Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota Cosmetology Commission

Exam Schedule and Procedures

The Cosmetology Commission will be administering State Board exams as shown below. Dates and locations may change during the year, but sufficient notice will be given regarding any date changes to the exam schedule for those affected. If needed, the commission will add additional days to accommodate school graduations.

Exam applicants will be scheduled based upon their graduation date once the application and $100 fee have been received by mail. Those who will be graduating closest to the next available examination date will be scheduled first. The remaining slots will be filled with applicants who are further from their graduation date. Examination spots will not be held for faxed applications or emailed requests for a specific exam date.

If you have completed your education in South Dakota and have a job lined up, use the Exam and Temporary License Application (also available from our Forms page) for the examination and temporary license.

If you have already applied for State Board examinations and now have a job lined up, use the Temporary License Application.

The following examination is required for South Dakota licensure as a cosmetologist, esthetician, or nail technician:

  • Written Theory Examination — South Dakota administers the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) theory examination. There are separate examinations specific to cosmetology, esthetics, and nail technology.
  • Written Practical Examination — South Dakota administers the NIC written theory examination as of May 2022. There are separate examinations specific to cosmetology, esthetics, and nail technology. This exam is only available in English.
    • Candidate Information Bulletins for the written practical examination are available below for your information and review. They are in a printable PDF format.
  • South Dakota State Laws and Rules Examination — At this time, South Dakota only administers the State Laws and Rules exam to students whose education was earned out of state or who are becoming licensed through reciprocity.

The examinations are administered by the Cosmetology Commission in Pierre. We administer State Board Examinations one weekday per month (with an occasional month not having exams).

When registered, candidates are mailed a notice of their examination date. Approximately two weeks before the examination date, candidates are mailed their official Admission Notice. Candidates cannot request a certain exam date or change their mind at the last minute. If they choose to not come on the date they are scheduled, it will be an unexcused absence and they will need to reapply and pay the exam fee again. (The policy for excused absences remains the same -- we allow excused absences for personal illness with a doctor’s note or death of an immediate family member.) We will not accept additional applications for an examination date after the Admission Notices have been mailed.

Candidates must bring the following documents with them to the State Board examinations:

  • Admission Notice
  • Government-issued Photo ID
  • Temporary License (if issued one)
    (NOTE: There is no need to bring a student license to the examinations.)

South Dakota allows individuals who have completed their education to apply for a temporary license if they have a job lined up. The temporary license will be issued when we receive (a) completed temporary license application, showing where the individual is going to work, (b) $6 temporary license fee, and (c) completed Student Education Record/Time sheet. A temporary license is valid until the individual takes their State Board examination. An unexcused absence for the scheduled exam date will invalidate the temporary license, and the candidate cannot continue to work as a cosmetologist, esthetician, or nail technician until they pass all State Board exams. The law allows for only one lifetime temporary license per individual.

If a candidate with a temporary license fails any one of their examinations, the temporary license is no longer valid, and it is not returned to them. They cannot work as a cosmetologist, esthetician, or nail technician until they retake and pass the exam(s) that they failed. If a candidate fails one or more exams, information will be provided about scheduling a retake exam(s). Retake exams are scheduled at the Commission office in Pierre.

If the candidate passes all required exams, they are issued their regular license before they leave if we have received their completed Student Education Record (SER) from their school. If a candidate passes their examinations and is still in school, or the Commission office has not yet received their completed SER, the license will be issued upon receipt of the SER from the school.

2023 Exam Schedule
Thursday, Jan. 19 State Board Exams
Thursday, March 16 State Board Exams
Thursday, May 18 State Board Exams
Thursday, July 20 State Board Exams
Thursday, Sept. 28 State Board Exams
Thursday, Nov. 16 State Board Exams
Note: Calendar is subject to change throughout the year.