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South Dakota Social Work Licensing Requirements

Famously known as the Mount Rushmore state and for its centuries of rich history, South Dakota joined the Union in 1889 and today has a small population of just over 800,000. Since 1975, all social work jobs in South Dakota have required some form of state-approved licensing. You may be eligible for certain social worker jobs in South Dakota, depending on your education and experience, by following this rigorous process of licensing. The South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners (the “Board”) manages social work licensing in South Dakota. Any individual using “social worker” in their job title must be licensed by the Board.

How to Become a Social Worker in South Dakota

Educational Paths

There are many educational paths into South Dakota social work jobs. The minimum degree requirement is a two-year Associate of Arts (AA) degree in a human services program, which will allow you to be licensed as a social work associate (SWA). Beyond this level, other eligible degrees include a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), which leads to the social worker (SW) license, and a Master of Social Work (MSW) and/or Doctor of Social Work (DSW), which lead to the certified social worker (CSW) and certified social worker in private or independent practice (CSW-PIP), depending on your practice experience.

Associate of Arts (AA)

An Associate of Arts (AA) degree in a human services-related field in South Dakota takes two years to complete; both in-person and online options are available. Although the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) does not currently accredit these degrees, the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners maintains an up-to-date list of approved programs for this license (you can contact them to access the list). Courses may include psychology, sociology, history, politics and social welfare. A practicum is not required to successfully complete the degree. An AA degree is the minimum degree required for social work jobs in South Dakota, and you can continue to upgrade your education to achieve higher levels of licensing.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) takes four years full-time to complete in South Dakota; however you usually must complete two years of study, including prerequisite social work courses, before applying to the program. During study, you may take courses on social work practice, research methods, human behavior and psychology, along with electives and a practicum. This degree will allow you to be licensed for South Dakota social work jobs focusing on generalist practice. There are four social work programs in South Dakota currently accredited by the (CSWE) – Oglala Lakota College, Presentation College, the University of Sioux Falls and the University of South Dakota.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program prepares you for more specialized types of social work jobs in South Dakota, such as clinical practice, management and leadership, supervision of other social workers, and macro analysis. It is possible to complete the program in two years through full-time study or part-time in three to four years. Advanced standing is also a possibility for individuals who hold a BSW from a program accredited by the CSWE. Courses include policy analysis, philosophy of social work, research methods, advanced practice, and practicums. By completing an MSW, you will be eligible for higher levels of licensing required for clinical or specialized social work jobs in South Dakota. Currently, the University of South Dakota is the only school in South Dakota offering a Master of Social Work program accredited by the CSWE.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in South Dakota

There are four types of social work licensure in South Dakota – social work associate (SWA), social worker (SW), certified social worker (CSW), and certified social worker in private or independent practice (CSW-PIP). Each type of licensure is based on your highest level of education and experience. Anyone using the term “social worker” in their job title in South Dakota must have a valid license in one of these four categories.

Social Work Associate (SWA)

To apply for a social work associate (SWA) license, you must have either an AA degree in a human services-related field from a Board-approved university or college or a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work. With this license, you will be eligible to apply for generalist social worker jobs in South Dakota. Throughout the entire duration of your license, you will be required to show evidence of at least four hours of supervision per month by a licensed social worker. The steps to apply for the SWA license are:

1. Submit an application to the Board.

The first step in becoming an SWA in South Dakota is to submit an licensure cover letter to the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners. Along with your application form, you will need to include a $90 non-refundable payment, three professional references, official transcripts from your school, and, if applicable, a verification of licensure in other state form.

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once you have received confirmation from the Board, you must register for the ASWB bachelor’s level exam. Since SWA candidates must take the bachelor’s level exam, the acceptable passing grade is lower. As of January 2016, the cost to take the exam was $230. You will be allowed three attempts to pass the exam, but you must wait 90 days between each attempt. Examinations are offered daily in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, or you may coordinate your own exam sitting. Once you have passed the exam, submit your official results to the Board.

3. Receive your license.

Once you have submitted all necessary documents, the Board will review your application. If approved, your license will be mailed to you and you will be eligible to apply for South Dakota social work jobs. You must display your license in your place of employment.

Social Worker (SW)

Prior to July 1, 2015, a bachelor’s degree in any field plus two years of supervised social work experience was sufficient to apply for the SW license. Therefore, there are currently individuals working in social worker jobs in South Dakota with the SW license gained through this equivalency program. However, as of July 1, 2015, to be eligible for an SW license, you must have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school. To apply for the SW license, follow these steps:

1. Submit an application to the Board.

The first step to obtaining your SW license in South Dakota is to submit an application form and licensure cover letter to the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners. You will also need to include a $130 non-refundable payment, three professional references, official transcripts from your school, and, if applicable, a Verification of Licensure in Other State form.

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once you have received confirmation from the Board, you must register for the ASWB bachelor’s level exam. As of January 2016, the cost to take the exam was $230. You will be allowed three attempts to pass the exam, but you must wait 90 days between each attempt. Examinations are offered daily in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, or you may coordinate your own exam sitting. Once you have passed the exam, submit your official results to the Board.

3. Receive your license.

Once you have submitted all necessary documents, the Board will review your application. If approved, your license will be mailed to you and you will be eligible to apply for South Dakota social work jobs. You must display your license in your place of employment.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

Certified Social Workers (CSW) must have either an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or a DSW degree, and are able to apply for clinical and/or specialized social work jobs in Social Dakota depending on their area of expertise. If you wish to pursue a career in clinical or independent practice, you must continue your education and licensing and become a CSW. Once you have completed your MSW or DSW, follow these steps to gain your CSW license:

1. Submit an application to the Board.

The first step to obtaining your CSW license in South Dakota is to submit an application form and licensure cover letter to the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners. You will also need to include a $170 non-refundable payment, three professional references, official transcripts from your school, and, if applicable, a Verification of Licensure in Other State form.

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

Once you have received confirmation from the Board, you must register for the ASWB master’s level exam. As of January 2016, the cost to take the exam was $230. You will be allowed three attempts to pass the exam, but you must wait 90 days between each attempt. Examinations are offered daily in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, or you may coordinate your own exam sitting. Once you have passed the exam, submit your official results to the Board.

3. Receive your license.

Once you have submitted all necessary documents, the Board will review your application. If approved, your license will be mailed to you and you will be eligible to apply for South Dakota social work jobs. You must display your license in your place of employment.

Certified Social Worker in Private or Independent Practice (CSW-PIP)

As you gain experience as a CSW, you may be eligible to apply for a CSW-PIP license. CSW-PIPs must have either an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or DSW and proof of sufficient clinical or specialized social work practice experience. This license also allows you practice independently because you must show proof of sufficient and appropriate supervision. To apply for the CSW-PIP license, follow these steps:

1. Apply for CSW licensing.

Unless you are an out-of-state applicant with relevant education and experience, before applying for the CSW-PIP in South Dakota, you must gain your CSW license by following the steps above.

2. Gain the required experience.

To be eligible for the CSW-PIP license, you must have two years of pre-approved experience working as a CSW, including two years of supervision, in your area of specialization (e.g., clinical, community, macro-level practice, etc).

3. Submit an application to the Board.

Once you have gained this experience, you must submit an application and licensure cover letter to the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners, along with a $210 non-refundable payment, three professional references, and official transcripts from your school. If you are an out-of-state applicant, you must submit an Verification of Out-of-State Experience form verifying your supervised experience.

4. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical exam.

CSW-PIP applications require approval from the entire Board, which only meets three times per year; therefore, depending on the annual meeting schedule, it may take several months to gain approval to take the exam. Once you have been given permission to take the exam, you must register for the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical exam. As of January 2016, the cost to take the exam was $260. You will be allowed three attempts to pass the exam, but you must wait 90 days between each attempt. Examinations are offered daily in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, or you may coordinate your own exam sitting. Once you have passed the exam, submit your official results to the Board.

5. Receive your license.

Once you have submitted all necessary documents, the Board will review your application. If approved, your license will be mailed to you and you will be eligible to apply for South Dakota social work jobs or practice independently. You must display your license in your place of employment.

Social Work License Reciprocity in South Dakota

Individuals with out-of-state education and/or licensing may be eligible for reciprocity in certain circumstances. If you are licensed in a state with similar requirements and, if necessary, have passed a similar exam required by the South Dakota Board based on your level of practice, you may be eligible to apply for reciprocity. You must provide official transcripts from your school(s) and verification from any state where you have been licensed as part of your application in the steps mentioned above.

CSW-PIP applicants may need to provide further evidence of supervised work conducted in other states to be eligible to practice independently right away. You must include this evidence as part of the application packaged mentioned in the steps above. These applications are only reviewed approximately three times per year and application packages must be received at least 30 days prior to a scheduled board meeting in order to be eligible for review.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All South Dakota social work licenses expire on January 1st of the second year after they are issued. For example, licenses issued in January 2016 are valid until January 1, 2018. The licenses are then renewable for two-year terms from January 1 to January 1. Renewal fees vary based on the type of license: SWA – $90; SW – $130; CSW – $170; and, CSW-PIP – $210.

In order to successfully renew your social work license, you must prove you have completed at least 30 contact hours of continuing education (CE) within the two-year period. There are no specific topics or types of CE required as long as the training relates to social work practice or ethics at your level of practice. All CE must be provided by either an academic institution or a CE operator approved by the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners. No more than ten hours may be distance or independent learning.

If you do not renew you license by July 1stt of the renewal year, you will be required to pay an additional fee based on the type of license: SWA – $45; SW – $60; CSW – $85; and CSW-PIP – $105. In the event you lose your license, a replacement will cost $10.

South Dakota Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

As of 2012, 2,330 individuals were employed in social worker jobs in South Dakota. The majority of these jobs were in the child, family, and school social work sector (1,550 or 67%).1 However, based on projection data, all types of social work jobs in South Dakota are expected to increase by 8.3% by 2022 and the greatest increase will likely be in the healthcare sector (12.8%).2 Mental health and substance abuse social work jobs will also grow by 9.4%, child, family, and school social worker jobs in South Dakota show promising growth at 6.1%, and all other types of social work jobs in South Dakota will grow by 5.0%.2 The average salary for South Dakota social work jobs in 2012 was $45,293, with the highest salary by far being that for the “all other” category of social workers.2 Without the “all other” category, the average salary for child, family and school social workers, healthcare social workers and mental health and substance abuse social workers was $37,940.2

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,550$38,510
Healthcare Social Workers480$38,980
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers220$36,330
Social Workers, All Other80$67,350

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

Social Work Associations in South Dakota

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I have a bachelor’s degree in a non-social work field, and two years of supervised social work experience. Am I eligible for the SW license?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. As of July 1, 2015, a BSW degree is mandatory for SW licensee applicants. You would be eligible to be an SWA with your degree.

Question: Do I need to travel to Sioux Falls or Rapid City to take the ASWB exam?

Answer: No. While it is possible to easily sit for the exam in either city, you may coordinate your own arrangements with the ASWB to sit for the exam in the location of your choice.

Question: Can I complete all or part of my CE out-of-state?

Answer: Yes. If you plan to complete all or part of your required 30 hours of CE through an out-of-state opportunity, you must request the appropriate form from the Board to detail the training and verify your attendance. You then submit this form as part of your license renewal package.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, South Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sd.htm
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. South Dakota Legislature, Legislative Research Council: http://sdlegislature.gov/Statutes/Codified_Laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=36-26