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Top Nursing Schools in South Dakota: Online/Campus Programs

Browse our list of accredited and affordable nursing schools in South Dakota using this practical guide. Find the best program for you, online options — and how much you might earn when you graduate.

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South Dakota is in desperate need of nurses — so desperate that the state has one of the highest largest gaps between available nurses and job openings, with a projected sky-high demand of 13,600 registered nurses in 2030. So, if you’re motivated to make a genuine difference in the lives of others, all while helping a state in dire need, keep reading: We’ve compiled a list of the best nursing schools in South Dakota, ranking for factors like affordability, accreditation, program flexibility, curriculum quality, and student support services.

Which nursing program in South Dakota should you choose? Consider these top programs going into 2024:

About the ranking


Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS. 

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted. 

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Institutional Aid – Percent of full-time undergraduate students who are awarded institutional grant aid, as self-reported by the school.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 South Dakota State UniversityBrookings, SD Public $ 4

The nursing program at South Dakota State University is all about options. SDSU takes pride in offering a program for every career track. The school hosts online nursing degrees at every level including multiple BSN tracks, four MSN specialties, three doctoral programs, and five post graduate certificates. This range allows students in any track to benefit from a wide-ranging, holistic curriculum and study with educators across specialties.

Program Feature:


  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $413/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: CCNE

Faculty Ratio
Student %

Popular Nursing Programs in South Dakota

Below, we’ve spotlighted an accredited nursing school in SD that offers academic excellence, engaged faculty, and program flexibility. This popular program will give you an idea of what other students look for when choosing a nursing program.

Augustana University

Located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Augustana University is a private institution and the only university in South Dakota to earn a Holistic Nursing Program endorsement by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation.

The program reports pass rates on the NCLEX exam — the test nursing graduates must pass to be licensed as a registered nurse — that is consistently higher than the state average. The university also offers part-time study plans, which allow nurses to work while completing their degrees. A two-year MSN program is offered, as well as a 15-month accelerated track. Nursing students have weekly clinical experiences and learn in an advanced simulation center. One of the most distinctive offerings in Augustana’s nursing program is the ability to study abroad in Norway, Ecuador, or Greece.

Augustana University’s professional nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Types of Nursing Programs Available in South Dakota

No matter where you are in your nursing career, you’ll have accredited nursing programs available to you in South Dakota, allowing you to boost your credentials and expand your knowledge. Program options range from bachelor’s to doctoral degrees — and everything in between. Take a look at the following overview of options for nursing programs in South Dakota and the schools that offer them.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in South Dakota

ADN Programs

Associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs are an excellent option for students looking to take their first step into the field of nursing. These programs typically last two years and are available at community colleges. ADNs cover both general education and foundational nursing topics. After graduating, students will qualify to take the NCLEX-RN exam and begin work as entry-level registered nurses.

Example of South Dakota Nursing School with this Program

Lake Area Technical Institute

Traditional BSN Programs

A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is designed for students with little or no previous college-level education or nursing experience. BSN degree holders typically earn higher salaries than those without bachelor’s degrees due to the more extensive education requirements. Traditional BSN programs generally require four years of full-time study.

Example of South Dakota Nursing School with this Program

University of Sioux Falls

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs offer students who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject to pursue a nursing career. These programs also provide the necessary coursework and clinical practice hours to prepare students for the NCLEX-RN exam. Accelerated BSN programs are typically offered at the same four-year schools that offer traditional BSN programs. Accelerated BSN degrees typically take between 15 and 24 months to earn.

Examples of South Dakota Nursing Schools with this Program

University of Sioux Falls

South Dakota State University

Nursing Bridge Programs in South Dakota for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

The licensed practical nurse (LPN) to RN and LPN to BSN bridge programs are designed as a career ladder for LPNs who want to become registered nurses or earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. These programs recognize that LPNs already have education and field experience, allowing them to earn a degree at an accelerated rate.

Example of South Dakota Nursing School with this Program

Dakota Wesleyan University

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN bridge programs provides licensed RNs without a bachelor’s degree with a convenient and affordable path to earning a BSN. The curriculum is designed with their previous experience in mind, further developing clinical and research skills. This program requires about 120 credit hours, varying from 12-24 months.

Examples of South Dakota Nursing Schools with this Program

South Dakota State University

University of South Dakota

RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN programs offer current RNs a direct path to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. These degrees provide the knowledge and skills needed for advanced practice and leadership roles in nursing. These programs will often offer specialization options and specialized curriculums for becoming nurse practitioners. MSN programs are exclusively through four-year nursing programs and can be partially online, though students must also complete in-person clinicals.

Examples of South Dakota Nursing Schools with this Program

South Dakota State University

Advanced Nursing Programs in South Dakota

MSN Programs

For individuals with a BSN, an MSN program offers the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in about 18 months. Enrolling in an MSN program with no prior nursing experience is also possible if you have a bachelor’s degree in another subject. These programs typically take about three years to complete.

Examples of South Dakota Nursing Schools with This Program

Mount Marty University

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program will help students achieve a leadership role in nursing administration and advanced nursing practice positions. These programs usually take three to four years to complete. A PhD in nursing prepares students to focus on research and/or academia in their nursing careers. These degrees take about four to six years to complete.

Examples of South Dakota Nursing Schools with This Program

South Dakota State University

Mount Marty University

Post-Graduate Certificates

Post-graduate nursing certificate programs allow students with general MSNs to specialize in their skills. Common post-graduate certificates include pediatric primary care, nurse informatics, nurse leadership, nurse education, women’s health, health policy, and various nurse practitioner fields.

Examples of South Dakota Nursing Schools with This Program

South Dakota State University

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in South Dakota

Perhaps you’re looking to continue working as a nurse while also advancing your career by pursuing a degree. If so, one of the many online nursing programs in South Dakota may be an option for you. These programs feature more flexible, convenient learning environments, and most are considered a hybrid format — with some classes available online and some requiring in-person attendance.

Classes can either be offered asynchronously — meaning students complete coursework at their convenience — or synchronously, meaning students are expected to log in at a scheduled time to attend class. Because of the flexibility characteristic of online learning, students typically take classes year-round without lengthy breaks like those sometimes featured in traditional on-campus programs.

Most nursing programs in South Dakota require students to complete a certain number of clinical hours. Students must typically travel to a nearby hospital or medical facility to complete their clinical requirements. This is typically done in coordination with the school and may require periodic on-campus visits.

University of South Dakota

At the University of South Dakota, students can pursue three online nursing degrees:

  • RN to BSN is delivered online with two different plans of study, allowing for maximum flexibility for working professionals.
  • MSN specializing in nursing informatics and e-health positions is an online option, encouraging students to use data, information systems, and healthcare technologies to improve patient outcomes.
  • DNP specializing in organizational and system leadership can be earned online, a degree that develops leadership skills at the organizational and systems level. This program prepares nurses for administration, executive leadership, and academic faculty roles.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in South Dakota

Now that you’ve learned about the various nursing programs in South Dakota, the natural next question is: How will you afford this? The bottom line is that you can and should take advantage of all the financial aid and scholarship opportunities you have available to you.

Regarding scholarships, you’ll want to explore South Dakota’s nursing-specific grants and awards. For example, the SD Nurses Foundation offers three scholarships each year, ranging from $1,000 to $1,500, for nursing students at every educational level. National organizations like Daughters of the American Revolution also sponsor nursing scholarships between $2,500 and $5,000. To review other nursing-specific scholarships, check out this comprehensive guide.

Continue your funding search by considering employers that may offer tuition reimbursement, and browse this financial aid guide for other valuable ideas.

How to Become an RN in South Dakota: Licensing Information and Requirements

Becoming an RN in South Dakota is similar to the process for other states, but do keep in mind that each state has a unique set of licensing requirements. So be sure to check out the South Dakota Board of Nursing to better understand what goes into obtaining your RN license. South Dakota is a member of the nurse licensure compact with three of its border states: North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. A nurse with a multistate license issued in South Dakota also has the ability to practice in other compact states remotely.

The steps below give you a high-level overview of the requirements in South Dakota.

Step #1: Complete a state-approved nursing program.

Complete an accredited and state-approved pre-RN licensure program. Ensuring that you are enrolled in an accredited school will help you avoid any potential issues once you have completed your degree. Once you’ve received the educational and clinical requirements in South Dakota, you’ll be ready to move forward with getting your RN license.

Step #2: Submit the application and required materials.

The South Dakota application process involves submitting fees and materials to three separate agencies/organizations. The application fee is $100. The examination fee is $200 and must be sent to the testing company, and the candidate must submit fingerprint cards. The cards should be sent to the Board, but make the $43.25 check payable to the South Dakota DCI.

Step #3: Take the NCLEX-RN exam.

You can schedule the exam once you receive the Authorization to Test (ATT) email. The ATT grants a 90-day window to take the NCLEX-RN exam, and you can expect NCLEX results within about 10 days. A candidate who fails the NCLEX-RN will be asked to submit a retake application along with a $100 fee. A candidate who needs to retake the exam will also receive diagnostic information to help them prepare for the next attempt.

Step #4: Keep your license current/renew as needed.

To renew your license, you must have 140 hours of practice within a 12-month period related to the practice of nursing. You can renew your license by taking an RN refresher course, which consists of 80 hours of supervised clinical practice. You must also submit proof that you have completed continuing education courses. The non-refundable fee for a renewal is $90, and you can renew your license online or in person.

Nursing Opportunities: RN Job Outlook in South Dakota

Nurses in South Dakota are projected to be in high demand over the next decade. The job growth rate is estimated at 12%, nearly on par with the national average of 12.1%. However, because of the number of nurses who will be retiring and the increasing demand for nurses in rural areas, South Dakota is ranked nationally as the No. 3 state in terms of a need for nurses by 2030. All of this translates to a hot job market for educated nurses in the state.

Employment Projections for RNs in South Dakota

New Jobs
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
South Dakota15,04612%899
United States371,50012.1%210,400

Source: Projections Central

RN Pay Scale in South Dakota: How Much You Could Earn

While the nursing job market is projected to continue its climb through 2030, salaries in South Dakota do lag behind the national average. However, the cost of living is 1.11 times less expensive than the average in the United States. One way to increase your salary as an RN in South Dakota is to earn an advanced degree, which can also open your career to new opportunities. Suppose you’re a registered nurse in South Dakota. In that case, you’ll also benefit from great employment opportunities in the surrounding states due to the nurse licensure compact with North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in South Dakota

10th Percentile50th Percentile
90th Percentile
South Dakota$47,470$60,550$77,360
Rapid City, South Dakota$47,350$59,640$76,250
Sioux Falls, South Dakota$47,470$60,550$77,360
United States$59,450$77,600$120,250

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

South Dakota Nursing Resources