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Top North Dakota Nursing Schools and Programs

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

The job outlook for nurses in North Dakota looks particularly promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for registered nurses (RNs) are projected to increase by 19.8% from 2016-2026, while jobs for nurse practitioners (NPs) are projected to grow 36.4% in this same time period. As the demand for nursing professionals expands, online nursing programs in North Dakota provide an accessible, quality education for individuals across the state.

Online nursing schools in North Dakota prepare students for rewarding careers as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), RNs, and NPs. Use this guide to learn about North Dakota nursing licensure requirements, as well as career and salary prospects.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in North Dakota?

North Dakota is one of the nation’s most sparsely populated states. However, the state’s population is projected to reach one million by 2040. This population spike drives the need for expanding healthcare services, while North Dakota’s low unemployment rate and low cost of living make it an attractive environment for nursing professionals.

North Dakota offers an affordable education for students just beginning their nursing studies or for those seeking advanced training for career advancement. Tuition and fees in North Dakota rank significantly below other states. In 2018-2019, the in-state average tuition of $6,503 fell almost $8,000 below the average for all U.S. schools.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in North Dakota

The process to become a nurse is similar in most states, but licensing and costs may vary. After graduating from an accredited nursing program, all prospective North Dakota nurses must pass their nursing license exam. If individuals earn their license in North Dakota or a state that participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), applicants pay their licensure fee to the North Dakota Board of Nursing (NDBON).

  • 1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    When choosing an online nursing degree, learners should consider their desired career path. To become a nurse, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. To qualify, individuals must graduate from a nursing school in North Dakota with at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Students can also earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from one of the BSN programs in North Dakota.

    An online nursing degree from one of the online BSN programs in North Dakota prepares students for careers as travel nurses or nurse anesthetists. An online master of science in nursing (MSN) prepares students to become advanced practice nurses and NPs. Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs are designed for professionals who aspire to lead or teach in the field.

  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Many nursing colleges in North Dakota require students to complete upper-level biology and chemistry credits before applying. Similarly, each online nursing degree mandates experiential learning, typically fulfilled by clinical or practicum hours that learners must complete before graduation. Most associate degrees take less than two years to complete, while bachelor’s degrees take four years and master’s degrees require 2-3 years. Individuals often need 3-6 years to complete a doctorate.

  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    The NCLEX is the examination put forth by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. All nurses pass this exam in order to practice in the United States. The exam requires knowledge within four major nursing areas: safe care environment, psychosocial integrity, health promotion and maintenance, and physiological integrity.

    The exam costs $200 and measures the minimum knowledge and abilities of entry-level nurses. Test-takers have six hours to answer 75-265 multiple-choice questions. The exam ends once an accurate level of competence is determined. An online nursing degree prepares candidates for the NCLEX exam, but candidates can pursue additional preparation studies.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in North Dakota

North Dakota boasts many employment possibilities for nurses, especially for college-educated RNs and NPs. The state offers programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and doctoral levels, preparing graduates for licensure and an array of career paths. Online programs, recognized for their convenience and flexibility, appeal to students who must manage personal and work commitments.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in North Dakota?

While every nursing program establishes its own curriculum and graduation requirements, each degree level shares some common features. Graduate programs emphasize specializations in advanced practice roles, healthcare policy, and research. Undergraduate degrees typically require students to master foundational nursing knowledge and skills. The following courses represent typical offerings at the undergraduate level.

Microbiology

This introduction to basic biological principles and entities provides a foundation for upper-division courses. Students explore concepts such as microorganisms, metabolism, physiology, nutrition, genetics, causes of disease, and microbial invasion.

Pathophysiology and Pharmacology

This course examines the physiologic changes that occur as a result of disease processes, common diseases and injuries across the lifespan, drug classifications, and the therapeutic and toxic effects of drugs.

Community Health Nursing

The study of community health integrates primary healthcare, public health, and nursing practice for populations, communities, and families. The course addresses epidemiology, risk assessment, and the socioeconomic and cultural forces impacting community healthcare needs.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

North Dakota contains approximately 9,000 students who attend fully online undergraduate and graduate programs. Distance learning offers accessibility and convenience that appeals to students just beginning their college education, working professionals, and parents juggling family responsibilities.

For a small, rural state, North Dakota boasts several highly ranked nursing programs. Accredited online nursing programs in North Dakota deliver the same quality training as traditional on-campus programs, providing graduates with the required competencies to pass licensing exams and qualify for rewarding careers.

For a small, rural state, North Dakota boasts several highly ranked nursing programs.

Before enrolling in any online program, degree-seekers should do their research. While some schools offer accelerated programs or permit students to attend part time, most online nursing programs in North Dakota take the same amount of time to complete as on-campus degrees. Some schools deliver all coursework online, while others include in-person attendance in hybrid classes, workshops, and orientations. All nursing schools require onsite clinical experiences.

Nursing Licensure in North Dakota

NDBON establishes practice standards and approves licensing applications and renewals. The licensing process in North Dakota requires formal training that includes clinical work, followed by licensing or certification exams. Unlike CNAs, LPNs, and RNs, North Dakota grants NPs full independent practice authority as primary care providers, allowing them to offer the same patient services as physicians.

North Dakota sponsors an education loan repayment program for motivated nursing students willing to practice in rural, medically underserved communities. Administered through NDBON, this program awards up to $10,000 usable for loan repayment in exchange for two years of service in an approved community healthcare setting.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

The table below compares North Dakota’s licensing requirements for each nursing category. Nurses planning to work in North Dakota should verify current licensure rules and regulations for their intended field with NDBON.

  • CERTIFIED NURSE ASSISTANT

    Although North Dakota recognizes both CNAs and nurse aides, CNAs must complete more rigorous training and assessment. The North Dakota Department of Health administers the licensing process for CNAs. Applicants must complete a training program from the state-approved list of schools. Applicants can enroll in any of approximately 50 programs located throughout the state, at community colleges, nursing care facilities, medical centers, and other settings. Programs must offer the federal minimum requirement of 75 hours, although some schools may require more training hours for CNAs.

    After completing the program, prospective CNAs apply simultaneously for the state competency exam and certification through NDBON. The exam consists of two sections: a multiple-choice written assessment and an oral practical skills assessment. Test-takers must pass both sections within six months to receive certification and inclusion on the North Dakota Nurse Aide Registry. If applicants fail one of the parts, the state allows them two additional attempts to retake the exam within six months.

    North Dakota Licensure Requirements

    • Education: High school diploma or GED; completion of 75-hour training program approved by the North Dakota Department of Health
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in a degree program
    • Exams: Certified nurse aide competency exam
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: Eight hours of work performing nursing or nursing-related services within the licensing period

  • LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE

    LPNs complete a similar licensing process as RNs in North Dakota, although LPNs practice under more restrictions, working under the supervision of an RN. North Dakota requires LPNs to complete an approved nursing program that awards either a certificate or an associate degree. A certificate, which typically takes 12 months to complete, leads to quicker entry into the workforce, while an associate degree, requiring more hours and two years of study, serves as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree and RN training.

    After completing practical nurse training, candidates apply for licensure through the state board and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. LPN candidates who have registered but not yet passed the NCLEX exam may apply for temporary work authorizations valid for up to 90 days. LPNs licensed in other NLC states may work in North Dakota without applying for a separate license. License-holders from non-NLC states must apply for and fulfill specific requirements for licensure by endorsement.

    North Dakota Licensure Requirements

    • Education: High school diploma and completion of a one-year LPN program approved by NDBON
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in a degree program
    • Exams: NCLEX-PN
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: 12 contact hours of continuing education accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), completed within the licensing period

  • REGISTERED NURSE

    RNs in North Dakota may apply for licensure after completing either a state-approved ADN or BSN. Although not required by the state, several RN programs have received accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

    After completing their program, prospective RN candidates apply for their license through NDBON. The application requires official transcripts sent directly from the nursing program to the board, registration for the NCLEX-RN test, and submission of required documents for a criminal history record check.

    License-seekers register for the NCLEX-RN exam separately through the test administrator, Pearson VUE. When applicants receive an authorization to test letter, they must schedule their exam within 90 days. North Dakota permits graduate nurses to practice for up to 90 days until they successfully complete the exam. Test-takers who fail the exam may retake it 45 days after the original test date.

    North Dakota Licensure Requirements

    • Education: ADN or BSN from a board-approved program
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in a degree program
    • Exams: NCLEX-RN
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: 12 contact hours of ANCC-accredited continuing education, completed within the licensing period; at least 400 hours of nursing practice within four years

  • NURSE PRACTITIONER

    The licensing process for NPs requires several steps. NPs must hold current RN licenses in North Dakota or in an NLC state. RNs from non-NLC states must apply for both RN by reciprocity and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licenses.

    Before NPs can apply for their license, they must earn a CCNE-approved graduate degree that offers training in advanced practice roles and population specializations. In response to national trends, many North Dakota MSN programs have begun or completed the transition to the DNP as the preferred degree for all APRNs.

    The NP application requires national certification by examination through an approved certification agency. North Dakota recognizes credentials issued by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and National Certification Corporation. Candidates who fail the national exam may practice as RNs while waiting to reapply to retake the test.

    North Dakota Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Valid RN license; MSN or DNP from an accredited school
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in a degree program
    • Exams: NCLEX-RN plus national certification by examination from an approved national certification agency
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: 15 contact hours of pharmacotherapy education completed within the licensing period

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in North Dakota FAQ

  • WHAT NURSING FIELD MAKES THE MOST MONEY?

    Across the U.S., NPs earn the most, making over $110,000 annually. NPs in North Dakota make over $40,000 a year more than RNs in the state.

  • CAN SOMEONE BECOME A NURSE IN TWO YEARS?

    Individuals may complete some CNA training courses in as little as three weeks. An LPN program requires approximately one year. However, both CNAs and LPNs have limited practice responsibilities compared to RNs, who hold an associate or bachelor’s degree.

  • HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE WHAT NURSING FIELD TO GO INTO?

    Nursing students should investigate the job outlook, educational and licensing requirements, and the work environment for their intended career. Prospective nurses must consider how their personal interests and temperament fit their professional goals.

  • DOES AN ONLINE NURSING DEGREE HAVE THE SAME VALUE AS AN ON-CAMPUS DEGREE?

    Accredited online nursing programs offer quality education that prepares students for licensing exams and job opportunities. Employers in healthcare industries view graduates of online and campus-based programs as equally qualified.

  • IS NORTH DAKOTA A NURSE COMPACT STATE?

    Yes. North Dakota joined the NLC in 2004. This partnership permits LPNs and RNs to hold one multistate license with the ability to practice in all NLC member states.

North Dakota Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

The North Dakota Center for Nursing projects the state-wide shortage of LPNs, RNs, and APRNs to continue through the next decade. The healthcare needs of the state’s aging population and the increase in chronic conditions help drive this demand. The trend to provide more services away from hospitals in settings such as outpatient clinics and long-term care facilities has also created more job opportunities.

Although compensation for nurses in North Dakota lags behind the national average, ample job openings and an affordable cost of living make the state a desirable option for nurses. Career and salary prospects depend on several factors, including degree level and location. While a diploma can boost career chances, earning a degree does not necessarily guarantee a job.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in North Dakota, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $33,990 12.6%
Licensed Practical Nurse $46,410 10.0%
Registered Nurse $65,740 19.8%
Nurse Practitioner $106,200 36.4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Montana $29,110 $43,770 $67,450 $103,510
South Dakota $26,820 $38,630 $58,340 $100,690
Minnesota $33,710 $47,020 $78,920 $119,160

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


The favorable employment outlook for CNAs in North Dakota has been fueled by North Dakota’s demographic transition. CNAs, who work under the supervision of LPNs and RNs, form the backbone of the workforce in home healthcare, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. While they make less than licensed nurses, CNAs in North Dakota earn $7,410 above the field’s national average.

Licensed Practical Nurse


Jobs for LPNs in North Dakota are projected to grow 10% from 2016-2026, resulting in ample employment opportunities. According to the BLS, the average annual salary of $46,610 compares favorably with the national average for LPNs. These nurses can make over $58,000 a year, depending on experience and geographic location. LPNs working in rural communities with the highest need for licensed nurses earn much higher salaries than the state average.

Registered Nurse


Jobs for North Dakota’s RNs are projected to grow 20% from 2016-2026. While the pay rate for these RNs falls below the national average by nearly $10,000, the state’s annual mean salary of $65,740 ranks much higher than neighboring South Dakota. According to a report by North Dakota Labor Market Information, RNs with a BSN acquire broader marketable skills that lead to higher salaries than their ADN-educated counterparts.

Nurse Practitioner


In response to anticipated physician and nursing shortages, North Dakota grants full scope of practice status to NPs. Recognized by the state as primary care providers, NPs can offer many of the same services as doctors and possess the authority to administer prescriptions. Jobs for NPs in North Dakota are projected to grow 36.4% from 2016-2026. These advanced practice nurses make significantly more than the state’s LPNs and RNs, earning a mean yearly salary of $106,200.

Nursing Resources for North Dakota


  • North Dakota Nurses Association NDNA, a state affiliate of the American Nurses Association, provides professional development opportunities for North Dakota's RNs. The group influences legislation on healthcare policies and issues that impact nursing practice.

  • North Dakota Nurse Practitioner Association NDNPA advocates on behalf of advanced practice nursing, monitors healthcare policy legislation, and fosters networking among the state's NPs. The association hosts an annual conference and sponsors scholarships for graduate study.

  • North Dakota Board of Nursing NDBON establishes standards and requirements governing the practice of nursing in the state. The board approves license applications and renewals for LPNs, RNs, and APRNs, and approves nursing education programs.

  • Nursing Students' Association of North Dakota Students preparing for initial RN licensure automatically obtain membership in NSAND when they join the National Student Nursing Association. This pre-professional organization offers career development, scholarships and awards, and volunteer opportunities.

  • North Dakota School Nurse Organization NDSNO represents the professional interests of LPNs or RNs working as school nurses or in school or child health services in the state. The organization provides resources that strengthen and promote the practice of school nursing.

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.