Top South Dakota Nursing Schools and Programs

by NurseJournal Staff

Top South Dakota Nursing Schools, Colleges & Degree Programs. The nursing workforce in South Dakota is experiencing some shortage, although it is not as significant as that in the rest of the country. There is a particular need for students...

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Individuals planning to pursue nursing careers must obtain relevant licenses and certifications. In South Dakota, options include certified nurse aide (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and certified nurse practitioner (CNP) credentials. This page outlines steps for earning these licenses and certifications, along with detailing online nursing programs in South Dakota. Online enrollees can prepare for licensure with more flexibility than in on-campus programs.

Other sections of this page review average salaries for South Dakota nurses and professional resources for in-state workers. Readers can explore nursing careers, from preparation to practice.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in South Dakota?

On average, South Dakota colleges and universities charge lower in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees than the nearby states of Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota, along with lower nonresident tuition and fees than Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming. South Dakota's average tuition and fee charges also come in lower than the U.S. average for in-state and out-of-state learners.

South Dakota ranks 14th among states for affordability. Other notable state rankings include coming in at second for its natural environment, third for fiscal stability, and 18th for education. These rankings highlight positive attributes of the state that can affect a candidate's decision to study and work in South Dakota.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in South Dakota

The process of becoming a nurse includes the same basic steps across the country, but each state maintains general licensure requirements and specific exams required to practice. Consider the following steps as a roadmap for becoming a nurse in South Dakota.

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

    When considering different types of nursing and potential degree paths, examine your individual career goals. While you only need an associate degree in nursing (ADN) to become a nurse, many employers require at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). If you aspire to advanced nursing roles or college-level teaching positions, you likely need to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), respectively.
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Aspiring professionals can explore many online and on-campus nursing schools in South Dakota. Choose the program that best fits your lifestyle, taking the time to consider admission prerequisites before applying. Degree requirements vary but often include clinicals or internships, which can contribute to the overall program length.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Aspiring nurses must pass the NCLEX to practice, although exam eligibility requirements vary by state. In South Dakota, you must complete an approved nursing program. Nursing schools in South Dakota prepare enrollees for the exam, which costs $200 and takes about six hours. However, licensure does not guarantee a nursing job. Students in nursing colleges in South Dakota should network with other professionals, seek career counseling, and research local nursing positions before graduation.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in South Dakota

All nursing credentials addressed in this article require training or education, and everyone interested in working as a nurse in South Dakota should enter an approved nursing program. These programs can also enhance students' professional networks through clinical experiences, which can lead to employment after graduation.

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

Each online nursing school in South Dakota requires unique coursework that reflects degree level and specialty. As examples, students with pediatric, geriatric, and mental health specialties would encounter different coursework, and graduate learners in these disciplines would study more advanced concepts than undergraduate degree-seekers. However, most online nursing programs in South Dakota offer some similar courses, including the following.

Introduction to Professional Nursing

Enrollees examine the role of nurses within the healthcare system and address topics like assessment, safety, intervention, and group work in nursing practices. Departments may also cover theories and historic milestones in nursing.

Pathophysiology

Degree-seekers study how disease and illness alter physiology and how to treat patients who experience these alterations. Courses may address these changes on a cellular level and in connection to specific illnesses.

Health Assessment

Classes train learners to determine patient needs through interviewing, reviewing health history, and evaluating test or check-up results. Other course topics may include common issues for patients of different ages and techniques for building effective health plans.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Residents who graduate from online nursing programs in South Dakota can earn CNA, RN, LPN, or CNP credentials. These programs may include fully online coursework or employ a hybrid format, where students visit campus for occasional courses, seminars, labs, or orientations. For either format, learners may complete clinical experiences at organizations that relate to their specialty areas.

Typically, online degrees require the same admission and graduation requirements as on-campus programs.

Online nursing programs in the state may award associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees. However, online graduate programs are rarer than undergraduate options. Time frames vary by degree but often include two years for an associate, four years for a bachelor's, 2-3 years for a master's, and three or more years for a doctorate. Typically, online degrees require the same admission and graduation requirements as on-campus programs.

Distance learning is ideal for degree-seekers with busy schedules, particularly asynchronous programs, where classes do not include attendance times. For these programs, students can fulfill work and family commitments while completing assignments at their convenience.

Nursing Licensure in South Dakota

Candidates can apply for and renew nursing credentials through the South Dakota Board of Nursing. Each credential requires unique criteria, such as exams, training, and fees. We outline these details more thoroughly in the upcoming sections.

As of 2018, South Dakota experienced a nursing shortage, which indicates expanding career opportunities for licensed or certified candidates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), South Dakota's average salaries for RNs, nurse practitioners (NPs), and nurse anesthetists in 2018 surpassed the state's overall average income of $48,100. NPs averaged more than double this amount.

NPs in South Dakota also benefit from full practice rights, which allow them to assess and treat patients without ongoing supervision. Less than half of U.S. territories give NPs full practice rights.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

South Dakota nursing licensure steps vary by credential. The following table addresses specific information for CNA, LPN, RN, and CNP application and renewal processes.

CERTIFIED NURSE AIDE The South Dakota Board of Nursing labels CNAs as unlicensed assistive personnel. CNA candidates must undergo training that includes curriculum from sources like the American Health Care Association and Hartman's Nursing Assistant Care resources. Individuals must also take the state's CNA test, which includes knowledge and skills sections. For the knowledge portion, test-takers must answer 75 multiple-choice questions in 1.5 hours. These questions address nursing concepts, such as safety, communication, and mental health. Registration for this section costs $75.50. Individuals who need to take an oral exam must pay $85.50. For the skills section, test-takers complete several nursing tasks in half an hour. This section requires observation and costs $94. CNA applicants must be at least 16 years old and submit an application to earn placement on the CNA registry. Renewal occurs every two years and requires at least 12 training hours and 12 employment hours.

South Dakota Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Applicants must undergo CNA training through an approved program.
  • Additional Clinical Hours: No additional hours are required.
  • Exams: Certification requires passing the CNA exam.
  • Renewal Frequency: Certifications last two years before renewal
  • Continuing Education: Renewal requires at least 24 hours of training and employment.
LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE LPN applicants must complete a qualifying nursing program and provide certification or transcripts to verify this education. Applicants must also submit to a criminal background check and complete an application with a $100 fee. Candidates must pass the NCLEX after receiving an authorization to test (ATT). This ATT occurs after the board reviews an applicant's credentials and determines their eligibility for testing. The practical nurse version of the NCLEX includes 85-205 questions and a five-hour time limit. These exams may cover nursing topics like coordinated care, safety, and pharmacology and costs $200. The board may offer a temporary permit before candidates take the NCLEX. This temporary credential requires an application and a $25 fee. LPN licenses remain valid for two years. Renewal costs $115 and requires proof of employment. Specifically, renewal applicants must show evidence of at least 140 employment hours within one year or 480 hours earned over six years.

South Dakota Licensure Requirements

  • Education: LPN licensure calls for completing a qualifying nursing program.
  • Additional Clinical Hours: The board requires no additional clinical hours.
  • Exams: Candidates must pass the NCLEX.
  • Renewal Frequency: Renewal occurs every other year.
  • Continuing Education: Individuals must work a minimum of 140 hours in a year or 480 hours in six years.
REGISTERED NURSE RN applicants must complete a relevant program, such as online RN programs in South Dakota. The board requires proof of program completion through certification or transcripts. Licensure also calls for an application, $100 fee, and a criminal background check. Individuals must also take the NCLEX after meeting other licensure criteria and receiving an ATT. Individuals who do not receive board approval to test within one year must re-apply. NCLEX-RN test-takers must answer 75-265 questions in six hours, addressing care management, safety, and parenteral therapies in nursing practices. NCLEX-RN registration costs $200. Temporary permits are available for RN applicants, but require an application and a $25 fee. RN licenses are renewed biennially and require the same fee and employment hours as the LPN for renewal. Candidates without these employment hours must complete a relevant nursing course.

South Dakota Licensure Requirements

  • Education: RN applicants must finish an approved nursing program.
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Licensure calls for no additional hours.
  • Exams: Applicants must take the NCLEX.
  • Renewal Frequency: RN licenses must be renewed every two years.
  • Continuing Education: Renewal requires the same employment criteria as the LPN license. Candidates who do not meet these criteria must take a relevant, board-approved course.
CERTIFIED NURSE PRACTITIONER RNs can pursue the CNP credential but must earn a graduate degree or certificate related to nursing. Applicants must also obtain a national certification related to NP work from agencies like the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Each certification includes eligibility requirements like standardized tests, fees, and clinical experience. NPs who want to work independently must verify a minimum of 1,040 hours of experience after becoming licensed. Without these hours, a candidate must enter a collaborative agreement with a licensed medical professional who works in a similar specialty. This professional must boast at least two years of fieldwork. The board allows NPs to prescribe schedule II-IV medications without applying for prescriptive authority. CNP renewal must occur every other year. Renewal applicants need to maintain their national certifications and pay a $95 fee.

South Dakota Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Candidates must complete an NP program that culminates in a master's, doctorate, or graduate certificate.
  • Additional Clinical Hours: NPs without 1,040 practice hours must work with a licensed doctor or practitioner.
  • Exams: Applicants must hold a national certification, which may require an exam.
  • Renewal Frequency: South Dakota nursing licenses remain valid for two years.
  • Continuing Education: Candidates should maintain national certifications.

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in South Dakota FAQ

WHAT NURSING FIELD MAKES THE MOST MONEY? BLS data indicates that nurse midwives, NPs, and anesthetists earn a median salary that surpasses $100,000, while RNs earn a median $71,730. Candidates who want to earn the most money should pursue advanced practice nursing positions.
HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE WHAT NURSING FIELD TO GO INTO? Additional factors include personal and professional interests, salary expectations, and career opportunities in the practicing area. For instance, individuals who want to work with children in areas with high employment levels for NPs can pursue advanced licensure and a pediatric certification.
IS SOUTH DAKOTA A GOOD STATE FOR NURSES? Biennial statistics from the South Dakota Center for Nursing Workforce indicate that the number of licensed nurses in the state has increased since 2014 for most nursing types. These numbers verify growth in the nursing field for South Dakota residents.
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO NURSING SCHOOL IN SOUTH DAKOTA? Admission criteria for online nursing programs in South Dakota increase in difficulty for higher degrees. For master's applicants, requirements may include an RN license, recommendation letters, work experience, and a minimum GPA of 2.75-3.0.
IS SOUTH DAKOTA A NURSE COMPACT STATE? South Dakota participates in the nurse licensure compact (NLC), which allows nurses to work in an NLC state without having to earn a new license.

South Dakota Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

CNAs, LPNs, RNs, and CNPs in South Dakota earn mean annual wages below national figures. Likewise, the nearby states of North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana offer higher average wages for nurses than South Dakota.

Nurses may increase their earnings by choosing in-demand practice settings and specialties. For instance, more than 77% of CNPs in South Dakota maintain licensure in family practice, based on a 2019 report from the South Dakota Center for Nursing Workforce.

Nurses may increase their earnings by choosing in-demand practice settings and specialties.

Candidates can also pursue advanced credentials that relate to higher-paying careers. Specifically, South Dakota CNPs average nearly four times as much as CNAs in the state. Earning higher credentials also increases employment odds, with the BLS projecting CNP positions to increase by 30.4% in South Dakota from 2016-26.

Readers should note, though, that factors like industry and experience influence salaries and career opportunities, so no credential or degree guarantees earnings or employment.

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

Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $26,820 7.8%
Licensed Practical Nurse $38,630 2.2%
Registered Nurse $58,340 13.9%
Nurse Practitioner $100,690 30.4%

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
North Dakota $33,990 $46,410 $65,740 $106,200
Minnesota $33,710 $47,020 $78,920 $119,160
Iowa $29,120 $42,820 $59,130 $106,290
Nebraska $28,730 $43,160 $64,470 $103,800
Wyoming $30,910 $46,790 $67,360 $116,030
Montana $29,110 $43,770 $67,450 $103,510

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


CNAs in South Dakota took home a mean annual wage of $26,820 in 2018, which comes in nearly $3,000 lower than the national mean annual wage. Some industries, however, offer higher pay. As an example, CNAs who work in the government earned a median salary of $33,800. This figure ranks higher than all noted averages for CNAs except North Dakota. Other lucrative industries include hospitals, nursing care facilities, and home healthcare services.

Licensed Practical Nurse


Mean annual wages for LPNs in South Dakota ($38,630) rank lower than the national average and annual mean wages for all states represented on the previous table, and also the average U.S. income from 2018 ($52,145). Factors like industry and experience, however, can increase earnings. For instance, LPNs in government earned a median income of $48,050, and candidates with at least 20 years of experience average around $3 more per hour than entry-level workers.

Registered Nurse


RNs earn more, on average, in all other states noted on the table than in South Dakota. The U.S. average for the profession also surpasses South Dakota's mean annual wage of $58,340. However, this expectation exceeds the mean 2018 U.S. income by more than $6,000. The government offers the highest pay for RNs among industries, with median expectations of $78,390. Furthermore, RNs with at least 20 years of experience average almost $9 more per hour than beginning candidates.

Nurse Practitioner


NPs in South Dakota, known as CNPs in the state, earn lower wages than U.S. NPs and candidates in nearby states, but nearly twice as much as the 2018 average salary for all U.S. careers. BLS projections indicate that South Dakota's CNPs should also experience over 30% growth in employment opportunities from 2016-26. For this profession, hospitals offer the highest median pay among industries ($120,540), and average pay can increase by $15,000 over a 20-year career.

Nursing Resources for South Dakota

  • This association hosts the SDNA Nurses Day at the Legislature and maintains the career center, where members can search for professional opportunities and obtain resume feedback.
  • The NPASD provides information on open field positions and related news trends, along with offering the NP certification exam review and advanced practice updates. Site viewers can also access resources on pediatric practice.
  • The board oversees South Dakota nursing licensure for examination and endorsement applicants. Candidates can also review renewal regulations through the site and read issues of its Dakota Nurse Connection publication.
  • SNA offers state and national conventions every year. Individuals can also review resources on topics like nursing programs, resumes, and workplace stress through the website.
  • SD ENA publishes newsletters and provides volunteer opportunities to enhance professional connections and experience. The website also includes a calendar of local nursing events that relate to emergency practice.

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