According to recent figures from the Lumina Foundation, approximately 43.5 percent of Utah adults ages 25-64 held at least a two-year degree in 2016. Compared to the national average of degree attainment among adults -- 46.9 percent -- it appears that Utah residents place a high priority on higher education. Further, the percentage of Utah adults with a degree is actually on an upward trend since 2008, when only 40.3 percent held a two- or four-year degree.
As the study notes, among Utah adults, 22.2 percent held a high school diploma and 20 percent had some college, but no degree in 2016. Meanwhile, 10.7 percent of adults held an associate degree, 22 percent held a bachelor's, and 10.8 percent held a graduate or professional degree.
This goes to show that, while degree attainment is higher in Utah than the national average, there is still plenty of room for improvement. And with such a large percentage of adults with some college, but no degree, a huge opportunity exists for adults to return to school and finish what they started.
Fortunately, Utah is home to a wide range of colleges, universities, and trade schools. Specifically, the National Center for Education Statistics lists 87 schools as active in the state. While some of the schools focus solely on on-campus, traditional education, others offer innovative hybrid and online education in Utah -- a type of education that expands access to a wide range of students.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Utah?
It's no secret that Utah is growing in popularity. With a wealth of outdoor recreational areas and beautiful natural landscapes, plus its trendy urban areas, the state truly has something for everyone.
But Utah offers more than just natural beauty; it also boasts an upbeat economy with tons of opportunities for college-educated workers. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, the state's workforce was made up of 1,280,660 workers in 2014, with a mean annual wage of $43,550. Those with college degrees tended to earn much more than that, however. The following chart includes careers that provided the most jobs for college-educated workers in Utah in 2016:
With its central location in the Western United States, Utah is a center for transportation, education, research, and information technology. And due to its diverse landscape, the state has also become a hotspot for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Major metropolitan areas in Utah include the Logan metro area, Ogden-Clearfield metro area, Provo-Orem metro area, Salt Lake City metro area, and the Wasatch front.
Although distance learning in Utah has made higher education possible for all the state's residents, the vast majority of colleges and universities exist in the state's more urban areas like Layton, Logan, Ogden, Saint George, and Salt Lake City.
Because of this, many of Utah's college-educated residents are clustered too, with the following counties having more than their share of adults with degrees in 2014:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||242,120||$34,580|
|Sales and Related Occupations||138,470||$38,270|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||110,510||$22,980|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||89,980||$50,140|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||88,440||$36,960|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||80,310||$43,630|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||70,800||$65,110|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||68,820||$75,430|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||55,650||$46,860|
|Customer Service Representatives||49,510||$32,670|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||48,640||$80,650|
|Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food||43,580||$20,000|
- Summit County: 56.48 percent
- Utah County: 48.24 percent
- Davis County: 46.54 percent
- Cache County: 44.48 percent
- Wasatch County: 43.90 percent
The largest student populations in the state belong to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah State University in Logan, Utah Valley University in Orem, and Weber State University in Ogden. Meanwhile, plenty of community colleges, trade schools, and career centers also dot the state, with many offering online degrees in Utah, or even hybrid education.
Another reason Utah is popular for college students is the state's dedication to affordability. Not only are housing costs relatively affordable (the median housing value in Utah was $212,800 in 2013, according to U.S. Census figures), but tuition and fees are extremely affordable. College Board figures show that Utah college costs for the 2014-15 school year came in much lower than the national average, as shown in the chart below.
Average Tuition and Fees for Utah Colleges (2014-15):
- Public two-year: $3,449
- Public four-year: $6,177
- Private, nonprofit four-year: $6,462
Beyond educational attainment, Utah offers plenty in terms of industry and economic opportunity. The Economic Development Corporation of Utah lists a number of key industries that give the state a competitive advantage, including:
- Advanced Composites
- Data Centers
- Digital Media
- Financial Services
- Information Technology
- Life Sciences
- Renewable Energy
- Sports and Outdoor Products
Because of the many innovative industries taking hold in the state, a number of large corporations have expanded and hired more workers over the last decade. Corporations included on that list are Boeing, Janicki Industries, eBay, and Hexcel Corporation. According to the Utah Office of Energy Development, the energy industry in Utah is worth $4.7 billion on its own, and supports more than 17,000 jobs in the state as of 2015.
In addition to the many educational and career opportunities available, Utah has plenty to offer in terms of quality of life as well. Here are some facts you probably didn't know about the state, courtesy of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah:
- Two Utah cities were named as top places to live in the U.S. by Relocate America in 2011. Four Utah cities were ranked in the top 100 places to live by CNN Money.
- Utah is home to 14 world-class ski resorts, including 11 that are within an hour of the airport. Ski, Skiing, and Outside magazines consistently rank Utah's ski resorts as some of the best in the nation.
- Lovers of the outdoors, rejoice. Outside Magazine recently named Salt Lake City the #1 place to live. Meanwhile, National Geographic Adventure named it the #1 city for hiking.
- Utah contains five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, six national forests, and thousands of acres of terrain suitable for a multitude of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and rock climbing.
- Love beer? Utah boasts 13 award-winning microbreweries within its borders.
What Makes Utah Ideal for Online Education?
The fact that so many established colleges and universities in Utah offer online degree programs is part of the state's allure. Offering a large number of online program, Utah State University (USU), is even considered a national leader in the fields of distance education and online learning.
USU offers a wealth of distance education options for students who reside in and out of the state. According to Jay Wright from Utah State University, options include over 350 online courses, eight online bachelor's degrees, five online master's degrees, and 17 online minors, certificates, and teaching endorsements.
"These programs and courses are geared toward a wide degree of students -- traditional aged, non-traditional aged, military and veterans, professionals with degrees such as teachers seeking to expand their professional scope," explains Wright.
As a school that offers both traditional and online degrees in Utah, USU is both award-winning and innovative. According to Wright, USU is in the top three percent of all Carnegie Research Institutions, and is the #2 highest-ranked public university in the West (Forbes, "Top Colleges," Aug. 2014).
"Employers recognize an education from a well-known and trusted brand like USU is better than a random, unknown, never-heard-of-before brand selling Internet degrees," says Wright. And when it comes to distance learning in Utah, having the ability to pursue an online degree at a well-known school can be a huge asset.
Of course, educational opportunity isn't the only reason Utah is well-suited for distance learning. Another factor that makes Utah the perfect place to earn an online degree is the way the state's population is spread out.
"Geographically, Utah has a significant place-bound rural population that does not have easy physical access to traditional higher education institutions," says Wright. "Offering online courses and degrees overcomes those geographic barriers to higher education."
Because online students in Utah are able to complete their coursework at any time or place of their choosing, provided they have an internet connection, many more students have been able to take advantage.
10 Featured Degrees in Utah
Because of Utah's economic health, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts plenty of opportunities for employment in a wide range of fields during the coming decade. However, some majors could pay off more than others, which is why we created this list of degrees in Utah for on-campus and online students:
Due to a shortage in the field, a degree in geography could pay off in spades. As the U.S. Department of Labor notes, employment for geographers could increase by as much as 105 percent in Utah from 2012 to 2022. Fortunately, a slew of outstanding schools in the state offer excellent programs in this field, including a few with distance or online options.
Earning a degree in biomedical engineering could help you start a career as a biomedical engineer. As part of the technical side of health care, careers in this field are expected to remain in demand. Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of biomedical engineers could increase by as much as 67 percent in Utah between 2012 and 2022. Medical equipment repairers, professionals who normally get their start with an associate degree in biomedical engineering, might see an increase in employment as big as 48 percent during the same timeframe.
Earning a bachelor's degree in a foreign language such as Spanish is a great way to gain employment as an interpreter or translator. With absolute fluency in at least two languages, these workers are able to break down the barriers between people of different cultures and language backgrounds. Due to the proliferation of languages other than English in the United States, qualified translators are expected to remain in demand. As the U.S. Department of Labor notes, employment of interpreters and translators could increase by as much as 60 percent in Utah from 2012 to 2022.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Earning a degree in diagnostic medical sonography can help you master the art of ultrasound science, a type of technology that is used to monitor patients and diagnose illnesses or injuries. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment of diagnostic medical sonographers could increase by as much as 54 percent in Utah through 2022.
As businesses continue to require the services of marketing, advertising, and public relations specialists, careers in this field are expected to grow. Specifically, the BLS predicts that marketing specialists and market research analysts have some of the brightest futures in the state. With constant demand for these professionals, employment could surge by as much as 53 percent in Utah during the decade leading up to 2022.
A degree in computer science is a great way to get your foot in the door as an information security analyst, software developer, or computer systems analyst -- all jobs which are expected to see exceptional demand in Utah in the coming years. Specifically, the BLS predicts that job opportunities could increase by as much as 51 percent for information security analysts, 41 percent for software developers, and 38 percent for computer systems analysts from 2012 to 2022.
With hospitality playing such a huge part in Utah's economy, it's no wonder that careers in this field are taking off. With a degree in hospitality management, you could start working as a meeting, convention, and event planner or as a lodging manager, professions that the BLS predicts will grow 51 percent and 15.6 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2022.
Nearly every health care field is expected to see healthy growth over the coming decade, and respiratory therapy is no exception. Depending on which type of degree and job training you pursue, this field could help you land a job as either a respiratory therapist or respiratory therapy technician. According to the BLS, employment for both jobs is expected to increase steadily in Utah over the next decade, by as much as 46 percent for respiratory therapy technicians and 28 percent for respiratory therapists.
Loving animals isn't always enough to find work in a veterinarian's office. If you want to make a career out of helping creatures big and small, you're better off earning a degree in veterinary technology. Most of the time, students who earn an associate's degree in this field go on to become a veterinary technologist or technician, careers that are expecting to see 44 percent growth in Utah through 2022.
A degree in medical technology can help you land a job as a medical or clinical laboratory technician. These workers perform the routine laboratory tests that help scientists and health care professionals identify, diagnose, and treat illnesses. And with medical technology advancing at a rapid pace, the future looks bright for this career. Specifically, the BLS projects a 42 percent increase in employment of these professionals between 2012 and 2022.
Featured Cities for Utah College Students
Salt Lake City
With a beautiful mountain backdrop, a bustling tourism industry, and a dedication to the arts, it's no wonder that Salt Lake City is Utah's most populous city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, SLC was home to roughly 191,180 residents in 2013.
High levels of educational attainment and a low cost of living help the Salt Lake City area, and its metropolitan region, stay popular among young adults. As of 2013, 41.2 percent of the city's adult population (ages 25-64) held at least a bachelor's degree, yet the median housing value that year was only $236,600.
The Salt Lake City area is also home to a wealth of high profile colleges and universities, including these schools:
University of Utah
With a student population of over 32,000, the University of Utah is one of the state's largest and most prominent schools. It's extremely affordable as well, with annual tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year adding up to only $7,835 for in-state students. In addition to its many excellent bachelor's and graduate programs, the University of Utah also offers a wide range of career-oriented certificate programs. Some courses can even be completed online. The University of Utah is known for the following programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Biology
- Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Salt Lake City Community College
As the largest community college in the state, Salt Lake City Community College serves over 60,000 students across ten college campuses each year. The school offers over 120 areas of study, including some programs available in flexible, online formats. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $3,469 for in-state students, and the school is known for these popular programs:
- Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
- Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
- Associate of Science in Architecture
Founded in 1875, Westminster College is a private liberal arts college that offers degree programs in more than 70 different academic disciplines. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, Westminster prides itself on not only high standard of education, but focused, small groups and class sizes as well. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $30,364 for full-time students, although a large percentage of the student population receives financial aid. Among their many popular degree programs, the following stand out:
- RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Bachelor of Science in Mathematics
- Bachelor of Business Administration
Provo, Utah, a part of the Provo-Orem metropolitan area, is the state's third-largest city. With a population of 116,288 as of 2013 and a dynamic city center, Provo offers both urban areas and rural charm.
Despite its popularity, Provo has also remained rather affordable. As of 2013, the median housing value for the Provo area was only $198,700. The area's rugged landscape also makes it a favorite among outdoors enthusiasts. With both mountains and valleys nearby, hiking and other forms of outdoor recreation are common. Provo also boasts several high profile institutions of higher education. These schools are a few of the most prominent:
Brigham Young University
With over 31,000 students, Brigham Young University is one of the largest schools in all of Utah. However, tuition and fees still remain affordable. During the 2014-15 school year, in-state students paid only $5,000 for base tuition and fees. Although the school is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it offers a rigorous curriculum in areas outside of religious education, including a wide range of sought-after fields. Brigham Young is especially known for the following programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
- Bachelor of Science in Integrative Biology
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health Education
As a small, two-year private school, Provo College focuses on helping students enter the workforce quickly. Currently, educational offerings include a wide range of associate, bachelor's, and diploma programs in career-oriented disciplines such as business and health care. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year were $14,882, although many students receive financial aid. Provo College's most popular programs include:
- Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant
- Associate in Dental Assisting
- Bachelor's in Business Administration
Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions
Rounding out Provo's educational offerings is Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, a graduate school aimed at preparing students for advanced health care practice. By offering degrees and programs that can lead to advanced careers in nursing, physician assisting, speech language pathology, and occupational therapy, RMUHP aims to help students reach the highest levels of their profession. Tuition for the 2014-15 school year came out to $12,064, and the school is known for these popular programs:
- Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy
- Doctor of Nursing Practice
- Master of Physician Assistant Studies
A part of the Ogden-Clearfield metropolitan area, Ogden had a population of approximately 84,249 in 2013. Due to its proximity to both mountain ranges and breathtaking rivers, the city remains a favorite for tourists looking for outdoor recreation and adventure.
Low housing costs and a family-friendly attitude add to the area's popularity. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median housing value in Ogden was only $131,200 in 2013. While smaller than the other cities covered in this guide, Ogden contains a number of educational options for college-bound students, including these fine schools:
Weber State University
Founded in 1889, Weber State University is a public-funded liberal arts school that offers a wide range of degrees and professional certificates. In addition to its on-campus offerings, Weber State University also offers online education and distance learning in Utah, much to the delight of their diverse student population, which was comprised of 25,155 students in 2013. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $5,184, and WSU is known for the following programs:
- Master of Accounting
- Master of Business Administration
- Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College
Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College serves over 6,000 students annually. As a small, career-oriented training center, they offer over 300 technical skills courses in 40 career disciplines. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year were only $4,114, and some of their most popular programs include:
- Associate of Applied Science in HVAC Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Plumbing
- Associate of Applied Science in Sheet Metal Worker
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Students considering campus-based or online education in Utah should explore the different types of financial aid available. For example, they may be able to qualify for several types of federal aid, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
The Utah System of Higher Education also offers resources for students seeking financial aid on their website. Aid possibilities include a wide range of scholarships and grants, including these options offered through the state:
- Utah Regent's Scholarship
- New Century Scholarship
Loan forgiveness and student loan programs are also available. Students should check with their school of choice for aid options as well. In many cases, colleges and universities will offer school-specific financial aid to students who meet certain requirements and income guidelines.
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, Utah, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/UT
An Unsurpassed Quality of Life, Economic Development Corporation of Utah, http://www.edcutah.org/quality_of_life.php
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Utah, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=UT
Fastest Growing Occupations, CareerOneStop, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu4&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=49&ShowAll=
Interview with Jay Wright of Utah State University, July 14, 2015
Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Utah, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ut.htm
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Utah, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Salt Lake City, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49/4967000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Provo, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49/4962470.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Ogden, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49/4955980.html
Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time, College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time
Utah System of Higher Education, http://higheredutah.org/