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South Dakota State Licensing Requirements

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The state of South Dakota holds many opportunities for those who want to become a therapist, professional counselor, psychologist or social worker. But what specialty should you pursue, what degree will you need, and what are the requirements to get licensed in the different helping professions?

Licensure is important to protect the public from unregulated practitioners. By requiring licensure, South Dakota sets standards of qualification, education, training and experience for people seeking to engage in the practice in the helping professions and promotes high standards of professional performance for those engaged in these professions.

If you want to get the education, training and skills to help people cope with life issues (such as depression, seasonal affective disorder [SAD] and substance abuse), overcome mental-health problems, and generally improve the quality of their lives, keep reading to learn about getting licensed in South Dakota.

Licensure to Practice in South Dakota

Licensing is a mandatory step before you can legally practice social work, psychology, therapy or professional counseling.

Once you’ve earned your degree, you’ll need to pass a state and/or national exam and meet other licensing requirements in your particular field. Here are some of the requirements to practice in the following fields, according to the South Dakota Department of Social Services (Licensing Boards). Make sure to consult the appropriate regulatory entity to review the complete and most up-to-date requirements.


  • Get a doctoral degree in psychology from a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA); some other programs may be accepted
  • Complete a supervised pre-doctoral internship in psychology (1,800 hours within two years)
  • Post-doctoral supervised psychological experience
  • One year of supervised post-doctoral psychology practice
  • A passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
  • Pass an oral examination on ethical issues as they relate to the clinical practice of Psychology. This includes a thorough understanding of South Dakota laws and regulations as they apply to the practice of psychology.

Clinical psychologist salary in South Dakota

Clinical and Counseling Psychologists
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Median Hourly Wage$45

Job growth9.9%

Total Employment100

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

  • Master’s degree or higher in counseling from an institution of higher education accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • 2,000 hours of full-time supervised experience in counseling obtained subsequent to the granting of the master’s degree in counseling, and which includes 800 hours of direct client contact
  • Passing grade on the National Counselor Examination (NCE)

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

  • Master’s degree or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, or from a regionally accredited educational institution and an equivalent course of study as approved by the board which meets the standards of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Practicum (supervised clinical practice) for one year minimum during graduate work: 15 hours per week, approximately 8 to 10 hours in direct clinical contact with individuals, couples and families, with a minimum of 300 client contact hours
  • At least two years of supervised professional work experience in marriage and family therapy after receipt of graduate degree; at least 200 hours of supervision of 1,700 hours of marriage and family therapy must be in face-to-face contact with individuals, couples and families, and include supervision in the diagnosis of individual pathology. At least on100 of the 200 hours of supervision must be individual supervision.
  • A passing grade on the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB)

Social Worker

There are several levels of social workers in South Dakota: Social Work Associate, Social Worker, Certified Social Worker, and the highest level, Certified Social Worker in Private of Independent Practice. To work in private or independent social work practice, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Earn a master’s degree or doctorate from a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
  • Get two years of supervised experience in the field of specialization in which you wish to practice (such as psychotherapy, community organization or planning)
  • Get a passing score on the national exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)

Making the Most of Your Degree

Once you know which of these fields you want to pursue and you’ve begun your graduate studies, it might be helpful to look into professional associations that accept students. Membership in organizations such as the South Dakota Psychological Association offers great benefits:

  • Access to job databases and community resources
  • Forums for interacting with peers and experts in your field
  • Information about legislation that affects your work, and lobbying efforts to protect your professional interests
  • Consultation with advocates in your profession regarding legal and ethical issues

So which career is right for you: psychologist, counselor, therapist or social worker? Start early and research your licensure requirements and degree options to make sure that you’ll be efficient in your studies, won’t have any licensing problems, and can get into the right helping profession for you.
Sources: www.dss.sd.gov/licensingboards/psych.aspx, www.dss.sd.gov/licensingboards/examiners.aspx www.dss.sd.gov/licensingboards/social.aspx