This page provides information for South Dakota license requirements including how to apply for a new license, renew an existing one, reactivate an expired license and South Dakota license reciprocity for when you need to transfer a license to this state or out of state. If available, we provide other useful information such as cosmetology school hours requirements, how to apply for additional license for professions like manicurists, nail technicians, instructors etc. If you did not find the answer you were looking for on this page or if you have questions or issues pertaining to cosmetology, then we recommend you contact the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission.

South Dakota Cosmetology License Verification

If you need to verify a license for a salon or person, then you can do so by visiting the South Dakota Board of Cosmetology license verification website. From there you can search for the person or business and see if there are any disciplinary actions on record. This will allow you to make an informed decision about the person and or business providing your service.

South Dakota License Renewal

For Individual Licenses

The fee for cosmetologist, nail technician and esthetician license renewals is $20. For instructor license renewal, it is $25. Cosmetologist, nail technician, esthetician and instructor licenses are due for renewal on or before the licensee's birth date. If postmarked or paid after the birth date, a $20 penalty fee is charged. All senior instructors must attend 12 clock hours of a Commission-approved course annually in order to renew their license.

Salon/Booth Licenses

The Salon/Booth license renewal fee is $35 and is due on or before the opening (anniversary) date. If postmarked or paid after the opening date, a $20 penalty fee is charged.

Expired Licenses

If your license expired less than five years ago, you must pay the renewal fee for each year it was expired and a $20 penalty fee for each year it was expired. If your license expired more than five years ago, you must pay the renewal and penalty fees described above and either:

  • Take the state boards (theory, practical and state laws/rules exams)
  • Attend a pre-approved review course of two or more hours, covering South Dakota laws, rules, safety and
  • Sanitation procedures, and pass a 25-point open-book written examination

To find a review course, contact a cosmetology school or the Commission. They offer a review course taught by the cosmetology inspector in your area. The course costs $50.

Licensee Continuing Education

At this time, only electric nail filing and microdermabrasion services require continuing education before a licensee can perform them. This is a one-time education requirement. See the Electric Nail Filing Requirements. Always check with your inspector to see if there are any changes to the rules. It is your responsibility to know the rules and regulations. If there are any questions, call the Commission office at 605-773-6193.

When renewing your license(s), remember:

  • The expiration date is printed on the license
  • License fees are non-refundable
  • Fees changed January 1, 2008
  • The lower part of the license is the renewal form for the upcoming year
  • Make any name or address changes on the form

Click here to log into renew your license online.

South Dakota License Verification

To confirm the current license status of any person licensed by the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission, click here.

South Dakota Exams

The commission requires that each person seeking a license be examined for basic knowledge and skills. The required State Board examinations are the NIC (National-Interstate Council) theory, the NIC hands-on practical and the South Dakota laws/rules test for cosmetology, esthetics and nail technology. If you have completed your education in South Dakota, use the Exam and Temporary License Application for the examination and temporary license.

The following Candidate Information Bulletins (CIB) give details for the written and practical examinations. Read the bulletins carefully so you will know what to expect and what supplies you will need to bring to the practical exam. South Dakota uses the National-Interstate Council of State Board of Cosmetology (NIC) practical and written theory examinations.

South Dakota Reciprocity Requirements

To become a licensed cosmetologist, esthetician or nail technician in South Dakota through reciprocity, you must already have a current license from another state, and your out-of-state license must have equal or greater requirements compared to those of South Dakota. If you do not have a current license, then you should apply as a out-of-state student.

Education Hours

These hours must be certified by your previous state. If you do not meet the required hours, see Work Experience below.

  • Cosmetologist - 2100 education hours
  • Esthetician - 600 education hours
  • Nail technician - 400 education hours
Work Experience

These hours may be added to the education hours (reciprocity only) if you do not meet the required education hours. Two hours of work experience equals one hour of education. For example, if you worked for 2000 hours, you can count 1000 hours, which is the maximum you can apply toward your cosmetologist education hours. If your work hours date from more than five years before your South Dakota application date, you must take a safety/sanitation course from the Commission.

Maximum Computed Work Hours
  • Cosmetologist - up to 1000 hours
  • Esthetician - up to 350 hours
  • Nail technician - up to 200 hours
Current License from Another State

An inactive license is accepted.

Age of 18 Years or Older

You need a copy of your birth certificate, a naturalization record or a US government photo identification.
A High School Education or GED. You need a copy of any one of the following items:

Passage of Required Testing

The South Dakota written laws and rules test is required of everyone. Study materials are provided after the application is approved. Testing content is as follows.

  • Cosmetologist - Theory and hands-on practical examinations from another state. These tests cannot be given by school officials
  • Esthetician - National (NIC) theory examination and National (NIC) hands-on practical examination in South Dakota only
  • Nail technician - National (NIC) theory examination and National (NIC) hands-on practical examination in South Dakota only
  • Reciprocity Fee of $100

This includes application verification, any examinations and initial license. It is non-refundable.


Documentation of licensure, education and testing is through a certification from the state(s) where you hold or have ever held a license. Certification can take time to obtain and most have a fee, so call your state(s) immediately. You must obtain a certification from each board/commission that has issued you a license. All certifications must be sent directly to the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission from the other board(s). They accept education proof only from the original state board, not from the school.

Temporary License

A temporary license may be issued if the applicant has a job lined up and qualifies for a temporary license. Temporary licenses are not issued to nail technicians or estheticians seeking reciprocity from Florida due to the fact that Florida does not license these practices. The fee for a temporary license is $6.00 (non-refundable). It is valid until you receive the results of your examinations.

Note: All reciprocity paperwork and fees must be received before a temporary license can be issued. You cannot work until you have a valid South Dakota license to post at your work site.

Getting Your South Dakota License

You need to know the following:

  • Incomplete applications are held for only three months
  • There are no refunds once an application is processed
  • You will be sent the laws/rules book and examination information after your reciprocity paperwork has been approved
  • The national (NIC) examinations are administered at various times throughout the year in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown
  • Written examinations are offered in English and Vietnamese. The practical exam is only offered in English; no interpreters are allowed
  • Reasonable testing accommodations for a disability can be provided. However, any disability will have to be documented by a physician or licensed professional

Be sure to read the Reciprocity Checklist that is included with the application below. If you have any questions, please feel free to call our staff at 605-773-6193.


The following forms for Reciprocity Licensing are available:

Foreign Applicants

If you are from a foreign country and wish to apply for a South Dakota license, you must:

  • Have a current, active license or certificate from your country. (If you do not, you must apply as a graduated student and any work credit will not be accepted)
  • Meet the minimum education requirements (2100 hours for cosmetology; 600 hours for esthetics; 400 hours for nail technicians). You may add documented work credit hours to education hours (600 hours maximum for cosmetology; 250 hours maximum for esthetics; 100 hours maximum for nail technicians. For example, 1500 education hours + 600 work hours = 2100 hours)
  • Have your education evaluated by a professional education company and submit the report to the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission. (A list of evaluation companies is below. You must pay for any evaluation costs)
  • Complete required education hours from a South Dakota school (300 hours for cosmetology; 150 hours for esthetics; 60 hours for nail technicians). This education must include:
    • Federal safety requirements (OSHA and FDA)
    • South Dakota safety and sanitation requirements (laws/rules)
    • United States product information
  • Submit the following in English (any translations must be done by an official translator):
    • Reciprocity application
    • Copy of birth certificate or naturalization record
    • Copy of high school education or GED
    • Current photograph
    • Work credit (if necessary)
    • Education evaluation report mentioned above
    • Proof of education from your South Dakota school
  • Pay the required application and examination fees ($100)
  • Take and pass the NIC national theory test, the NIC hands-on practical test and the South Dakota state laws/rules test from the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission
Evaluation and Translation Services

The South Dakota Cosmetology Commission requires that all foreign-language education documents, including high school diplomas, must be translated and evaluated by Aequo International prior to processing any application for licensure (including temporary or student licenses) in South Dakota. Effective September 25, 2015, all high school diplomas earned thru on-line education need to be verified by Aequo International as well. It is your responsibility as the applicant to contact Aequo International to apply for the translation/evaluation of your foreign-language education documents or verification of your on-line high school diploma.

Contact information for Aequo International is shown below. Aequo will provide the Cosmetology Commission with a detailed report of your education translation and evaluation. The Commission will not accept translations or evaluations from any other source or directly from the applicant.

Aequo International Contact Information

On-line Application (Select Cosmetology and then South Dakota)

If you need assistance:
Phone: 844-882-3786

Out-of-State Applicants - Not Licensed (Student Applications)

If you do not have a license from another state, but do have education in another state, you will need to apply for a license in South Dakota as an out-of-state student. Your original state board of cosmetology must provide an affidavit/certification attesting to the school and the hours you earned. The certification must be sent directly to our office.

They do not accept the education hours directly from the an out-of-state school, only from the State Board. If certification cannot be obtained from the state board of cosmetology, the schooling education hours cannot be accepted. A cosmetologist applicant must have 2,100 hours; an esthetician applicant 600 hours; and a nail technician applicant 400 hours. As a graduated student, you must provide:

  • A completed application
  • The $80 examination fee (a money order made payable to SD Cosmetology Commission)
  • A copy of your high school graduation record or GED
  • A copy of your birth record or naturalization record
  • A recent photograph

All paperwork must be received at least two weeks before the examination date. See their Exam Schedule page for upcoming dates when the exam will be given. Once registered for the examination, we will send you a candidate brochure, state laws/rules booklet and information on the exam procedures. Approximately two weeks before the date of the boards, we will send you an admission notice, detailing what you must bring to the exam.

The examinations consist of a national (NIC) written exam, a national (NIC) hands-on practical exam and a South Dakota state written laws/rules exam. The written exams can take up to two hours. The practical exam is timed and is approximately 2 1/2 hours (nails or esthetics) or 3 hours (cosmetology).

A temporary license to practice in South Dakota before taking the examination is available. The fee is $6.00 (a money order made payable to State Cosmetology Board). The temporary license is valid until the examination results are received. Use the Application for Examination in South Dakota form.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Commission staff at 605-773-6193.

South Dakota Cosmetology School Hours

Type Requirements
Cosmetologist License 2100 Hours
Esthetician License 600 Hours
Nail Technician License 400 Hours
Cosmetology Instructor License Cosmetology License + 1000 Hours Work Experience + 1012 Hours
Massage Therapist License 500 Hours

South Dakota Apprenticeships

Cosmetology apprenticeships are covered by South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL) 36-15-42 through 36-16-50 and Administrative Rule of South Dakota (ARSD) 20:42:07. There are several required steps before an apprenticeship is approved by the Commission and allowed to start.

Step One

Read the following four detailed lists of requirements.

  • Apprentices
  • Senior Instructors - Follow the Instructions for obtaining an instructor's license
  • Physical Requirements
  • Curriculum Requirements
Step Two

If you decide to proceed with an apprenticeship, complete the Checklist for Proposed Apprenticeship. This checklist must be completed and submitted to the Executive Director before an interview can be scheduled.

Step Three

Ask for an interview with the supervising inspector and a commissioner. A staff member will schedule a date and time for the interview. It is important that all parties understand their responsibilities. The inspector and commissioner will review the laws, rules and policies with everyone involved. They will also review all lesson plans that must be ready before the start of the apprenticeship.

Step Four

The person(s) who will be the instructor(s) must apply for the instructor license using the Instructor License Application Form and comply with the educational requirements.

Step Five

They will send you a letter containing the decision whether to approve the apprenticeship. If approved, you will receive an Apprenticeship Application that need to be completed and returned to the office with the appropriate fees.

Step Six

The appropriate licenses will be sent to you with a formal letter stating the assigned start date and estimated end date of the apprenticeship. After all applications and fees are submitted and processed, a letter with the official start date and official ending date is sent to all participants. The apprenticeship cannot start until this letter and license(s) are received by the participants. There is a three-month probation period. During the apprenticeship, you must complete the probation period, pass inspections, and complete and submit a required Weekly Report form.

When the apprenticeship is complete, you must complete the Apprentice Training Record and submit an Exam and Temporary License Application Form. The apprentice must take the state boards, which consist of theory, practical and state laws examinations. Please refer to the SDCL and ARSD links above for the complete wording of the laws and rules. If you have any questions regarding the above information, please feel free to call us at 605-773-6193.