The Best Online Colleges in South Dakota

| TBS Staff

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South Dakota offers many affordable, accredited online degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels.

South Dakota colleges are best known for their affordable tuition rates: The state's four-year public and private universities charge below-average tuition rates compared to the national average. Colleges in South Dakota offer degrees in high-demand fields like business, healthcare, manufacturing, and technology, with many offered through online programs.

Rural students benefit from the accessibility of online learning, and many of the state's educational institutions offer tuition discounts for South Dakota residents. Online degrees also appeal to working students and busy adults who must balance school with other responsibilities.

This list of online colleges in South Dakota only includes regionally accredited institutions. Regional accreditation is the highest standard for educating students and granting degrees. Credits earned at accredited schools easily transfer to other institutions, and only accredited schools distribute federal student aid to their undergraduate and graduate students. An accredited degree also meets requirements for professional licenses and certifications.

Prospective students use this list to find the best programs for their career goals. This article also offers employment data for South Dakota and information about online associate and graduate degrees.

Top Online Colleges In South Dakota 2021
#1 Dakota State University Madison, SD
#2 South Dakota State University Brookings, SD
#3 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD
#4 Northern State University Aberdeen, SD
#5 Black Hills State University Spearfish, SD
#6 Presentation College Aberdeen, SD
#7 Dakota Wesleyan University Mitchell, SD
#8 South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Rapid City, SD
#9 University of Sioux Falls Sioux Falls, SD
#10 Lake Area Technical Institute Watertown, SD

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Colleges in South Dakota

Dakota State University View School Profile Madison, SD Dakota State University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Dakota State University, established in 1881, is a technologically-centered university. Due to this focus, all full-time undergraduates are required to have and use tablets and laptop computers in their courses and must also take two mandatory courses: introductory programming and introduction to computers.

Dakota State University’s online degree programs include associate, baccalaureate, master and doctoral degrees. Online associate’s degrees include network security and business management. Online bachelor’s degrees include computer science and marketing. Master’s degree options include analytics and health informatics. Online doctoral degree offerings include cyber security and information systems. Available online certifications include banking security and ethical hacking.

Online student resources include online tutoring in several subjects, an online job board and an online library with librarians available via email, Twitter, text message or over the phone.

South Dakota State University View School Profile Brookings, SD South Dakota State University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

South Dakota State University is a land-grant, space-grant and sun-grant university established in 1881. The university first opened its doors as a mechanical and agricultural school, meaning it leans more toward degree programs in pharmacy, agriculture, nursing and engineering. The university has more than 12,000 students in attendance and offers more than 175 programs of study.

South Dakota State University offers associate, baccalaureate, master and certificate programs online through its Department of Continuing and Distance Education. Online associate’s degrees include general studies. Online bachelor’s degrees include geography and sociology. Online master’s degrees include educational administration and chemistry. Available certifications include animal science and family financial planning.

Online student resources include an online job board, online career exploration, technical support and an online library with librarians available via live chat, email, fax or over the phone.

University of South Dakota View School Profile Vermillion, SD The University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The University of South Dakota was established in 1862, almost 40 years before South Dakota joined the United States. The university is home to a medical school, a business school and a law school. The university is also home to the National Music Museum, which showcases more than 15,000 musical instruments from around the world. In total, the university offers more than 200 programs of study across 7 academic colleges.

The University of South Dakota offers associate, baccalaureate, master, doctoral and certificate programs online through its World Class Online platform. Online associate’s degrees include general studies. Online bachelor’s degrees include addiction studies and nursing. Online master’s degrees include public health and social work. Online doctoral degree offerings include occupational therapy and physical therapy. Available online certifications include long-term care management.

Online student resources include 24/7 technical support, online test proctoring, online writing assistance, and an online library.

Northern State University View School Profile Aberdeen, SD Northern State University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Northern State University, established in 1901, came about due to requests from area citizens for an institute of higher education. Several wealthy citizens donated both land and money toward the school’s establishment once the bill approving the school met state senate approval. The university teaches more than 3,500 students and offers more than 50 programs of study.

Northern State University offers associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees online through its Office of Online and Continuing Education. Online associate’s degrees include general studies, gerontology and financial services. Online bachelor’s degree options include marketing, professional accountancy and business administration. Online master’s degree offerings include teaching, leadership and music education.

Resources available to online students include an online job board and an online library with librarians readily available via live chat, email, text message, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or over the phone.

Black Hills State University View School Profile Spearfish, SD Black Hills State University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Black Hills State University is one of South Dakota’s largest universities with more than 4,500 students from 44 states and 29 countries in attendance. Established in 1883, the university sits on more than 120 acres. Some of the majors the university offers include subjects within the arts, humanities, social science, business, natural sciences, education and behavioral science.

Black Hills State University offers baccalaureate, master’s and certificate programs entirely online. Bachelor’s degree options include general studies and business administration. Master’s degree offerings include strategic leadership and Project SELECT. Available certifications include secondary education.

Online student resources include technical support, an online job board and an online library with librarians available via email and over the phone.

Presentation College View School Profile Aberdeen, SD PC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Additionally, the online radiological technology completion degree is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) and the online BSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Presentation College is a Catholic college founded in Mitchell, South Dakota, but moved to Aberdeen in 1951. The institution also operates a campus in Fairmont, Minnesota. Known for its healthcare programs, the college offers an associate of arts degree and associate, bachelor, and master of science degrees in more than 15 academic areas.

PC's distance education program, PC Virtual, offers online bachelor of science and completion degrees in psychology and several other health-related fields. The two BSN programs, LPN-to-BSN and RN-to-BSN, are completion degrees. The radiologic technology degree is available as a completion degree or an online associate or bachelor's degree.

Dakota Wesleyan University View School Profile Mitchell, SD DWU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Additionally, the college's business programs are accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

Dakota Wesleyan University educates nearly 1,000 students through over 40 majors and minors and several graduate programs at its campus in Mitchell. Two bachelor's degrees, two graduate programs, and two graduate certificates are available online, delivered asynchronously through the Canvas platform in eight-week terms.

DWU is among the many online colleges in South Dakota that offer financial aid for students. The institution charges tuition per credit, with rates varying by program. Admission requirements also vary by program, though both online bachelor's degrees -- the bachelor of arts completion degree and the RN-to-BSN -- require prospective students to earn an associate degree. The graduate degrees, the master of business administration and master of arts in education, require 36 credits each; students who attend full time with two courses per term can complete the MBA in 12 months and the MA in 15 months.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology View School Profile Rapid City, SD South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, founded in 1885, is a leading engineering and science university, as well as one of South Dakota's online colleges. The Rapid City campus offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, while SD Mines Online includes three online master's programs in engineering.

The online programs, construction engineering and management (CEM), engineering management (EM), and mining engineering and management (MEM), require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Additionally, the CEM and EM programs specify minimum math and science requirements, and the MEM degree requires an undergraduate engineering degree or significant work experience. The EM and MEM degrees require 32 credits each, and the CEM program requires 33 credits. Classes are charged per credit, with the same rate charged for all online programs, and South Dakota residents are eligible for a significant tuition discount. The only other program costs are the application fee and books.

University of Sioux Falls View School Profile Sioux Falls, SD USF is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). USF business programs are accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), education programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the bachelor's degree in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Nearly 1,500 students are enrolled at the University of Sioux Falls, which offers over 40 undergraduate majors on its Sioux Falls campus. The university boasts that, within six months of graduation, 98% of graduates are employed in their field.

One of the top online schools in South Dakota, USF offers online professional development, certificates, an online RN-to-BSN degree, and bachelor's degree completion programs in accounting, business, and health administration. Online master's degrees are also available in business and education. Application requirements for the degree completion programs include an associate degree or two years of transferable credit with a minimum 2.0 GPA, as well as an interview and three years of work experience.

Lake Area Technical Institute View School Profile Watertown, SD Lake Area Technical Institute is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Boasting over 20,000 graduates, of whom 98.56% are employed or continuing their education, Lake Area Technical Institute offers degrees in over 20 areas including agriculture, business, transportation, and health-related fields. LATI's 12 online degrees are available in similar academic areas. The online programs are hybrid, requiring some training or clinical experiences on the campus in Watertown, though the amount varies by program.

Like some other online schools in South Dakota, application requirements include an application fee, high school transcripts, and required test scores. Most online programs do not have an application deadline, except for the online nursing program. All prospective students should think about applying early, as programs can fill and there are financial aid and scholarship deadlines. Students who earn their AAS degree at LATI can consider pursuing a bachelor's degree through one of the many program-to-program articulation agreements the college has with public universities in South Dakota, private institutions, and public universities in other states.

Mitchell Technical Institute View School Profile Mitchell, SD Mitchell Technical Institute is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Though a fairly new college, founded in 1968, Mitchell Technical Institute offers 33 programs on the campus in Mitchell, as well as five online programs. The online degrees are available in areas including business and health-related fields. While MTI boasts a 99% job placement rate among graduates, several of the online programs have a 100% placement rate: administrative office specialist, small business management, advanced medical imaging, and speech-language pathology assistant. Prospective students should submit transcripts, applicable test scores, and proof of U.S. residency.

MTI is one of the online colleges in South Dakota that charges the same tuition for online and on-campus courses, and both residents and nonresidents of South Dakota pay the same rate. Several of the degrees offer both a one-year diploma and an AAS option, and most are available entirely online. MTI awards credit for previously earned college credits and experiential learning including certain exams and professional certifications.

Best Online Colleges

Online Colleges in South Dakota Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Employment in South Dakota

South Dakotans with college degrees benefit from the state's low unemployment rate and cost of living. Compared to the national average cost of living index, which is set at 100, South Dakota's cost of living index is only 88.3. Similarly, South Dakota's 2.9% unemployment rate is much lower than the 6.2% national unemployment rate, as of February 2021.

South Dakota's top industries include healthcare, manufacturing, educational services, and public administration. Bioscience, value-added agriculture, and cybersecurity are also key industries in the state. Many careers in these fields require a bachelor-level education, though fewer than 29% of South Dakota residents hold a bachelor's degree. As a result, professionals with college degrees face less competition in South Dakota than they would in more highly educated states.

The state's highest-paying, fastest-growing jobs, including financial manager, industrial engineer, and operations manager, all typically require a bachelor's degree. Many of these careers pay more than double the state's mean annual wage of $44,960.

The following information details some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 500 individuals in South Dakota. Salary information applies specifically to South Dakota, while job growth data pertains to the entire United States.

Highest-Paying, Degree-Requiring Careers in South Dakota
Career Annual Mean Salary (2020) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Required
Financial Managers $144,980 15% Bachelor's
General and Operations Managers $131,890 4% Bachelor's
Pharmacists $121,130 -3% Doctoral
Lawyers $111,930 4% Doctoral
Physician Assistants $109,290 31% Master's
Medical and Health Services Managers $107,850 32% Bachelor's
First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers $103,230 4% Bachelor's
Nurse Practitioners $103,080 45% Master's
Industrial Engineers $86,450 10% Bachelor's
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Associate Degrees in South Dakota

In addition to bachelor's degrees, South Dakotans can earn online associate degrees in business, agricultural science, and general studies.

South Dakota State University (SDSU) offers online associate programs in subjects like sociology, construction technology, and data science. Dakota State University (DSU) has an online associate in business management program. The online associate degree in general studies at the University of South Dakota (USD) prepares graduates to enroll in bachelor's programs.

After completing an associate degree, graduates can enter the workforce or transfer into bachelor's programs. With transfer credits, students can earn their bachelor's degrees in as little as one year.

Online Graduate Degrees in South Dakota

Many top-ranked universities in South Dakota offer online graduate degrees, too. For example, USD offers an online MBA program with concentrations in business analytics, finance, health services administration, and marketing. Graduate students can also earn master's degrees in criminal justice administration, social work, or nursing at USD.

Online graduate programs prioritize flexible scheduling, which appeals to working professionals who must balance school with professional responsibilities. Online programs also typically allow students to complete in-person requirements in their local areas. With a graduate degree, professionals can advance their current careers or move into new fields.

Frequently Asked Questions

true What Is the Most Popular Online College in South Dakota?

South Dakota's popular online colleges include the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, and Dakota State University.

What Are the Best Colleges in South Dakota?

The state's best colleges include the University of South Dakota, which is the state's flagship public university, and South Dakota State University. The state also has private universities.

What Is the Best School in South Dakota?

What school is the best school is different for every student, depending on their intended profession and learning style. Some of the best colleges in South Dakota include public institutions, like the University of South Dakota, and private schools, like Augustana University.

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