Becoming a Counselor in South Dakota
There are several types of counseling credential including school counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health. Most require a lot of education.
It’s true that addiction counselors are certified at different levels in South Dakota. The highest level of credentialing in any branch of counseling, though, requires a master’s – and most disciplines don’t credential at all below the graduate level.
Planning on going for the master’s? When it comes time to apply for graduate school, you'll need to determine that the program you are enrolling in prepares you for the type and level of licensing you want.
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
If graduate school is still years away, you don’t have to make a lot of decisions now. You'll just want to concentrate on getting a solid foundation.
If you are a High School Student or currently hold a Diploma/GED in SD:
Select an undergraduate major. You can enroll in any program at the undergraduate level – unless you want to get significant paid experience before applying to grad school. If you do, human services majors will have some advantages. Read up on selecting an undergraduate counseling degree program here.
An undergraduate Psychology degree is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.
It's best to maintain at least a 3.0 as an undergraduate to be most competitive for master’s programs.
It's a good idea to get some experience in the field. On the South Dakota Council of Mental Health Centers, you'll find links to mental health centers that may have volunteer or paid opportunities. You can check out Americorps for service opportunities that may grant a living stipend and money for college. Other sites to visit include Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota and the South Dakota pages of the United Way and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If you have a Bachelor’s Degree Currently:
Research programs. Read up on selecting a master’s in counseling program here. Allow plenty of time for the application process. You may need to take a standardized admission test like the GRE. A criminal background check also may be required.
Enroll in a program that will meet requirements for your desired practice setting.
If you are interested in school counseling, you will be credentialed through the Department of Education. Look for a program that meets the state's curriculum standards. It will prepare you to work with all grades, preK-12.
If you are interested in other branches of counseling, you will be credentialed by the South Dakota Department of Social Services. To become a Licensed Professional Counselor, you will need to enroll in an accredited program that's at least 48 semester hours in length and meets the standards of established national organizations.
Licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health requires a 60 semester hour program at a regionally accredited institution. Generally, you should enroll in a CACREP accredited mental health counseling program -- this will ensure that you meet standards. However, the Board will also consider equivalent programs. You can go to the Board site to see specific coursework requirements.
What's the difference between the two levels of licensing -- besides the 12 semester hours? There are many counseling specialties, including rehabilitation counseling and college counseling. Programs in some counseling disciplines will prepare you for the LPC license, but not the LPC-MH.
Licensure as either an LPC or LPC-MH requires a period of supervised work experience. When you are ready to begin your supervised work experience, you will submit a plan of supervision. This will need to be approved before you can begin accruing hours.
You will also need to take the National Counselor Examination before you can be licensed as an LPC. To become an LPC-MH, you must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.