After years of a recession-ridden job market, employment opportunities are beginning to soar in areas such as health care and education. This is good news for the nation and for Minnesota.
But if you didn’t get your undergraduate degree in one of the state’s booming fields, you may be feeling lost in the shuffle.
That’s where Minnesota’s colleges and universities come into the picture, no matter your age or previous education experience. If you’re looking to higher education as a way to earn more income in Minnesota, the key is to meet the needs of employers.
“Advanced education which meets the needs of the state’s employers and/or responds to trends in our society helps maintain the economic vibrancy of the state,” says Ginny Arthur, Metropolitan State University’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. And it means you’ll make a career advance or career switch in a way that is economically beneficial to you, too.
THE NEEDS OF THE STATE
For Minnesotans, in-demand jobs that require a master’s degree or higher span health care, education, technology, and business sectors. Topping the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s list of needed workers are mental health counselors, social workers, and therapists. One hot job—physician assistant—earns $96,000 on average. (No wonder it’s one of the most popular programs at every college or university in the state.) Education administrators at the elementary and secondary school level are also straddling the six-figure line, with the average salary totaling $100,050.
MINNESOTA'S HOTTEST GRADUATE-LEVEL CAREERS
- Mental health counselors
- Physician assistants
- Marriage and family therapists
- Rehabilitation counselors
- Health care social workers
- Vocational education teachers, postsecondary
- Educational guidance, school, and vocational counselors
- Orthotists and prosthetists
- Exercise physiologists
- Industrial-organizational psychologists
- Occupational therapists
- Health diagnosing and treating practitioners
- Speech-language pathologists
- Education administrators, postsecondary
- Urban and regional planners
- Instructional coordinators
- Education administrators, elementary and secondary
To meet the demand for educated workers with master’s degrees, schools around Minnesota are adding innovative programs. For example, Metropolitan State University offers an entry-level master of science in nursing (ELMSN). The program is targeted to individuals who are interested in a nursing career but have a bachelor’s in another field. In the face of teacher shortages across the state, Augsburg partnered with five other private colleges in the Twin Cities for the TC2 Urban Teacher Residency, where graduate students hoping to teach in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) can achieve licensure within as little as 12 months.
Additionally, colleges and universities like The College of St. Scholastica work collaboratively with industry sponsors to ensure their academic programs are up to par, meeting the demands of the workforce and providing the necessary experiences students need to excel far beyond the classroom. This includes resources such as career centers and job fairs.
“The economic growth of Minnesota is reliant on a skilled workforce,” says Lindsay Lahti, the director of graduate and extended studies recruitment for The College of St. Scholastica. “Our institution is directly linked to economic betterment by providing a well-rounded education to students so that they can fill the voids in Minnesota’s job market.”
THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS
But continuing education is not just about meeting the demands of the state—it’s also about meeting the needs of adult students.
Unlike undergraduate students, often fresh out of high school with limited responsibilities, those pursuing graduate-level education may be juggling full-time jobs, financial obligations, and family. Such students want quality education that is relevant, flexible, affordable, and convenient, explains Arthur.
“They are busy students who want prompt and professional feedback from staff and faculty, and they want a clear and concise road map to complete their degree,” adds Kim Craig, the director of cohort enrollment management at Concordia University. “Many students come to us apprehensive and doubtful that they will be able to succeed in college after being out for an extended period of time or knowing this is just one more responsibility they have to add to their plate.”
In order to work around these students’ schedules, colleges around the state offer evening courses, online courses, and advisors to make the process as smooth as possible. Concordia University even offers online orientation that allows students to learn and practice before class begins, and this fall a transition course will be added to help adult students acclimate to the college lifestyle and schedule.
Despite the challenges, the benefits of returning to school for a graduate degree significantly outweigh the cons.
“As the economy continues its slow improvement, there is more data to support the value of a college degree,” says Lahti. “People know this and are looking for ways to advance in their fields and increase their earning potential.”
But, more importantly, it’s about discovering (or rediscovering) a passion for your work, and the message from students and college admission staff alike is clear: If you have the desire, or even a hint of desire, explore your options and do it now.
“Make your graduate education count by pursuing something that meets both your academic and career objectives,” Arthur says. Know what you hope to achieve by returning to school and explore available programs that can help you reach that goal. We believe that learning is a lifelong endeavor and that there’s a program out there for everyone.”
The College of St. Scholastica
Metropolitan State University
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Minnesota State University Mankato
North Dakota State University
St. Catherine University
St. Cloud State University
St. Mary’s University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
University of Northwestern
William Mitchell College of Law
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Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development