Social Work Licensure in South Dakota

South Dakota requires all social workers to obtain licensure to practice. The state supports four types of social work licenses: Social Work Associate (SWA), Social Worker (SW), Certified Social Worker (CSW), and Certified Social Worker in Private or Independent Practice (CSW-PIP). For the SW, CSW, and CSW-PIP licenses, applicants must have a social work degree and pass a corresponding exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). CSW-PIP social workers must also meet experience requirements. Social work licenses in South Dakota can be renewed biennially. To qualify for renewal, social workers must earn at least 30 contact hours before their license expires. South Dakota does allow reciprocity for out-of-state social workers in certain circumstances. The process requires transcripts, exam results, and license verification from the applicant’s former jurisdiction.

In South Dakota, the first level of social work licensure, SWA, does not mandate a social work degree. Applicants with a non-social work bachelor’s degree can qualify, but they must pass the basic ASWB exam. Those with an associate degree in human services can also qualify for the SWA. SW applicants, however, must hold a bachelor’s. CSW and CSW-PIP licenses require a master’s degree.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in South Dakota

Four social work schools in South Dakota have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE): the University of South Dakota (USD), Oglala Lakota College, Presentation College, and the University of Sioux Falls. Only USD offers both a bachelor of social work and a master of social work degree in South Dakota — the others only offer bachelor’s programs. A BSW is the most common degree for entry into the field. Bachelor of social work (BSW) graduates can work in generalist practice without earning a higher degree. A master of social work (MSW), which generally requires 60 semester credits, is the minimum degree for licensure as a CSW or CSW-PIP in South Dakota. At the master’s level, students choose a social work specialization, such as school social work, child and family, or public health. There are also two terminal degrees social workers can earn: the doctor of social work (DSW, a practice degree), or the Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy, a research degree).

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

A BSW qualifies graduates for two types of social work licensure in South Dakota: the SWA and SW. This bachelor’s degree, which full-time students can complete in four years, combines classroom learning with fieldwork. Students start their coursework by building a social work foundation with classes in social policy, diversity, human behavior, and research methods. By their third and fourth year, BSW students begin choosing specializations, especially if they intend to pursue a master’s degree. BSW graduates should be able to help advance their clients’ wellbeing and enhance social functioning for individuals, families, groups, and communities.

Master’s in Social Work

In South Dakota, CSWs must hold an MSW — a master’s is the minimum level of education required for clinical practice in every state. A master of social work degree takes one to three years to complete, and requires 60 hours of coursework, plus field hours. The MSW curriculum covers both generalist and specialized social work practice. The required courses typically explore human behavior, social welfare policy, diversity, leadership, and research. At this level, students also choose a specialization for their future careers, such as CYF (children, youth, and families), mental health, or social change and innovation. Field education is integral to every MSW curriculum.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

South Dakota’s CSW and CSW-PIP licenses require applicants to hold an MSW or doctorate. Generally, the DSW focuses on practical work, while the Ph.D. centers on research and academia. On average, students take three years to complete DSW programs, and four years to obtain a Ph.D. A 2016 report on social work education by the CSWE found that enrollment in social work degrees had increased at all levels, and that DSW programs had seen the largest spike. DSW enrollment increased by 130% over the previous year, going from 199 students to 611. Ph.D. enrollment also rose, by 13.6%. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that positions in the field will grow 16% between 2016 and 2026, particularly for licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs).

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in South Dakota

There are four levels of social work licensure in South Dakota. The Social Work Associate or SWA license is the first level, with which social workers can begin fieldwork in support roles. The next level, Social Worker (SW), requires a BSW and is the most common licensure for early-career social workers. SWs may practice generalist social work in South Dakota. The CSW, or Certified Social Worker, is the third license level, and allows social workers to apply for specialized jobs, such as a school social worker. The CSW-PIP, or Certified Social Worker in Private or Independent Practice, is the fourth level of South Dakota social work licensure. It permits the holder to proceed to solo or group practice as a clinical or generalist social worker.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker

  1. Bachelor of Social Work: South Dakota does not issue this particular license, but the SW license is similar. It requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in social work or social welfare from a CSWE-accredited program.
  2. Bachelor’s Level ASWB Exam: Once the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners accepts an application, the SW applicant may take the ASWB bachelor’s exam. Candidates can take the examination in Sioux Falls or another approved location, and exams are available daily, except on Sundays. Applicants have three attempts to pass the exam, and 90 days must pass between attempts.
  3. SWA License: South Dakota also issues a Social Work Associate license for applicants with an associate degree in human services, or a non-social work bachelor’s degree. These applicants must also pass the ASWB bachelor’s exam, but the threshold for a passing score is lower. SWA license-holders need at least four hours of direct supervision each month for the duration of their licensure.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

  1. Master’s in Social Work: The licensed graduate social worker title doesn’t exist in South Dakota, but its counterpart is the CSW license. This mid-level licensure requires applicants to hold at least a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution. MSW programs comprise 60 credits and typically take two years to complete as a full-time student. However, BSW graduates be eligible to expedite the MSW program and finish it in one year.
  2. Master’s Level ASWB Exam: CSW applicants do not need post-degree experience, because the license isn’t clinical. However, they must earn a passing score on the ASWB master’s exam. In South Dakota, a CSW only requires a graduate degree and a qualifying exam score.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Master’s in Social Work: In South Dakota, the CSW-PIP license functions as the licensed clinical social worker license does in other states. The requirements to obtain a CSW-PIP are the same as for a CSW, but with additional work experience. Candidates must hold an MSW or doctoral degree in social work. Master’s degrees can take one to three years to complete, and doctorates typically take three to four years.
  2. Post-MSW Experience: South Dakota’s clinical license requires applicants to first have at least two years of post-master’s supervised experience. They must also be licensed as a CSW for a minimum of two years before applying for CSW-PIP status. Applicants’ post-degree experience must take place under the supervision of a qualified professional who practices in the field of the applicant’s chosen specialization.
  3. Clinical-Level ASWB Exam: CSW-PIP candidates must pass either the clinical or advanced generalist ASWB exam.

Private Independent Practice Certification

  1. Master’s or Doctorate in Social Work: This certification allows a social worker to engage in private practice. Some states distinguish between clinical practice and non-clinical private practice, but South Dakota issues the same license for for clinical practitioners as it does for social workers in private or independent practice (PIP). CSW-PIP applicants must hold at least a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program.
  2. Post-Degree Experience: Social workers who want to work in clinical practice and/or private or independent practice must accrue two years of supervised work experience before applying or a CSW-PIP license. Prospective CSW-PIP candidates in South Dakota must first hold a CSW license for at least two years. Candidates must also submit evaluations at six, 12, 18, and 24 months during their CSW licensure.
  3. Clinical or Advanced Generalist ASWB Exam: The final step to obtain the CSW-PIP title is passing the ASWB clinical or advanced generalist exam.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in South Dakota?

The time it takes to obtain South Dakota social work licensure depends the type of license in question. For example, the SWA does not require prior work experience, and candidates can apply for it immediately after earning their associate degree in a human services field. The SW, on the other hand, requires a CSWE-accredited bachelor’s in social work. While full-time students can complete a BSW in four years, part-timers might need six years. If a social worker wants CSW licensure, they must obtain a master’s degree in social work, which can take one to three years. CSW-PIP applicants must work as a CSW for two years under the appropriate supervision before qualifying for clinical or private practice licensure. In summary, it can take anywhere from two years to 12 to obtain social work licensure in South Dakota, depending on the license.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in South Dakota

South Dakota allows social work reciprocity in certain circumstances. Reciprocity means a social worker with out-of-state certification may transfer their license to another state, as long as they meet that state’s licensing requirements. A social worker from another state with similar requirements to South Dakota’s may be eligible to apply for reciprocity.

Transplant social workers must meet the education, experience, and exam requirements of the South Dakota license they seek. To prove this, they must provide documentation of their academic record and their ASWB exam score, plus verification from every state in which they have been licensed. For the CSW-PIP license, out-of-state social workers may need to provide further evidence of their supervised social work experience before they can begin to practice independently in South Dakota. The South Dakota Board of Social work reviews reciprocity applications at its meetings every two months, and to make sure their application makes it to the next meeting, applicants should submit all necessary documentation at least 30 days prior to the meeting date.

License Renewal

Social workers in South Dakota must renew their licenses by January 1, every two years. To qualify for renewal, social workers must complete 30 contact hours before their license expires. One continuing education unit (CEU) is equal to 10 contact hours, meaning a workshop that is approved for 0.5 CEUs is worth five contact hours. Social workers seeking license renewal must submit an application, pay the renewal fee, and provide evidence of continued education. Renewal fees are as follows: $90 for SWA, $130 for SW, $170 for CSW, and $210 for CSW-PIP.

Options for continuing education include college courses, workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, lectures, and staff development activities. All of these activities may be for credit or not for credit, but if they are not for credit, the activities must be approved by the Board.

Accredited Social Work Programs in South Dakota

CSWE accreditation is critical to an aspiring social worker’s education, because graduates don’t qualify for social work licensure in South Dakota unless they attended a CSWE-accredited institution. Other types of accreditation are available for social work schools in South Dakota as well, including regional accreditation and accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social workers can work in community organizations or practice clinical social work. They may work in one-on-one practice, or in government positions, advocacy groups, or schools. Social workers can be educators, advocates, case managers, mediators, facilitators, or organizers. They work with individuals, groups, and even entire population segments. According to the BLS, the top employers of social workers are individual and family services, state governments, ambulatory or outpatient healthcare services, local governments, and hospitals.

  • Medical Social Worker: Medical social workers, or healthcare social workers, work in hospitals as case managers, patient advocates, and counselors. They carry out assessments, educate patients on treatment options and access to services, and tend to patients’ psychosocial needs. The BLS projects 20% growth for healthcare social workers between 2016 and 2026. The minimum degree for this career path is an MSW.
  • School Social Worker: School social workers work in primary and secondary schools. Together with parents, teachers, and school staff, they help students whose behavioral, social, or emotional issues may be impeding their learning and overall progress. They help students succeed in school by identifying hurdles and removing them. While school social workers typically begin their career with a BSW, many go on to earn their master’s, since several areas of focus in the specialty require an MSW.
  • Mental Health/Substance Abuse Social Worker: Mental health social workers help clients combat mental illnesses, addiction, and emotional issues. They help in case management, client advocacy, group therapy, and education. They also refer clients when it comes to social rehabilitation, employment, and regaining control of their lives. Working as a mental health or substance abuse social worker requires a clinical license.
  • Financial Coach: Public welfare social workers help coordinate benefits and income support for those in need, including the elderly, disabled, and children. Public welfare social workers can begin their careers with a BSW, but an MSW helps with career advancement and job placement.
  • Community Outreach Coordinator: In the context of human services, a community outreach coordinator is the link between an organization and community members. They help to develop programs in education, assistance, and opportunity, and communicate about these programs’ services to people who would benefit from them. Community outreach coordinators also recruit volunteers, fundraise, and run campaigns. For this position, experience can prove more important than a degree, but most community outreach coordinators hold a bachelor’s.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in South Dakota

By 2025, South Dakota is projected to have the ninth largest elderly population in the United States. As a result, the state demand for qualified healthcare and social workers will likely grow in the coming years. The BLS projects above-average growth for the social work profession overall, with particularly strong numbers for licensed clinical social workers. The table below displays the diverse roles social workers may assume, plus their salary potential. The average social worker salary in South Dakota is $40,770. Social workers who hold MSWs tend to earn above-average salaries.

Average Salary for Social Workers in South Dakota

Medical Social Worker$43,270
School Social Worker$39,770
Mental Health/Substance Abuse Social Worker$37,050
Social Workers, All Other$69,850
Community Outreach Coordinator$69,850
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in South Dakota

Professional organizations offer social workers benefits for personal and career growth. Joining a professional organization takes initiative, and demonstrates career commitment to potential employers. Members usually gain access to professional development opportunities, career services, and discounts on continuing education activities, including workshops and conferences. Scholarships and financial assistance are available through professional organizations, as are job advice, leads, and networking opportunities.

  • NASW | South Dakota Chapter: The NASW-SD is part of the NASW Heartland, which represents seven chapters. The NASW-SD offers member advocacy, education, and career resources. The organization puts on a conference each year in Sioux Falls, and webinars every Wednesday where members can earn continuing education units remotely. The organization offers license exam prep for recent graduates, plus access to a student center with national benefits and services.
  • School Social Work Association of America: Formed in 1994, the SSWAA works to enhance the social and emotional growth and academic outcomes of social work students. Membership benefits include professional advocacy, public policy development, member discounts (such as for the annual conference,) and resources to help assist members in their daily tasks.
  • Council on Social Work Education: The CSWE grants national accreditation to social work programs in South Dakota that have met or exceeded quality standards. Licensure mandates that social workers earn their degree from a CSWE-accredited institution. CSWE is recognized by CHEA (Council on Higher Education Accreditation) as the sole accreditor for social work programs in the United States. The CSWE also has 2,500 individual members.