Online Nursing Programs
in South Dakota

Nursing stands out as one of the job market's fastest-growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% growth in the number of nursing jobs from 2016-2026 -- more than twice as fast as the national average for all other occupations. In South Dakota, the metropolitan area of Sioux Falls ranks favorably in terms of its concentration of nursing jobs. As demand continues to rise, students find themselves in a good position to earn their online nursing degree from a nursing school in South Dakota.

Nursing programs in South Dakota offer a variety of degree options, including RN-to-BSN and MSN programs. Students attending online nursing programs in South Dakota enjoy flexible class schedules and can complete coursework at their convenience. The following guide details many career possibilities for graduates of South Dakota nursing schools and can help aspiring professionals find the right online nursing degree.

How to Become a Nurse in South Dakota

The process to become a nurse is fairly standardized across the country. Each state maintains general licensure requirements and specific exams required to practice. Becoming a nurse in South Dakota involves a process similar to the ones used in other states; however, students should note that specific licensing costs and procedures vary.

1. Choosing the Right Path for You

When considering different types of nursing and potential degree paths, consider your individual career goals. Although you only need an associate degree to become a nurse, many employers require at least a bachelor's degree. If you aspire to advanced nursing roles or college-level teaching positions, you likely need to earn an MSN or DNP, respectively.

2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

An abundance of online and on-campus nursing schools exist in South Dakota. Choose the program that best fits your lifestyle, taking 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 a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to practice, although exam eligibility requirements vary by state. In South Dakota, you must have completed an approved nursing program. Nursing schools in South Dakota prepare students for the exam, which costs $200 and takes about six hours to complete. However, licensure does not guarantee a nursing job. Thus, students in nursing colleges in South Dakota should network with other professionals, seek career counseling, and research local nursing positions before graduation.

Nursing Licensure in South Dakota

Regardless of their state of residence, aspiring nurses must pass either the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN exam to earn licensure. Before taking the NCLEX in South Dakota, you must earn a nursing degree and pass a criminal background check.

South Dakota nurses may transfer their license to another state. The process for transferring licensure varies, although individuals rarely need to retest. The South Dakota Board of Nursing oversees the state's licensure endorsements and renewals, and its website stands as the best source of information on South Dakota licensure details. Additionally, nursing schools in South Dakota provide students with information regarding the licensure process prior to graduation.

Nursing Licensing Costs in South Dakota


App Fee $100

Permit $25

Total $325

State Requirements By Nursing Type


In South Dakota, registered nurses must apply for state licensure before practicing. The South Dakota Board of Nursing regulates in-state nursing programs and out-of-state online programs. To become a registered nurse, individuals must obtain a college degree. Individuals can enroll in an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program, bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, or master of science in nursing (MSN) program. Although nurses can legally practice with an ADN, most employers prefer nurses with a BSN or higher.

After completing their program, students must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain state licensure. Two pathways to licensure exist: examination and endorsement. Licensure by examination allows applicants to apply for an RN license before taking the NCLEX-RN; individuals who successfully pass the test receive state licensure. For this pathway, applicants must complete an application, submit a fee, and send in results of a criminal background check and proof of NCLEX-RN registration. Applicants receive a temporary permit to practice nursing while the state board waits for the person's test results.

Out-of-state applicants primarily use the second pathway: licensure through endorsement. For this process, applicants submit college transcripts, the results of a criminal background check, and verification of original state licensure and employment.

Once applicants submit all of the required documents, the state board issues a temporary permit. To renew a license, nurses must present the state board with their social security number, RN license number, employment verification, and renewal fees.


The state board of nursing considers certified nursing assistants in South Dakota to be unlicensed assistive personnel. To practice, CNAs must meet certain training and testing requirements. They must also register with the South Dakota Board of Nursing Certified Nurse Aide Registry. On its website, the state board lists CNA training programs and national associations that approve program curricula. Program applicants should seek endorsements from organizations such as the American Health Care Association. Students can also enroll in an approved online program delivered by We Care Online.

After students complete their training program, they must register for testing with the South Dakota Health Care Association (SDHCA). SDHCA delivers a certification test online and on paper at specified testing locations. The Certified Nursing Aide test contains knowledge and skill sections. The knowledge portion contains 75 questions covering safety, infection control, and the aging process, while the skills test requires trainees to physically perform a series of tasks. Each task represents a duty a CNA must perform on the job, such as changing a bedpan. A test observer watches but does not interfere as the examinee completes each task. Participants receive 30 minutes to perform the tasks. In total, test takers get 90 minutes to complete both test portions. After test and training completion, CNA candidates can apply to the South Dakota Nurse Aide Registry.


The South Dakota Board of Nursing also regulates LPN state licensure. The board's website lists the scope of LPN practice and the tasks LPNs can legally perform within the state. LPNs with a temporary permit can work under the supervision of a licensed RN. The road to LPN licensure requires training, and these educational programs take 9-18 months to complete. These programs award certificates; LPNs do not need a degree to practice. Additionally, South Dakota encourages LPNs to undergo IV therapy education. If applicants lack experience with IV therapy, they can register for an infusion therapy course administered by Pedagogy Online Learning Systems.This online course requires 12.5 contact hours and features a section that covers South Dakota's infusion therapy regulations for RNs and LPNs. To obtain a practice license, LPNs must also pass the NCLEX-PN.

Standard LPNs can obtain a license through examination or endorsement, and the LPN registration process mirrors the RN process. The endorsement pathway calls for employment verification, while the examination pathway involves NCLEX-PN registration.

South Dakota allows nurses who did not pass the NCLEX-RN, as well as students who have completed a portion of an RN program, to register as LPNs. This system -- known as LPN licensure by equivalency -- requires completion of an independent LPN course and the application used for LPN licensure by examination.


Nurse practitioners undergo rigorous training and evaluation before obtaining licensure.The South Dakota Board of Nursing considers a nurse practitioner an advanced practice nurse and groups them with other specialty nurses. To begin the CNP licensure process, applicants must hold a valid South Dakota nursing license or temporary permit. Aspiring CNPs must pass a criminal background check, submit transcripts, request education verification from their university's dean, and submit certification and practice verification. To pass practice requirements, individuals must hold at least 1,040 hours of work instruction. Applicants without these hours must enter into a collaborative agreement with a South Dakota physician or nurse practitioner to complete their service hours. They must also submit verification showing the successful completion of a nurse practitioner certification exam delivered by an approved credentialing association. The state board accepts credentials from associations such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program.

Nurses need a temporary permit before they can work at a state facility. The Board of Nursing distributes permits by endorsement and examination. Only nurse practitioners with a CNP license from another state qualify for the endorsement process. New CNPs awaiting their test results must apply for permits by examination. Once issued, a permit remains valid for 120 days. The Board of Nursing allows CNPs to renew their license online. A licensee must pay renewal fees and submit their CNP license number before starting the online application.

Career Outlook for Nurses in South Dakota

Nurses work in a variety of specializations and medical fields. Registered nurses can specialize in areas such as obstetrics, oncology, primary care, and trauma. Each specialization involves different experiences and demands. In South Dakota, 48.9% of employed RNs work in hospital settings. Most of these nurses work in acute-care settings, such as emergency rooms or surgery. A recent workforce report issued by the South Dakota Nursing Board noted that 63.9% of nurses working in acute and critical-care positions at hospitals hold a BSN or higher. The number of actively licensed RNs in South Dakota grew by 10% from 2014-2016, and the nursing field displays potential for continued growth.

Employment Data For RNs in South Dakota

The BLS records occupational employment data for different types of nurses. Registered nursing stats exclude numbers for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists. Per the BLS, the median pay for registered nurses across the country comes in at $70,000, and the nationwide demand for nurses is projected to increase by 15% between 2016 and 2026. Registered nurses tend to work at hospitals. However, nurses also occupy positions at outpatient facilities, schools, doctors' offices, and in the military. The BLS reports that the pharmaceutical/medical industry and the accounting/payroll industry pay the highest RN salaries.

Currently, South Dakota boasts a high concentration of nursing jobs. The location quotient, which roughly translates to demand for RNs in South Dakota, outpaces the demand in most other states. The average South Dakota RN makes $57,010 per year -- a lower number than the national average but higher than the state average for all occupations. The average employee in South Dakota makes $40,770. Nurses interested in working in South Dakota should look for jobs in Sioux Falls; this area contains thousands of nursing jobs with an average RN salary near $58,000.

Employment Data For CNAs in South Dakota

The BLS also provides data for nursing assistants who work directly with trained nursing staff. These statistics exclude numbers for orderlies, personal care aides, home health aides, and psychiatric aides. The median wage for U.S. CNAs sits at $27,520, although salary numbers differ based on a variety of factors (e.g., experience and location). Average hourly rates range from $9-$18 per hour, and the top 10th percentile of CNAs make $38,630 annually. Per the BLS, CNAs working in the federal executive branch and in facilities support services receive the highest salaries. Most CNAs work at skilled nursing care facilities (e.g., nursing homes) and medical hospitals.

Demand for nursing assistants in South Dakota stands as one of the highest in the nation, and CNAs in the state take home an average salary of $25,970 per year. Additionally, nursing assistants can find higher-paying jobs in other sectors, such as scientific research and development services. Many CNAs choose to work at assisted living facilities and specialty hospitals.

Employment Data For NPs in South Dakota

Nurse practitioners must pass an extensive training and evaluation process before receiving state licensure. Therefore, these healthcare providers often command six-figure salaries. The BLS projects a 31% increase in the demand for nurse practitioners between 2016 and 2026. This projected growth is more than four times as high as the average occupation in the U.S. NPs work primarily at physicians' offices and hospitals, taking home an average annual salary of $107,480. The bottom 10% of NPs make $74,840 per year, while the top 10% make more than $145,000 per year. NPs in the personal care, scientific, and technical consulting services industries earn the highest salaries.

In South Dakota, the location quotient for NP jobs remains near the national average, and many states in the region maintain similar concentrations of NP occupations. South Dakota nurse practitioners earn an average of $100,030 annually, which hovers just below the national average. For NPs seeking diversified job options, the BLS states that religious organizations and dentists' offices pay high salaries, with nurse practitioners working in dental offices making an average salary of $117,270. With such high demand, employment numbers for NPs continue to look favorable.

Biggest Hospitals in South Dakota

In South Dakota, about half of all employed registered nurses work in hospital settings. Unsurprisingly, hospitals in South Dakota rank as some of the state's largest employers across all industries. Large hospitals present many opportunities for newly licensed nurses to find job openings, and students attending nursing schools in South Dakota should apply to these institutions following graduation. Hospitals also provide internships and fellowships for students in nursing programs in South Dakota.

  • Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center: The Avera hospital group features more than 400 locations in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. The McKennan hospital in Sioux Falls contains 614 staffed patient beds and a designated children's building. The facility specializes in areas such as cardiology and oncology.
  • Sanford USD Medical Center: The Sanford Health facility in Sioux Falls is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of South Dakota. The hospital employs more than 4,000 people and contains 545 patient beds. Its specializations include transplant services as well as neonatal and pediatric intensive care.

Additional Nursing Resources in South Dakota

  • South Dakota Board of Nursing: The Board of Nursing serves as a critical resource for prospective and practicing nurses in the state. The board awards and renews licenses, transfers licenses from other states, and provides refresher courses.

  • Dakota Nurse Connection: Created by the North and South Dakota nursing boards, this quarterly publication discusses government health initiatives, local nursing trends, and different ideas that can be used to overcome nursing challenges.

  • South Dakota Nurses Association: SDNA connects nurses of all specialties, providing professionals in the state with advocacy, networking, and collaboration opportunities. Members gain access to nursing and health publications, discounted registration at nursing conferences, and discounted personal liability insurance.

  • South Dakota Student Nursing Association: South Dakota's branch of NSNA supports students enrolled in the state's nursing schools. The organization provides networking, leadership, and scholarship opportunities; publishes a magazine five times each year; and provides NCLEX study tools.

  • South Dakota Emergency Nurses Association: This organization offers resources and opportunities for members, including scholarships for those continuing their education. The association publishes a newsletter, holds an annual conference, and provides leadership opportunities.

Accredited Online Nursing Programs in South Dakota

This database serves as a helpful resource for students researching nursing schools in South Dakota. All schools and programs in this database hold valid accreditation and can be completed online. The list includes ADN, BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP online nursing programs.

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