Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs Available in South Dakota

According to a December 2019 article in the Argus Leader, South Dakota’s shortage of primary care physicians means many of the state’s residents are unable to access the “regular, preventive healthcare they need to live healthier lives.” The SD Department of Health reports that nearly every county in the state has communities that are medically underserved.

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But thanks to a lifting of restrictions on nurse practitioner autonomy in South Dakota, the last two years have seen a dramatic improvement in terms of access to healthcare, particularly in the state’s rural communities. In 2017, Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a bill that allows nurse practitioners to practice independently after completing 1,040 hours of work under physician supervision.

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Today, many residents in South Dakota rely on the state’s advanced practice nurses to provide them with reliable, cost-effective care. It’s no surprise that this increased autonomy has led many of the state’s nurse practitioners and other APRNs to pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

The DNP is the degree of choice among both aspiring APRNs seeking initial certification as nurse practitioners or in other advanced practice roles, as well as currently practicing APRNs looking to transition into administrative, education, or leadership positions, or otherwise further their expertise in direct patient care. As such, many colleges and universities offering the DNP offer entry points for both BSN- and MSN-prepared nurses, and make much of the curriculum available online to better accommodate working nurses.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in South Dakota

Nurses seeking admission to DNP programs must hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), with most schools offering entry points for both:

  • Bachelor’s-prepared nurses would apply to BSN to DNP programs (sometimes called post-BSN DNP programs), allowing them to earn their MSN en route to the DNP. BSN-DNP programs allow nurses to earn their master’s- and doctoral-level education at the same school. Nurses would typically complete 30 core credits at the master’s level before completing additional coursework based on their chosen concentration for a total of 60 credits.
  • Master’s-prepared nurses are eligible to apply directly to DNP programs (often called MSN to DNP or post-MSN DNP programs), and must complete their prerequisite coursework for their chosen track before beginning DNP studies.

More South Dakota nurses are electing to pursue their DNP online through accredited programs. With flexible coursework options, these programs are especially popular among working nurses who can further their education without sacrificing current work obligations.

DNP programs are only available in states where programs have established relationships with medical institutions where nurses can complete their practicum experiences. In South Dakota, nurses enrolled in online DNP programs would work with an assigned advisor to find placement in a clinical setting, which in many cases can be arranged with current employers.

Doctorate-Level Coursework and DNP Projects

Nurses enrolled in DNP programs choose a degree specialization that allows them to earn the highest level of education in their chosen field. Examples of these specializations could include:

  • Executive Leadership
  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner

Nurses take between 33-60 credits of coursework to complete DNP programs, covering topics including:

  • Epidemiology
  • Public and private financing in health care
  • Clinical decision making
  • Advocacy, ethics, and policy for population health
  • Scientific foundations
  • Healthcare organization leadership
  • Applied transformational research

Beyond coursework, nurses must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised postbaccalaureate practice to earn their DNP. These hours may consist of practice within both the nurse’s master’s and doctorate programs.

Additionally, nurses work with a program mentor to complete a DNP Project that contributes to an area of scholarship in advanced nursing practice.

Nationally Accredited DNP Options in South Dakota

There is currently just one in-state DNP program with national accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): South Dakota University offers a post-MSN program for nurse practitioners in a number of patient population foci and a BSN-DNP program designed to prepare clinical nurse specialists.

A larger selection of CCNE and ACEN (American Commission for Education in Nursing)-accredited DNP programs are available online.

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Other DNP programs in the state not shown here may be regionally accredited or hold specialty accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.


South Dakota State University

College of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

BS-DNP (online/hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in South Dakota

DNP nurses apply their knowledge and leadership skills in critical positions in South Dakota’s healthcare sector.

In clinical settings, doctorate-prepared nurses provide the highest level of treatment in their field, using their advanced educational background to design and assess patient care. At the administrative level, these nurses play a role in everything from healthcare policy formation to treatment development.

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The following job posts highlight just some of the opportunities available to DNP-educated nurses in South Dakota:

Clinical Assistant/Associate Professor, South Dakota State University, Sioux Falls, SD

  • Master’s degree in nursing or related field
  • Must hold a DNP by the date of application
  • Licensed as an RN in South Dakota
  • Nationally certified as a family nurse practitioner
  • Minimum of two years of experience as a nurse practitioner

Certified Nurse Midwife/Women’s Health, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, SD

  • Master’s degree, DNP, or PhD from an approved nursing educational program of the ACNM or AMCB
  • Unencumbered license as an APRN based on state requirements and CNM

CRNA/Anesthesiology, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, SD

  • BS in specific area of advanced practice
  • Master’s degree, DNP, or PhD preferred
  • CNRA unencumbered license


Examples of DNP nursing positions were taken from a survey of job listings in January 2020 and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.

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