Licensing Boards

Social Work Examiners

Licensing Information

When was the licensing law passed?
It became effective July 1, l975.

Who is the licensing authority?
The law created a South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners. The board consists of five members (two certified social workers, one social worker, one social work associate, and one lay member) who are appointed by the Governor for three year terms.

What is the purpose of licensure?
Since the profession of social work profoundly affects the lives of the people of this state, licensure seeks to protect the public by setting standards of qualification, education, training, and experience for those who seek to engage in the practice of social work and to promote high standards of professional performance for those engaged in the profession.

Who must be licensed?
Any person engaged in the practice of social work. No person may represent himself as a social worker by using the title "certified social worker", "social worker", "social worker associate", or any other title that includes such words unless licensed by the Board of Social Work Examiners.

Who does not have to be licensed?
Employees of the State of South Dakota are exempt from the provision of the law.

Other professionals (e.g. physicians, psychologists, marriage counselors, clergy) do not have to be licensed provided they do not hold themselves out to the public by title as being engaged in the practice of social work.

Students enrolled in recognized programs of study leading to social work degrees may practice only under the direct supervision of a certified social worker or social worker licensed by the Board of Social Work Examiners.

What are the types of licenses and what are the requirements for each?

  • Social Work Associate
    • Baccalaureate degree in a nonsocial work field or discipline or an associate of arts degree in the human services in a program approved by the Board from a junior college, college, or university approved by the Board or equivalent as determined by the Board; and
    • Passed an examination prepared by the Board for this purpose.
  • Social Workers
    • Baccalaureate degree in a social work or social welfare program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education; or
    • Baccalaureate degree in another field, 2 years' experience in a social work capacity, and completion of courses equivalent to a social welfare program approved by the Board (SW by equivalency); and please contact the Board for more information on equivalency.
    • Passed an examination prepared by the Board for this purpose.
  • Certified Social Worker
    • Doctorate or master's degree from a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education; and
    • Passed an examination prepared by the Board for this purpose.
  • Certified Social Worker in Private or Independent Practice
    • Licensed under this chapter (SDCL 36-26) as a certified social worker (for a minimum of two years),
    • 2 years of experience under appropriate supervision in the field of specialization in which the applicant will practice (e.g. psychotherapy, community organization, or planning); and
    • Passed an examination prepared by the Board for this purpose.

What is the procedure for licensure?

  1. The person must request an application packet from the Board of Social Work Examiners.
  2. The completed application form, official college transcripts sent direct from the institution, supporting materials, and fees must be returned to the Board. (Fees are made payable to the "South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners.)
  3. The examination is given Monday through Saturday in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, South Dakota or an approved location of your choice .
  4. If approved for licensure, and upon receipt of passing examination scores, the Board will issue a license.
  5. If approved, the applicant will receive a special license certificate which must be displayed in his/her place of practice.
  6. If the applicant fails the exam, it may be retaken twice. The applicant will have to pay the cost of the additional exams but need not submit a new application or application fee unless it exhausts both retakes.
  7. Application fees will not be refunded if the applicant does not meet Board approval.

What is the exam like?
The tests are administered by a testing service contracted by ASWB which is a national organization for State Social Work Licensure Boards which prepares examinations for the assessment of professional competency in social work.

There are separate tests for the different levels of licensure. The social work associates and social workers take the same test, but the social work associates are allowed a lower passing score.

What are the requirements for renewal of licensure?
All licenses issued by the Board expire on the first day of January of the second year succeeding the issuance thereof. License renewal requires:

  1. a renewal application stating the applicant's desire to be relicensed.
  2. payment of fee
  3. validation of 30 contact hours earned during the previous two years of approved continuing education on the application for relicensure.

What is continuing education?
Continuing education may include credit courses from colleges and universities, workshops, seminars, conferences, lectures, and staff development activities of agencies.

These courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, lectures, and staff development activities shall be oriented towards the enhancement of social work practice, values, skills, and knowledge. This definition does not preclude cross-disciplinary offerings if they are clearly related to the enhancement of social work practice, values, skills and knowledge.

These activities may be for academic credit or for continuing education units (CEU). A CEU is noncredit in nature and must be approved by the South Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners, or other State's licensing boards.

A licensee who has prepared for the first time an academic social work course or workshop, or who has published or presented a professional social work paper may be allowed a maximum of ten contact hours for this preparation. Please contact the Board for the proper verification form.

How much continuing education is required?
All licensees applying for renewal of license must include certification of completion of thirty contact hours of continuing education within the previous two year license period.

Can continuing education credit be obtained for activities outside the state of South Dakota?
Yes. Simply request a CCU form which will ask for a detailed explanation of the program as well as verification (by the program's sponsor) of the applicant's attendance.

Is it possible to waive the continuing education requirement?
A licensee may apply to waive the continuing education requirement if he/she presents a physician's certified statement that he/she was physically incapacitated to the extent that the person could not satisfy the requirement within the previous two year license period.

Who can offer CEUs?
Any college, agency, or other institution who wishes to be a "sponsoring organization" may apply. As a sponsoring organization, they can grant CEU credit for workshop, conferences, etc. To become a sponsoring organization, please contact the board for the proper verification form.

Agencies desiring to become a sponsoring organization must be willing to assume responsibility for keeping permanent records for the individuals receiving the CEUs. An alternative is to contact a nearby college or university to sponsor the agency's program.

What are the provisions for privileged communication between the social worker and his/her client?
No licensed certified social worker, social worker, or social work associate or his employee may disclose any information he may have acquired from persons consulting him in his professional capacity to those persons except:

  1. With the written consent of the person or persons or, in the case of death or disability, of his own personal representative, other person authorized to sue, or the beneficiary of an insurance policy on his life, health, or physical condition;
  2. That a licensed certified social worker, licensed social worker, or licensed social work associate shall not be required to treat as confidential a communication that reveals the contemplation of a crime or a harmful act;
  3. When the person is a minor under the laws of this state and the information acquired by the licensed certified social worker, licensed social worker, or licensed social work associate indicated that the minor was the victim or subject of a crime, the certified social worker, the social worker, or the social work associate may be required to testify fully in any examination, trial, or other proceeding in which the commission of such a crime is the subject of inquiry;
  4. When the person waives the privilege by bringing charges against the licensed certified social worker, social worker, or social work associate.

What are the grounds for revocation, suspension or cancellation of a license?
The license of a certified social worker, social worker, or social work associate may be revoked, suspended or canceled upon any one or more of the following grounds:

  1. The licensee is guilty of fraud in the practice of social work or fraud or deceit in his admission to the practice of social work;
  2. The licensee has been convicted during the past five years of a felony. The conviction of a felony shall be the conviction of any offense, which if committed within the state of South Dakota would constitute a felony under the laws thereof;
  3. The licensee is engaged in the practice of social work under a false or assumed name and has not registered that name pursuant to chapter 37-11, or is impersonating another practitioner of a like or different name;
  4. The licensee is addicted to the habitual use of intoxicating liquors, narcotics or stimulants to such an extent as to incapacitate him or her from the performance of his or her professional duties;
  5. The physical or mental condition of the licensee is determined by a competent medical examiner to be such as to jeopardize or endanger those who seek relief from the licensee. A majority of the board may demand an examination of the licensee by a competent medical examiner selected by the board at the board's expense. If the licensee fails to submit to said examination, this shall constitute immediate grounds for suspension of the licensee's license;
  6. The licensee has been found in violation of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers;
  7. Obtaining or attempting to obtain a license, certificate, or renewal thereof by bribery or fraudulent representation;
  8. Knowingly making a false statement in connection with any application under this chapter; and
  9. Knowingly making a false statement on any form promulgated by the board in accordance with this chapter or the rules and regulations under this chapter; and
  10. The licensee has violated any provision of this chapter or the rules and regulations promulgated hereunder.

The above Questions and Answers are interpretations of the law and rules and regulations governing the licensure of social workers in the state of South Dakota.

If you would like a complete copy of the law or the Rules and Regulation, please submit your request in writing:

  • Board of Social Work Examiners
    810 North Main Street, Suite 298
    Spearfish, SD 57783