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There are over 750 accredited bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work in the United States. Social workers assume many roles, including educator, advocate, counselor, case manager, and researcher. To practice as a clinical social worker, professionals need a master of social work (MSW). The majority of jobs in social work require an advanced degree. A bachelor of social work (BSW) prepares students for entry-level positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% job growth for social workers from 2016 to 2026

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% job growth for social workers from 2016 to 2026. Within this group, the BLS projects even stronger numbers for licensed clinical social workers: 20% for healthcare social workers and 19% for mental health and substance abuse social workers.

For South Dakota, the social work concentration with the largest employment is child, family, and school social workers. This group makes up over 62% of all social work positions in the state. The next largest group is healthcare social workers. In its 2017 healthcare workforce report, the South Dakota Department of Health projected the state would need to hire 73 new social workers per year from 2014 to 2024.

Featured Online Programs in Social Work

How to Become a Social Worker in South Dakota

Students can attend accredited social work schools in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, and Kyle. They can also explore dozens of online social work program offerings. The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) reported that as of June 2017, there were 515 accredited BSW and 254 MSW programs in the U.S. The South Dakota Department of Health reported that for the 2014-2015 academic year, there were 27 BSW and 58 MSW graduates from social work programs in South Dakota.

Social workers in South Dakota must obtain one of four social work licenses

To begin working in general practice, social workers need to hold at least a BSW. This degree also prepares students for social work study at the graduate level. A bachelor’s in social work is not a requirement for most MSW programs; however, students with a BSW may be eligible for advanced standing. While the majority of MSW programs do not require the GRE, admissions offices may request it in certain cases. Such cases include a student falling short of admissions criteria or the student is applying to a dual-degree program. Doctoral candidates either work toward a practice degree (doctor of social work or DSW) or a research degree (Ph.D.).

Social workers in South Dakota must obtain one of four 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). To obtain an SW, CSW, or a CSW-PIP license, a candidate must have a social work degree and pass a designated ASWB exam. CSW-PIP social workers must also have two years of post-degree, supervised experience. Licenses expire on a biennial basis (January 1). License renewal requires that social workers complete 30 contact hours of continuing education during the previous two years.

Types of Social Work Degrees in South Dakota

Accredited social work programs in South Dakota are available at the bachelor’s and graduate levels. Most social work employers in South Dakota look for applicants with a CSW, which requires a master’s degree. To practice as an LCSW, candidates must have at least an MSW and two years of supervised work experience.

Citing an aging population, the South Dakota Department of Health projects increased demand for social workers from 2014 to 2024. Healthcare social workers in the state account for 21% of the field’s workforce and have higher salary potential among social work specializations. The group’s annual wage of $43,270 is about 6% higher than the state’s annual mean wage for all occupations. In social work, job prospects and salary potential correlate to degree level. While a bachelor’s in social work can help professionals obtain a career in the field, advancement requires an MSW or higher.

Associate Degree
An ASW degree, which provides students with an introduction to the field, typically takes two years to complete. CSWE does not accredit associate degrees. In South Dakota, an ASW is the minimum requirement for licensure as an SWA. ASW degree holders can qualify for support positions in social work, like case management aides and social work assistants.
Bachelor’s Degree
The BSW is the most common degree requirement for entry into general practice. At the bachelor’s level, students continue to expand their foundational knowledge of social work, taking courses in human behavior, social welfare, advocacy, and research methods. Students at this level also complete fieldwork. A bachelor’s program will also prepare students for graduate studies.
Master’s Degree
At the MSW level, students can begin to focus on a specialization, such as school social work, mental illness, or substance abuse. Students do not need a BSW to apply to an MSW program; any related major will be considered. However, having a BSW may allow students to begin an MSW program in advanced standing, which usually means that learners can complete the degree sooner than average. The CSW and LCSW require an MSW at minimum.
Doctoral Degree
Depending on their career path, students can either work toward a DSW, which is a practice degree, or a Ph.D., which is a research degree. A CSWE report found that in 2016, enrollment in DSW programs increased by 122% from 2015. Social workers with a doctorate work as researchers, university professors, program directors, and LCSWs.

Finding a Social Work Program in South Dakota

When considering which school you should attend, it’s important to think about cost, location, program offerings, and how long it will take to complete the degree. For social workers, program specializations may prove a significant factor as well. There is a growing demand for social work professionals in South Dakota, with long-term projections from the state’s Department of Health projecting a 6% to 9.2% growth rate for many specializations.

Because social work requires licensure, degree level has a direct impact on job opportunities and salary potential. Many employers prefer applicants who hold a CSW or clinical license, both of which require an MSW at minimum. Tuition will vary depending on whether the school is public or private, a student’s residency, and if the program allows online learning. CSWE reports that student debt for BSW, MSW, and doctoral programs in social work runs between $28,000 and $55,000.

In regards to location, students considering an out-of-state school must first check a program against their state’s licensure requirements. The school should be CSWE-accredited. Other factors to consider include program length and the availability of a part-time program option. CSWE reports that the majority of social work students are studying full time. For 2016, the council found that 44.3% of BSW and 89% of MSW programs offered part-time study.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in South Dakota?

There are four schools that offer CSWE-accredited online social work programs in South Dakota. The University of South Dakota offers BSW and MSW programs. Accreditation is still an important factor for online students. Learners should ensure that their online program is CSWE accredited.

To help students get started in their distance-learning search, CSWE offers a list of about 100 online social work programs in the United States. South Dakota has two schools on this list, and there are 36 colleges that accept students from any state in the nation. Online learning is a cost-effective, flexible option that many postsecondary students pursue. Not only does distance education better accommodate busy schedules, but it also expands program offerings since students can earn degrees outside of their community.

See The Best Online MSW Programs

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

The time it takes to earn an online social work degree in South Dakota will vary and depend upon a combination of program aspects. Certain factors, such as whether a student attends full or part time, can impact the time it takes to finish a degree. Full-time students can complete a BSW in four years, while part-timers will typically need two years more. A BSW is not a requirement for a master’s in social work, but having one can reduce the length of an MSW program to one year; many master’s program require about two years of study. DSW and Ph.D. programs generally take three to four years to complete.

As of June 2017, there were 516 accredited baccalaureate social work programs in the U.S., and an additional 254 accredited MSW programs. CSWE reports that of these programs, less than half of the BSW programs offered a part-time option, while nearly 90% of MSW programs did. Another factor that can affect length is the learning format. Individual pace or self-paced programs allow students to set their own academic schedule. Cohort learning requires students to move through the curriculum together; this learning format usually takes more time and is less flexible.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in South Dakota?

In social work, there are more opportunities and greater salary potential for practitioners who have earned at least a master’s degree. This correlation is due to licensure and the fact that in the majority of states, clinical licensure requires an MSW. However, the most common social work degree is the BSW. According to CSWE, there are two times more BSW programs than MSW programs in the United States.

The College Board reports that tuition costs for four-year degrees rose for private and public schools for the 2017-2018 school year. In an annual report on social work education, CSWE found that the average debt for the BSW graduate was $28,283 in 2016. For an MSW degree, the average debt was $41,334, and for doctorate degrees, the debt was between $47,342 and $56,494. In 2016, there was a 4.5% year-over-year increase in enrollment, with 130,952 social work students across the nation.

Directory of Social Work Programs in South Dakota

Types of Social Work Licenses in South Dakota

The social work licensing law in South Dakota, which went into effect in 1975, states that a person cannot represent him/herself as a licensed social worker without obtaining a license issued by the Board of Social Work Examiners. These recognized titles include social worker associate, social worker, and certified social worker. As the law explains, licensing protects the consumer public.

Clinical social workers in South Dakota must first complete an MSW program and then obtain licensure as a certified social worker

Licenses and credentials provide quality assurance for social work clients. To obtain one, an individual must meet certain educational and professional standards that prove competency. Clinical social workers in South Dakota must first complete an MSW program and then obtain licensure as a certified social worker. They must then work for at least two years under qualified supervision. The final step is passing the clinical ASWB exam. Only after completing this process, which can take two to six years, can a social worker practice as a clinical social worker in the state. There are four levels of licensure in South Dakota, each representative of a social worker’s education level and experience. The SWA, SW, CSW, and CSW-PIP licenses each require candidates pass one of four ASWB exams; each exam is 170 questions, of which 150 are scored.

Certifications are voluntary credentials for social work practitioners.They represent a professional’s commitment to further achievement. Some certifications also help social workers obtain career advancement. Various certifying organizations offer social work certifications, but those below are from the NASW.


This is the lowest level of licensure available for social workers in South Dakota. To qualify, you must hold either a bachelor’s degree in an area outside of social work or an associate degree in human services. In addition, you must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s-level exam, which costs $230. The state also assesses a $90 application fee. To note, social work associates must work under the direct supervision of a licensed social worker.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


Applicants must hold a bachelor’s in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and have accrued at least three years of paid, supervised field experience in a case management organization or agency. In addition, applicants must have a BSW-level license or passed the bachelor’s-level ASWB exam. The application fee for the C-SWCM/C-ASWCM is $165 for NASW members and $210 for non-members.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

Social workers help people cope with life’s challenges, raise awareness, and effect change through service, advocacy, research, and outreach. When social work began as a profession in the late 19th century, its mission was to help vulnerable populations escape economic and social poverty. Today, the drive to service those in need, improve conditions, and close gaps remains at the heart of social work practice. Below is a list of common social work careers.

Social Worker

Social workers help people cope with the challenges of everyday life, oftentimes as it relates to socioeconomic disadvantage. They help individuals, families, groups, and communities through adversity and hardship, crisis, transition, and loss. Social workers help solve problems and they promote positive change. Clinical social workers typically work in direct practice, while SWs and CSWs tend to work on a macro level.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors diagnose and treat individuals for various mental and emotional issues, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and anger management. Clinical practitioners often collaborate with other counselors who work with patients struggling with substance abuse or behavioral issues.

Community Health Worker

Community health workers provide outreach services for individuals who are in need of health and healthcare services. They educate people on health initiatives and community programs and work to facilitate access to care and/or services. Community health workers also collect data to identify the health-related issues affecting certain populations.

Social Services Director

A social services director develops and oversees social work and/or service programs and is in charge of the policies of an organization. They monitor the progress and effectiveness of programs, ensure compliance with privacy and safety regulations, and conduct various education sessions with the public.

Care Coordinator

A care coordinator helps patients cope with and adjust to lifestyle changes as they assume control of their treatment upon discharge. They serve as a point of contact and an advocate for patients, family, and the care team. Care coordinators also assist with in-service programs and may provide counseling to assist with the social, emotional, and financial stresses of illness.
 EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,620$39,770
Healthcare Social Workers550$43,270
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers340$37,050
Social Workers, All Other90$69,850
Source: BLS

Featured Programs in Social Work

Scholarships for Social Work Majors in South Dakota

As college tuition continues to rise, students should invest time in finding and applying to the financial assistance that is available. Many scholarships are available to students who reside in South Dakota, or who plan on earning a social work degree.

Social Work Scholarships


Who Can Apply: This one-time award is open to social work students who are pursuing a CSWE-accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree. Applicants must demonstrate leadership and a commitment to promoting equity and social justice. View Scholarship


Resources for Social Work Students in South Dakota

  • NASW – South Dakota Chapter NASW-SD is one of seven chapters that make up the regional NASW Heartland. NASW-SD offers members career resources and services, as well as education and advocacy. The South Dakota chapter holds a conference every year and supports the professional development of members through license prep training and webinars.
  • South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners The Board, which approves licensure and protects the consumer public, consists of seven members: two lay members, three certified social workers, and two CSW-PIP social workers. Social workers can research any and all codified laws related to social work practice in South Dakota through this website.
  • Child Advocacy Centers of South Dakota CACSD is a network of child advocacy centers committed to the welfare of children in SD. There are four accredited centers serving children and families in Black Hills and in the southeast, central, and southwestern counties of South Dakota. CACSD served 1,751 children in 2017.
  • Rural Office of Community Services ROCS focuses on homeless prevention, as well as emergency services for rural populations in 20 counties. The organization offers various services, including senior meals, transportation, and weatherization. There are outreach offices in Tripp, Yankton, Winner, Mitchell, and Chamberlain.
  • South Dakota Healthcare Workforce Center The workforce provides data and information on trends that impact social work employment and staffing in the state. By 2025, South Dakota will have the ninth highest population of aging/elderly people. The workforce was created as a response to that projection, which means healthcare workers are in demand, including social workers.
  • Clinical Social Work Association CSWA is a national organization for LCSWs. Among CSWA members are clinical social workers, recent social work graduates, and emeritus members. CSWA was established in May 2006 as an outgrowth of the Clinical Social Work Federation.
  • Council on Social Work Education CSWE grants national accreditation to social work schools in South Dakota and social work programs that have met quality standards. CSWE is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accreditor for U.S. social work programs. CSWE has 2,500 individual members.