Educational attainment in the state of Wyoming is lower than the national average, albeit slightly. Through 2013, 39.4 percent of Wyoming adults held at least a two-year degree, compared to 40 percent nationally. This percentage in Wyoming does appear to be improving, however. According to recent data from the Lumina Foundation, only 36 percent of Wyoming adults held a two-year degree or better in 2008.
Additional data from the Lumina Foundation shows where Wyoming has significant room for improvement. For example, as of 2013, 27.23 percent of Wyoming adults possessed only a high school diploma, while 28.18 percent had some college experience, but no degree. In other words, non-degreed adults represented more than half of the state's population in 2013. To put things in perspective, it's important to note that 11.86 percent of Wyoming adults held an associate degree, 18.57 percent had their bachelor's, and 9.02 percent held a graduate or professional degree that same year.
Fortunately, students interested in pursuing on-campus or online degrees in Wyoming will find 11 different institutions of higher education to choose from. That figure includes a large, public school and smaller, technical and community colleges. While some Wyoming colleges offer traditional education options, others offer flexible, online or hybrid degree programs in addition to their on-campus offerings.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Wyoming?
Despite its small population, the state of Wyoming offers a slew of jobs in some of the most popular industries. As of 2014, Wyoming's workforce was made up of 282,690 individuals. Collectively, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $44,930, which works out to approximately $21.60 per hour.
Some careers offer Wyoming graduates more promise than others, however. Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor, we compiled this list of jobs with high pay and high levels of employment in the state:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||36,190||$35,290|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||27,890||$50,950|
|Sales and Related Occupations||25,320||$36,660|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||25,180||$23,770|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||23,600||$43,650|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||20,230||$48,230|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||17,380||$54,490|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||14,300||$77,590|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||11,670||$28,270|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||8,480||$68,180|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||8,110||$26,570|
Because Wyoming is mostly rural, only a few large cities and urban areas are found in the state. Major metropolitan regions include the Casper metro area, the Cheyenne metro area, the Front Range Urban Corridor (which lies partly in Colorado), and the Laramie metro area. Evanston, Jackson, and Sheridan are a few of the other larger cities in the state.
With its beautiful mountain scenery, and some of the nation's biggest mineral reserves, Wyoming's economy is based largely around tourism and mining. Because of its mining industry in particular, the state had the second-fastest growing economy in the nation in 2014. Currently, much of Wyoming's economic output is based on its abundance of coal. Other large industries in the state include agriculture, retail trade, finance, public administration, and transportation.
Throughout Wyoming, certain industries are expected to see more job growth and economic activity than others. Here is a list of the state's fastest-growing industries, along with their anticipated growth through 2022:
- Professional and Business Services: 23.2 percent
- Construction: 23.1 percent
- Wholesale Trade: 17.1 percent
- Education and Health Services: 16.5 percent
- Financial Activities: 15.9 percent
Thanks to Wyoming's strong economy, the median household income in the state came in at $57,406 in 2013 -- considerably higher than the national median of $53,046 that year. Meanwhile, only 11.5 percent of the state's population lived below the poverty line, compared to 15.4 percent of the population nationwide.
In addition to plenty of jobs and career opportunities, Wyoming also boasts a number of prominent schools, the most popular of which are the University of Wyoming, Sheridan College, and Western Wyoming Community College. While some of these schools focus on traditional education, others offer flexible, online degrees in Wyoming, or even hybrid options. These programs break down barriers to higher education by making it possible for the rural students of Wyoming to earn a degree without moving or commuting back and forth to school.
Another factor that makes on-campus and distance learning in Wyoming an excellent proposition is the affordable nature of the state's school options. Wyoming features some of the most affordable college tuition and fees in the nation. According to figures from the College Board, average tuition at a public, two-year school was just $2,719 for the 2014-15 school year, while tuition averaged out to just $4,646 at four-year schools.
Fun Facts About Wyoming
While Wyoming offers plenty for young families and potential students, many say there is something magical about the state. Here are five interesting facts about Wyoming that keep people coming back for more:
- Wyoming is heaven on Earth for nature-lovers. Hikers, backpackers, and campers in the state can fall in love with popular natural areas such as Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Independence Rock.
- Yellowstone National Park, which lies mostly within the state of Wyoming, has more active geysers than any other park in the world.
- Need room to spread out? Wyoming is the 9th largest state in the nation, yet has the smallest population.
- Animal lovers will find plenty to see and do in Wyoming. Because of its many natural areas and protected parks, the state is home to 600 species of wildlife.
- If you loathe big city skylines, Wyoming might be the perfect place for you. The tallest building in Wyoming is a college dorm with only 12 stories.
What Makes Wyoming Ideal for Online Education?
Online learning has increased access to higher education exponentially in Wyoming. Because the state's population is so spread out, with many living far away from a traditional school, online degree programs have helped bridge the gap for rural individuals.
According to Monica Wesley, Marketing Manager at the University of Wyoming Outreach School, "weather and road conditions can often be difficult, and the winters are long." In that sense, the factors that make Wyoming unique -- its rural nature and many undeveloped areas -- created a barrier to higher education in the past.
Another argument in favor of distance learning in Wyoming is the fact that the University of Wyoming (UW), which is located in Laramie, is the only four-year, public university in the state. As of today, Wyoming students who want to attend a public, four-year school have no choice but to complete at least part of their studies online.
For many students, however, earning their degree online isn't a sacrifice; it's a privilege.
"Online and distance education options provide a high level of flexibility, personalization, and the ability to tailor a degree to one's particular and specific interests," says Wesley. Further, many on-campus students choose to pursue at least part of their education online for convenience or other reasons.
"Even for students who choose the more traditional route of a four-year, on-campus degree, online coursework can provide additional flexibility and assist students with graduating on time," Wesley notes.
The fact that online education in Wyoming is so versatile also makes it a perfect fit for many working adults, busy parents, and other types of nontraditional students. However, Wesley adds that "students of all ages and at all points in life are seeking education that's relevant and fits into their lives."
No matter what their age or station in life, students are looking for the best way to earn a degree without too much disruption in their everyday lives. And for many, online education in Wyoming offers a flexible, high quality avenue to do just that.
Top 10 Degrees in Wyoming
With some industries in Wyoming experiencing more growth than others, choosing the right major can make all the difference. Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, we created this list of top degrees in the state:
With the use of foreign languages on the rise nationwide, a degree in this field could really pay off. That's especially true if you use your degree to become an interpreter or translator, since BLS data shows employment of these professionals could rise by as much as 44 percent in Wyoming from 2012 to 2022. As of 2014, interpreters and translators in the state earned a healthy mean annual wage of $41,390.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Like many other fields in health care, ultrasound technicians are in high demand. Because of this, a degree in diagnostic medical sonography could come in particularly handy. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, job openings for diagnostic medical sonographers in Wyoming are projected to increase 42 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. Meanwhile, high wages help this career maintain its popularity. As of 2014, diagnostic medical sonographers in the state earned a mean annual wage of $69,610.
With a degree in marketing, graduates can move into a number of different careers, including market research analyst or marketing specialist. With demand for marketing services on the rise, employment of these professionals is expected to surge by as much as 36 percent between 2012 and 2022. High wages also add to the value of this degree choice. Market research analysts and marketing specialists earned mean annual wages of $55,850 in Wyoming in 2014.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
A degree in occupational therapy assisting usually leads to a career as a licensed occupational therapist. Because of the growing demand for this type of therapy in Wyoming, employment of these professionals could increase by as much as 36 percent from 2012 to 2022.
Animal lovers seeking a fast-paced career should consider a degree in veterinary technology. With this degree, students can often find work as a veterinary technician or technologist. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, both of these careers are expected to experience a 35 percent rise in employment in Wyoming from 2012 to 2022.
Physical Therapy Assistant
Degree programs in this field help prepare students for potentially lucrative careers as physical therapy assistants. Because of the demand for physical therapy in place of more intrusive and expensive procedures, job openings for these workers are expected to increase by as much as 34 percent between 2012 and 2022. Physical therapy assistants in Wyoming were paid particularly well for their services in 2014. As the BLS notes, they earned a mean annual wage of $49,470.
A degree in computer science can lead to a future in a number of promising careers, some of which may see exceptional growth during the next decade. Popular computer fields with a high level of anticipated job growth in Wyoming through 2022 include: software developers of systems software (31 percent), computer programmers (30 percent), and computer systems analysts (30 percent).
With travel and leisure making up such a huge part of the state's economy, a degree in hospitality management could pay off well in Wyoming. Meeting, convention, and event planners in the state are expected to see job openings surge by as much as 29 percent from 2012 to 2022.
In order to begin a career in fitness, students should consider a high demand degree in exercise science. Doing so could lead to work as an athletic trainer -- an occupation which is projected to experience 29 percent employment growth through 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Students who want to become a dental hygienist typically do so by earning a two-year degree in dental hygiene. With this degree, students can enter a field that is expecting a 24 percent bump in employment in Wyoming through 2022. High wages add to the popularity of this degree choice. As of 2014, Wyoming dental hygienists earned a mean annual wage of $67,950.
Top Cities for Wyoming College Students
With a population of 62,845 in 2014, Cheyenne is the state's largest city. As the capital of Wyoming, Cheyenne is also the county seat of Laramie County and principal city of the Cheyenne, Wyoming metropolitan area.
Top industries in Cheyenne include government, military, and railroad transportation. Meanwhile, the city's high elevation makes it the perfect place to harvest wind energy, which is why many wind turbines sit within its limits. The median household income in Cheyenne was $52,848 in 2013, yet the median housing value that year was only $175,100.
The area also has plenty to offer in terms of higher education, including these three institutions:
Cheeks International Academy of Beauty Culture
Students who pursue their education at Cheeks International Academy of Beauty Culture do so in order to begin a career in cosmetology or hair design. Enrollment was made up of 52 students in 2014, and each enjoyed small class sizes with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. Tuition for the 2014-15 school year worked out to $15,375, and the school is known for the following programs:
- Hair Styling
College America - Cheyenne
College America is a private, not-for-profit institution with campuses in Wyoming and surrounding states. With a focus on degrees in business, health care, computers, and graphic arts, College America offers degrees that prepare students for quick entry into the workforce. For the 2014-15 school year, tuition and fees came out to roughly $16,968. Here are some of the school's popular programs:
- Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
- Associate of Applied Science in Business Management and Accounting
Laramie County Community College
LCCC is a comprehensive community college that offers associate degrees and certificates in wide range of career fields. More than 4,300 students were enrolled in 2014, and each enjoyed small class sizes with intimate, hands-on instruction. LCCC also offers affordable tuition for Wyoming students; for the 2014-15 school year, in-state students paid just $2,832 in tuition and fees. Further, some of LCCC's degree programs can be completed in a fully-online format. Here are a few of their notable offerings:
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems
- Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
As Wyoming's second-largest city, Casper was home to 60,086 residents in 2014. Nicknamed "The Oil City," Casper is known for its long history in oil and gas, and for the "Wild West" culture that made many western cities famous during the late 1800's.
Top industries in Casper include banking, commerce, and the production of coal and uranium. The city's median household income was $57,411 in 2013. Young people move to Casper for its secluded, rustic feel and its low cost of living. According to U.S. Census figures, the median housing value in 2013 was just $179,300.
The city of Casper is home to one institution of higher education:
Casper College is a two-year institution with a primary focus on career preparation. Currently, the school offers 113 associate degree programs and 42 one-year certificate programs, some of which can be completed at least partially online. Tuition and fees for the 2015-16 school year worked out to $1,320 for in-state students. Casper College is known for these popular program options:
- Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education
- Associate of Science in Engineering
- Associate of Science in Nursing
Laramie is Wyoming's third-largest city, with a population of 32,081 in 2014,. Because of its beautiful scenery, low taxes, and many educational opportunities, Laramie is consistently ranked as a top city to raise a family, settle down, or even retire.
Cultural opportunities abound in Laramie due its many concert halls, museums, street fairs, and parades. And with mountains and hiking trails nearby, Laramie has become a hot spot for those who love rock climbing, hiking, or camping.
Although Laramie is mostly rural, its residents boast a strikingly high level of educational attainment. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, 50.3 percent of Laramie adults ages 25 and older held a bachelor's degree in 2013, and 95.8 percent had a high school diploma or better.
Laramie is home to two institutions of higher education:
University of Wyoming
As the state's only public, four-year school, the University of Wyoming enrolled 12,820 students in 2014. Currently, the school offers degrees in more than 200 areas of study, some of which can be completed through their comprehensive online learning platform. Tuition and fees remained rather affordable for the 2014-15 school year as well, with the cost of attendance just $4,646 for in-state students. The University of Wyoming is known for these top degree programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Wyotech - Laramie
Wyotech of Laramie is a two-year community college that offers high quality technical and vocational degree and certificate programs. The school's current offerings focus on the automotive industry, and can lead to careers in automotive technology, collision repair, and even motorcycle or marine service technology. Tuition for the 2014-15 school year worked out to $29,250, and these are some of their popular programs:
- Auto-Diesel Vehicle Technology
- Collision Refinishing Technology
- Motorcycle Technology - Applied Service Management
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Although Wyoming features some of the most affordable college tuition prices in the nation, it's important for students to explore their financial aid options. In most cases, you can begin the process by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. This form helps federal agencies determine if you qualify for federal aid, which 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, students may qualify for state-based financial aid. Laramie County Community College lists a number of state-based aid opportunities on its website, including:
- LCCC Perkins CTE Student Assistance
- Wyoming Investment in Nursing Program
- Wyoming Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
- Hathaway Need
- Hathaway Scholarship
- GEAR Up Wyoming Federal Scholarships
- Challenge Access Grant
Additional aid options may be available to students based on resident status, income, and other factors. They should also check with their school's financial aid office to see if any institution-based aid is available.
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College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Wyoming, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=WY&of=1&od=0
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wyoming, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wy.htm
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Wyoming, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/56000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Casper, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/56/5613150.html
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Wyoming Long-Term Industry Projections, 2012-2022, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Research, and Planning, http://doe.state.wy.us/lmi/projections/2014/long-term-industry-2012-2022.htm