The Top Nursing Schools in South Dakota

February 24, 2022 , Modified on April 28, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Planning to attend nursing school in South Dakota? This guide can help you find the best schools, explains how to get licensed, and outlines typical salaries.

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The Top Nursing Schools in South Dakota
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Nurses are in great demand in South Dakota, and nursing schools in South Dakota have an above-average National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate.

This guide can help you choose the right nursing program in South Dakota for your goals and background, explains how to get a license, and describes job and salary prospects.

The Best Nursing Schools in South Dakota

There are three fully approved nursing schools in South Dakota that offer an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and two more with interim approval. For a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), there are seven fully accredited nursing programs in South Dakota.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in South Dakota, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

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How to Choose a Nursing Program in South Dakota

If you plan to attend nursing school in South Dakota, consider which degree you want (ADN or BSN) and the school's cost and your financial aid options. Also, consider the program quality and reputation, the NCLEX pass rate, school size, and the acceptance and graduation rates.

If you will be attending an online or hybrid nursing school in South Dakota, make sure you can get clinical placement for online nursing students in your own community.

This guide only lists accredited nursing programs, because of the high risks in attending an unaccredited program.

Why Become a Nurse in South Dakota

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects a shortage of 1,900 registered nurses (RNs) from 2014-2030 before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and demand is even higher now. Some employers offer signing bonuses of up to $40,000 for certain specialties.

Nursing school costs in South Dakota are below average as well. The University of South Dakota has one of the nation's lowest out-of-state rates for four-year public programs at $12,940.

In addition, South Dakota is a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, so once you graduate from nursing school in South Dakota, you can apply for a multistate license valid in any of the 37 participating states. The NCLEX-RN pass rate is 92.4%, well above the national average of 86.6%.

South Dakota is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, including Mount Rushmore and the legendary Black Hills and Badlands. If you want to work with under-served populations, South Dakota is home to two of the most impoverished Native American reservations. Nurses working in these areas are eligible for loan forgiveness or scholarships.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in South Dakota

The cost of living in South Dakota is slightly above average, with an index of 101. In addition, South Dakota does not have a state income tax.

The average salary for RNs in South Dakota is $60,960, compared to $82,750 nationally. The average salary for nurse practitioners (NPs) is $103,080, compared to $118,040, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS projects a 13.1% job growth rate from 2018-2028 for registered nurses, higher than the national average of 12.1%. NP jobs could see a 27.3% growth in South Dakota. While below the 28.2% national average job growth for NPs, this is still considerably above most job growth rates.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in South Dakota

With the rise in remote work and employees looking for cities with high quality of life and lower costs of living, South Dakota's population is growing. In 2021, SmartAsset rated Sioux Falls as the best city for young professionals, driven by low rent, unemployment rates, and a high number of entertainment options.

If you like outdoor recreation and access to stunning scenery, you can find amazing hiking in Badlands National Park and the Black Hills, both within driving distance of bigger cities.

Highest-Paying Cities
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Sioux Falls $61,770
Rapid City $61,540
Sioux City $60,160
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in South Dakota

All states require registered nurses to have a degree from an accredited nursing school, a passing grade on the applicable national examination, and a criminal background check. Most require continuing education to renew a license, but South Dakota is one of the few that requires active employment as a nurse instead.

RN Requirements

To earn an RN license in South Dakota, you must graduate from an ADN or a BSN program, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, and complete a criminal background check with fingerprinting.

If you attended a nursing program in South Dakota, the state board of nursing will automatically receive your transcripts. Otherwise, you must have an official copy sent. The application fee is $100, and you can pay $25 for a temporary license if you have submitted all paperwork and completed a background check.

APRN Requirements

For an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license, you need an active and unencumbered South Dakota or multistate RN license, an accredited master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree, board certification in your specialty, and complete a background check. The South Dakota nursing board requires NPs to have a minimum of 1,040 hours of practice as an NP or to work in collaboration with a licensed physician or NP. The fee is $100.

Other Top Nursing Programs and Resources

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in South Dakota


How much do nurses make in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, the average salary for RNs is $60,960, and for NPs it's $103,080. According to Indeed.com as of April 2022, nurses with less than one year of experience make an average of $167,380 annually. Nurses with more than 10 years of experience earn $218,760.

Are nurses in demand in South Dakota?

Nurses are in very high demand in South Dakota, and demand continues to rise. Even before COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projected a shortage of 1,900 nurses from 2014-2030. Some employers now offer high signing bonuses and employ travel nurses.

How long does it take to become an RN in South Dakota?

It takes two years to earn an ADN and four years for a BSN degree. The state board of nursing processes completed applications in about 10 working days. You can receive a temporary license once your application and criminal background check are completed.

How do I get a nursing license in South Dakota?

You must have an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing school in South Dakota or another state, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, and complete a criminal background check. If you have a multistate license, you are eligible to practice in South Dakota, since it is an NLC state.

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