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Across North Carolina, social workers contribute to the health and wellbeing of clients from birth through adulthood. Working in many subfields, North Carolina social workers strengthen their communities in a variety of ways. Child and family social workers help vulnerable families access support services, while school social workers provide support for students struggling with their academic performance or bullying.

Some social workers also specialize in the healthcare field, focusing on areas like mental health and substance use disorders. Clinical social workers, for example, diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. To become a clinical social worker, candidates must earn a master’s degree and complete the state’s licensure process.

North Carolina social workers earn an average annual income of nearly $50,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

For many, earning a social work degree in North Carolina is the first step toward a fulfilling career in social work. North Carolina social workers earn an average annual income of nearly $50,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), making it an above-average field in terms of salary.

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Becoming a social worker takes several years, making it a major commitment. While students can earn a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree in four years, a master of social work (MSW) degree requires an additional two years of coursework. Both degrees also include an internship or practicum component in which students gain field experience. After completing the educational requirements for a North Carolina social work license, candidates must meet work experience requirements and pass an examination. The career path appeals to people who want to support individuals, families, and groups in their community.

How to Become a Social Worker in North Carolina

To become a social worker in North Carolina, candidates must meet the educational, experience, and testing requirements, which can take several years. The first step is earning a social work degree in North Carolina or another state. Most social workers begin with a BSW, but before enrolling in a college or university, students must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent and most must take the SAT or ACT. The typical social work program in North Carolina takes students four years to complete.

most master’s-level social work programs in North Carolina take two years, and include a practicum component

After earning a bachelor’s degree, social work program graduates can apply for North Carolina’s certified social worker certification. However, many advanced positions, including clinical social work jobs, require a master’s degree. The admission process for MSW programs usually requires a bachelor’s in social work or a related field and GRE scores. Most master’s-level social work programs in North Carolina take two years, and include a practicum component so that students gain field experience. Social work schools in North Carolina give students the option to pursue a variety of specialties within the profession.

MSW graduates can apply for any of North Carolina’s certifications and licenses. In addition to meeting educational requirements, candidates for licensure must show their work experience and pass the required Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. After earning a certification or license, North Carolina social workers must renew their board-issued title every two years and meet continuing education requirements. Although the process requires a substantial commitment, professional social workers gain prestige and qualify for specialized jobs by maintaining licenses and certifications.

Types of Social Work Degrees in North Carolina

Social work schools in North Carolina offer degrees for students from the associate to doctoral level. An associate degree takes two years of coursework and prepares graduates for entry-level positions or to transfer into a four-year program. A bachelor’s in social work program in North Carolina meets the educational requirement for several state licenses and credentials. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, students gain valuable skills and knowledge, including hands-on experience through an internship or practicum.

After earning a bachelor’s social work degree in North Carolina, many graduates pursue a MSW to become clinical social workers or pursue advanced positions. An MSW typically takes two years and also includes a practicum. With an MSW, North Carolina social workers qualify for any of the state’s licenses, as long as they meet the experience and testing requirements. At the highest level, social workers can pursue a doctorate, which allows graduates to hold college-level teaching and research positions. Graduates with higher degrees benefit from expanded job opportunities and a higher salary potential.

Associate Degree

An associate degree in social work introduces students to the field and prepares graduates for entry-level positions in human services. With an associate degree, students can transfer into a four-year institution and complete a BSW in two years or less.

Bachelor’s Degree

Students earning a BSW complete coursework on social work practice methods and working with vulnerable populations, in addition to a practicum to gain field experience. In North Carolina, a BSW meets the state’s educational requirement for the certified social worker designation.

Master’s Degree

A master’s in social work requires two years of coursework, including field experience, and many graduate students choose to specialize their degree with a concentration in a particular subfield. Several career paths, including clinical social work, require a master’s degree.

Doctoral Degree

Social workers interested in a doctoral degree can choose between a Ph.D. in social work, which emphasizes research and prepares graduates for a career in academia, or a doctor of social work (DSW), which focuses on practice. Both degrees require and additional 3-5 years of study after earning an MSW.

Finding a Social Work Program in North Carolina

Before entering the profession, prospective social workers must choose the right social work program for their interests and career goals. With so many choices, including online social work programs in North Carolina, some students struggle to narrow down their options. Each program’s curriculum, graduation requirements, and tuition bills can look quite different. When choosing a social work program, students must consider cost, location, the degree completion time, and the program’s specialization options.

These factors are often related. The cost of a social work degree, for example, may depend on the student’s residency status and the number of required credits to complete the degree. Some schools offer tuition discounts for online students, and students can also use scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid to lower costs. In addition to influencing cost, location shapes field experience placements and access to support resources. The program structure, including the credit requirements and internship expectations, can also influence the degree completion time.

Many social work professionals specialize in fields like child and family services, healthcare, or clinical social work. Several online social work programs in North Carolina offer concentrations in these areas, which can help students pursue their desired career path after graduation.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, many students choose to earn their degree online. Online social work programs in North Carolina meet the state’s licensing requirements. However, students considering an online program need to ensure that it holds accreditation from the CSWE. As the only accrediting agency for social work programs in the U.S., CSWE certifies schools that meet high educational standards. This programmatic seal of approval is crucial for North Carolina social workers who plan to pursue certification or licensure, as the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board only licenses graduates from CSWE-accredited programs.

Top Online Social Work Program in North Carolina

Many students prefer the flexibility and accessibility of an online social work degree. An online program allows students to access course materials at any time and from any place, which benefits students who are balancing work or family obligations with school. Many North Carolina social work programs offer both in-person and online versions, which meet the same academic standards.

Students enrolled in an online social work program in North Carolina also complete all field experience requirements. In most cases, students arrange their practicum at an approved local site, working with the program and local resources to gain hands-on experience while building a local network.

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How Long Does It Take to Become a Social Worker in North Carolina?

Students can pursue social work programs in North Carolina at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Social workers may enter the field by completing an associate degree, which qualifies graduates for entry-level jobs in human services. Associate programs typically require 60 credits, and students can complete the degree in two years. After earning an associate degree, graduates can transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Most social workers in North Carolina either hold a BSW or an MSW. Depending on the program and its requirements, students typically complete a 120-credit bachelor’s degree in four years, and a master’s in social work requires around 60 credits, which takes an additional two years. Both degrees require substantial field experience components, typically structured as a practicum or internship.

Advanced social workers may decide to earn a doctorate, either a Ph.D. in social work or a DSW. The Ph.D. in social work prepares graduates to work in academia, pursue careers in research, or manage social work organizations, while the DSW focuses on practice. Either doctoral degree often requires an additional 3-5 years of study after the MSW.

Some schools’ online social work degrees offer set start and finish times, following the cohort model, while others use an individually paced format, which allows students to complete coursework when it best suits their schedule.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in North Carolina?

Prospective North Carolina social workers need to consider the cost of entering the profession. Before they can practice, social workers need to earn a degree — typically a BSW or MSW — pass exams, and pay for the licensure process. While the cost of a social work program in North Carolina varies, students need to make a plan for the expenses related to becoming a social worker.

Many institutions offer tuition discounts for state residents or online students, and social work students can also benefit from scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Because the cost of a social work degree in North Carolina can vary, students need to research specific programs and factor the cost into their decision.

After earning a degree, social workers still need to pass the ASWB examination, which costs between $230 and $260 depending on the exam. Licensed social workers in North Carolina also spend $115 to earn their initial license and between $70 and $150 to renew it every two years, depending on the license type. Social workers must also complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain the license. NASW offers free and discounted continuing education resources for members.

Types of Social Work Licenses in North Carolina

Certain social work professions, such as clinical social workers, must hold a state license to practice in their field. In North Carolina, the Social Work Certification and Licensure Board administers, renews, and verifies state licensure for the field. The board offers three voluntary certifications for non-clinical social workers and one license that is mandatory for clinical social workers. Each license sets different educational requirements, and all require passing scores on the appropriate ASWB exam.

North Carolina requires clinical social workers to earn the licensed clinical social worker license prior to beginning their clinical practice

Social workers with a BSW can earn North Carolina’s certified social worker designation by passing the bachelor’s-level ASWB exam. The title does not require prior work experience. At the master’s level, social workers with an MSW or higher can receive the certified master social worker designation after passing the master’s level ASWB exam. The state’s certified social work manager designation requires a BSW, MSW, or doctoral degree plus passing scores on the advanced generalist ASWB exam. Candidates must also complete 3,000 hours of post-degree work experience. Social workers must renew each of these certifications every two years.

North Carolina requires clinical social workers to earn the licensed clinical social worker license prior to beginning their clinical practice. Candidates must hold an MSW or higher, and take the clinical level ASWB exam. Applicants also need at least 3,000 hours of clinical work experience. While meeting the experience requirements, clinical social workers hold the licensed clinical social worker associate certification.

In addition to certifications and licenses issued by North Carolina’s official office, social workers can also earn credentials that recognize their professional competency in a specific field of social work. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), for example, offers credentials in specializations such as school social work, palliative care, and substance use disorders. The educational and experience requirements for these credentials vary, and many require a specific examination. While several social work organizations offer credentials, the specialty credential examples listed below are offered by NASW.


In North Carolina, you can voluntarily pursue the title of CSW. To do so, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). In addition, you must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s-level exam, which costs $230. The state also requires you to pay a $115 application fee.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


To become a C-SWCM, social workers must hold a bachelor’s degree in the field with three years of professional experience after graduation. Applicants must hold a valid state social work license or earn a passing score on the ASWB bachelor’s level exam.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

After earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, North Carolina social workers can take a variety of career paths. Some specialize in working in child services, either through nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or as school social workers. Others provide health services as healthcare social workers, mental health professionals, and clinical social workers. Some fields, like clinical social work, require an MSW and a license. Social work programs in North Carolina offer concentrations in many of these fields.

Social Worker

Social workers of all kinds assist people with solving problems in their everyday lives. They work in a variety of settings, such as schools, nonprofit agencies, and in healthcare services. A BSW is typically the minimum educational requirement.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

In North Carolina, 11,000 people work as child, family, and school social workers, supporting vulnerable populations. These social workers help students succeed academically, support parents and children during the adoption process, and place at-risk youth in foster homes.

Clinical Social Worker

A clinical social worker diagnoses and treats behavioral, emotional, and mental issues. In order to practice, they must have an MSW, work experience, and a state-issued license.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Social workers who specialize in mental health and substance abuse issues support individuals, families, and groups dealing with mental and behavioral problems. While some employers require a BSW for this profession, many prefer an MSW.

Social Service Managers

Combining social work skills with management abilities, social service managers coordinate and supervise programs at government and private agencies. Many positions require a graduate degree.


 EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers11,000$46,820
Healthcare Social Workers3,460$53,330
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers2,920$47,660
Social Workers, All Other920$55,160

Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in North Carolina

Social work students across North Carolina rely on scholarships, grants, and other funding sources to cover the cost of earning a social work degree. Students enrolled in online social work programs in North Carolina also qualify for a variety of scholarships. By researching funding options, social work students may be able to lessen the cost of their degree.

Social Work Scholarships


Who Can Apply: NCSCSW offers this scholarship for students enrolled in an MSW program in the state. Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to reducing behavioral health disparities. View Scholarship


Resources for Social Work Students in North Carolina

  • North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board This organization provides social work certifications and licenses and processes renewals, licensure verifications, and formal complaints.
  • National Association of Social Workers — North Carolina Chapter The North Carolina branch of NASW advocates for the state’s social workers. The organization also provides an online job bank, resources for social work students, professional development resources, and local conferences for its members.
  • North Carolina Society for Clinical Social Work Specializing in clinical social work, this organization promotes ethical practice and high standards for the field. Members can take advantage of workshops, presentations, and courses geared toward clinical social workers.
  • Association of Social Work Boards Dating back to 1978, ASWB administers social work exams for candidates for state licensure and helps develop state standards for licensing. The organization offers several different social work exams and provides guidance on the licensing process in different states.
  • National Association of Social Workers In addition to state and local chapters, NASW provides advocacy, professional guidelines, and a code of ethics for social workers across the country. With over 132,000 members, NASW offers continuing education resources, job support, and networking opportunities, including an annual conference.