The Board of Educational Standards learned Thursday that the vo-techs (which are now technically colleges) they oversee continue to see nearly the vast majority of their graduates go straight to work in their fields in South Dakota. Out of 2,396 2019–2020 graduates, out of the 88% who responded to the vo-techs’ latest placement survey, and out of the 85% of those responders who went straight to the workforce instead of college or the military or other pursuits, 86% got jobs in their fields here in South Dakota. (Multiply those percentages, and we know that 64% of our 2019–2020 vo-tech graduates got in-field jobs in South Dakota.)
So how are those grads doing for pay?
|Career Cluster||% employed in field in SD||Avg in-field wage/hr|
|Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources||80%||$19.82|
|Architecture & Construction||83%||$20.61|
|Arts, Audio-VIdeo Technology, & Communications||83%||$14.14|
|Business, Management, & Administration||97%||$17.92|
|Hospitality & Tourism||100%||$15.03|
|Law, Public Safety, & Security||90%||$19.85|
|Marketing, Sales, & Service||91%||$16.93|
|Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies, General||100%||$26.86|
|Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics||80%||$20.83|
Graduates in human services and arts/AV/communications don’t appear to be landing jobs that make their degrees pay off; their starting hourly wages are stuck at averages of $13.52 and $14.14, respectively, or less than $30K. The average wage for all graduates is $20.06 an hour, or $40,120 for their first year out.
The strangest figure in the salary column is that for the multi-/interdisciplinary/general studies grads, who are reporting making $26.86 an hour, or $53,720 a year in their first post-degree work. The rhetoric from our governors and the vo-techs themselves would suggest that the best-paying jobs would go to the grads who do those most specific technical programs, but the next best in-field starting salaries are $45,200 for manufacturing, $41,800 for health care, and $41,660 for transportation/logistics. So, weirdly, the grads who went to vo-tech and did the opposite of what the vo-techs are all about are reporting 34% better paychecks than their average and likely more narrowly focused cap-and-gownmates.
But salt that grain of statistical weirdness: the survey heard from just six of just seven graduates in the multi-inter-general field, versus 208 respondents in manufacturing, 695 in health science, and 224 in transportation/logistics.
At their groupwide average of $20.06 an hour, our recent vo-tech grads are earning 47% more than the average starting salary of $13.63 an hour that Zip Recruiter reports for South Dakota. Our vo-tech grads are already beating South Dakota’s May 2020 median wage of $17.70, and they are making 93% of our statewide average wage of $21.62. So in South Dakota, two-year degrees appear to put their holders in a decent position to become the Joneses with whom everyone else wants to keep up.