Counseling Degree Programs in South Dakota

Updated November 22, 2022

Degree-seekers interested in counseling programs in South Dakota can refer to this page to learn more about their options, including information about career and salary data. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Degree-seekers who want to explore counseling degrees in South Dakota should review the rankings below to learn more about the best programs in the state. The detailed rankings include information about tuition rates, admission requirements, and specialization options, enabling each learner to find the program that best aligns with their unique needs. The counseling field offers several specialty areas, such as rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, and mental health counseling. Annual mean wages for counselors in the state differ, depending on the area of focus, ranging between $42,670-$44,590. Before graduates can practice as professional counselors in South Dakota, they must earn their licenses by meeting state-specific requirements. After earning a master's degree in counseling from an accredited program, each candidate must complete a practicum and internship. After passing a criminal background check, a prospective counselor can take a licensing exam and apply for their license.

Top 2 Counseling Degree Programs in South Dakota

South Dakota State University Brookings, SD
University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD

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Career Outlook for Counselors in South Dakota

Depending on the specialty, counselors in South Dakota experience different career outlooks and employment levels. South Dakota employs 790 educational, guidance, and vocational counselors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a job growth rate of 12.7% for these professionals from 2016-26. Mental health counselors received a projected employment growth rate of 14% in the same period, and BLS data indicates a projected employment growth of 9.6% for rehabilitation counselors in the state. Job responsibilities for counselors vary by specialty. Rehabilitation counselors assist clients with mental, physical, developmental, or emotional disabilities, focusing on helping them live independently. Educational, guidance, and vocational counselors work with students and professionals to help them reach educational and professional goals. Educational, guidance, and vocational counselors experience the highest levels of employment in elementary and secondary schools and the highest concentration of jobs in the educational support services. Rehabilitation counselors see the highest levels of employment and concentration of jobs in the vocational rehabilitation services industry.

Counseling Degree Programs in South Dakota 2020

  • South Dakota State University

    Brookings, SD

    As the largest university in South Dakota, SDSU counts around 12,500 students enrolled. As a traditional land-grant university, South Dakota State focuses much of its attention on the areas of nursing, pharmacy, agriculture, and engineering. One of the interesting features of the school is that the first building was constructed before South Dakota was even made a state. Over the century after its founding in 1881, the university went through significant expansion, upgrades, and growth. Students enjoy attending classes on a green and historic campus as two buildings owned by the university are on the United States Register of Historic Places.

    Master of Science in Counseling & Human Resource Development (College Counseling specialization)

    Although the title of this specialization would suggest that counselors deal with issues in college, the degree actually provides instruction on how to help students experiencing issues outside the classroom. Some of the areas where counselors might work at a college include academic advisement, career counseling, and multicultural affairs. In addition, the school suggests that graduates may work in institutional admissions, residence hall settings, and the traditional venue of general college student counseling. Students who seek this degree do not need to be licensed in order to practice and work in these settings. The degree requires students to complete 48-credit hours of specialized classes. Students who wish to work with students who have entered adulthood and who are likely to experience common problems of adults would likely want to seek entry into this specialization.

    Master of Science in Counseling & Human Resource Development (School Counseling specialization)

    State endorsement and certification is required for students who wish to find work in schools as counselors, and the South Dakota State University program prepares students for official certification. Students may also want to seek work in another state, but are advised to research that state's specifics regarding licensure to ensure that the SDSU program will transfer to certification in another state. In order to graduate with the endorsement of the CACREP, students must complete a comprehensive oral examination, as well as pass a written examination. Graduates who receive a diploma are officially endorsed as individuals who have gained entry-level knowledge of the profession. In addition to successful completion of program specifics, students are also expected to supplement their curriculum with courses taken in a supporting area that will allow for increased depth for specialization in school counseling. Students are encouraged to explore the resources of the American School Counseling Association and the South Dakota School Counseling Association during study.

    Master of Science in Counseling & Human Resource Development (Clinical Mental health Counseling specialization)

    Students who successfully complete this program will satisfy the requirements of the South Dakota Board of Counselor Examiners. Not only must the student take a variety of classes as part of their course of study, but the program also requires supervised clinical experience, as well as successfully taking exams. After completing all requirements of the program, students are eligible to obtain licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). After some time spent in practice, students may eventually look forward to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor – Mental Health (LPC-MH). This specialization requires completion of 60-credit hours and prepares students for work in private practice. Graduates often work within private practice as a licensed counselor after graduation. As with the other programs of study at South Dakota State, students are encouraged to take a variety of supporting courses that will further their knowledge in a specific area of concentration so as to ensure a high level of understanding of counseling upon graduation.


    • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
    • North Central Association Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • University of South Dakota

    Vermillion, SD

    Located in the small town of Vermillion, the University of South Dakota has around 10,200 students attending and was established before South Dakota joined the Union. USD has the honor of being the first university established in the state and houses the only medical school, as well as the only law school, for students in South Dakota. Students interested in sports participate in the NCAA Division I league except for the football team, which plays for the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Interestingly, the college was authorized for establishment in 1862, but it took a few decades to get the school's construction underway because of a lack of initial funding.

    Master of Arts in Counseling

    Students who enter the counseling program at the University of South Dakota are meant to emerge from study as ethical and competent professionals in the realm of counseling. Graduates work with diverse populations and are taught during study about the value of working in a dynamic environment. As with each counseling degree at USD, students who receive the MA in counseling are meant to work as professional counselors no matter their eventual interest and employment. The school developed its program to ensure students would experience a valuable learning environment that would foster growth of a strong community of peers. Some of the courses students should expect to take include Counseling Issues in Culture, Diversity & Advocacy, Group Counseling, and Career and Life Span Development. The program also requires students to complete a practicum for school counseling inside a school, as well as an internship in school counseling, as well as research and seminars.

    Specialist in Education in Counseling

    Students receive a strong curriculum that provides a valuable theoretical background that counselors may use once they graduate. Students also get to take part in a valuable internship and take part in a practicum that will ensure strong professional development. Students are encouraged to form strong working relationships with peers and faculty while enrolled. Also during the program, students get to spend time in the Counseling & School Psychological Services Center, which offers supervised clinical training for students in the program. In addition, the center offers counseling services to the community, which means it's an excellent source of mental health services to local residents. To gain entry into the program, students must submit several standard materials such as test scores and an application packet. Before entry into the program is granted, students must also have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. The school requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 for admission to graduate school.

    Ph.D. in Counseling

    The doctoral program in counseling requires that students complete 72 credits to graduate, which includes several credits of a dissertation, as well as an internship. Most of the time spent in a doctoral program is spent conducting research, as well as several credits of practicum time for supervised counseling and group work. During the final semester of study, students must complete a series of comprehensive exams. The University of South Dakota is the only university in the state that offers doctorates and master's degrees in counseling. As is to be expected of a doctoral program of USD's caliber, the school has attained accreditation from CACREP, and the department is also recognized by the National Association of School Psychologists. The university says that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites counseling positions as an area of the job market that will experience healthy growth in the next decade. This growth means a Ph.D. in counseling may be a terrific choice to advance a career.


    • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
    • North Central Association Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

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