How to Become a Counselor in South Dakota

As in many other states, counselors in South Dakota who have obtained their licensure are known as licensed professional counselors (LPCs)— although those who have continued their education and further developed their clinical mental health skills can also obtain licensure as licensed professional counselors of mental health (LPC-MH).

The state’s premier professional organization for LPCs is the South Dakota Counseling Association, a local branch of the American Counseling Association, whose mission is to “enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity.”

Licensure for South Dakota LPCs is managed by the state Board of Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners, a division of the South Dakota Department of Social Services. Licensure requirements for counselors in South Dakota, including education, supervision, examination, fees, renewal and “licensure by reciprocity,” are examined in further detail below, along with salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as scholarships and loan repayment programs available to LPCs in the state.

Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern University


Master of Arts in Counseling

Earn a CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling online from top-9 ranked1 Northwestern University.

1U.S. News & World Report: 2022 Best National University Rankings 

  • CACREP Accredited
  • Earn your MA in Counseling from Northwestern in as few as 18 months
  • Accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time tracks available

New York University

NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development


Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance

Learn more about NYU Steinhardt’s online MA degree that prepares you to become a school counselor in as few as 18 months. Graduates can pursue certification and employment in pre-K–12 schools. Bachelor’s req.

  • Complete in as few as 18 months.
  • Pursue school counselor certification.
  • Study bilingual school counseling (optional). 
  • GRE scores are not required. 

University of Southern California (USC)

USC Rossier School of Education


Master of Education in School Counseling

The University of Southern California Rossier School of Education offers a Master of Education in School Counseling online for aspiring K-12 school counselors. The program can be completed in less than two years and there is no GRE requirement.

  • No GRE required 
  • Prepares you for school counseling credential 
  • Bachelor’s degree required


Counselor Education in South Dakota

Licensure as a professional counselor in South Dakota requires the completion of a graduate degree in counseling from a program approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Alternatively, degree programs that include all of the coursework listed below may be acceptable.

Appropriate degree programs will include graduate-level courses in each of the following core content areas:

  1. Counseling theory
  2. Counseling techniques
  3. Human growth and development
  4. Social and cultural foundations
  5. Group
  6. Lifestyle and career development
  7. Appraisal of the individual
  8. Research and evaluation
  9. Professional, legal and ethical considerations
  10. Practicum
  11. Internship

Internship Requirements

In addition to the coursework listed above, South Dakota LPC licensure also requires the completion of a practicum and an internship. The practicum must be a supervised training experience of at least 100 hours with a minimum of 40 hours in direct client service. It should be under the direction of a graduate faculty member.

The internship is an on-the-job experience in professional counseling under the supervision of an on-site supervisor licensed as a professional counselor or mental health therapist. It should be at least 600 hours with a minimum of 240 hours in direct client service.

The practicum and internship requirements are distinct from post-graduate supervision, which is also necessary for LPC licensure in South Dakota.

(Back to Top)

Supervision Hours

“Supervision” is shorthand for directed, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. South Dakota requires aspiring LPCs to complete 2,000 hours of supervision within five years. This must include at least 800 hours of direct client contact and a minimum of 100 hours of direction from an approved supervisor, at a rate of at least one hour per week. Of these 100 hours, at least 50 must be face to face, and no more than 50% may be group supervision. A supervision plan must also be submitted to the South Dakota Board of Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners.

(Back to Top)


South Dakota LPC licensure requires a passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, a 200-question, multiple-choice examination administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. It assesses knowledge, skills and abilities in effective counseling services.

For licensure as a licensed professional counselor in mental health (LPC-MH), applicants must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE). The NCMHCE tests knowledge of assessment, diagnosis, counseling, psychotherapy, administration, consultation and supervision. It consists of 10 clinical mental health counseling cases and assesses clinical problem-solving ability by testing identification, analysis and treatment. It is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

(Back to Top)

LPC and LPC-MH Licensure Fees

South Dakota LPCs can expect to pay the following fees:

LPC/LPC-MH Application: $100

LPC License: $225

LPC-MH License: $225

LPC Reciprocity Application: $100

(Back to Top)

LPC License Renewal

The South Dakota Department of Social Services provides information on LPC license renewal and continuing education. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate fees and completion of necessary continuing education.

Continuing Education

LPCs in South Dakota are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE) during each two-year compliance period ending on December 31 of every odd-numbered year. Four of these hours must focus on ethics as it relates to counseling and a certificate attesting to as much must be obtained. Other hours can be obtained through attendance of coursework, workshops, clinics, forums, lectures, programs, seminars, distance learning programs or other activities previously approved by the board.

Pre-approved sponsors of CE activities include the National Board for Certified Counselors, American Psychological Association, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, National Association of Social Workers, Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, American Medical Association Physician’s Recognition Award and Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.  

(Back to Top)

Additional Information

For Counselors Licensed in Other States

The South Dakota Board of Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners has an alternative route to licensure for counselors who have already obtained their licenses in other states. This process is called “licensure by reciprocity”.

(Back to Top)

Average Counselor Salary in South Dakota

The following types of South Dakota counselors can expect to earn these average hourly and annual wages, according to May 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Type of CounselorAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Wage
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors
Rehabilitation Counselors
All Other Counselors
No data applicable
No data applicable

(Back to Top)

South Dakota Counseling Scholarships

The following scholarships and loan repayment programs are available to South Dakota LPCs and LPC-MHs:

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Description: This award from the American Psychological Foundation is available to one full-time graduate student in good standing at an accredited university who has demonstrated a commitment to stigma issues.
  • Type: Loan Repayments
  • Amount: Between $25,000 and $100,000
  • Description: LPCs and LPC-MHs in South Dakota are eligible to apply for loan repayment assistance in exchange for working in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) at a site approved by the National Health Service Corps. Funding is tied to HPSA score and is in exchange for two years of full- or half-time service.
  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To be Decided
  • Description: The Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program provides funds to schools, which in turn offer scholarships to full-time, financially needy students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are studying professional counseling, amongst other health professions.

(Back to Top)

*Licensure information including requirements, renewals, scholarships and fees were retrieved as of May 2022. Information may have changed since, check with the state’s board of licensing for more information.

Last updated: May 2022