Since 2007, the number of bachelor's degrees conferred in health-related fields has more than doubled. In 2013, more than 100,000 bachelor's degrees were awarded in nursing, making it the third-most popular degree nationwide. Approximately 14% of all bachelor's degrees awarded in North Dakota are in a health-related field, second only to business.
The elevated growth in nursing programs in North Dakota is due to a combination of high earning potential and career stability. The median salary for nurses is more than $68,000. Due to an aging population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects positions in nursing will grow 15% by 2026, a rate much faster than the U.S. average. By 2020, North Dakota projects nearly 4,500 open nurse positions. With less than 900 degrees awarded from nursing schools in the state each year, the projected shortage of registered nurses will continue to make nursing an attractive option for aspiring professionals.
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 online nursing degree, all prospective North Dakota nurses must pass their nursing license exam. If licensure is completed within North Dakota or a state that issues a nurse licensure compact multi-state license, applicants pay their licensure fee to the North Dakota Board of Nursing. If applicants are licensed in a state outside the NLC, they must also submit a license by endorsement application to the board of nursing.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
When deciding which online nursing degree to choose, it's important to know which careers each degree prepares you for. The most important prerequisite for becoming a nurse is the NCLEX-RN exam. In order to qualify, students must graduate from a nursing school in North Dakota with at least an associate degree in nursing. Students can also earn a bachelor's degree 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. A master's degree from one of the online MSN programs in North Dakota prepares students to become advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners. Doctoral degrees in nursing are designed for professionals who wish to lead or teach in the field.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
In nursing schools in North Dakota, 37% of nursing students take some online classes, with 17% completing their degree entirely online; both numbers are above the national average. 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 must be completed prior to graduation. Degree lengths also vary: Most associate degrees take less than two years. Bachelor's degrees take four years to complete, master's degrees two to three years, and doctorates can be completed within three to six years.
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. Successful completion of this exam is required for all practicing nurses in the United States. The exam requires knowledge within four major areas of nursing: safe care environment, psychosocial integrity, health promotion and maintenance, and physiological integrity. The exam costs $200, and each candidate is required to answer between 75 and 265 multiple choice questions in a six-hour period. The exam measures the minimum knowledge and abilities of an entry-level nurse, so it ends once an accurate level of competence is determined. An online nursing degree prepares candidates for the NCLEX exam, but candidates are strongly advised to pursue additional preparation studies.
Nursing Licensure in North Dakota
The first step to obtain licensure is registering for the NCLEX-RN test. This exam was created by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to determine entry-level standards of knowledge and ability. To qualify, candidates must have an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing.
Upon completion of the NCLEX-RN exam, nursing candidates must register with the state they wish to practice in for licensure. Once graduates are registered with the North Dakota Board of Nursing, they are eligible to practice within the state. Members of the original Nurse Licensure Compact who register with the NDBON are granted a multistate license, which allows them to practice in any of the other 26 NLC member states.
State Requirements By Nursing Type
To become a registered nurse by exam in North Dakota, you must have a social security number and submit to a criminal background check. You must have completed a nursing education program which prepares you for this level of nursing. If the program you completed was in another state, it must be approved by another board of nursing and meet North Dakota's requirements, including clinical experience equivalent to in-state programs. Applicants educated in a foreign country (other than English-language Canadian schools) can obtain their licenses by examination provided they meet the same requirements and submit their certificates from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. If you already have a license from another state in the Nursing Licensure Compact, you are not eligible for a North Dakota license. You can obtain your license by endorsement if you completed your program in the last four years or have 400 hours of work in the last four years in addition to licensure in a non-Compact state. Applying for a license by examination costs $130 online and must be paid for with a credit or debit card.
Renewing the RN license is required every two years for a fee of $120 (or $240 for a late renewal). RNs must complete 12 hours of continuing education during each of these two-year periods. There are no specific requirements for these continuing education credits, and if you have obtained your license by exam you do not need to earn these credits before your first renewal.
In order to become a certified nursing assistant in North Dakota, you must first complete a training program, which is offered by various medical facilities within the state. This training course covers issues such as infection control, decision-making skills, and client rights. Once you have completed the program, you take a test and submit an application for certification for certification accompanied by a $25 fee. You can also apply for certification by endorsement if you are already a CNA in another state.
You may also apply for certification as a home health aide or medication assistant. Medication assistants are certified to administer medication within certain contexts. In order to qualify as a medication assistant, you must be a CNA and complete additional training. Each application fee is $25.
Certification must be renewed every two years; a reminder card will be mailed 60 days before your certification expires. You must have worked at least eight hours for pay during each two-year period to qualify for renewal. Home health aides and medication assistants follow the same renewal processes, with the exception that the medication assistant renewal fee of $50 covers both that and the CNA renewal. Otherwise, the CNA or home health aide renewal is $25.
The requirements for licensure as a licensed practical nurse in North Dakota are the same as those of an RN. You must have a social security number and consent to a background check. You must also have any transcripts sent directly from your school; if you are applying by endorsement, you need to submit that information. You must meet the same educational requirements as an RN, either being educated in North Dakota or in a program that meets the same general requirements, including clinical experience. You must submit a certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools if you received your nursing degree in another country (except for English-language schools in Canada) and must take the NCLEX exam. If you are already an LPN in another Nursing Licensure Compact state, you cannot be licensed in North Dakota, but can still work there. If you hold a license from a non-Compact state, you can apply for a license by endorsement. The cost of the initial application for an LPN in North Dakota is $130.
An LPN license must be renewed biannually. You must complete 12 hours of continuing education during each two-year period. The cost of renewal for the LPN is $110. A renewal notice is sent out 60 days before the deadline, and the fee for late renewal is $220.
In order to obtain an advanced practice registered nurse license (APRN) in North Dakota, you must already hold an RN license in one of the Nursing Licensure Compact states. You must have completed a graduate education program and be certified as an APRN in one or more nurse roles and at least one population. Transcripts and proof of certification must be sent directly to the board. While you can hold an RN or LPN license from another Compact state and obtain an APRN license in North Dakota, the APRN is not covered by the Compact, and you will only be able to practice as an APRN within North Dakota.
The application fee is $100, and if you wish to have prescriptive authority, you can choose to apply for it at the same time as your APRN for an additional $50. Applying for prescriptive authority requires additional education in order to qualify and must be approved by the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy. This education must cover advanced pharmacotherapy, physical assessment, and pathophysiology.
APRN certification must be renewed every two years. The cost to renew the license is $160, or $210 with prescriptive authority. You must complete 15 hours of continuing education related to pharmacology if you have prescriptive authority. This counts towards the 12 hours normally needed for an APRN renewal. Continuing education credits earned beyond the required 12 or 15 will not be applied to subsequent renewal periods.
Career Outlook for Nurses in North Dakota
The demand for nurses is growing in North Dakota. In 2016, there were more than 700 nursing openings, many of which were left unfilled. Some hospitals in North Dakota even offer signing bonuses for qualified registered nurses.
Candidates from nursing schools in North Dakota who hold a bachelor's degree have even more career options available to them, including nurse anesthetist and nurse practitioner positions. Nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists often earn higher salaries than registered nurses, with mean annual salaries of $95,000 and $180,000 respectively. The BLS projects these careers will grow 31% nationwide by 2026.
Employment Data for RNs in North Dakota
In 2017 there were 9,020 RNs working in North Dakota. There were 1,880 working in the Bismarck metropolitan area, and another 3,630 working in the Fargo metropolitan area, although this number does contain some data from neighboring Minnesota. These two regions hold the bulk of RN positions, but they are also the most populated parts of the state. More heavily populated areas tend to have more jobs for RNs, as they have more hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.
The annual mean wages for nurses in North Dakota are lower than their national equivalents. The annual mean wage for RNs nationally was $73,500 in 2017, but only $63,140 in North Dakota. The lowest-paid RNs in the nation made less than $48,690, while the highest-paid made over $104,100. Compare that to the North Dakota numbers of $48,990 and $80,020, respectively. RNs in North Dakota make less than the national average, but the state also has a lower cost of living than more populous states like New York or California, so those dollars stretch further.
Employment Data for CNAs in North Dakota
There were nearly as many CNAs employed in North Dakota in 2017 as there were RNs, with 7,310 across the state. As with RNs, they were most densely employed in the Bismarck and Fargo metropolitan areas, with 1,580 and 2,010 CNAs respectively. The remaining CNAs in the state were spread more evenly throughout North Dakota than RNs. Many of those CNAs worked in clinics and other smaller medical facilities in less populated areas, especially in assisted-living facilities. In these situations, CNAs take on more responsibilities than in larger facilities.
CNAs in North Dakota made more in 2017 than the national average. The mean annual salary in the state was $32,880, compared to the national mean of $28,540. The lowest-paid CNAs in North Dakota made less than $25,210, while the highest-paid made more than $40,950, compared to national means of $20,680 and $38,630 respectively. The cost of living in North Dakota is lower than many other states, and CNAs are well paid compared to their peers nationwide, which makes this state a good choice for CNAs looking to stretch their wages further.
Employment Data for APRNs in North Dakota
There are fewer APRNs than other levels of nurses, both nationally and in North Dakota, where there were only 420 employed in the entire state in 2017. Sometimes called nurse practitioners, they were overwhelmingly employed in the Fargo metropolitan area. As the highest-paid nursing professionals, APRNs are mostly found working in hospitals in heavily populated areas. APRNs in less populous areas run clinics or work in leadership roles.
Because North Dakota's cost of living is lower than other states, APRNs were paid less than the national average in 2017. The mean annual wage was $103,470 for APRNs in North Dakota, but $107,480 in the nation overall. The lowest-paid APRNs in the state made less than $82,240 per year, while the highest-paid made over $128,840. Compare these number to the national mean wages for the lowest- and highest-paid APRNs: less than $74,840 and more than $145,630 respectively.
Biggest Hospitals in North Dakota
There are 38 rural hospitals and 47 licensed general care hospitals in North Dakota. For graduates from online RN to BSN programs in North Dakota, this creates opportunities for internships and work experience. Many state hospitals recruit graduates from online RN programs in North Dakota.
- Sanford Medical Center: The Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck is part of the Sanford Health network. The network includes 39 hospitals and 225 clinics across nine states. Sanford Health employs 26,000 professionals. The Bismarck Medical Center saw more than 11,000 admissions last year.
- St. Alexius Medical Center: Founded in 1895, the St. Alexius Medical Center is one of the largest hospitals in the state, admitting more than 10,000 patients in the last year. St. Alexius Health is consistently one of the top hospitals for patient satisfaction.
Additional Nursing Resources in North Dakota
- North Dakota Board of Nursing: The North Dakota Board of Nursing is part of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The NDBON issues state licenses, maintains standards, and provides general information to nurses and nurse candidates in North Dakota. All information regarding testing, licensure, practice, and compliance for nursing in North Dakota is available through the NDBON.
- North Dakota Department of Health: The North Dakota Department of Health website hosts a wealth of information specific to North Dakota health initiatives. The site provides access to publications, regional data, and health standards to prepare nurses for a career in North Dakota.
- North Dakota Nurses Association: The North Dakota Nurses Association represents registered nurses in the state. The NDNA promotes safety and welfare and advocates on all healthcare issues related to nursing. The NDNA also provides members with access to helpful resources, professional development opportunities, and career assistance.
- North Dakota Nurse Practitioner Association: The North Dakota Nurse Practitioner Association is a professional organization for nurse practitioners. The association provides support, resources, and professional development opportunities for its members, as well as advocacy and leadership in the community.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in North Dakota