South Dakota Counseling License Requirements
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more than 2,700 professional counselors working in South Dakota as of May 2021.1-5 To become a licensed professional counselor in South Dakota, you will need to be familiar with the licensing process and requirements. On this page, you will learn the state requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health (LPC-MH) in South Dakota as well as other counseling licenses.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in South Dakota
- Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health (LPC-MH) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in South Dakota
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- South Dakota Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in South Dakota
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in South Dakota
To become a counselor in South Dakota, most major types of counseling require candidates to earn a master’s degree in a related subject that also meets coursework requirements. There are several schools in South Dakota that offer such counseling programs; prospective counselors may also be able to meet requirements by attending a school in another state. Prospective counselors may also be required to meet additional supervised work experience and testing requirements.
1. Choose which area of counseling to pursue.
Professional counselors specialize in many different areas and the first step to earning a counseling license is to choose an area of specialization. This will determine the type of degree and coursework you will be required to complete and how long the licensure process can be. Knowing the licensure steps ahead of time can save you valuable time and money as you work towards your goal.
2. Complete the degree and coursework required for your chosen area.
Most counseling licenses in South Dakota require at least a master’s degree to become licensed. Professional counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy; and school counselors must complete a master’s degree in school counseling or a related counseling field. Addiction Counselor Trainees can begin the process with a high school diploma, but at least 27 credits of related undergraduate coursework are required for certification and a master’s degree in a behavioral science field is required for licensure.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in South Dakota.
The final step to becoming a professional counselor is to receive your license from the correct licensing body for your area of specialization. The Board of Examiners for Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists (the Board) licenses mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists; the South Dakota Department of Education (DOE) is responsible for school counseling licenses; and the Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals (BAPP) issues certifications and licenses for addiction counselors. Continue reading to learn more about the different counseling licenses available in South Dakota.
Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health (LPC-MH) Licensing Process
The Board of Examiners for Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists (the Board) is responsible for licensing professional counselors. The Board offers two types of licensure: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health (LPC-MH). You can practice as an LPC or earn the LPC-MH progressively after obtaining an LPC license. Completion of a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited program or a 48-hour graduate degree in counseling from an accredited institution is required to begin the licensure process. Professional counselors screen and assess clients, create treatment plans, and provide therapeutic services related to mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; LPC-MHs can also diagnose and assess mental and emotional illnesses, provide clinical assessments and treatments, and conduct clinical research. You can read more about what professional counselors do on our mental health counselor career guide. To become an LPC-MH in South Dakota, you should complete the following steps.
1. Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
The first step in acquiring a counseling license is to pass the National Counselor Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCE is a multiple-choice, pass-or-fail exam that tests knowledge of CACREP’s eight counseling areas. Refer to the NBCC’s NCE handbook for more information about the exam.
2. Submit a plan for supervision and accrue supervised experience.
You must accrue at least 1,000 hours of direct client contact experience and 100 hours of supervision to become an LPC. To begin accruing hours, submit the plan of supervision, transcripts, and exam results with the $100 application fee (as of January 2023). Your proposed supervisor must be an approved NBCC clinical supervisor, an approved AAMFT supervisor, or an LPC or related mental health professional with two years of experience or one year of experience and 15 hours of documented training in providing supervision. To keep track of your hours, use the supervision tracking form. More information about supervision requirements can be found in the Board’s administrative rules.
3. Apply for and receive your LPC license.
Once you have earned the required supervised experience, you can request your LPC license by completing the application form and paying the $225 licensing fee (as of January 2023). Once you receive your license, you may practice as LPC or continue your training to become an LPC-MH. To become an LPC-MH, follow the remaining steps.
4. Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).
To become an LPC-MH, you must pass the NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE). The NCMHCE is a simulation-based test that will evaluate your knowledge of clinical mental health diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and referral. The NCMHCE handbook provides candidates with more information about how to register for and take the exam.
5. Submit a plan for supervision and accrue supervised experience.
To become an LPC-MH, you must complete supervised clinical counseling experience. First, submit the plan of supervision with the $100 application fee. Once your plan is approved, you must accrue at least 2,000 hours of direct client contact experience and receive 100 hours of clinical supervision. Up to 1,000 hours of direct client contact experience and 50 hours of supervision can be carried forward from the supervised experience completed for the LPC license if the training was supervised by an LPC-MH.
6. Request and receive your LPC-MH license.
After completing the exam and experience requirements, you can apply for your LPC-MH license by submitting the application form with the $225 licensing fee (as of January 2023). You must display your license at your place of employment at all times.
LPC-MH Licensure by Endorsement in South Dakota
South Dakota does not have any reciprocity agreements with other states for counseling licensure. To become an LPC or LPC-MH in the state, the requirements in your licensing state must be substantially similar to those established by the Board in South Dakota. You must provide verification of an active license at the highest level of independent practice for at least three years. For LPC or LPC-MH licensure, you must submit the licensure by endorsement application form, exam results (NCE for LPC; NCE and NCMHCE for LPC-MH). Licensure by endorsement applicants must pay the $100 endorsement application fee and $225 licensing fee as of January 2023.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses must be renewed by November 30 of even-numbered years. The renewal fee is $225 as of January 2023. Licensees must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE) during each renewal period, including at least four hours of professional ethics training. CE activities can be completed through pre-approved providers or by submitting a request for approval form in advance.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in South Dakota
The pathway to a counseling career varies depending on your preferred area of specialization. In addition to mental health counseling, you can pursue a South Dakota counseling license in these other popular areas of practice: licensed marriage and family therapy, school counseling, and addiction counseling.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
To become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), you must seek licensure through the Board of Examiners for Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists (the Board). The minimum educational requirement is a Board-recognized and accredited 48-hour graduate program in marriage and family therapy. South Dakota LMFTs provide individual and group counseling related to social, emotional, mental, and behavioral issues in the context of interpersonal, family, and marital relationships. Follow these steps to become an LMFT:
- Submit a plan of supervision.
- Accrue at least 1,600 hours of direct client contact experience and 100 hours of supervision.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Apply for and receive your LMFT license.
You can learn more about marriage and family therapist careers on our LMFT career guide.
South Dakota school counselors are certified by the South Dakota Department of Education (DOE) with an Education Specialist Certificate. School counselors work in educational settings with students from early childhood through twelfth grade. To become a school counselor in South Dakota, you need to complete a master’s degree or higher in counseling. The program must be CACREP-accredited or equivalent. If you have completed a preschool-grade 12 school counselor preparation program, you are automatically qualified for certification. If you have a graduate degree in general counseling (not school-specific), you will need to:
- Pass the Praxis exam for school counseling.
- Complete one year of supervised experience under a mentor school counselor.
- Request your School Counselor Education Specialist Endorsement.
If you would like to read more about the school counseling profession, see our school counselor career guide.
Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
The South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals (BAPP) offers three certifications and licenses for addiction counseling: Addiction Counselor Trainee (ACT), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC), and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC). The minimum educational and experience requirements vary depending on the applicant’s background. You can become an ACT with a high school diploma, but you must be supervised by a qualified CAC or LAC throughout the entire recognition period as a trainee. You must complete the additional education and experience requirements for either the CAC or LAC credentials before you can apply to upgrade. CACs must have at least a high school diploma and 27 credits of specific undergraduate or graduate coursework with a grade of “C” or higher, although the possession of a degree in a behavioral science field will reduce the supervised experience requirements. LACs must have a master’s degree in a behavioral science field with at least 21 credits of specified clinical addiction coursework with a grade of “C” or higher. Addiction counselors in South Dakota are proficient in 12 core functions, including screening and assessing new clients, creating treatment plans and providing addiction counseling services, and making referrals to other service providers to address client needs outside the addiction counseling scope of practice. To become an addiction counselor in the state, you must follow these steps:
- Register as an ACT.
- Complete supervised experience (CAC/high school diploma: 8,000 hours; CAC/associate’s degree: 6,000 hours; CAC/bachelor’s degree: 4,000 hours; CAC/master’s degree: 2,000 hours; LAC: 2,000 hours).
- Pass the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) exam.
- Apply for and receive your CAC or LAC credential. If you have met the experience requirements, you may apply directly for an LAC license, or you may apply for CAC and transition to LAC later.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in South Dakota
In addition to the three levels of addiction counselor license issued by BAPP, they also offer two additional credentials that, while not required to practice addiction counseling, can help demonstrate your specialized experience and skills and practice in the field without being licensed as a counselor.
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Prevention Specialist Trainee (PST)
To learn more about addiction counselors, read our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Counseling is a broad field with many subdisciplines. In addition to the major types of counseling licenses, other career paths include:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
South Dakota Counseling Career and Salary Information
In South Dakota, the majority of counselors are employed in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling (1,420) and educational, guidance, and career counseling and advising (910).1,3 The average annual salary across all counseling fields in South Dakota is just over $45,000 per year, with the highest average of $46,960 in the educational, guidance, and career counseling and advising fields.1-5 While many South Dakota counseling salaries are low compared to other states, rehabilitation counselors in the state average $45,120, which is higher than the national average of $44,740.1-5
Through the year 2030, all counseling areas are expected to see some growth according to Projections Central.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling is expecting 10.4% growth and around 80 new counseling jobs through 2030.6 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling careers are expected to grow at the highest rate in South Dakota, at 13.5% with around 190 new positions opening, while the marriage and family therapy practice area should grow by 7.1% with approximately 10 positions added over that 10-year period.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||N.Av.||N.Av.|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||910||$46,960|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||70||$45,020|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,420||$45,410|
Counseling Associations in South Dakota
- South Dakota Association of Addiction and Prevention Professionals (SDAAPP): State affiliate of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) that hosts an annual conference.
- South Dakota Counseling Association (SDCA): Promotes the advancement of professional counselors, provides continued training opportunities, and supports human dignity and cultural diversity.
- South Dakota School Counselor Association (SDSCA): Promotes member collaboration and provides support, resources, and professional development opportunities for member counselors.
Frequently Asked Questions
What coursework is required for prospective professional counselors in South Dakota?
A graduate degree in counseling with a minimum of 48 credits is required for LPC licensure. The degree must either be accredited by CACREP or include coursework in 10 counseling-related areas, including counseling theory, group counseling, and research and evaluation. Also, a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship must also be completed as part of the degree. LPC applicants must submit course titles with their application and additional materials, such as course syllabi or course calendars, may be requested by the Board. For LPC-MH licensure, applicants must also complete clinical coursework in areas such as psychopathology, clinical assessment, and psychopharmacology.
What are the supervised work experience requirements for professional counselors?
LPC candidates must complete 1,000 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of supervision, including at least 50 face-to-face hours. A minimum of 50% of the supervision hours must be provided in individual or triad sessions; any supervision provided to more than two supervisees is considered group supervision and cannot account for more than half of the supervision sessions.
What are the 12 core functions of an addiction counselor in South Dakota?
The Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals (BAPP) has determined the scope of practice of South Dakota addiction counselors using the 12 core functions of alcohol and drug counselors set by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). The IC&RC is a not-for-profit organization that develops standards for many types of addiction professionals; the addiction counseling standards are used in many other states and provide consistency to the expectations and scopes of practice for addiction professionals. The 12 core functions are: screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, case management, crisis intervention, client education, referral, reports and record keeping, and consultation with other professionals in regard to client treatment services.
Can I practice independently as an addictions counselor?
Independent addiction counseling practice can involve providing psychotherapeutic services to individuals and those impacted by alcohol, drug, and other dependency issues in a private setting, either individually or in groups. South Dakota has specific requirements for addiction counselors who wish to engage in independent practice; they are known as private independent addiction counselors. Only individuals with an active LAC license and two years of post-licensure clinical addiction counseling experience are eligible to provide independent services.
What counseling fields have the most annual openings?
The number of annual openings ranges depending on the counseling field, according to data from Projections Central. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors should have the highest number of average annual openings (160 including replacement jobs) through 2030, followed by educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (80).6 Rehabilitation counselors are projected to have 40 average annual openings during this period and marriage and family therapists are projected to have an average of 10 average annual openings.6
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211018.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm