Health care, education majority of SD graduate employment

South Dakota public university graduates find employment in many industries, but the top two industries that employed graduates in 2014 were at the top by a longshot. 

Health services was the top industry graduates found employment in, sitting at 29.9 percent, while educational services was the second highest industry at 19.6 percent and retail trade coming in third, at 9 percent.

Dean of the College of Nursing Nancy Fahrenwald and Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences Jill Thorngren weighed in on the topic, offering their thoughts as to why these industries were at the top.

Fahrenwald attributed it to the need for health service professions.

The “Aging population needs health services and care options,” Fahrenwald said.

In SDBOR projections of population growth, the number of residents that will be 65 or older will increase by 59.2 percent by the year 2030, creating a need for professions in the state to care for older generations. 

“I feel that we are always in need of nurses and assistants in healthcare simply because people are living longer,” Danielle Kramer, a senior nursing student at South Dakota State, said. “[T]here is a higher demand for both hospital care for chronic diseases of these patients, and then long-term facilities once they are no longer able to care for themselves at home.”

Jobs offered in the healthcare industry not directly involved with patient care also play a role, according to Fahrenwald. Some examples are marketing, advertising and data personnel. 

According to the SDBOR projections, because of the continuing rise in population, the need for educational service industries is on the rise as well. 

“There’s a great opportunity for students to major in education right now and find jobs in South Dakota,” Thorngren said.

The shortage of teachers within the state, increase in teacher pay and the amount of teachers soon to retire have allowed room for a lot of growth and employment within the industry.

“One of our opportunities and challenges is graduating teacher education candidates and keeping them in South Dakota,” Thorngren said. “That’s one of our goals and our strategic initiatives are to make sure we have strong enrollments and graduations keeping students here to the extent we can.”

One step toward better teacher retention was South Dakota legislature’s boost of teacher pay in 2016, by an average of $8,500 a year, and there are many students looking to take advantage of the raise in pay and job openings. 

Alex Thorson, a junior early childhood education major, plans to teach in South Dakota post-graduation, and the recent shortages provide encouragement that it won’t be very difficult. 

“In South Dakota, especially West River, they are lacking, and looking for new teachers with the shortage,” Thorson said.