Vocational Trade Schools in South Dakota [2022 Guide]

Updated September 1, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools in South Dakota prepare students for in-demand careers in a relatively short period of time. South Dakota created the South Dakota Future Fund to support workforce development in the state, particularly in manufacturing, bioscience, and agriculture. Additionally, the South Dakota: Dream it. Do it. campaign supports career awareness for students as young as middle school.

Top 10 Vocational Trade Schools in South Dakota

#1 Lake Area Technical Institute Watertown, SD
#2 Southeast Technical Institute Sioux Falls, SD
#3 Mitchell Technical Institute Mitchell, SD
#4 Sisseton Wahpeton College Sisseton, SD
#5 Western Dakota Technical Institute Rapid City, SD

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Vocational schools in South Dakota often take 1-2 years to complete, focusing on career-relevant skills in areas like healthcare, construction, and technology. These programs typically incorporate coursework with experiential learning components, giving students hands-on experience in the field.

This guide covers important information for prospective trade school students in South Dakota, including potential careers and salaries for graduates.


What is the difference between a trade school and a college?Vocational schools in South Dakota offer career-focused training that prepares students for particular careers. Colleges focus more on academic training in a variety of disciplines. Trade programs typically require fewer credits and take less time to complete than a college degree.
How much does a trade school cost?Cost varies by program and school, but public technical schools in South Dakota typically cost around $120-$320 per credit.
What are examples of vocational jobs?Examples of vocational jobs include paramedic, cosmetologist, auto mechanic, carpenter, and electrician.
What are the different types of trade schools?Both public and private schools offer trade programs. Some schools may focus on a specific industry, while others may offer diverse programs tailored to a variety of industries.

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

When researching prospective trade schools in South Dakota, students should verify a school's accreditation and licensure status. The South Dakota Secretary of State licenses vocational and trade schools in the state. Additionally, the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements allows out-of-state educational providers to offer distance-learning opportunities for South Dakota students.

Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Schools may hold regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation generally applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions.

The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits South Dakota schools. National accreditation typically applies to vocational and trade schools. The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges grants national accreditation to 650 vocational and trade schools nationwide.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For example, only students at accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree. Students can learn more about accreditation at Accredited Schools Online.

Vocational Trade Schools in South Dakota

This guide ranks the best vocational schools in South Dakota to help students find the right program for their needs.

  1. Lake Area Technical Institute

    Watertown, SD



    Serving more than 2,600 students annually, LATI ranks among the largest vocational schools in South Dakota. Based in Watertown, the college offers a sizable selection oftechnical and vocational programsin areas such as aviation, robotics, medical lab technician, community healthcare, and building trades technology.

    LATI offers professional apprenticeships in building trades technology, diesel technology, manufacturing, and welding technology. These programs enable students to gain practical skills while earning both academic credit and a salary. LATI's apprenticeships include mentor supervision, on-the-job learning, relevant technical instruction, monetary rewards, and occupational credentialing.

    Most apprenticeships last three years, though exact completion times vary. After completing an apprenticeship, students typically earn a technical certificate demonstrating proficiency in their field. Many apprentices continue their studies, earning an associate of applied science degree.

  2. Southeast Technical Institute

    Sioux Falls, SD



    A career-focused two-year college in Sioux Falls, Southeast Tech ranks among the top vocational schools in South Dakota. The school offerscareer and technical programsin fields such as agriculture, construction, healthcare, information technology, and transportation technology.

    Southeast Tech hosts a five-credit, pre-construction apprenticeship that offers a broad introduction to construction practices and principles. The program combines classroom instruction, on-the-job training, and laboratory experience. The program serves high school students age 16 and older, providing participants with a pathway to industry careers. Common program topics include small hand and power tools, construction safety, career awareness, and soft skills, such as professional communication and ethics.

    Southeast Tech works with top professional partners, including Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire and the Associated General Contractors, to ensure a relevant curriculum and strong job opportunities for students. The pre-apprenticeship functions like any other job, requiring candidates to complete a job interview.

  3. Mitchell Technical Institute

    Mitchell, SD



    Ranked nationally among community colleges, MTI is also one of the best vocational schools in South Dakota. Based in Mitchell, this two-year college offers severaltechnical and vocational programsin fields including health sciences, construction and manufacturing technologies, business and business services, and agriculture and transportation technologies. Some of MTI's varied program offerings include radiation therapy, architectural design and building, animal science, agronomy, and power sports and marine technology.

    MTI also offers four online programs in speech-language pathology assistant, small business management, medical office personnel, and administrative office specialist. Both the medical office personnel and administrative office specialist programs occur entirely online, enabling students to earn a degree or certificate without ever visiting campus. MTI reports strong professional outcomes for students, with 99% of graduates either finding employment or enrolling in further education within six months of graduation.

  4. Sisseton Wahpeton College

    Sisseton, SD



    Based in Sisseton on the Lake Traverse Reservation, SWC ranks among the best tribal vocational schools in South Dakota. The college offersassociate degrees and professional certificates, with options including addiction and diversity counseling, early childhood development, sustainable environmental studies, carpentry technology, and multimedia technology. SWC offers many courses online, enabling students to complete a portion of their degree without visiting campus.

    SWC also offers several programs that emphasize South Dakota's unique Native history, including an associate of arts in Dakota studies, a certificate in Dakota language teaching, and a certificate in tribal arts.

    For students interested in continuing studies beyond the associate degree level, SWC maintains an articulation agreement with Nebraska's Bellevue University. Students who complete an associate degree at SWC can apply their credits toward a bachelor's degree at Bellevue University.

  5. Western Dakota Technical Institute

    Rapid City, SD



    A major two-year college in Rapid City, WDTI offers severaltechnical and vocational degrees, with associate degrees and certificates available in many fields. Students can pursue programs such as allied health, farm and ranch management, social media marketing, precision machining technology, and medical laboratory technician. WDTI reports a 98% job placement rate among graduates, with 89% of graduates employed in their field of study.

    WDTI offers comprehensive academic resources for students, including academic success workshops and tutoring. The school's Student Success Center provides a variety of guidance services, including career and degree planning.

    Healthcare students benefit from WDTI's cutting-edge Medical Simulation Center, which offers an assortment of patient simulation environments and activities. Working across healthcare departments, WDTI's medical simulation technologies can train students in a variety of medical scenarios, such as labor and deliveries, ventilation support, nursing, and emergency response care.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

According to the U.S. Census, more than 359,000 South Dakota residents reported working in 2018, with the labor force comprising 68.1% of the population 16 years old and older. Manufacturing, bioscience, and value-added agriculture comprise the top industries in the state.

Vocational schools in South Dakota often tailor their programs to the needs of regional employers. Many schools use the expertise of industry leaders to refine their curriculum. This input ensures graduates attain the skills that prospective employers are looking for.

Trade school students in South Dakota can choose from a variety of in-demand careers. For example, Projections Central projects jobs for paramedics and emergency medical technicians in South Dakota to grow more than 7% between 2018 and 2028. Meanwhile, jobs for dental hygienists in the state are projected to grow more than 10% in the same time period.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Students can choose from a variety of trade and vocational schools that prepare them for roles in areas such as allied health, technology, and the skilled trades. The following list outlines several of many types of trade schools in South Dakota.

Dental Hygienist Schools

Dental hygienists work under the supervision of dentists, cleaning teeth, assessing oral health, and educating patients on dental hygiene. Projections Central projects jobs for dental hygienists in South Dakota to grow 10.6% between 2018 and 2028. These professionals earn an annual mean wage of $62,560 in South Dakota.

Dental hygienists typically need an associate degree. During a dental hygienist program, learners study topics like dental anatomy, radiography, and oral pathology. They also complete clinical training to gain hands-on experience in the field.

After graduation, students must apply for licensure from the South Dakota Board of Dentistry. To receive licensure, students must have attended a program accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Find accredited dental hygienist schools at Accredited Schools Online.

Mechanic Schools

Auto mechanics provide maintenance and repair services to keep cars and trucks operating at peak efficiency. Projections Central projects jobs for auto mechanics in South Dakota to grow 5.2% between 2018 and 2028. These professionals earn a mean salary of $41,240 in the state.

Mechanic schools combine theoretical knowledge with hands-on skills. Many schools set their program up to mirror a real-world work setting. Students learn how each of the automotive systems function, such as the transmission and drivelines, HVAC system, and suspension and braking. Students also learn to diagnose issues using both observational skills and technology. Most programs require one year to complete.

Many employers seek mechanics with industry certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Learn more about accredited mechanic programs here.

Paralegal Schools

Paralegals work under the supervision of licensed attorneys. They conduct legal research, file court documents, interview clients and witnesses, and assist with case management. Jobs for paralegals in South Dakota are projected to grow 9.6% between 2018 and 2028. Paralegals in the state earned a mean annual salary of $49,130 in 2019.

Paralegals must earn a relevant associate degree and complete on-the-job training. Though South Dakota does not require licensing for paralegals, numerous professional organizations offer professional credentials that certify paralegal knowledge and experience, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, National Association for Legal Professionals, and American Alliance of Paralegals.

Learn more about accredited paralegal schools here.

Radiology Technician Schools

Radiology technicians operate medical imaging equipment. Jobs for radiology technicians in South Dakota are projected to grow 8.7% between 2018 and 2028. These professionals earn a mean salary of $53,210 in the state. They may work in hospitals, ancillary imaging centers, or physicians' offices.

These professionals typically need an associate degree. Some radiology technician schools offer specializations in areas such as mammography, bone densitometry, magnetic resonance, and computed tomography.

Many professionals seek national certification from the American Registry of Radiology Technicians, which requires an exam and skills assessment. Learn more about accredited radiology technician programs here.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Vocational schools in South Dakota typically cost much less than four-year programs, but they still require a significant financial investment. Students can take advantage of a variety of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their education, such as loans, scholarships, and grants.

To qualify for federal financial aid, students must submit the FAFSA every year. The application opens each October, and students should complete it as soon as possible to maximize their financial assistance. However, only students at accredited programs qualify for federal aid.

Unlike loans, grants and scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. Students can take advantage of a variety of federal grants, such as the Federal Pell Grant, which determines awards based on financial need and enrollment status. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant assists students who need additional help beyond the Pell Grant.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

The list below offers a sample of scholarships available to trade school students in South Dakota. Students can research additional scholarship opportunities based on factors like industry, identity, and financial need.

Build Dakota

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing training in high-need fields may apply for the Build Dakota program, which provides full funding for tuition, books, and other required education expenses. Recipients must commit to working in South Dakota for at least three years after graduation.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Construction Industry Center

Who Can Apply: Dependents of owners or employees of Construction Industry Center member firms planning to attend an accredited college or trade school qualify for this award. The committee considers community service, school activities, and academic achievement when determining recipients.
Amount: $500-$1,000

Apply for Scholarship

South Dakota Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors

Who Can Apply: High school seniors and college freshmen planning to pursue a career in plumbing, heating, and cooling may apply for this annual award. A member of the association must sponsor the applicant. Applicants must submit an essay.
Amount: $500-$1,000

Apply for Scholarship

South Dakota Telecommunications Association

Who Can Apply: High school seniors and postsecondary students currently enrolled in any field related to the telecommunications or broadband industry qualify for the award. Applicants must be a customer or member of a company in the association.
Amount: $2,000

Apply for Scholarship

South Dakota Association for Career & Technical Education

Who Can Apply: High school and postsecondary students active in career and technical education student organizations may apply for this award. The award supports study at any South Dakota technical institute or college.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Additional Education and Career Resources

National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium – South Dakota

Comprehensive resource for CTE students with state statistics, education delivery options, available programs of study, and financial aid information.

South Dakota Department of Agriculture

Find the latest news related to the agriculture industry in the state, as well as job postings, resources, and events such as meetings and conferences.

South Dakota Nurses Association

Members gain access to networking opportunities, professional development, job postings in the state, and resources for nurses of all levels.

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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