With a population of 844,000 people, South Dakota may be one of the least-populated states in the country. This is clear when you look at its population density of 10.7 people per square mile, compared to the national average of 87.4 people per square mile. South Dakota’s largest cities include Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen.
One of the benefits of living in South Dakota is its relatively low cost of living. Sperling’s Best Places reports that the cost of living in South Dakota is 8% lower than the national average. As a social worker, it is important to note that almost 9% of South Dakota’s population identifies as American Indian. With several large reservations in the state, it is important to know South Dakota’s culture well.
As you prepare to start your social work degree in South Dakota, it is crucial to know what to expect. This degree generally takes two years of full-time study or four years of part-time study. An MSW takes you through the practical skills you need as a social worker in addition to theoretical knowledge that you need to stretch your practice to its limits.
In your first year as an MSW student, you touch on subjects like theoretical approaches to social work, social policy and analysis, societal influences on clients, and culturally competent care. In addition, you complete approximately 500 hours of field hours in a variety of locations.
Your second year in an MSW program allows you to dig into a field or specialty that really interests you. In addition to taking elective courses, you complete another 500 field hours. However, in this case, your field hours may be more tailored to your concentration.
Master’s-level social workers are needed in almost every field, so you have a lot of employment options you can consider. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the majority of social workers work for healthcare organizations or government agencies. However, there are also many private employers you can work for. Some of the largest social work employers in South Dakota are Minnehaha County, Allied Medical, City of Sioux Falls, and Black Hills Services.
If you want to enter private practice, there are many communities that have little to no access to mental health care. Reservations are particularly underserved in South Dakota.
In order to work as a social worker in South Dakota, you have to get your license from the Licensing Board of Social Work Examiners. First, you have to pay an application fee of $130 and a testing fee of $255. You can then take the Licensed Social Worker exam and get your license.
To have full freedom to practice, you must pay a $170 CSW application fee and a $255 exam fee. After completing 3,000 hours of supervised work experience, you can sit for the clinical exam.
Salaries for social workers vary significantly in South Dakota, due to the different licensure and experience levels present in the field. In general, social workers earn average salaries of $35,400 per year to $38,500 per year (O*Net, 2012). Social workers that work as clinical counselors tend to earn, on average, $35,300 per year to $37,400 per year (O*Net, 2012).
Across the board, the job outlook for social workers is excellent. Since Master’s-level social workers can perform so many job duties, they are indispensable in many industries. Job growth for social workers in different fields is expected to increase by 7% to 14% through 2020 (O*Net, 2012). Statistics are similar for professional counselors, with anticipated growth rates of 7% to 17% (O*Net, 2012).