Education in North Dakota
A total of 30 postsecondary institutions make their home in North Dakota, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Schools in this category include public and private four-year universities, two- and four-year colleges, tribal community institutions, career academies and vocational schools. Here's a list that shows the number of degree-granting colleges and universities in North Dakota by NCES statistical category, according to 2015 data:
- Public 4-year: 9
- Public 2-year: 8
- Private 4-year, nonprofit: 5
- Private 2-year, nonprofit: 2
- Private 4-year, for-profit: 2
- Private 2-year, for-profit: 8
The North Dakota University System (NDUS) administrates many of the degree-granting postsecondary schools in the state. Here are some spring 2015 enrollment figures at state system schools, according to data published on the NDUS information portal:
- Bismarck State College: 3,781
- Dickinson State University: 1,313
- Lake Region State College: 1,980
- Mayville State University: 1,025
- Dakota College at Bottineau: 717
- Minot State University: 3,320
- North Dakota State College of Science: 2,754
- North Dakota State University: 13,329
- University of North Dakota: 14,244
- Valley City State University: 1,297
- Williston State College: 1,009
A general trend over the last several years, supported by historical data kept by the State Board of Higher Education, has shown that higher education is becoming increasingly popular among residents of the Peace Garden State. Enrollment at all but two of the eleven institutions in the state system has gone up -- in some cases close to 40 percent -- in the period between 2001 and 2014, and the overall enrolled population has grown by more than 10,000 students since 2005, an increase of around 24 percent.
Online Education in North Dakota
Online education is a priority among administrators at colleges and universities in North Dakota, particularly at NDUS schools, and the advantages for students and institutions alike are clear. North Dakota ranks 47th in population density among all U.S. states -- behind only Alaska, Wyoming and Montana -- and online coursework makes it possible for students to expand their educational horizons beyond the borders of their home city without the need to relocate or commute across miles of interstate.
Also, the cost of living in the state is more expensive than the national average, according to 2015 data released by the Council for Community and Economic Research, and courses taken online often cost less per credit hour than similar offerings at a brick-and-mortar campus. Textbooks and other materials are also usually more affordable at online colleges in North Dakota since they're typically less expensive for publishers to produce.
NDUS schools offer area students nearly 200 degrees and non-degree awards through digital distance education, according to student information posted on the system's home site. Here's a breakdown of the number and type of degrees available throughout the 11 NDUS institutions in 2015:
- Certificate programs: 37
- Associate degrees: 51
- Bachelor's degrees: 41
- Graduate certificates: 17
- Graduate degrees: 38
What's more, a number of national ranking agencies have recognized several of the degrees available online at colleges and universities in North Dakota as being among the nation's best in their program category. Here's a list of those top-rated degrees, along with their rank in the 2015-16 U.S. News & World Report online program standings, whenever available:
- University of North Dakota
- Best Online Graduate Business Programs (non-MBA): No. 25
- Best Online MBA Programs: No. 32
- Best Online Bachelor's Programs: No. 194
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs
- Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs
- Minot State University
- Best Online Graduate Business Programs (non-MBA): No. 71
- Best Online Bachelor's Programs: No. 142
- Valley City State University
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs: No. 54
- Best Online Bachelor's Programs: No. 111
- North Dakota State University
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs
NDUS administrators have also taken an extra step to expand educational access for students hoping to take some courses online at universities in North Dakota. Students accepted to any one institution in the state system can apply for status as a "collaborative student," which, if granted, allows that student to more easily take online courses from any of the 10 other schools in the system while they work toward their degree at their home university.
Top Jobs and Careers in North Dakota
Data published by the North Dakota Labor Market Information Center (LMCI) projects a 12.8 percent average increase in employment across all occupations in the state between 2012 and 2022, but certain careers have a much brighter outlook than the average. Check out this table of fast-growing jobs in North Dakota, calculated using LMCI employment projections and salary data published by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
Why it's hot
Northwest and Northern Central North Dakota, particularly Williams, McKenzie, Dunn and Mountrail Counties
Employment of petroleum engineers is on the rise in many parts of the country, but North Dakota stands far out in front of the pack. Petroleum engineering jobs in North Dakota are expected to increase nearly three times as fast as the nationwide average for the position, growing 73.5 percent statewide by 2022. On top of that rampant expected growth, North Dakota petroleum engineers were reported as earning a mean annual salary of $121,530 in 2014.
Critical thinking, systems evaluation, complex problem solving, mathematical reasoning, data analysis, computer software fluency, operations monitoring, decision making, personnel management, quality control, scientific method, physics, chemistry, writing
Dedicated degrees in petroleum engineering are the most direct path to a career in the field and are available at several colleges and universities in North Dakota. Some institutions, including the University of North Dakota, offer hybrid programs that combine online lecture sections with on-campus labs. Most entry-level jobs require just a bachelor's-level education, and mechanical engineering degrees or chemical engineering degrees may also suffice, depending on the position.
Information Security Analyst
Secure networks and databases are vital to the operations of companies of all types and sizes, in the public as well as the private sector. Information security analysts with up-to-date training have a high value on the career market, and the expectation of 44 percent job growth in the field in North Dakota reflects the statewide demand for IT security professionals. BLS salary figures indicate average annual wages of $63,850 for information security analysts in North Dakota in 2014, with those in the Bismarck area earning a median figure of $69,530 for the year.
Critical thinking, complex problem solving, computer network architecture, systems analysis and evaluation, technical communication, mathematics, reading comprehension, troubleshooting, perceptual speed, inductive reasoning, information processing
Although some employers may prefer candidates with at least a master's degree in information systems security or similarly advanced education, it's possible to find IT security positions that require only a degree in computer science or programming at the bachelor's level. Some information security personnel choose to become generalists, gaining foundational knowledge of each of the many elements of the discipline, but specialized credentials -- such as a degree in network security for students who hope to focus on the telecom aspects of computing -- also exist.
West Central North Dakota, including Bismarck
Partially because of the infrastructural demands placed on the state after the shale oil boom of the early 21st century, civil engineering jobs are on the rise in North Dakota in a big way. In-state job growth of 33 percent is expected among civil engineers between 2012 and 2022, well ahead of the 20 percent growth projected nationwide. The statewide mean civil engineering wage of $74,850 came in a few thousand below the national average, but mean salaries in the West Central region all topped $81,000 in 2014.
Critical thinking, construction fundamentals, project management, complex problem solving, decision making, resource management, reading comprehension, team building, consultation, design, regulation law
Most civil engineers earn a degree in civil engineering or one of its specialties before setting forth on a career in the field although a general engineering degree with the right amount of relevant coursework may combine with on-the-job experience to satisfy some employers' requirements. Advancement to positions of greater responsibility may require a civil engineering master's degree or higher, and those who have accumulated several years on the job and want to try their hand in a supervisory role may need to earn a degree in engineering management before moving up.
Nurse or Nurse Educator
Fargo, Far Western North Dakota
Between an expansion of insurance access and a large portion of the population entering the late-life stage, health care jobs in general are growing at what may be a faster rate than ever. Growth is taking place across the board in the nursing profession, from registered and licensed practical nurses (20-21 percent growth) on up to nurse practitioners (31 percent) and nurse educators (35 percent). Registered nursing salaries in North Dakota averaged $58,120 in 2014, while nursing instructors and teachers took home an average salary of $72,140 the same year.
Biology, psychology, medical terminology, active listening, critical thinking, face-to-face instruction, treatment methodologies, recordkeeping, reading comprehension, problem solving, interpersonal communication, hand-eye coordination, compassion
Several different nursing degree programs exist to prepare students for the realities of the profession. Some function as associate or bachelor's degrees and include some general education coursework, while others feature strictly clinical training and culminate in a diploma or other non-degree award. Nurse practitioners and nurse educators require advanced education, typically a master of science degree in nursing (MSN), which can be earned directly through an RN to MSN program or independently after completing a standard bachelor's degree. Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees are often available fully online for students who have experience working as RNs.
Market Research Analyst
Bismarck and Western North Dakota
As the ability of organizations to gather data grows in scope, an ever greater number of trained professionals are required to analyze that data for useful patterns. Employment growth of 37 percent is expected for market research analysts and marketing specialists in North Dakota between 2012 and 2022, leading to around 300 emerging positions on the statewide career market. The mean annual salary for marketing operatives in North Dakota was $51,160 in 2014, with the upper quartile of earners in the oil-rich western portion of the state taking home $62,820 or more.
Reading comprehension, critical thinking, marketing concepts, data analysis, mathematical literacy, media literacy, active listening, problem solving, systems evaluation, mass communications, social perceptiveness, creativity, writing
Students who hold a bachelor's degree in marketing tend to have a broad and balanced education in the discipline, combining concepts from business and the social sciences with the mathematical approaches necessary to work with large data sets. It's not uncommon for marketing agencies and large companies with in-house marketing divisions to hire some analysts with statistics degrees as well as analysts with degrees in journalism and communications so they can increase effectiveness by building separate teams that are each particularly suited to a distinct set of marketing tasks.
While no degree can serve as a guarantee of employment, students who concentrate their time in school on developing the appropriate knowledge and skills for positions of high workforce demand may be able to take some of the stress out of the initial job search after graduation.
Financial Aid in North Dakota
Anyone who's looked into higher education in the U.S. knows that college tuition isn't exactly a fixed figure. Different schools charge different rates for the same degree, and different students often receive different tuition quotes from the same school, based on their residency status or other statutory factors.
There is one thing that's uniform about tuition rates at colleges in North Dakota and all over the country, however; they're climbing steadily upward and have been for over a decade. Here's some data on changing tuition figures for colleges and universities in North Dakota over the last ten years, taken from a 2015 report by The College Board, to help demonstrate the general increase in U.S. educational expenses:
- Public 2-year in-state
- 2004-05: $3,774
- 2014-15: $4,192
- Public 4-year in-state
- 2004-05: $5,794
- 2014-15: $7,513
- Private 4-year non-profit
- 2004-05: $12,638
- 2014-15: $16,953
Fortunately, students hoping to defray some of the rising cost of education may have multiple options for financial assistance. The first step in the financial aid process at most colleges and universities in North Dakota is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Even if you think you may not qualify for federal grants or loans, sometimes potential funding sources at the state, institutional and private levels pull their qualifying information directly from your FAFSA, so having one on file is always a good idea.
Scholarships and tuition waivers can also be a big part of school funding for students who qualify, particularly at larger, longstanding institutions. The University of North Dakota, for example, features automatic scholarships for freshmen and transfer students whose GPA or ACT/SAT scores meet a certain threshold at the time of admission. Other NDUS scholarships exist to help student athletes, members of Native American tribes, students of science, technology, engineering and math programs, students with disabilities, military service members and their families and other designated groups.
Students hoping to dig deeper for scholarship options can use Fastweb, a service recommended by some student counselors in North Dakota as a way to search for scholarships with precision that may present options that financial aid departments at individual institutions overlook.
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