The Best Online Colleges in South Dakota

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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

  1. Dakota State University

    Madison, SD

    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.

  2. South Dakota State University

    Brookings, SD

    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.

  3. University of South Dakota

    Vermillion, SD

    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.

  4. Northern State University

    Aberdeen, SD

    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.

  5. Black Hills State University

    Spearfish, SD

    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.

  6. Presentation College

    Aberdeen, SD

    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.

  7. Dakota Wesleyan University

    Mitchell, SD

    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.

  8. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

    Rapid City, SD

    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.

  9. University of Sioux Falls

    Sioux Falls, SD

    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.

  10. Lake Area Technical Institute

    Watertown, SD

    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.

Best Online Colleges

Online Colleges in South Dakota Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

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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