Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

December 2018

South Dakota Career Opportunities Extend Far Beyond the “Top” Occupations

Fastest growing occupations. Highest demand occupations. South Dakota’s 30 highest demand-highest wage occupations (or Hot Careers). We’ve covered them all in the last few issues of the Labor Bulletin.

But what about all the other occupations needing workers in South Dakota? From a career planner’s perspective, what if none of those “top” occupations are appealing? Rest easy; occupations on the fastest growing, highest demand or highest demand-greatest wage lists are just a few of the many career opportunities available right here in South Dakota.

Hundreds of occupations are projected to have great demand for workers and good wages, even though they didn’t make the very top of any list. For example, here are just a handful of additional occupations projected to have high demand for workers through 2026 and for which average wages are higher than the median wage ($32,338) across all occupations.

  • First-Line Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers
  • Food Service Managers
  • Industrial Machinery Mechanics
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
  • Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators
  • Business Operations Specialists, All Other
  • Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers
  • Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
  • Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians
  • Insurance Claims and Policy Processing Clerks
  • Computer User Support Specialists
  • Correctional Officers and Jailers
  • Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
  • Software Developers, Applications
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators
  • Machinists
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
  • Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists
  • Human Resources Specialists

And those are just the next 20 on the highest demand-highest wage list. There are many more occupations offering a promising future in South Dakota!

In terms of demand, for example, the average annual demand for workers across all occupations in the state is projected to be 79. In other words, all occupations, on average, are expected to need 79 workers each year to 2026. Those on the Hot Careers list are projected to need at least 150 workers per year.

Those on the list immediately above are projected to need more than 100 a year. There are many more occupations for which demand is projected to be higher than average. Even those occupations for which the projected annual demand is lower than 79 will still need workers. Career opportunities abound in South Dakota, far beyond any of the top lists we’ve mentioned!

The first and probably most important step for someone choosing a career path is to identify what occupations interest him. Think of the sentiment, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” From the employer perspective, workers in occupations that are a good fit are more content and more productive.

The career decision-making process begins with self-exploration. This step involves many soul-searching questions. What activities do you enjoy? What are you passionate about? What brings the greatest value to your life? (For example, is a sense of achievement the most important to you, or is working independently at the top of your values list?) What work environment do you prefer? (Do you like an office setting, or do you prefer working outside?)

To help individuals identify occupations of interest, LMIC offers the South Dakota Career Interest Survey. Available in either Adobe PDF or Microsoft Excel format, this interest assessment has individuals rate, on a scale of 1 to 5, how well they like doing 108 work-related activities. Results of the responses indicate which of six interest areas (based on John Holland's career development model, Holland Occupational Themes, otherwise known as The Holland Codes) the individual has the most interest in.

Ideally, the next step in the career decision-making process involves evaluation of the individual’s aptitude—how their intellect and scholastic ability will best pair with occupations. From there, career planners are normally encouraged to learn all they can about occupations that are a good match for both their interests and aptitude.

At some point in the career exploration process, we strongly recommend considering labor market information for the occupations of interest.

In other words, is employment in the occupation growing or declining? Is demand for workers projected to be adequate to ensure job opportunities by the time the individual completes whatever education or skill building is required? How does pay in the occupation stack up? Will it provide a good living? Will the lifetime earnings justify the cost of education or other preparation such as licensure, if required?
This is where LMIC comes in. We provide a wealth of information on hundreds of occupations—including employment and outlook projections as well as wage data. And not just for the “top” occupations, but all kinds of other occupations. So whatever occupations are of interest, individuals considering them can check out those labor market conditions.

Using their results of the South Dakota Career Interest Survey mentioned above or other career interest assessment providing results by Holland Occupational Theme, Individuals may explore occupations within each of the six interest areas. For occupations of particular interest, the individual can easily view a wealth of information—including what workers do on the job, current job openings advertised in the occupation plus the number of job seekers applying for those jobs, skills needed, education and work experience needed, projected employment and outlook information, wages, employers, etc.

Another option LMIC recently added to its website for career explorers to learn more about occupations is by Career Cluster. Career Clusters are another way of organizing similar occupations and are endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and adopted by the South Dakota Department of Education. Career clusters are designed to help students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to reach their postsecondary and career goals.

The Career Clusters are:

Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Architecture & Construction

Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications

Business Management & Administration

Education & Training


Government & Public Administration

Health Science

Hospitality & Tourism

Human Services

Information Technology

Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security



Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)

Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

By clicking on one of the links in the cluster list above, career explorers will be able to view a list of all the related occupations. By following the link for any occupation, the individual can view all the types of information mentioned above. Individuals can explore the vast world of great career opportunities available right here in South Dakota, without being limited by any list of “top” occupations.

Our intention in recommending the consideration of labor market information somewhere within the career exploration and decision-making process is not to limit or restrict occupations being considered, but rather to encourage informed career decision making. We want to help those choosing a career field to have an idea of the competition they may face when hitting the job market and how the occupation will fit with other life goals—so they be prepared accordingly and find great success!