South Dakota enjoys the fifth-lowest cost of living in the U.S., according to CNBC's survey of America's Top States for Business. In addition, the survey found that South Dakota has the third friendliest-for-business climate and the fourth best economy. All this means that finding a job and affording a decent lifestyle should be easier here than in most parts of the country.
South Dakota's higher education system
South Dakota's public colleges and universities, like those in many states, have been hit hard by budgeting woes, despite the state's overall economic health. All told, the system expects to lose about $3.8 million in 2011, and the effects will be felt especially in science and technology. South Dakota State University, the state's largest university, is cutting programs including a master of science in physics, as well as bachelor of science programs in engineering physics, electronic engineering technology, and manufacturing engineering technology. A bachelor of science program in software engineering is being suspended.
These budget cuts may limit public-school options for South Dakota students, especially if they plan to pursue specialized or less popular degree programs. However, there are options in the private sector, which does not depend on funding from the state. These programs may be offered both on-campus and online.
South Dakota's online schools and degree programs
South Dakota online schools specialize in delivering advanced education anywhere you can get an Internet connection, allowing you to fit your education around your job and other responsibilities.
Online degree programs are especially meaningful to students in sparsely populated states like South Dakota, where the program you want may be hundreds of miles from your home or even out of state. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over half of South Dakota's 814,000 residents lived in rural areas in 2010. South Dakota online degrees can save students living far from campus both time and money by eliminating the commute to school.
Working in South Dakota
Top growth industries in South Dakota, according to the state Department of Labor, include professional, scientific, and technical services (19.9 percent growth projected between 2008 and 2018), administrative and support services (35.8 percent growth projected) and social assistance (24.3 percent projected growth).
Some of the fastest-growing careers in the state can be found in these fields, including the occupations listed below (all salary data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):
- Social workers. This occupation is expected to provide abundant employment in rural areas like South Dakota. Medical and public health social workers in the state had a salary of $38,370 in 2009 and are expected to see 14.7 percent employment growth from 2008 to 2018, the state Department of Labor reports. Mental health and substance abuse social workers, who earned $34,510 in 2009, should see 19 percent growth. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for entry-level positions, but a master's in social work is required for positions in health-care facilities, schools and clinical licensing.
- Credit analysts. Credit analysts evaluate the credit data and financial statements of individuals or companies to determine the amount of risk associated with extending credit to them. South Dakota includes many major banks and credit card companies in its top employers, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Dakota has one of the highest concentrations of credit analysts in the country. The occupation is expected to see 9.2 percent growth over the 2008-2018 decade, the South Dakota Department of Labor reports. While about 27 percent of credit analysts get their start with an associate's degree, the majority of opportunities are reserved for those with bachelor's degrees or higher in business administration, finance, economics, or accounting. Credit analysts in South Dakota earned a mean annual salary of $53,410 in 2009.
- Network systems and data communications analysts are expected to see rapid growth of 36.3 percent in South Dakota from 2008 to 2018. These professionals are responsible for installing and maintaining computer networks for individuals and businesses, and generally need a bachelor's degree to enter the field. Network systems and data communications analysts earned a mean annual wage of $55,060 in South Dakota in 2009.
South Dakota weathered the recession well and certain industries are now poised for economic growth, creating job opportunities for college graduates. South Dakota online schools can help meet the state's need for convenient, accessible education and train students for those growing careers.