South Dakota features wide open spaces, some of the country's most beautiful natural areas, and higher than average educational attainment. Through 2013, 41.9 percent of adults ages 25-64 held at least a two-year degree, which compared favorably to the national average of just 40 percent. And that percentage is up from just a few years ago: in 2008, only 39.4 percent of South Dakota adults held a two-year degree or better.
A recent report from the Lumina Foundation breaks the numbers down further. According to A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, 13.59 percent of South Dakota adults held an associate degree in 2013, while 20.43 percent held a bachelor's and 7.84 percent possessed a graduate degree.
Some figures seem to show where South Dakota could improve, however. Through 2013, 28.49 percent of the state's adults held just a high school diploma, and another 23.15 percent had some college experience, but no degree.
With more than 50 percent of the adult population going without a college education, it's no wonder that South Dakota is planning to increase its focus on degree attainment. According to a release from the South Dakota Department of Education (2015), national job growth will be dominated by positions that require some type of postsecondary education in the near future. In order to meet the growing demand, state leaders hope to increase educational attainment during the coming decade.
Fortunately, South Dakota is home to 31 institutions of higher education that could help prepare residents for the jobs of the future. While some traditional schools in the state focus only on on-campus instruction, many South Dakota institutions now offer flexible, online degree programs.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in South Dakota?
Despite its rural nature, South Dakota has a large workforce. In 2014, approximately 409,250 individuals were employed in a wide range of positions throughout the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Collectively, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $37,300 that year.
Certain careers for college graduates offer exceptionally high pay and levels of employment in the state. The following chart highlights some of these top careers:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||63,290||$31,340|
|Sales and Related Occupations||46,720||$37,130|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||42,030||$22,610|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||30,750||$71,080|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||29,850||$33,800|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||24,410||$41,260|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||22,020||$39,320|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||19,110||$63,290|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||17,260||$25,850|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||16,150||$45,850|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||15,020||$25,440|
In addition to offering a wide range of industries and potential careers, South Dakota is serious about higher education. Its 31 institutions include everything from traditional, four-year schools to community colleges, trade and technical schools, beauty schools, and career training centers. Students who pursue on-campus or online degrees in South Dakota will find many affordable options available to them.
Still, South Dakota offers more than beautiful scenery, a growing economy, and opportunities for higher education. Here are five fun facts about the state we bet you didn't know:
- Need room to spread out? South Dakota averages only 10 people per square mile.
- Because of its many lakes created by retreating glaciers, South Dakota boasts more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida.
- South Dakota is home to beautiful Mount Rushmore -- a permanent mountain carving of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln which took 14 years and $1 million dollars to create.
- With more than 120 miles of passages, South Dakota's Jewel Cave is the longest cave in the world.
- Sturgis, South Dakota is home to one of the nation's most popular motorcycle celebrations, the Black Hills Classic Motorcycle Rally.
What Makes South Dakota Ideal for Online Education?
Because of its wild and vast nature, numerous rolling prairies, and rural attitude, South Dakota averages just 10 people per square mile. As you can imagine, this can make traditional degree attainment difficult; for rural students, commuting back and forth to school is often out of the question.
"Many regions of SD, especially out west, are very remote so online education is especially popular in these areas," explains Tracia Hogue, Student Services Facilitator for online students at South Dakota State University.
Online degree programs in South Dakota break down barriers to higher education, including geographical ones. With flexible, online programming, students can earn their degrees from anywhere in the state provided they have an internet connection. And according to Sarah Rasmussen, Director of Extended Programs at Dakota State University, distance learning also improves student access to a wider range of degree options.
"The online option has opened up great opportunities for students who otherwise would not have been able to get their degree, which in turn has helped the workforce in having highly skilled employees and also shows the future generations the importance of a college education, no matter what the barriers might be," she says.
Meanwhile, online programs can be especially ideal for South Dakota's working adults and busy parents. Because online education can be pursued from anywhere in the state, and programs traditionally offer flexible scheduling, the set-up is nearly perfect for anyone who needs to continue working full-time or raising a family while they finish their studies.
And according to Rasmussen, students who pursue online education in South Dakota will find programs that offer both quality and affordability.
"South Dakota Public Higher Education Universities throughout the state are very reputable and have stood the test of time for well over 100 years," she says. "South Dakota Public Higher Ed also have an extremely competitive price point compared to other states or private institutions as well."
Further, Rasmussen notes that the state's online programs must go through an intensive quality assurance process to make sure academic standards and rigor "are all met or exceeded." In other words, students pursuing online degrees in South Dakota can rest assured that they are receiving the same quality education as their on-campus peers.
10 Featured Degrees in South Dakota
For South Dakota students, some majors could pay off more than others in the long run. Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor (2014), we created this list of degrees in the state based on demand and compensation:
With the use of foreign languages on the rise nationwide, it makes sense that a degree in the field might be a good investment. Graduates of these programs often find work as interpreters or translators -- a career which is expected to see a 40 percent surge in employment in South Dakota through 2022. Additionally, these professionals earned a mean annual wage of $37,530 in the state in 2014.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Like many fields in health care, ultrasound science is growing. That's especially true in South Dakota, where job openings for diagnostic medical sonographers are expected to increase by 35 percent through 2022. For a two-year degree, this option also leads to relatively high pay. As of 2014, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a mean annual wage of $55,610 in the state.
Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Since South Dakota produces so many agricultural products, it's no wonder that skilled logistics professionals are in demand. Most of the time, students who earn this degree go on to become logisticians, who help businesses and producers transport their products in a responsible and profitable way. A high mean annual wage of $64,340 for logisticians in South Dakota only adds to the popularity of this degree. (BLS, 2014)
As South Dakota's economy continues to grow, businesses will rely on marketing professionals to sell their products and services. Due to this ongoing demand, employment of marketing specialists and market research analysts is expected to surge 31 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. And since these workers earned a mean annual wage of $57,420 in 2014, this degree could really pay off.
Mining and Geological Engineering
With so many natural resources at play, South Dakota is a center for mining and geological engineering. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that jobs for mining and geological engineers in the state will increase by as much as 29 percent during the decade leading up to 2022.
A degree in computer science could lead to a number of growing careers in South Dakota. Several occupations projected to see employment growth between 2012 and 2022 include information security analysts (26 percent), software developers of applications (20 percent), and computer systems analysts (19 percent).
Physical Therapy Assistant
Physical therapy is another career field expected to experience solid growth in coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Through 2022, employment of physical therapy assistants in South Dakota is projected to increase 26 percent, adding 70 new jobs in the process.
Since tourism continues to grow in South Dakota, it's no wonder that careers in hospitality are booming as well. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job openings for meeting, convention, and event planners could increase by as much as 25 percent in the state through 2022.
A degree in civil engineering could really pay off in South Dakota, thanks to the wealth of ongoing construction projects that require skilled professionals in the field. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job openings for civil engineers could increase by as much as 18 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. High pay also adds to the allure of this program choice. As of 2014, civil engineers in South Dakota earned a mean annual wage of $68,600.
With demand for dental care on the rise, a degree in dental hygiene could really pay off. In South Dakota, employment of dental hygienists is expected to increase 21 percent between 2012 and 2022. And with a mean annual wage of $57,880 in 2014, this career path is definitely worth a closer look.
Featured Cities for South Dakota College Students
With a population of 168,586 in 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau), Sioux Falls is South Dakota's largest city. Popular industries in the area include health care, banking, and food production. Meanwhile, the city's remoteness has made it a center for shopping and retail trade.
Thanks to economic growth and prosperity in the area, Sioux Falls featured a healthy median household income of $51,672 in 2013. Further, only 11.1 percent of city residents lived below the poverty line that year.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), eleven institutions of higher education are located in the Sioux Falls area. Here are a few of the most prominent:
Augustana College is a private liberal arts and professional university that offers 50 majors and pre-professional specializations. Although the school focuses on the Lutheran faith and its traditions, students from all faiths are welcomed. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $29,214, and 67 percent of students graduated on-time in 2008, which was the last time the school reported. A few of the school's most popular programs include:
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Bachelor of Arts in Economics
Colorado Technical University - Sioux Falls
While CTU isn't accepting new applications for on-campus students in Sioux Falls, they offer a rapidly-growing online department for all students in the region. Currently, students can choose from a wide range of associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees that can be earned online, from the comfort of their homes. Tuition for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $10,440, and the school is known for these popular programs:
- Online Associate of Science in Business Administration
- Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Online Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security
University of Sioux Falls
The University of Sioux Falls is a Christian liberal arts university founded in 1883. Currently, the school offers more than 40 undergraduate majors, five degree completion programs, and four online adult graduate programs. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $25,480, and students enjoyed small class sizes with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 14:1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A few of the university's notable programs include:
- Online Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems
Rapid City was home to 67,596 in 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census data. As South Dakota's second-largest urban area, Rapid City has become a hub for Black Hills and rural tourism. Known as the "Gateway to the Black Hills," the city is near both Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been under construction since 1948.
Through 2013, the median household income in Rapid City was $57,500, yet the median housing value was just $138,000. Popular industries in the area include government services, mining, military, and health care.
Five institutions of higher education can be found in the Rapid City, including these schools:
National American University - Rapid City
National American University is a large, regional school with campuses all over South Dakota and neighboring states. At its Rapid City campus, the school offers degrees in business and information technology, nursing, veterinary technology, and paralegal studies. Students can also choose from a wide range of flexible, online degree options. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $13,287. Here are some of the schools popular programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology offers a variety of degree programs that cater to the region's premier industry: mining. The school currently boasts dozens of undergraduate and graduate degrees in science and engineering-related fields, including some programs that can be completed online. Tuition and fees worked out to $10,040 for the 2014-15 school year, and these are a few of their popular offerings:
- Online Master of Science in Construction Engineering and Management
- Online Master of Science in Mining Engineering and Management
- Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Western Dakota Technical Institute
Western Dakota Technical Institute is a vocational college with more than 20 programs in fields like business, technology, construction, health services, and mechanical trades. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year worked out to just $5,960. Students can pursue both associate degrees and technical certificates at the school, including these popular options:
- Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Business Management & Marketing
Aberdeen is South Dakota's third-largest city despite having a population of just 27,800 in 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau). Popular industries in the area include health care, banking, and higher education. Aberdeen's median household income was $47,963 through 2013, while the city's median housing value came in at $134,000.
The city of Aberdeen offers plenty of opportunities for culture and personal development, with its own community theatre, arts council, and film festival. Two outstanding institutions of higher education can also be found in the Aberdeen area:
Northern State University
With in-state tuition of just $7,563 in 2014, Northern State University has consistently ranked as one of the most affordable institutions in the Midwest. Students at Northern State can choose from 43 bachelor's degree programs, seven associate degree programs, nine master's degrees, and seven career certificates -- some of which can be completed online. A few of the school's most popular programs include:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in International Business Studies
- Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting
- Bachelor of Science in Finance
Presentation College is a four-year, private Catholic school that offers both on-campus and online undergraduate degree programs. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year worked out to $17,875, and students enjoyed small, intimate classrooms with a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. Enrollment was made up of 729 students in 2014, and some of the school's notable programs are:
- Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Online Associate of Science in Medical Office Administration
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Students interested in traditional or distance learning in South Dakota should explore all of their options when it comes to financial aid. Most of the time, the first step towards securing financial aid involves filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. Types of federal aid can include, but are not limited to: Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, or Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
The South Dakota Board of Regents offers additional information on state-based financial aid. State-based scholarship and grant opportunities listed on their website include:
- Ardell Bjugstad Scholarship
- Haines Memorial Scholarship
- Annis Irene Fowler/Kaden Scholarship
- Marlin R. Scarborough Memorial Scholarship
- Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship
- Dakota Corps Scholarship
- Jump Start Scholarship
- South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship
- Need-Based Scholarships
In addition to federal and state aid, students may qualify for institution-based assistance. In order to determine eligibility, students should check with their school's financial aid office.
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, 2015, South Dakota, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#south-dakota
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
Industry Employment Projections, South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, https://dlr.sd.gov/lmic/industry_projections_fastest_growth.aspx
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics South Dakota, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sd.htm
Paying for College, South Dakota Board of Regents, https://www.sdbor.edu/students/payingforcollege.htm
Promoting Higher Education in South Dakota through Goalsetting, South Dakota Department of Education, http://doe.sd.gov/board/packets/documents/082415/Item4doc1.pdf
South Dakota Facts, South Dakota, https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/before-you-go/about-south-dakota/south-dakota-facts
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Aberdeen, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/46/4600100.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Sioux Falls, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/46/4659020.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Rapid City, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/46/4653007.html
Top 50 Fastest-Growing Occupations, CareerOneStop, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu3&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=46&ShowAll=
Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time, College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time