Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

Font Size: A A A

South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

August 2021

Back to School/Back to Work

With this time of year come all things “back to school”—from school supplies stocked prominently in stores and “back to school” clothes shopping being featured in ads to again sharing our streets and roads with school buses. Have you ever stopped to think about what a new school year means for South Dakota’s labor market, and the important role education plays in the economy?

Combined, workers at South Dakota’s local school districts, the state’s public universities, private K-12 schools, the state’s four technical colleges plus private postsecondary institutions, number about 34,600, accounting for more than 8% of the state’s wage and salaried workers. Education encompasses the following components:

  • Local Government Education – local school districts (preschools, elementary, middle/junior high and high schools) and the state’s four public technical colleges
  • State Government Education – South Dakota’s public universities, the South Dakota Board of Regents, the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the South Dakota School for the Deaf
  • Federal Government Education – elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary institutions operated by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)
  • Private Educational Services –private elementary and secondary schools, as well as private postsecondary institutions and training facilities

Local Government Education

Local Government Education accounts for the largest portion of South Dakota’s workers employed in education, at 25,257 (73.0%) in 2020. This was a decline of 810 workers (3.1%) from 2019. The drop was related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with schools not needing as many workers for certain types of student services (food service and janitorial, for example) while education was done online.

Annual pay in Local Government Education was $40,065 in 2020, a 7.5% increase over 2019.

Employment in Local Government Education typically begins declining slightly each year from April to May, with greater declines from May to June. The biggest drops generally occur between June and July (with declines averaging more than 28% over the few years prior to the pandemic).

According to the South Dakota Department of Education’s website, there are 149 accredited, public school districts in the state.

When we think of our local school districts, we likely associate occupations such as elementary, middle/junior high and secondary school teachers, teacher assistants and education administrators. But many other occupations are needed for the educational system to work effectively in our local school districts, including janitors, secretaries, substitute teachers, cooks, maintenance and repair workers, librarians, speech-language pathologists, computer network administrators, nurses, accountants, dishwashers and security guards to name just a few.

State Government Education

State Government Education accounts for the second largest portion (15.9%) of employment in education with 5,516 workers. Establishments in this sector provide instruction and training in a wide selection of subjects and confer formal levels of education designated by diplomas, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and more advanced degrees.

Employment in State Government Education had been increasing gradually over the last few years prior to 2020. Then worker levels took a big hit during 2020, losing 474 (7.9%). This was likely related to COVID-19, with certain types of workers no longer needed for on-campus student services (food service, gyms and activity centers) when education transitioned to a solely online format to help slow the spread. Annual pay of workers in this sector was $57,230 in 2020, an increase of $3,494 over 2019.

Employment in State Government Education typically remains more constant throughout the year than it does in Local Government Education. Like at the local level, the slight seasonal variations in the state’s public university employment are related to their school calendar. Employment usually increases about 7.6% from January to February (based on averages for 2016 through 2019), when staffing levels return to normal for the second semester following the Christmas break. Employment increases also occur from May to June, when more part-time workers are hired to staff summer activities like youth sports camps and campus visits by prospective students, and for work like lawn mowing, and dorm cleaning and maintenance. The only other statistically significant fluctuation of month-to-month employment trends in State Government Education comes from August to September, when those summer activities end and related workers are removed from payrolls.

Not surprisingly, a wide variety of postsecondary teachers are employed within State Government Education, classified by their educational specialty. Specialties range from mathematics and engineering to education (those who teach teachers) and health specialties. But it may be surprising workers in occupations like janitors and cleaners, secretaries and administrative assistants, teaching assistants, office clerks, educational and career guidance counselors, coaches and scouts, management analysts and education administrators outnumber workers in any of the postsecondary teaching occupations. A few other occupations employed in State Government Education which may not be as obvious are childcare workers, public relations specialists, web developers and police.

Federal Government Education

Contributing another component of education employment in South Dakota is Federal Government Education, those schools operated under the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education. There were 381 employees reported by these schools in 2020, accounting for 1.1% of total employment in education. Employment in Federal Government Education has declined by 65 (14.6%) since 2016.

The South Dakota Department of Education’s website lists 19 schools operated under the Bureau of Indian Education.

Month-to-month employment trends in this sector also reflect the school calendar. Employment generally drops significantly (more than 50 percent) from June to July after the school year is closed out. It then climbs significantly from July to August (averaging 70.6% over the last five years) as schools gear up for another school year. Although the rate of hiring slows, payrolls continue to increase into September.

Private Education

Private education accounted for 10.0% of all South Dakota education employment in 2020, or 3,450 workers. South Dakota employment in private education had been slowly and gradually declining from 2016 to 2019, with a bigger drop from 2019 to 2020 most likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employment is down 327 (8.7%) since 2016.

According to the South Dakota Department of Education’s website, there are 47 private school systems in the state. Some, such as Aberdeen Catholic Schools, involve multiple schools within one system—including a primary, elementary, junior high and high school.

Employment in private education begins dipping each year from April to May as schools begin wrapping up the school year, with the biggest drops (about 16%) from May to June. Beginning in August, workers are added to payrolls for a new school year. The biggest jumps are from August to September, when private education employment generally increases by more than 18%.

As expected, most of the same wide-ranging occupations employed at the public K-12 and postsecondary education institutions in South Dakota are also found in Private Education.

Employment Opportunities in Education

As we’ve demonstrated above, education employment plays an important role in South Dakota’s economy. It also provides great opportunities for youth and others exploring career options. In July 2020 (the most current data available), there were 727 South Dakota job openings advertised online within Education, Training and Library occupations.

Many education occupations are projected to offer good opportunities in South Dakota to 2028, several even identified as South Dakota Hot Careers (high demand and high wage):

  • Coaches and Scouts*
  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors
  • Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education*
  • Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
  • Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education*

*South Dakota Top 30 Careers (among the 30 occupations with the very highest project demand and high wages).

We encourage those interested in exploring these and many other education occupations to use the career exploration resources we provide on Education and Training occupations. website. For those who like to teach, guide and help others learn, these education career opportunities may be the perfect fit. As our Education and Training career cluster poster (PDF format) says, “Teach yourself about the value of success and fulfillment in shaping young minds.”