Education in Mississippi
Students interested in pursuing higher education in Mississippi are in good shape. Colleges and universities in Mississippi possess all kinds of educational opportunities, with everything from technical certificates and diplomas to bachelor's degrees and master's degrees on offer.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 2014, approximately 67 colleges, universities, and trade schools call the state home. Similar to numbers provided for other states, while this figure includes plenty of four-year public colleges and universities, many smaller schools are represented as well. For example, students in Mississippi have plenty of technical schools and trade schools to choose from, along with schools that focus on teaching a specific skill, such as barbering or cosmetology.
To illustrate the different kinds of schools present in state, here's a breakdown of degree-granting schools in Mississippi by type, according to the NCES:
- Public 4-year: 10
- Public 2-year: 18
- Private 4-year, nonprofit: 9
- Private 2-year, nonprofit:1
- Private 4-year, for-profit: 2
According to a 2014 report from the NCES, federal financial aid-eligible colleges and universities in Mississippi granted a total of 37,948 degrees and certificates to 36,849 graduating students in the 2011-12 academic year. Among those students, approximately 53 percent earned their degrees at four-year institutions and around 45 percent earned two-year degrees. The remaining 2 percent, a total of 887 students, earned certificates or diplomas from one of the state's less-than-two-year institutions.
Based on NCES data, here are some total student enrollment numbers collected from major in-state public universities, current as of Spring 2013:
- Alcorn State University: 3,848
- Delta State University: 4,785
- Jackson State University: 9,134
- Mississippi State University: 20,161
- Mississippi University for Women: 2,629
- Mississippi Valley State University: 2,203
- University of Mississippi: 19,431
- University of Southern Mississippi: 15,249
Online education in Mississippi
Owing to a surge of online offerings at Mississippi schools, it's now more convenient than ever to potentially earn a degree in the state. New online courses and degree options have opened the door to many nontraditional students who, in the past, wouldn't have been able to return to school. For example, students who want to stay in the workforce while attending school full-time can now do so with flexible, online courses. Meanwhile, adult workers who want to continue growing their careers while earning an advanced degree can now potentially pursue that path without giving up seniority in their careers or losing a valuable income stream.
Mississippi's state schools boast a multitude of award-winning programs that span across nearly every subject and discipline. Here are a few of the well-regarded online degrees offered by Mississippi colleges and universities, alongside their national rank as calculated by US News & World Report:
- Best Online Bachelor's Programs (2015): No. 199
- Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs (2015): No. 93
- Best Online MBA Programs (2015): No. 18
- Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA) (2015): No. 38
- Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs (2015): No. 14
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs (2015): No. 107
- Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs (2015): No. 20
- Best Online MBA Programs (2015): No. 16
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs (2015): No. 35
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs (2015): No. 142
Although these rankings are impressive, it's important to note that not all programs at colleges in Mississippi are ranked by US News & World Report or other ranking agencies. Community colleges, for example, can have excellent online degree programs, none of which included in studies or comparisons. Make sure to do your due diligence to explore any online degree program you are considering in order to verify its quality.
Top jobs and careers in Mississippi
With so many degree options available in Mississippi, it's important to consider the career side of the equation as well. Fortunately, a wide array of potentially rewarding careers are present in Mississippi, with plenty of expected growth forecast by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
To provide some examples, here's a table of some of the top careers in Mississippi along with information about each and some degrees that can help job candidates in each field stand out from the pack:
Why It's Hot
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Jackson, Southeast Mississippi nonmetropolitan area
Jobs in health care remain in demand all over the country, and the state of Mississippi is no exception. Because of anticipated growth in this field, the BLS predicts that employment for occupational therapy assistants in Mississippi will increase 37 percent during the decade leading up to 2022.
Meanwhile, salaries for this job are relatively high considering the fact that it only requires an associate degree.
Compassion, attention to detail, excellent time management, organizational skills, patience, interpersonal skills, physical strength and stamina
As the BLS reports, most people begin their careers in this field by earning an associate degree in occupational therapy assisting from an accredited school.
Prior to that, courses in math and science are recommended. A stint in an occupational therapy assistant's office for internship purposes is also recommended.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Jackson, Hattiesburg, Gulfport - Biloxi,
Diagnostic medical sonography continues to be popular among new students for a few reasons. For starters, this career typically only requires an associate degree, which means quick entry into the workforce.
The BLS predicts that job openings for diagnostic medical sonographers in Mississippi will increase 37 percent from 2012 to 2022.
Hand-eye coordination, compassion, attention to detail, manual dexterity, interpersonal skills, computer skills, communication skills, writing and speaking skills
According to the BLS, most workers in this field get their start with either an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography or a bachelor's degree in sonography.
Taking courses in math and science is always helpful at the beginning. Specifically, students should focus on taking courses in anatomy and physiology, biology and physics.
Interpreters and Translators
Although there aren't currently a lot of working interpreters and translators in Mississippi, that's about to change. Because of an increase in the use of different languages across the U.S., specifically Spanish, the BLS predicts employment for interpreters and translators could increase by as much as 33 percent in Mississippi from 2012 to 2022.
Excellent job prospects and room for growth contribute to the popularity of this career.
Cultural sensitivity, fluency in at least two languages, computer skills, listening skills, communication skills, excellent business acumen, compassion
As the BLS notes, the easiest path towards a career as an interpreter or translator is a bachelor's degree in English or a foreign language.
However, a bachelor's degree in almost any field will work provided the candidate can speak and write fluently in at least two languages. Courses in writing, English and foreign languages are suggested along with an exploration of foreign cultures and their differences.
Information Security Analysts
Jackson, Southwest Mississippi nonmetropolitan area
Almost all technology careers are expected to increase in the coming decade, including information security analysts. According to U.S. Department of Labor data, employment for these workers is expected to increase 32 percent in Mississippi during the decade leading up to 2022.
Computer skills, technical knowledge, written and oral communication skills, the ability to think critically, problem-solving skills
A career in information security can begin in a number of ways. For example, a bachelor's degree in computer science or computer programming is an excellent way to get started.
Any other computer or technology-related degree might also work as long as the candidate has a well-rounded computer education to go with it, according to the BLS.
Physical Therapy Assistants
Physical therapy assisting is another area of health care that is booming. Because of the demand for physical therapy as a cheaper alternative to surgery, jobs in this field continue to increase.
U.S. Department of Labor figures show that job openings for physical therapy assistants in Mississippi are expected to increase by as much as 33 percent during the decade leading up to 2022.
Physical strength and stamina, communication skills, time management skills, computer skills, compassion, interpersonal skills, dexterity
Beginning a career as a physical therapy assistant starts with an associate degree in physical therapy assisting from an accredited program.
To prepare for this field, students should consider taking applicable courses in science and health, such as anatomy and physiology, first aid and psychology. An internship in a physical therapist's office might also be helpful or even required depending on the program.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*NET OnLine
Mississippi financial aid info
Getting a start in any one of the top careers mentioned above typically requires a college education. However, it's important to note that not all colleges, and not all college costs, are created equal. College costs can vary widely among not only the different types of schools, but among individual schools themselves. That's why it's important to compare apples to apples when considering a school.
That said, it's still helpful to have some averages to look at, which is why the College Board tracks stats and data in order to provide meaningful information to students and show how costs change over the years.
To give an idea of the overall upward trend in the cost of an education, take a look at this list of average tuition figures at colleges and universities in Mississippi, based on 2014 data from the College Board, in current dollars:
- Public 2-year in-state
- 2004-05: $1,546
- 2014-15: $2,526
- Public 4-year in-state
- 2004-05: $3,991
- 2014-15: $6,861
- Private 4-year nonprofit
- 2004-05: $11,367
- 2014-15: $15,323
Those figures may seem intimidating, but it's important to note that Mississippi students can often be eligible for student aid in the form of loans, grants and scholarships. When applying to a school, you will most likely be asked to fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). The information recorded on this form can help state and federal agencies determine if you are eligible for any aid, and if so, how much.
Students who want more information on various types of aid can also turn to Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and Rise Up MS, a local collaborative learning project. Both sites offer information on various types of state and federal aid that may be available to students at colleges in Mississippi.
In addition to state and federal aid, students may also be eligible for school-specific aid if they meet certain requirements. Make sure to check with any school you're considering to see if any additional aid is available, and how to apply. Also make sure to understand the terms of conditions of any aid you accept before you sign up. While some types of aid, like scholarships, are considered "gifts," other types come in the form of loans that must be repaid. Make sure to read all of the fine print before accepting your aid package in order to avoid unwanted surprises.
To find out more about some of the schools and programs available in Mississippi, be sure to check out the ones featured in our school listings below.
- US News & World Report: "Belhaven University, Online Programs," http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/belhaven-university-175421, "Delta State University, Online Programs," http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/delta-state-university-175616, "Mississippi State University, Online Programs," http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/mississippi-state-university-176080, "University of Mississippi, Online Programs," http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/university-of-mississippi-main-campus-176017, "William Carey University, Online Programs," http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/william-carey-university-176479
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook: "Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm, "Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm, "Interpreters and Translators," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm, "Information Security Analysts," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm, "Diagnostic Medical Sonographers," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014: "Diagnostic Medical Sonographers," http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292032.htm, "Information Security Analysts," http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151122.htm, "Interpreters and Translators," http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes273091.htm, "Occupational Therapy Assistants," http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes312011.htm, "Physical Therapy Assistants," http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes312021.htm
- May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ms.htm
- Postsecondary Completers and Completions: 2011-12, Web Tables, U.S. Department of Education, March 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014033.pdf
- Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-sector-and-state-over-time
- "Mississippi," College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MS
- Mississippi Public Universities, http://www.ihl.state.ms.us/
- "Fastest Growing Occupations," CareerOneStop, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu4&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=28&ShowAll=
- "Financial Aid," Rise Up MS, http://riseupms.com/financial/#2/