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Section VII: Master of Science (M.S.) in Nursing Degree Specific Program Option Information

Program Purpose

Established in 1979, the M.S. in Nursing at South Dakota State University prepares nurses for advanced practice in nursing administration, leadership, clinical practice or education.

Program Outcomes

To prepare nurse administrators, clinical nurse leaders, nurse educators, family nurse practitioners and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners who:

  1. apply knowledge of evidence-based practice,
  2. engage in life-long learning,
  3. serve South Dakota, the region, the nation and the world in urban, rural and frontier health care settings, and
  4. function in leadership roles.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Incorporate knowledge and theories from nursing and other supportive disciplines to promote and translate evidence into practice to effectively tailor health care to diverse populations.
  2. Use leadership strategies at the organizational and individual level to work with interprofessional teams to recommend quality improvement initiatives to provide safe healthcare delivery and improve population health.
  3. Assume accountability to influence health policy, improve healthcare delivery, decrease health disparities and address the diversity of health care needs.
  4. Utilize informatics to enhance delivery of healthcare to a population.
  5. Communicate effectively with populations to improve health through population-centered strategies of health promotion/disease prevention education.
  6. Master's Specialization specific Student Learning Outcomes:
    • Nurse Administrator: Analyze and apply a broad spectrum of administrative functions such as management principles and business skills to influence health care delivery systems (meets program Content Student Learning Outcome, Essential IX).
    • Nurse Educator: Utilize acquired knowledge and skills to develop and implement a nurse educator evidence-based practice in a variety of settings (meets program Content Student Learning Outcome, Essential IX).
    • Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL): Utilize microsystem assessment date to design, implement and evaluate evidence- based interventions that improve safety and quality for selected populations (meets program Content Student Learning Outcome, Essential IX).
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Collaborate with the interprofessional team in the translation, implementation, analysis and dissemination of evidence-based practice to improve healthcare outcomes (meets program Content Student Learning Outcome, Essential IX).
    • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP): Collaborate with the interprofessional team in the translation, implementation, analysis and dissemination of evidence-based practice to improve mental healthcare outcomes (meets program content student learning outcome, essential IX).

Academic Advisor

Each student admitted to the M.S. program is assigned to the assistant director of nursing student services, graduate nursing (academic advisor) for academic guidance. The student and adviser should meet (in person, by telephone or by e-mail) at least once each semester.

Faculty Adviser

The M.S. Option B (research project) or Option C (thesis) student does not select a major adviser but is guided for advising purposes by the (academic advisor) Assistant Director of Student Services, Graduate Nursing and the Master's Specialization Coordinator. The Master's Specialization Coordinator will assist with student inquiries specific to the area of specialty.

The M.S. Option A (thesis) student selects a qualified thesis adviser, with Graduate Faculty Status, to develop their plan of study according to program guidelines. The major adviser is selected by the student no later than the completion of NURS 670.

The student is expected to contact their academic advisor at least once per semester.

The student has the right to petition the Graduate Admissions and Scholastic Standards Committee in writing to change his/her major advisor (see Change of Advisor section below).

It is the responsibility of the academic advisor to:

  1. advise the student concerning the selection of coursework;
  2. assist in planning and submitting the program of study;
  3. provide counsel in other matters pertinent to successful completion of graduate study;
  4. monitor the progress of the student and report as needed to the Associate Dean for Graduate Nursing;
  5. advise the student with regard to the selection of committee members;
  6. assist the student to submit the Graduate School request for appointment of committee members including the graduate faculty representative;
  7. For MS Option A (thesis), DNP students, and PhD students only: the thesis committee chair, the DNP Project chair(s), or the PhD dissertation chair will be the person who will chair the final oral examination.

Change of Adviser

Students may change their thesis or project advisor by submitting a Change of Adviser form to the SDSU Graduate School.

Challenge Exams

The College of Nursing does not offer challenge exams for graduate nursing courses.

Program Options and Graduation Requirements

Program of Study Options/Course Requirements

The MS in Nursing program requires completion of 31-58 graduate credits. The number of actual credits will vary based on the chosen specialization.

Up to 40% of the credits may be transferred in from other universities (dependent  upon completed analysis of prior coursework) with the approval of the associate dean of academic programs.

Program Length/Time Limitation

Master’s programs with a major in nursing are usually completed in 2-4 years depending on credit load and if the student chooses full-time or part-time study.

If the requirements for the Masters' Degree are not completed within six (6) years from the program start date, a form to request an extension of the graduate program must be submitted to the Graduate School. The request will be reviewed and a decision as to whether the student may continue in the program will be made by the Graduate School Dean.

Plan of Study Requirements and Changes

At the time of admission, the nursing graduate student is assigned an academic advisor. The student should make an appointment to meet the academic advisor in order to become acquainted and to discuss the student’s plan of study.

The Plan of Study for MS and Post Graduate Certificate program students (templates located in D2L, NURS 114) should be submitted to the student’s academic advisor at the start of the second year of the program. After approval and signature is obtained from the academic advisor, the Plan of Study is sent to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval. The Plan of Study for the doctoral students, DNP and PhD (templates located in D2L, Nurs 114) will be drafted once all committee members are finalized. The student is responsible for obtaining all the committee member signatures prior to filing the plan with the SDSU Graduate School.

Students who have filed an official Plan of Study with the SDSU Graduate School are bound by the approved plan. Any changes to the Plan of Study must be approved by the adviser and Graduate School. This process is done via completion of the Change to Plan of Study form (template located in D2L, Nurs 114) and then sent to the Graduate School.

If a student has not filed a Plan of Study and changes are made to the program and/or specialization curriculum plan, the student must file a Plan of Study that adheres to the new requirements. Students who have already filed a Plan of Study may choose to adhere to the existing approved Plan of Study or may choose to file a Change of Plan of Study that reflects the program and/or specialization curriculum plan.

Obsolete Coursework

Courses completed more than six (6) years prior to completion of the requirements of the master’s degree are regarded as obsolete coursework. Such courses may be used in the master’s degree program if validated. Validation is allowed at the discretion of the advisory committee and department involved and can be accomplished by passing validation requirements in the subject matter area and submitting the validation form to the Graduate School.

Validated coursework cannot exceed fifty (50) percent of the total coursework (excluding thesis and research paper credits) listed on the plan of study and must be certified by the advisory committee.

Course validation may be subject to a processing fee. Only courses taken at SDSU may be validated. Therefore, if a course taken at another institution was originally approved at the time of admission to the program and outdates prior to completion of the student’s program, the SDSU course equivalent will need to be completed since courses from other institutions are not eligible for validation.

Procedure for Updating / Validating Outdated Course Work

The following guidelines are designed to assist the student, advisor, and instructor in completing the update process:

  1. During the semester preceding the semester of the update, the student initiates the process with her or his academic advisor. The advisor will notify the current course instructor of the student’s need to update.
  2. The advisor will notify the student of the name of the instructor who has agreed to complete the update. It is the student's responsibility to contact the instructor. The student must complete arrangements the semester preceding the update. Delay in arrangements may result in delaying the updating process, as the agreement is based on time and faculty assignment in that particular semester.

It is the responsibility of the instructor to determine the requirements for a successful update, based on the current course requirements. Copies of updated exams are filed with the Graduate School.

Payment of a fee is required by the Graduate School and additional documentation may also be required.

The Graduate School sets guidelines for graduation each semester. Consult with the Graduate Nursing Program for other program specific requirements and deadlines.

Thesis, Project or Coursework Only

The Master’s program specializations include three options. Refer to the curriculum plans located on the Graduate Nursing webpages (current admission year) or in Desire2Learn (D2L) platform under Nurs 114 (prior admission years). Each Option has different curriculum and credit requirements for graduation:

  1. Option A (Thesis) which includes a minimum of 5 credits of NURS 798 Thesis. The thesis is an original research study of limited scope completed under the direction of a thesis advisor. The thesis is defended at the oral exam but must be accepted and approved by the Graduate School before the student is allowed to graduate.
  2. Option B (Project) which includes a minimum of 2 credits of NURS 788 Problems in Nursing Research. The project is a scholarly work of limited scope in which the student develops and presents in-depth knowledge in a defined subject area of interest relevant to the student’s specialization and educational focus. The project is completed under the direction of the MS Specialization Coordinator.
  3. Option C (Coursework Only) in which a thesis or project is not required.

Current students may access the project and thesis guidelines by utilizing the Desire2Learn (D2L) platform under NURS 114. A thesis or project must also comply with Graduate School requirements as shown in “Instructions for Thesis” available from Inside State (faculty) and MyState Online (students).

College of Nursing master’s degree specializations do not require a written examination. Master’s Option A requires inclusion of a scholarly paper to be presented and discussed at the final oral exam.

For masters' degree specializations Option A, Graduate School rules for graduation require a final oral examination before a committee comprising a minimum of two faculty members with Graduate Faculty status from the College of Nursing and one university Graduate Faculty representative appointed by the Graduate School. A listing of College of Nursing Graduate Faculty can be found in D2L course NURS 114.

For master’s degree specializations Options B & C, College of Nursing final exam/competencies will be determined by the Graduate Nursing program.

It is expected that the student will work closely with the academic, thesis or project, specialization coordinators, and faculty advisors in order to meet all of the requirements for graduation. Please refer to NURS 114 in D2L for specific information and instructions about projects and thesis, and final exams.

Research/Design (Project-Option B) Planning Checklist

Requirement/ Procedure


Meet with Masters' Specialization Coordinator to discuss project idea and tentative timeline, project expectations, etc. To be determined following discussion between student and Specialization Coordinator.
Discuss project during final examination process (as determined by the specialty). As determined by the Specialization Coordinator.
Final Submission of Research/Design (Project) Paper (Option B Only) Submitted directly to the Graduate Nursing Department by specified deadline.

* The Graduate School sets deadlines for graduation each semester.

Thesis (Option A) Planning Checklist

Requirement/ ProcedureTimeline
Designation of (Faculty) Adviser Upon completion of 3rd core course.
Meet with faculty adviser to discuss thesis and tentative timeline. Collaborate with faculty adviser to select committee members. Submit request for Graduate School representative member of the committee. Thesis: Develop thesis proposal. Defend thesis proposal to committee. Implement thesis proposal. Prepare final thesis paper. To be determined following discussion between student and faculty adviser.
Defend thesis during final Oral Exam. Discuss project during final Oral Exam (if applicable for specialization) During final semester by deadline *determined by the SDSU Graduate School.
Requirement/ ProcedureTimeline
Thesis Formal Check (Option A Only) After successful completion of final Oral Exam, by deadline. *
Final Submission of Thesis (Option A Only) Must complete formal check first. Final submission due by deadline. * Signed acceptance page & library fee must also be submitted.

* The Graduate School sets deadlines for graduation each semester.

Grading Thesis and Project Credits

The appropriate grading for NURS 788 (project) and NURS 798 (thesis) is “S” (Satisfactory) or “U” (Unsatisfactory) at the completion of credits each semester. The “IP” (In Progress) designation is inappropriate for grading thesis and project credits.

Human Subjects Protection

The project or thesis adviser will determine with the student whether the student’s research does or does not involve human subjects. A download copy of the form for approval from the SDSU Human Subjects Committee can be found on the SDSU Research Compliance Webpage. The thesis or project adviser will also help the student determine whether or not other approvals are necessary before data collection begins.

If human subjects are involved in the thesis or project, the form must be sent to the SDSU Human Subjects Committee for approval. Data collection using human subjects cannot be initiated until approval from the compliance officer has been received in writing.

Final Oral Exam

Students who choose Option A – Thesis, will follow the Graduate School requirements for the Final Oral Exam. Students who choose either Option B – Project or Option C – Coursework only will follow the Graduate Nursing Department degree specialization requirement for the final exam.