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South Dakota Counseling License Requirements

South Dakota, home to Mount Rushmore and with a population of only 880,000, may be a good place to enter the field of counseling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more than 2,500 professional counselors working in the state.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. 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 licenses mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists; the South Dakota Department of Education is responsible for school counseling licenses; and the Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals 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 is responsible for licensing professional counselors. The licensure guidelines are currently under review and prospective counselors should check the Board’s website for any changes to licensure guidelines. Currently, 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. A 48-credit 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 2,000 hours of post-graduate supervised experience including 800 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of supervision to become an LPC. Submit the plan of supervision, transcripts, and exam results with the $100 application fee (as of October 2019). 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. The Board provides a list of approved supervisors online. 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 $100 licensing fee (as of October 2019). 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 post-graduate supervised clinical experience and receive 100 hours of clinical supervision. Up to 1,000 hours of work experience and 50 hours of supervision can be carried forward from the supervised experience completed for the LPC license if the training was completed under an LPC-MH or clinical mental health supervisor.

6. Request and receive your LPC-MH licensure.

After completing the exam and experience requirements, you can apply for your LPC-MH license by submitting the application form with the $75 licensing fee. You must display your license at your place of employment at all times.

Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity 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 South Dakota, the requirements in your licensing state must be substantially similar to those established by the Board in South Dakota. You must provide documentation of any licenses held in the past five years and proof of an active license, defined as 1,500 hours of counseling work experience, in the past three years. For LPC licensure, you must submit the LPC licensure by reciprocity application form, proof of education, and NCE exam results. For LPC-MH licensure, you must submit an application for LPC-MH licensure by reciprocity, transcripts, and passing scores on the NCE and NCMHCE exams. Licensure by reciprocity applicants must pay the $100 reciprocity application fee and $100 licensing fee as of October 2019.

Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Licenses expire on December 31 and must be renewed biennially in odd-numbered years. The renewal fee is $100 as of October 2019. 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 minimum educational requirement is a 48-credit graduate degree 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:

  • Pass the AMFTRB national marriage and family therapy exam.
  • Submit a plan of supervision and accrue supervised experience.
  • Apply for and receive your LMFT license.

You can learn more about marriage and family therapist careers on our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

South Dakota school counselors are certified by the South Dakota Department of Education with a 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 either complete a school counselor preparation program, which is an approved graduate degree in school guidance or counseling, or a master’s degree or higher in counseling. If you have completed a school counselor preparation program, you will not need to complete any further steps. If you have a graduate degree in counseling, you will need to:

  • Pass the Praxis exam in 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 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. CACs must have at least a high school diploma and 27 credits of specific undergraduate coursework, although a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a behavioral science subject will reduce the supervised experience requirements. LACs must have a master’s degree in behavioral science with at least 21 credits of clinical addictions coursework. You can become an ACT with a high school diploma, but you must complete the education and experience requirements for either the CAC or LAC credential before you can apply to upgrade. Complete applications must be submitted by January 1 or July 1 to receive permission to test; incomplete applications are kept on file for two years and will be considered once all materials are received. Addiction counselors in South Dakota are proficient in 12 core functions, including screening and assess 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, you must follow these steps:

  • Complete supervised experience.
  • Pass the required exam.
  • Request and receive your addiction counseling credential.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in South Dakota

  • 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 (1,210) and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling (790).1,3 The average salary across all counseling fields in South Dakota is just over the $40k per year range, with the highest average of $42,750 in the educational fields.1-5 While many South Dakota counseling salaries are low compared to other states, rehabilitation counselors in the state average $41,550, which is higher than the national average of $39,930.1-5

Through the year 2026, all counseling areas are expected to see some growth according to Projection Central.6 The only practice area in South Dakota that is expected to slightly outpace national projections is educational, guidance, school and vocational counseling, which is expecting 12.7% growth (compared to 12.6% nationally) and 100 new counseling jobs through 2026.6 Mental health counseling careers are expected to grow at the highest rate in South Dakota, at 14% with 70 new positions opening, while the substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling practice area should grow by 12.5% with another 70 positions added over that period.6

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors790$42,750
Marriage and Family Therapists160$40,000
Rehabilitation Counselors370$41,550
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors1,210$41,790

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

Counseling Associations in South Dakota

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 2,000 hours of supervised work experience in no more than five years. At least 800 hours must be direct client contact and the remainder can be comprised of indirect counseling activities, such as making case notes, conducting research, or attending counseling-related continuing education. LPC candidates must receive 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 addictions counselor in South Dakota?

The Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals 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 addictions 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.

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 addictions 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 fields according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Education, guidance, school, and vocational counselors should have the most annual openings (100 including replacement jobs) through 2026, followed by substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (70).6 Mental health counselors and rehabilitation counselors are projected to have 60 annual openings each during this period and marriage and family therapists will have 20 annual openings.6

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, 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, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm