10 Best South Dakota Nursing Schools

10 Best South Dakota Nursing Schools

The best South Dakota nursing schools offer a variety of programs for new nurses and working nurses interested in career advancement. Full of potential and undiscovered beauty, South Dakota is a great place to become a nurse! When someone mentions South Dakota, most people imagine of the faces of the four US presidents carved in the national monument at Mount Rushmore. After all, South Dakota’s nickname is The Mount Rushmore State. The state is also known for the Badlands National Park, where many famous fossil finds have been uncovered. And most people don’t know that South Dakota has more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida. 

South Dakota is geographically a large state but has a relatively small population. However, the American Indian population in South Dakota is one of the largest in the US and includes nine different tribes. The economy is agriculturally based but the state also relies heavily on the service and tourism industries. The cost of living and the unemployment rates have historically remained low in South Dakota, making the overall quality of life pretty good. So, if you are interested in becoming a nurse in this state, we have compiled a list of the best nursing schools in South Dakota


Featured Programs

The editors at Nursing School Hub focused on accredited, reputable institutions with nursing programs to rank the best nursing schools in South Dakota. We ranked the South Dakota Nursing programs according to various factors, including tuition, student satisfaction, and salary potential.


Augustana University has one of the best nursing programs in South DakotaThe tiny, private Lutheran University is located in Sioux Falls. Augustana offers two bachelor’s degrees in nursing – a traditional BSN track and an accelerated BSN track. The passing rate for the NCLEX exam for both BSN paths is above the state average. Although the school does not offer graduate degrees, they do have a one-of-a-kind Norwegian Nursing Exchange program. The program sends nurses to three different schools in Norway – Nord University, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, or the University of South-Eastern Norway.

Augustana was Founded in 1860. Today the school boasts more than one hundred programs of study. The Augustana nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approved by the South Dakota Board of Nursing. 

Programs: BSN, A-BSN

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The College of Nursing at South Dakota State University has one of the best nursing programs in South Dakota. The school produces about a third of the state’s registered nurses every year. It offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The SDSU nursing program started in 1935 and is considered South Dakota’s leading educator of nurses. The school offers a traditional Bachelor of Science In Nursing (BSN) at Brookings, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. SDSU also offers a twelve-month accelerated BSN at the Aberdeen, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls campuses. And there is an online RN-BSN available for working nurses. 

The SDSU also offers a Master’s of Science in Nursing and two doctoral-level degrees in nursing. The post-graduate advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) certificate options include an online Clinical Nurse Leader program, an online Nurse Educator program, an online Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, and a hybrid Family Nurse Practitioner program. A Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nursing (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is also available. In addition, the university maintains clinical and research partnerships with many local organizations. These relationships provide academic opportunities for nursing students to complete clinical and research opportunities for faculty and advanced degree completion. SDSU is the largest university in South Dakota. The school has numerous campuses throughout the state, with the main campus in Brookings.  

Programs: BSN, ABSN, RN-BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD

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Another one of the best nursing programs in South Dakota is at the Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls. Through the school’s partnership with the Huron Regional Medical Center, students can take a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Course, a one-year Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), or a two-year Registered Nurse (RN) program at the School’s Huron campus. Southeast Tech College also offers an LPN-to-RN track for Practical Nurses to become Registered Nurses.  

Southeast Tech College grants diplomas, certificates, and associate’s degrees. It is one of South Dakota’s most affordable post-secondary institutions. Southeast Tech is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. In addition, it is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Southeast Technical College is in Sioux Falls and has taught students in the community for over 50 years. 

Programs: CNA, PN (LPN), ADN (RN), LPN-RN

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Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, SD, is a two-year school that prepares students to work in high-demand careers. Founded in 1965, Lake Area Technical College was the first technical school in South Dakota. Ninety-nine percent of the school’s graduates are continuing their education or employed. 

Lake Area Technical College has one of South Dakota’s best nursing programs. The school offers an eleven-month Practical Nursing program and a twenty-two-month Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Graduates qualify to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam. After earning an LPN license, students can move on to the RN program, which builds off the practical nursing curriculum.  Currently, the ADN program is on campus, but the school will implement an online option in Fall 2022. In addition, the school maintains Articulation Agreements with Mount Marty College, South Dakota State University, and the University of South Dakota. As a result, students can move on to one of these schools and earn a BSN or advanced degree.

Programs: PN (LPN), ADN (LPN-RN)

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Mitchell Technical College offers two of the best nursing programs in South Dakota. The school offers a one-year Practical Nursing diploma program for students preparing to become LPN’s. And they offer a one-year LPN to RN program that trains LPN’s to become RNs. 

Mitchell Technical College is a high-performing community college in Mitchell, South Dakota. The school offers thirty-five on-campus academic programs and four online programs. Mitchell Technical College has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Programs: PN (LPN), ADN (LPN-RN)

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As the state’s flagship school, it is not surprising that the University of South Dakota has one of the best nursing programs in South Dakota. USD offers three undergraduate options for nursing. They have a traditional BSN, an online RN-BSN, and an LPN-BSN. At the master’s level, USD offers a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Nursing Informatics and e-Health specialization. Finally, students can earn the DNP with a specialization in Organizational and System Leadership at the doctoral level. 

The University of South Dakota’s main campus is in Vermillion, South Dakota, with multiple campuses. The Commission accredits the BSN at the University of South Dakota on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Programs: Traditional BSN, online RN-BSN

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The University of Sioux Falls offers one of the best traditional BSN nursing programs in South Dakota. The USF BSN takes about eight semesters to complete. However, the program provides extensive clinical experience, and recent graduates boast an almost perfect NCLEX pass rate. In addition to the traditional BSN, Soliz Falls also offers an accelerated BSN (ABSN) and an online RN-BSN. 

The University of Sioux Falls is a Christian University affiliated with the American Baptist Church. It was founded in 1883, and the main campus is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The nursing programs at the University of Sioux Falls are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Programs: Traditional BSN, A-BSN, online RN-BSN

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Another great community college in South Dakota that offers some of the best nursing programs is Western Dakota Technical College. WDTC is a public college in Rapid City, South Dakota. The school opened in 1968 and provided numerous career-focused programs and degrees. 

Western Dakota Technical College offers a practical nursing program and an associate degree in nursing. The Licensed Practical Nursing program takes about one year and 480 clinical hours to complete. The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Registered Nurse (RN) program is a 1+1 bridge program. Applicants must already be a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to enter the program. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to earn an RN license. In line with its hands-on approach to learning, Western Dakota has more than ten patient simulation rooms in its Simulation Center. As a result, students can gain valuable experience responding to simulated real-world scenarios with no risk to students or patients.

Programs: PN (LPN), ADN (LPN-RN)

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Dakota Wesleyan University is a private Methodist university with just under 1,000 students. The small size enables Dakota Wesleyan to have a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1. Therefore, the tuition is expensive and comparable to most private colleges. However, most DWU students receive some sort of financial aid, making the tuition competitive with a state school. 

Dakota Wesleyan University offers one of the best nursing programs in South Dakota. Through the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing at the main campus in Mitchell, students can earn a traditional BSN. The campus Health Sciences Center boasts four high-tech simulation labs that offer numerous learning opportunities for nursing students. In addition, practicing LPNs can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree at the Sioux Falls campus. The LPN-BSN program takes just over two years to complete. Both nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Programs: BSN, LPN-BSN

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One of the best South Dakota nursing programs is at Mount Marty University – a place well known as South Dakota’s Catholic Benedictine school. Mount Marty in Yankton produces well-rounded graduates in every academic field with a focus on service to the community. MMU began offering a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1964. Since then, the nursing program has offered accredited degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The school has campus locations in St. Yankton, Watertown, and Sioux Falls.

The Mount Marty BSN Bridge Program is for LPN’s and RNs interested in earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in the most efficient route. Students can also pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), with tracks to earn a family nurse practitioner (FNP) degree or a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Leadership and Education and Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia (DNA) degree is also available. 

Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP, DNA

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Top Nursing Programs in South Dakota for 2022

How Do I Choose A Nursing School In South Dakota?

How do I become a nurse in South Dakota? First, you must find the best nursing school in South Dakota that fits your needs.  This process will require a little bit of time and research from you. Also, you will need to figure out your goals, so you don’t waste time and money on the wrong degree. For example, suppose you want the fastest route to becoming a nurse. In that case, you can enroll in a Practical Nursing program that qualifies you to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The next step from LPN is to Registered Nurse (RN). Here are the basics of the degree path.

In addition to considering the time it takes you to earn a degree, you may need to consider the program’s cost. The most inexpensive programs are usually at community colleges which are state-supported schools. The  second most affordable schools are usually public universities, followed by private universities. However, some private schools offer a lot of financial aid to students. Suppose you can find a private university that offers a lot of aid. In that case, it may be comparable to the cost of a public institution. 

What Is The Job Outlook for Nurses in South Dakota?

How is the job market for nurses in South Dakota? South Dakota needs nurses and the job opportunities for nurses in South Dakota are excellent in most health care settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2020 nursing report indicates South Dakota employs around 32 nurses for every 1,000 workers. This rate is well above the national average. In fact, South Dakota employs more nurses per capita than any other state. Despite these numbers there is still a nursing shortage in the state. In addition, the top employment places reported by the South Dakota Center for Nursing Workforce (SD CNW) in 2020 area hospitals and nursing homes.

Where Do South Dakota Nurses Work?

South Dakota nurses have various career opportunities with sixty or more hospitals and over one hundred nursing facilities. Sanford Medical Center and Avera McKennan Hospital are widely regarded as two of the best hospitals in South Dakota and offer countless employment opportunities for nurses. In addition, Nurses with advanced degrees and certifications will have more career opportunities. 

Nurse Licensure Compact (NCL)

South Dakota is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NCL). This designation means that nurses with a South Dakota nursing license can also work in most other states in the US. Under the compact, nurses can obtain a multi-state license that gives them reciprocity with other member states. This membership gives South Dakota nurses even more options to be able to work in neighboring states. 

How Much Do South Dakota Nurses Earn?

How much do nurses make in South Dakota? The average registered nurse salary in South Dakota is $60,960 per year, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2020. And eighty percent of these registered nurses in South Dakota earn between $44,550 and $79,900.

For all of the US, the mean annual wage for nurses in 2020 was $80,010. Therefore, salaries for nurses in South Dakota are below the national pay average for nurses. Below is the May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for South Dakota nurses.

How Much Do South Dakota RN’s make?

South Dakota Registered Nurses (RN)

  • total registered nurses employed in South Dakota: 13,130
  • the annual mean wage for Registered Nurses in South Dakota: $60,960

How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner (NP) make in South Dakota?

South Dakota Nurse Practitioners

  • total Nurse Practitioners employed in South Dakota: 590
  • the annual mean wage for Nurse Practitioners in South Dakota: $103,080

How Much Does a Nurse Anesthetist Make In South Dakota?

South Dakota Nurse Anesthetists

  • total Nurse Anesthetists employed in South Dakota: 360
  • the annual mean wage for Nurse Anesthetists in South Dakota: $190,360

Based on the salary information above, it is evident that South Dakota nurses with advanced degrees and specializations can earn a higher salary. With a Master’s degree, most nurses can significantly increase their earning potential. There are many online degrees for nurses, including an online Masters in Science in Nursing.