According to the state’s recent labor market overview, computer science graduates can look forward to a stable job market for information technology occupations in South Dakota. The state projects job growth for two of these occupations: information security analysts ($71,501-104,806 annually) and software applications developers ($61,074-$90,170 annually). The IT occupation with the highest demand remains computer user support specialists ($32,100-$44,725 annually), which bodes well for entry-level job seekers with associate or bachelor’s degrees in computer science.
While South Dakota computer scientists may earn less than their counterparts in other states, they typically make more than the state’s annual mean wage of $40,770. Professional and business services, the sector with the most significant increase in workers from 2017 to 2018, often requires the support of IT professionals.
While South Dakota computer scientists may earn less than their counterparts in other states, they typically make more than the state’s annual mean wage of $40,770.
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Higher Education in South Dakota
South Dakota offers an abundance of higher education opportunities. In the fall of 2016, more than 36,000 students enrolled in four-year public institutions in South Dakota. The state’s largest university system, South Dakota State University, boasts four campuses and enrolled more than 12,000 students. The University of South Dakota serves as the second-largest system, with four campuses and several medical school campuses in rural South Dakota.
Students planning to earn an online computer science degree in South Dakota can choose from plenty of options. The Electronic University Consortium, founded in 2000, offers online programs for South Dakota residents. In fall 2016, more than 14,600 South Dakota students enrolled in at least one distance learning course. Online options throughout the state continue to expand, making South Dakota institutions ideal for students pursuing on-campus or online degrees.
Computer Science Careers in South Dakota
According to Forbes, major industries In South Dakota include retail, healthcare, and finance — all of which employ graduates of computer science programs. Most major industries require skilled computer science professionals to manage networks, contribute to marketing and web design, manage digital files and records, and implement cybersecurity measures.
Computer science professionals can find many career opportunities in South Dakota’s large cities, such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City. However, the state’s high demand for computer science professionals means graduates can also find employment in many areas of the state. The table below highlights mean annual salaries for various computer science professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Mean Salary for Computer Science Careers in South Dakota
COMPUTER SCIENCE EMPLOYERS IN SOUTH DAKOTA
- 3M: Known for their adhesive paper products, including Post-it Notes, 3M is one of the largest private employers in South Dakota. 3M specializes in various industries, including electronics and communications; it offers job opportunities for professionals who hold a computer science degree in South Dakota.
- Avera Medical: Based in Sioux Falls, this large medical group provides services across the Midwest. Avera employs nearly 16,000 people in positions like coding and information, ideal for graduates of online computer science programs in South Dakota.
- Citigroup: An international banking firm headquartered in Sioux Falls, Citibank continues to become increasingly digital as the company grows. As such, the firm needs computer science professionals to create smartphone applications, protect customer privacy online, and manage data networks.
Computer Science Programs in South Dakota
To improve the accessibility of higher education in the state, South Dakota’s six public universities partnered with three regional university centers, allowing students to take courses from public universities at satellite locations. South Dakota State University, the largest system in the state, boasts campuses in Brookings, Aberdeen, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. SDSU offers on-campus undergraduate and graduate computer science programs and departmental scholarships. The University of South Dakota offers three computer science degrees and a computer science minor. The state also provides a tool called Select Dakota to help students learn about public institutions and state-based financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
Students increasingly choose to pursue online computer science programs in South Dakota, and many of the state’s institutions provide distance education programs. Through the Electronic University Consortium of South Dakota (EUC), all six of the state’s public institutions provide online courses and programs. The EUC offers the same affordable tuition rates to both in-state and out-of-state students, with all programs regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
TYPES OF COMPUTER SCIENCE DEGREES
While it remains possible to learn computer science skills on your own, many employers prefer applicants with formal training. A degree in computer science can open the door to a lucrative career. Each of the following degrees promises the reward of higher pay and career advancement. A bachelor’s degree remains the minimum requirement for many computer science jobs, and students with graduate degrees remain highly sought after across the United States and South Dakota.
Some computer science occupations with the most job openings, such as web developer or computer support specialist, require only an associate degree. An associate degree in computer science prepares graduates for an entry-level computer science position or further study at the undergraduate level. Accessible community college programs provide an affordable path to a lucrative career or a bachelor’s degree.
Associate programs include general education requirements and introductory courses in computing and programming. These programs may also require work experience and can vary in the specializations they offer. Associate degrees take two years to complete full time. Graduates possess a foundational understanding of computer networks, operating systems, databases, software development, and programming. To qualify for higher paying computer science jobs, degree holders can transfer to a four-year college to finish their bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree serves as the minimum requirement for most computer science occupations. For high school graduates or associate degree holders interested in information technology, a college degree can qualify them for either well-paying, high-growth careers in computer science — such as information security analyst and software developer — or for graduate work.
Undergraduate coursework includes general education classes in computer architecture and operating systems, programming languages, computer networks, and software development. Programs vary in their titles, degree concentrations, and internship experiences. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete full time, though online programs often provide flexible part-time options that may take longer to complete.
College graduates with previous work experience who hope to advance their careers do so by earning a master’s degree in computer science. While a master’s degree typically takes students two years to finish full time, online computer science programs in South Dakota may offer flexible part-time programs ideal for working professionals.
Master’s programs in computer science include core and concentration courses that enable students to gain expertise in a specific area, such as cybersecurity, software engineering, or systems architecture. Master’s programs typically also include a culminating capstone project or thesis where candidates apply what they learned in the classroom to the workplace.
Computer scientists with graduate degrees can earn high salaries, although wages vary by specialization and employer location. For example, a computer research scientists, who must hold at least a master’s degree, earns a median annual wage of $114,520 and can anticipate a projected job growth rate of 19%.
Experienced computer scientists who seek greater challenges, more project design input, or higher wages may wish to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. This terminal degree qualifies degree holders for well-paying positions and advanced roles. With a doctorate, computer scientists can teach at the college level, conduct research, direct programs or projects, or start or run tech companies.
Lucrative senior-level computer science jobs that frequently require a Ph.D. include IT manager, security systems architect, and network architect. Doctoral programs typically take 4-5 years to complete, depending on how long students take to research, write, and defend their dissertations. Course requirements include advanced classes in an area of specialization and independent research.
Professional Computer Science Organizations in South Dakota
Students at computer science schools in South Dakota benefit from joining professional organizations. These organizations provide resources and networking opportunities for both students and experienced professionals. Membership benefits often include networking events, annual conferences, career services, job boards, and continuing education programs. Below, we provide a list of organizations open to computer science students and professionals in South Dakota.
- Upsilon Pi Epsilon: This higher education honor society aims to recognize excellence in the study of information technology and computing. UPE maintains chapters at many colleges and universities, including the University of South Dakota, the South Dakota School of Mines and Tech, and South Dakota State University. Members must meet academic GPA, class rank, and coursework requirements.
- Association for Computing Machinery: This professional society seeks to promote computing as a science. ACM offers conferences, publications, and career services to members. Student chapters at the University of South Dakota, the South Dakota School of Mines and Tech, Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University provide networking opportunities like seminars and lectures. Computing subfields find representation within the association’s special interest groups.
- South Dakota Telecommunications Association: This association of telecommunications companies in South Dakota hosts events, posts career opportunities, and offers college scholarships. SDTA publishes an annual industry directory and operates a political action committee that raises funds for political candidates.
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