
- Regional University Baccalaureate Scholarship Chiropractic Education Scholarship Program
- Future Teachers Scholarship Program
- George and Donna Nigh Public Service Scholarship
- Scholars for Excellence in Child Care
- Heroes Promise Scholarship Program
- National Guard Tuition Waiver
- Independent Living Act (Foster Care Tuition Waiver)
If you're interested in learning more, check out http://www.okhighered.org.
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, 2015, Oklahoma, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#oklahoma
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=OK&ic=1
Fastest Growing Occupations, CareerOneStop, U.S. Department of Labor, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu3&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=40&ShowAll=
Key Business Ecosystems, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, http://okcommerce.gov/location-or-expansion/oklahomas-business-ecosystems/
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Oklahoma, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ok.htm
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, http://www.okhighered.org/adult-students/financial-aid.shtml
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/40000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Norman, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/40/4052500.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma City, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/40/4055000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Tulsa, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/40/4075000.html
""Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time,"" College Board, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-sector-and-state-over-time