Your Future is Our Business.

The Path to Workforce Success Northwest Minnesota

which wayHow do I know what job is right for me?

In our diverse economy, there are many ways to achieve workforce success, and they don’t all follow the same straight or orderly path. Employers in Northwest Minnesota now provide about 220,000 jobs and the state has nearly 3 million jobs, so it can be hard to know which one might be right for you.

Assessments and career exploration are a great way to help students and jobseekers make the best possible choices. What things do you like to do? What’s your personality style? What skills and abilities do you have? There are a variety of free career assessments available online at sites including CareerOneStop (, O*NET (, and DEED ( that can help.

Knowing more about yourself is critical to career planning. People choose different jobs at different points in their lives, and for very different reasons, but no one can do it for you. You are in charge of your career planning process!

How much education or training will I need to get that job?

graduate from high schoolGraduating from high school is an important first step, but from there the path to success can go in many different directions. For example, students and jobseekers can go straight to work, into the military, on to college, start an apprenticeship, or something else, depending on your career goals.

In other words, there are many pathways into the labor market. Some are short-term solutions, while others are long-term decisions. There are costs and benefits to every approach, and there are practical steps that students and jobseekers can take to make the most out of their career planning and educational investment.

It’s best to pick something that you enjoy doing, and that matches your skills and personality. Once you’ve found something you like, it’s important to know that every occupation requires some training, ranging from short-term to long-term. Whether you go to college or not, on-the-job training and continual learning is critical to your career success.

requirementsDo I need to go to college?

College is an excellent way to move up career ladders and open windows of opportunity to fields that would otherwise be closed, such as nursing or engineering. Many of these occupations offer high wages and are in high demand in the marketplace. Certain careers – such as dentists, lawyers, and school teachers – require a college education, while other jobs – including cost estimators, sales representatives, and correctional officers – do not. Students and jobseekers might be surprised to learn that well over half of all jobs in Northwest Minnesota can be started with a high school diploma or less, and just over one-third require college.

How much does college cost?

While education is typically a worthwhile investment, college can be expensive – with average annual expenses ranging between $14,420 and almost $50,000 per year in Minnesota. At that level, an associate’s degree at a state college in 2017 cost roughly $29,000 ($14,420 x 2 years) and a four-year bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota passed $100,000 ($26,738 x 4 years). The Office of Higher Education provides a list of tuition and fees for every college in Minnesota (

aaverage costFor those who go to college, your choice of major matters – different programs lead to different jobs that earn different amounts of money. For example, students who graduated from a Minnesota college with an associate’s degree in Registered Nursing were earning over $60,000 within 5 years of graduating, while students with a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies were earning less than $35,000. DEED’s Graduate Employment Outcomes tool can help potential students compare the costs of college with the typical earnings of graduates from programs at every Minnesota postsecondary institution to determine if their chosen major makes financial sense.

cost of livingHow much income will I need to make?

DEED’s Cost of Living tool provides a yearly estimate of the basic needs cost of living in Minnesota, for individuals and families, by county, region, and statewide. The tool uses federal and state data to examine monthly living costs in seven categories: food, housing, health care, transportation, child care, other necessities, and net taxes.
According to 2017 estimates, the basic needs cost of living for a single person in Northwest Minnesota was $26,028, which would require an hourly wage of $12.51 over the course of a full-time, year-round work schedule (2,080 hours). The highest costs were for housing and transportation, but of course both of those are greatly impacted by where you choose to live. Other costs would also vary based on your lifestyle, family size, and work status, and can go up or down based on your choices.

How much income will I actually make?

While income isn’t the only thing that matters when choosing a career, everyone wants and needs to make money. In general, the job you choose determines the amount of money you’re able to make over the course of your lifetime.

hourly wageData show that hourly wages rise for each additional level of education completed; however, it’s important to see that there are opportunities for jobs that provide livable wages at every level of education, including many that boast strong current and future demand in your region of the state.

Put simply, not all great jobs require college, and not all college graduates end up in great paying jobs. You can find state and regional wage information for about 800 occupations in Minnesota using DEED’s Occupational Employment Statistics tool (

What jobs are in demand in my region?

According to DEED’s Occupations in Demand tool, there are nearly 250 occupations showing high demand in Northwest Minnesota, with training and education requirements ranging from short-term on-the-job training to postsecondary education to advanced degrees:

by region

Who can help me with my job search?

There are a lot of people and resources that are willing and able to help you find a job or plan for your career, but it is up to you to reach out to them and put their advice into action. The sooner you get started forging your path, the better!


Craig Nathan, Director of Regional Initiatives
Rural Minnesota CEP, Inc.
Brainerd WorkForce Center
204 Laurel Street, Suite 21
Brainerd MN 56401-3552
Office: 218-825-6784

Chet Bodin, Northwest Minnesota Regional Analyst
Minnesota Dept. of Employment & Economic Development
Brainerd WorkForce Center
204 Laurel Street, Suite 21
Brainerd MN 56401-3552
Office: 218-825-2183


I work full time now, feel great about myself and setting a good example for my kids.  Staff helped me make a plan for my son who is disabled.  They made me feel like they really cared about what they were doing. ~ AN

Re-Employment presented many unforeseen challenges for me.  Rural Minnesota CEP provided much needed, and greatly appreciated support.  Thank You. ~ MM

I love my RN job & couldn't have gotten here without the help of CEP!  Thank You! ~ CR

Thank you!  Without the help from CEP I would not be financially independent ~ RK

This program was awesome and helped me get started in my nursing career, when I was unable to afford it.  Thank you so much! ~ SH

I know if it wasn't for Rural Mn CEP I would not be in the positive situation that they helped me get to in my life.  I  am so grateful!  Thank you Rural Mn CEP! ~ TC