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Data for State Vo-Tech Scholarship Marketing Campaign Show South Dakotans Earn Less

Now that the March 31 application deadline for the new Build Dakota vo-tech scholarship has passed, the State of South Dakota is paying Lawrence & Schiller to advertise the scholarship program. Wildly, Lawrence & Schiller is advertising Build Dakota by telling prospective students that they can make bigger salaries doing jobs that they might be able to get with lots of additional training beyond their vo-tech degrees than they can in other professions. And to make this case, Lawrence & Schiller has some poor slob sit in front of a computer and query national (not South Dakota, but national) average salaries not from an official source like the Bureau of Labor Statistics but from commercial website

We hire Lawrence & Schiller to promote a scholarship program intended to build the South Dakota workforce, and Lawrence & Schiller tells prospective workers how much they can make working elsewhere. Um, disconnect?

I just spent an hour replicating Lawrence & Schiller’s work and found that is a data junkpile. For every job title I entered to seek salary data, I entered two for which Career Builder offered no South Dakota data, jobs like doctor, surgeon, chiropractor, optometrist, radiologist, reporter, writer, surveyor, librarian, clergy, game warden, childcare worker, carpenter, baker, machinist, and several other jobs that plenty of South Dakotans do.

But hey, if Lawrence & Schiller says Career Builder’s data is good enough for government work, then let’s go to work.

Here’s a list of 41 jobs, some of which you can prepare for at our vo-tech schools, for which Career Builder offers average salaries for South Dakota and the U.S. I calculate the percentage difference between our state wages and national wages based on the national figures (take the national average minus the state average, then divide by the state average):

Job SD avg salary National avg salary SD % below Natl
Cashier $23,837 $26,440 10%
Auto Mechanic $24,538 $41,557 41%
Data Entry $24,982 $34,102 27%
Food Server $28,375 $34,419 18%
Office Assistant $30,149 $40,070 25%
Welder $31,029 $40,428 23%
Bartender $31,143 $43,500 28%
Medical Technician $31,273 $39,871 22%
Dental Assistant $32,500 $35,963 10%
Electrician $33,786 $53,095 36%
Paralegal $34,250 $48,452 29%
Plumber $34,400 $53,817 36%
Correctional Officer $35,000 $40,701 14%
Chemist $35,000 $61,109 43%
Teacher $37,190 $43,534 15%
Banker $37,500 $72,043 48%
Insurance Sales $41,258 $67,090 39%
Chef $43,500 $52,374 17%
Social Worker $45,250 $47,317 4%
Nurse $45,857 $62,851 27%
Police Officer $47,364 $56,035 15%
Graphic Designer $47,556 $57,368 17%
Loan Manager $47,647 $77,540 39%
Accountant $48,429 $64,338 25%
Network Administrator $49,267 $75,207 34%
Public Relations $49,400 $71,667 31%
Diesel Technician $49,500 $52,842 6%
Real Estate Sales $49,500 $86,006 42%
Foreman $49,833 $62,233 20%
Attorney $50,800 $64,952 22%
Pharmacist $51,833 $62,339 17%
Information Security $60,250 $99,535 39%
Programmer $60,714 $92,302 34%
Sales Manager $66,899 $76,635 13%
Engineer $69,125 $94,442 27%
Web Developer $71,417 $108,484 34%
Software Developer $78,364 $109,310 28%
CPA $81,800 $88,934 8%
Marketing Manager $89,826 $103,424 13%
Funeral Director $100,000 $197,836 49%
CEO $105,667 $127,889 17%

The real story is not Lawrence & Schiller’s pitch that welders can make more than biologists and construction managers can make more than accountants. The real story is that for every job I enter, I find workers taking a 6% to 49% pay cut to stay in South Dakota. Readers, I invite you to spend your day trying to find a job that pays more in South Dakota than the national average, but so far, I’m not finding one.

So tell me: how does a wage list that says you’ll make less money no matter what job you take in South Dakota encourage young people to take a scholarship that will lock them into working in South Dakota for three years?


  1. Porter Lansing 2015-04-17 13:29

    … that’s too sad to even make a joke about

  2. larry kurtz 2015-04-17 13:51

    It’s hardly surprising that white people are willing to work for less after barricading themselves in a state where most of the people of color have been put in prison or on remote reservations hidden from public view.

  3. o 2015-04-17 15:21

    Then how do we reconcile these statistics that place SD 18th in personal income?

    How can SD be paying lower than the national average in every job, yet still be above all but 17 other states?

  4. Porter Lansing 2015-04-17 15:26

    Which came first … the bad employment numbers or the conservatives? Are these disappointing statistics a product of conservative politics for decades or are the citizens conservative which leads to such a dismal future? Few other places would a political party with a strangle hold on the statehouse and these lacking opportunities for it’s state’s youth be tolerated.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-17 16:34

    Does our farm income outweigh all the lower wage-paying jobs? In another sign of the inadequacy of Career Builder’s data, they have no SD wage data for “farmer” or “rancher”.

  6. Jana 2015-04-17 17:42

    The state must be really desperate to pay for and air this misleading ad. Really speaks to integrity and credibility.

    I wonder if they have data comparing starting wages from the tech schools vs. the 4 year institutions.

  7. mike from iowa 2015-04-17 18:22

    How long before a wingnut turns this conversation into sexual in you window?

  8. rollin potter 2015-04-17 19:14

    Lawrence & schiller seem to have a stranglehold on the checkbook at the capital as everything that comes up where money is involved there name shows up!!!!!

  9. barry freed 2015-04-18 07:28

    How does the job of Account Manager for State contracts at an advertising agency, say Lawrence & Schiller’s, compare to the national average?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 09:34

    Oh my gosh, Barry! You found it, a job that pays more in South Dakota than the national average! I punch in “Account Manager” and get $65,626 for South Dakota, a 10% advantage over the national average of $59,659. Perhaps such are the merits of having no competition for state contracts? ;-)

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 09:36

    But as further evidence that Career Builder’s data is crap, I enter “blogger” and get a national average salary of $50,500. No way!!!

  12. Daniel Buresh 2015-04-18 11:13

    Cory, I know bloggers that make 6 figures…..a month. On the tech side, I feel SD is very competitive and that might be attributed to so many people wanting to leave. Citi is offering interns 17/hr, ERROS is pushing 20. After college that will go closer to $30/hr. It seems like everyone is looking for people. In rural SD, that isn’t a bad wage when comparing to 20-30% more in the suburbs of Denver. Even at those rates, it seems like many interns want to leave SD just to see the world a bit. I was the same way and money really had nothing to do with it.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 11:22

    Six figures a month? Just from blogging? Hogwash. Who? (and more detailedly: how many bloggers do you know total, and what is their average salary?)

    And I got better deals on groceries in the Twin Cities suburbs than I do in Aberdeen.

  14. owen 2015-04-18 11:32

    step away from Sioux Falls Daniel and look at the rest of the state

  15. Daniel Buresh 2015-04-18 11:34

    Groceries and retail are the exceptions. On the flip side, a 100k house here is 300k in CO. I really can’t say due to business relationships, but I’ve met the Frugal Travel Guy and I know he makes that if not more. I know a lot of bloggers, and yes some make very little but many make upwards of 6 figures a year. SEO is all about changing and relevant content, and bloggers own that market. If you can give people a reason to visit, you can convert that into sales of all kinds depending on your industry. Good traffic is king on the internet. Political and activist blogging is a bit different though. Tough to market products to your readers.

  16. Daniel Buresh 2015-04-18 11:36

    I haven’t stepped foot in Sioux Falls for work in years. That market is a bit saturated at the moment. The silicorn valley is mostly rural if we consider Sioux Falls urban.

  17. Bob Newland 2015-04-18 18:59

    “What is there average salary?” You DID NOT DO THAT, Cory. The world is crumbling around me.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-19 08:00

    Crumble crumble. I did do that, Bob, and I am ashamed. I have edited the above comment. :-(

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-19 08:08

    True—I operate in a subset of the blog world where we are focused on creating thoughtful text and fostering community conversation, not playing word and tech games, writing endless Top 23 lists, and whoring ourselves out to product reviews to maximize revenue.

    I would like to see percentages on blogger earnings… such as this March 2014 Life Hacker report that says only 13% of bloggers make more than $1,000. According to this October 2014 CNN article, “a select few” style bloggers draw six figures.

  20. Bill Fleming 2015-04-19 08:19

    It’s the bane of blogs (and to some degree, autocorrect) that we can’t go back and edit our comments. Facebook is more forgiving in this regard, allowing people to fix their f-u’s or even more drastically, remove things the wish they’d never said completely… Sort of an instant redemption option many of us, I suspect, would enjoy.

    Somehow that relates to an everchanging database about salaries… Maybe we all need a disclaimer or at least a common understanding that we all reserve the right to unabashedly make mistakes and/or change our minds.

  21. Bill Fleming 2015-04-19 08:24

    …for example, I’m really curious who Daniel knows who makes a six figure income ‘per month’ blogging. Perhaps he can provide us a link to his rich friend’s blog?

  22. Bill Fleming 2015-04-21 11:56

    Daniel wrote: “Cory, I know bloggers that make 6 figures…..a month.”

    What are their names, Daniel, and how do you “know” them?

    Do you mean rather that you “know of” them (by googling)?

    Or conversely, are some of them your personal acquaintances (a relationship your language clearly implies)?

    p.s. no need to be a wise guy with me, but if you’re of such a mind, bring it. I like eating photographers for lunch. :-)

  23. Daniel Buresh 2015-04-21 12:10

    Bill, you don’t need to know their names. I gave you one example and I don’t need to list off my entire rolodex. I hunt with some every year as well when they fly out to visit.

  24. Bill Fleming 2015-04-21 12:16

    It would be sufficient to have you confirm that they are some of the people in the article you linked to, Daniel, is that indeed the case?

  25. Daniel Buresh 2015-04-21 12:20

    No, wrong industry. I was just pointing out that there are many who do make good money, but I know there are many who don’t.

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