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South Dakota Social Work Licensing Requirements

As of May 2017, 2,600 of South Dakota’s residents were employed in the field of social work.1 With a growing population of almost 900,000, the need and number of positions for social workers in South Dakota is expected to increase.2,3 To practice social work in South Dakota, you must hold a license from the Board of Social Work Examiners, which oversees social work licensure in the state. On this page, you will find information about the educational options for prospective social workers, steps to becoming licensed, and salary and employment data for South Dakota social workers.

How to Become a Social Worker in South Dakota

Educational Paths

The minimum degree requirement for a South Dakota social work license is an associate’s degree in a human services field or a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field. To practice social work independently, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). The highest levels of licensure in the state require you to have a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Below is more information about these degree options to help you decide which is the best fit for your career goals.

Associate’s in Social Work (ASW) or Human Services

An associate’s degree in a human services-related field usually takes two years to complete; both in-person and online options are available. Although the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) does not accredit associate’s degree programs, you must earn your degree from a school that is accredited by a nationally recognized body. You can contact the Board to ask if a program you are considering would be accepted for licensure. In human services and social work associate’s degree programs, courses may include psychology, sociology, history, politics and social welfare. A practicum is generally not required. An associate’s degree is the minimum degree required for social work jobs in South Dakota and will allow you to apply for the Social Work Associate (SWA) license.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. In a BSW program, students may take courses on social work practice, research methods, and human behavior and psychology. They will also likely have at least one practicum placement where they will get hands-on social work experience. To obtain a Social Worker (SW) license in South Dakota, you must earn a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. As of February 2019, there were three CSWE-accredited BSW programs in South Dakota.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Obtaining a master’s degree in social work (MSW) will open up additional career options and allow for more advanced practice. An MSW from a CSWE-accredited program is required for licensure in South Dakota as a Certified Social Worker (CSW) or Certified Social Worker in Private, Independent Practice (CSW-PIP). As of February 2019, the University of South Dakota houses the only CSWE-accredited MSW program in the state, but an accredited MSW from any state is acceptable for licensure. MSW programs prepare students 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. Courses include policy analysis, philosophy of social work, research methods, advanced practice, and field practica. Although MSW programs usually take two years to complete, students who enter with a BSW may be granted “advanced standing” and be able to complete the degree in just one year.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in South Dakota

There are four types of social work licenses in South Dakota: Social Work Associate (SWA), Social Worker (SW), Certified Social Worker (CSW), and Certified Social Worker in Private, Independent Practice (CSW-PIP). Each license requires a different amount of education and social work experience. Continue reading to learn more about these licenses and the steps for obtaining them.

Social Work Associate (SWA)

Individuals who hold a South Dakota Social Work Associate (SWA) license are able to practice general non-clinical social work under supervision. To apply for an SWA license, you must have either an associate’s 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. The sections below describe how to obtain an SWA license after you have earned one of these degrees.

1. Submit an SWA application to the Board.

The first step to SWA licensure is to submit a licensure application as well as cover letter to the Board. Along with your application form, you will need to include a $90 fee (as of February 2019) and three professional references. You must also ask your school to send an official transcript to the Board. Licensure applications are reviewed at Board meetings, which generally occur every 90 days. Your application must be received at least 30 days before the next scheduled meeting to be reviewed at that time.

2. Pass the ASWB Associate exam.

The Board will notify you when you are eligible to register for the ASWB Associate exam. As of February 2019, the cost to take the exam is $230. There are 170 items on the exam covering general social work topics. Once you have completed the exam, the ASWB will send your scores to the Board.

3. Receive your SWA license.

After the Board has received documentation of your passing ASWB Associate exam score, they will issue your SWA license and you can begin practicing general social work in South Dakota. While working under this license, you must receive at least four hours of supervision per month from an SW, CSW, or CSW-PIP.

Social Worker (SW)

To be eligible for a Social Worker (SW) license in South Dakota, you must have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school. The SW license allows a social worker to practice general non-clinical social work without supervision. To apply for this license, follow the steps below once you have earned a BSW from an accredited program.

1. Submit an SW application to the Board.

The first step to obtaining your SW license in South Dakota is to submit an application packet and cover letter to the Board. You must include three professional references and the $130 fee (as of February 2019). During this step, you should also ask your school to send an official transcript to the Board. Be sure to submit your application at least 30 days before the next Board meeting to ensure that it will be reviewed at that time. The Board generally meets every 90 days; you can check their website or contact them to ask when the next meeting is.

2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

The Board will inform you when they have reviewed your application and approved you to register for the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, which is required for an SW license. As of February 2019, the cost to take the exam is $230. Your score on the 170-item multiple-choice test will be sent to the Board within two weeks of your test date.

3. Receive your SW license.

You will receive your SW license shortly after the Board is notified by the ASWB that you have passed the Bachelor’s exam. Once you receive your license, you can begin practicing non-clinical social work in South Dakota and can supervise SWAs.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

Certified Social Workers (CSWs) must have either an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or a doctoral degree in social work (DSW). This license allows social workers to practice advanced non-clinical social work and supervise SWAs. The CSW license also allows you to gain supervised clinical experience in preparation for the CSW-PIP license. Once you have completed your MSW or DSW, follow the steps below to earn your CSW license.

1. Submit a CSW application to the Board.

The first step to obtaining your CSW license in South Dakota is to submit an application packet and cover letter to the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners. You will also need to include the $170 application fee (as of February 2019) and three professional references. You must also ask your program to send your official transcript to the Board. Applications are only reviewed during the Board’s scheduled meetings, which occur approximately every 90 days. Be sure to submit your application within 30 days of the next meeting to ensure that it is reviewed at that time.

2. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

The Board will notify you when they have reviewed your application and approved you to take the ASWB Master’s exam, which is required for a CSW license. As of February 2019, the cost to take the exam is $230. There are 170 multiple-choice items on the test covering a variety of topics related to the master’s-level practice of social work. The Board will automatically receive your scores shortly after your test date.

3. Receive your CSW license.

The Board will issue your CSW license after they receive documentation of your passing ASWB Master’s exam scores. With this license, you can practice non-clinical social work, supervise SWAs, and accrue supervised hours for CSW-PIP licensure.

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

The Certified Social Worker in Private, Independent Practice (CSW-PIP) credential is the highest level of social work licensure in South Dakota and allows a social worker to provide both clinical and non-clinical services without supervision. CSW-PIPs are also the only South Dakota social workers who are able to practice privately, contracting with clients directly instead of through an agency or organization. To begin the process of becoming a CSW-PIP, you must first obtain a CSW license. Once you hold a CSW license, you can take the steps described below to earn a CSW-PIP license.

1. Gain the required experience.

To be eligible for the CSW-PIP license, you must complete two years of full-time (or four years of part-time) work experience under the supervision of a CSW-PIP, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Before you can begin this experience, you must submit a supervision contract to the Board and receive approval. Once this has been granted, you can begin accruing experience. During this time, you must receive four hours per month of supervision (two hours if you are working part-time). Your supervisor must periodically submit evaluation forms to the Board to provide updates on your work. When you have completed the supervised experience requirement, your supervisor(s) must submit the Completion or Termination of Supervision form to the Board.

2. Submit a CSW-PIP application to the Board.

After you have completed the required amount of supervised experience, you can submit an application packet and cover letter to the Board. As of February 2019, the application fee is $210. Applications are reviewed approximately every 90 days during scheduled Board meetings and must be received at least 30 days before a meeting to be reviewed.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

To receive a CSW-PIP license, you must pass the ASWB Clinical exam. The Board will notify you when they have determined that you are eligible to register. The Clinical exam contains 170 multiple-choice items and assesses knowledge of clinical social work practice. As of February 2019, the cost to take the exam is $260. Your results will be sent to the Board within two weeks of your test date.

4. Receive your CSW-PIP license.

The Board will issue your CSW-PIP license after they receive documentation from the ASWB that you have passed the Clinical exam. Once you hold a CSW-PIP license, you can practice both clinical and non-clinical social work without supervision and can contract directly with clients. You can also supervise CSW-PIP candidates.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in South Dakota

Individuals with out-of-state social work licenses may be eligible for licensure by endorsement in South Dakota. This allows applicants to obtain a social work license without having to repeat exams or supervised experience requirements. If you meet the requirements for one of South Dakota’s social work licenses, you can apply for licensure by endorsement by submitting the application packet and cover letter to the Board. In addition to the documentation required from all applicants, candidates for licensure by endorsement must include verification of their current license and past ASWB exam scores. CSW-PIP applicants will need to provide verification of supervised experience. Application fees vary based on level of licensure.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All South Dakota social work licenses expire on January 1st of the second year after they are issued. As of February 2019, renewal fees are $90 for SWAs, $130 for SWs, $170 for CSWs, and $210 for CSW-PIPs. To renew your social work license, you must prove you have completed at least 30 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 an organization approved by the Board. No more than 10 hours may be distance or independent learning.

South Dakota Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

As of May 2017, 2,600 individuals were employed as social workers in South Dakota.2 The majority (1,620) worked in the subfield of child, family, and school social work .2 The average salary for South Dakota social workers at that time was $47,485.2 The number of social work positions in South Dakota is expected to grow 8.2% overall between 2016 and 2026.3 Although the number of social work positions in the “all other” category is not expected to increase during that time, growth is expected in the subfields of mental health and substance abuse social work (13.3%); healthcare social work (10.3%); and child, family, and school social work (7.1%).3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,620 $39,770
Healthcare Social Workers 550 $43,270
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 340 $37,050
Social Workers, All Other 90 $69,850

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

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 licensure applicants. However, you can apply for an SWA license with your degree.

Question: Who is eligible to provide supervision for social workers in South Dakota?

Answer: SWAs may be supervised by SWs, CSWs, or CSW-PIPs. CSW-PIP candidates are required to be supervised by CSW-PIPs, psychologists, or psychiatrists.

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 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, South Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sd.htm
2. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, South Dakota: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/sd
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm