The South Dakota Department of Social Services, Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE) issues these credentials:
Social Worker Associate (SWA) – This credential is designed for people who’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-Social-Work field, or for those who’ve earned an associate’s degree in a Human Services program. It allows you to provide basic generalist social work services under supervision. However if you want to advance beyond this level you must earn a degree in Social Work.
Social Worker (SW) – This license allows you to engage in the practice of social work at a basic generalist level. The practice of social work is defined to include helping individuals, communities, and groups restore or enhance their social functioning capacity.
Certified Social Worker (CSW) – This license allows you to engage in social work at an advanced level applying specialized knowledge. You’re also permitted to engage in clinical social work under supervision. Clinical social work includes the provision of psychotherapy and counseling to individuals, families, and small groups. It also includes the treatment, assessment, and diagnosis of mental and emotional disorders.
Certified Social Worker in Private or Independent Practice (CSW-PIP) – As a CSW with PIP status you can contract directly with clients, and bill them for, clinical services, consultations, educational services, and supervision. You can engage in all types of social work and clinical social work.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in South Dakota
To earn any of the credentials issued by the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE) you need to do the following:
- Complete an education requirement, which in most cases means having a degree from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); have your school send your official transcripts to the BSWE when you apply for your credential
- Pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
When you apply you’ll need to include this cover letter and attest to reading these South Dakota laws regarding social work: Codified Law 36-26 and Article 20:59
- Locate three people who are engaged in social work or a related field and have them complete written letters of reference about you; they can send these directly to the BSWE or you can include them with your application
- Send a completed application for licensure to the BSWE along with the appropriate application fee specified in steps below
Social Worker Associate (SWA)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in a non-Social-Work field or an associate’s degree in a Human Services field.
- Submit an application for an SWA license with the BSWE; $90 fee. Once the BSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Associate exam. Once you pass this the BSWE will issue your SWA license.
- As a condition for being licensed as an SWA you must practice under the supervision of a social worker who’s licensed at a higher level. Supervision includes at least one hour per week. Each year your supervisor needs to submit a Validation of Supervision form to the BSWE confirming that you’re continuously meeting the supervision requirement.
Social Worker (SW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program.
- Submit an application for SW licensure to the BSWE; $130 fee. Once the BSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Bachelors exam. Once you pass this the BSWE will issue your SW license.
Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program.
- Submit an application for CSW licensure to the BSWE; $170 fee. Once the BSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Once you pass this the BSWE will issue your CSW license.
Gaining experience to qualify for the CSW-PIP credential
- Once you’ve earned the CSW credential you’re eligible to start accruing hours to fulfill the CSW-PIP’s supervised experience requirement. To initiate this you need to find a supervisor who is a CSW-PIP, psychiatrist, or psychologist. Together with your supervisor, fill out a Contract for Supervision to Meet CSW-PIP Licensure and submit it to the BSWE.
- Once the BSWE approves your Contract for Supervision you can begin accruing qualifying hours. Every six months your supervisor will submit a Supervision Evaluation to the BSWE. Once you’ve completed your period of supervised experience your supervisor will submit a Final Evaluation for CSW-PIP Candidate to the BSWE.
Certified Social Worker in Private or Independent Practice (CSW-PIP)
- Be a CSW, including holding a master’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement. As a CSW you must complete 24 months of approved supervision under a qualified supervisor. The BSWE will be notified that you’ve completed this requirement when your supervisor submits a Final Evaluation report to them.
- Submit an application for CSW-PIP licensure to the BSWE; $210 fee. Once the BSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass this the BSWE will issue your CSW-PIP license.
Renewing Your Social Work Credential
All credentials issued by the BSWE expire every two years on January 1st. To be eligible to renew your social work credential you must complete 30 hours of continuing education for each renewal period. You can renew by submitting an Application for Re-Licensure to the BSWE. The renewal fees for each credential are:
- SWA – $90
- SW – $130
- CSW – $170
- CSW-PIP – $210
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in South Dakota?
Once you’ve graduated from high school you could be practicing as an SWA within potentially just two years, the time it takes to earn an associate’s degree in Human Services. Investing four years to earn a BSW degree qualifies you for the SW license. Adding two years on top of that to earn an MSW degree fulfills the education requirements for becoming a CSW and a CSW-PIP. Finally with two more years of work experience, bringing the total to eight years, you can fully qualify for the CSW-PIP license.
Social Work Degrees in South Dakota
If you’re planning on making a career in this field, you’ll find the most strategic option to become licensed is to earn a degree in Social Work from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). There are four such programs in the state, including one that’s offered online. While the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level, you can also choose to earn a doctoral degree in Social Work to maximize your academic expertise.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Earning a CSWE-accredited BSW degree fulfills the education requirement for an SW license. It’s also a natural starting point if you want to go on to earn an MSW degree and qualify for more advanced licenses. Right now there are three CSWE-accredited BSW programs in South Dakota. These include a field education experience that’s at least 400 hours long, and total at least 120 semester credits.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Earning an MSW degree from a program that’s accredited by the CSWE fulfills the education requirements for the CSW and CSW-PIP licenses. Right now there is one CSWE-accredited MSW program in South Dakota, and it offers options for on-campus and online study. Being CSWE-accredited means it includes a 900-hour field education segment by default; a great opportunity to experience the implementation of social work in a professional setting.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
While earning a doctoral degree in Social Work won’t qualify you for licensure, it will ensure your career’s potential is not constrained. Degrees at this level are offered as PhD programs and as Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs. PhD programs can take longer to complete and be research-intensive, whereas DSW programs can focus more on clinical aspects within this field.
If you’re licensed at a similar level in another state, you can apply for a similar level of licensure in South Dakota via endorsement. The BSWE needs to receive official verification of your out-of-state license from you state’s board of social work, and your ASWB exam scores from the ASWB. Follow the application process detailed above. If you’re applying to become a CSW-PIP you’ll need to have your out-of-state supervisor submit a Verification of Out of State Experience form to the BSWE. You’ll also need to provide a Release and Waiver for Supervisors to your supervisor.
Social Work Salaries in South Dakota
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for several social work career categories, specifically in South Dakota:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $72,700
- Healthcare Social Worker – $44,060
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $39,900
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $40,660
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $72,740
- Social Worker, All Other – $67,700
Social Work Resources in South Dakota
South Dakota Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – This organization represents the local presence of the largest social work association in the nation. The South Dakota Chapter is also part of an organization of six other states in the Midwest known as the NASW’s Heartland group that works to address common regional issues within the field of social work. Locally within the state, this chapter provides members with legislative updates, professional networking opportunities, and career resources.
Career Opportunities in South Dakota
South Dakota Department of Social Services – Not only does this department oversee the licensing process for social workers, it also provides resources to many South Dakotans that social
workers will be familiar with. Behavioral health services are provided for local communities through a variety of outreach programs, as well as for those in the custody of the Department of Corrections, and for inpatients at the Human Services Center facing challenges from substance abuse addiction and mental illnesses.
South Dakota Department of Human Services – This is another state-level agency responsible for providing invaluable services to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. It’s segmented into different divisions that are devoted to specific issues, including the Division of Developmental Disabilities, the Division of Rehabilitative Services, the Division of Service to the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Division of Long Term Services and Supports.
Sioux Falls School District – Led by a team of qualified and caring staff, this district takes its responsibility for educating South Dakota’s upcoming generation seriously. By the latest count enrollment was nearly 25,000 students, making this South Dakota’s largest school district.
Horizon Health Care – With over 20 locations throughout the state, this healthcare organization provides high-quality medical, dental, and mental health services. Its reduced cost options and sliding-fee scale ensure that no one is denied necessary treatment. Behavioral health services are provided through local community health centers.
Keystone Treatment Center – Specializing in addiction treatment, this organization offers clients a choice between residential, detox, outpatient, and family therapy programs. It offers specific inpatient options for targeted populations including adolescents, young adults, and adults. It’s also proud of its Native American addiction treatment program.
Rapid City Area Schools – Comprised of 15 elementary schools, five middle schools, and four high schools, this school district is one of the largest in the state. By the most recent count a team of 1,800 staff, including teachers averaging 14.2 years of experience, provided the foundational education for nearly 14,000 students.
Avera Health – This regional healthcare provider’s roots stretch back to just before the turn of the 20th century. Today it provides services from more than 300 locations across five states and is headquartered in Sioux Falls. Behavioral health services are one of its more than 60 distinct areas of specialization.