How to Become a Social Worker in North Carolina

There are a lot of advantages to living and working in North Carolina, like the weather and the low cost of living. Whether you’re a resident or not, you might be attracted to it as a place to go to school or start your career. If you’re considering a career in social work, you should get to know North Carolina’s educational opportunities and licensing requirements. There are numerous on-campus and hybrid-online, accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs to choose from. Learn how to become a social worker in North Carolina, including education and licensure requirements and programs to attend.

Information below was retrieved May 2022 and is only meant to be a high-level overview. Requirements may change, always check with the state licensing board for complete and up to date information

Sponsored online social work programs

University of Denver


Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

  • Complete the Online Advanced-Standing MSW in as few as 12 months if you have a BSW; if you do not have a BSW, the Online MSW Program may be completed in as few as 27 months.
  • No GRE Required
  • Customizable pathway options include Mental Health and Trauma or Health, Equity and Wellness concentrations

Fordham University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

  •  Traditional and advanced standing online MSW options are available.
  • There are four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy.
  • Pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time track.

Hawaii Pacific University


Master of Social Work

The online Master of Social Work prepares aspiring social work leaders to develop a multicultural social work practice, advocate for social and economic justice, and empower diverse communities affected by systemic inequities within civilian and military-focused areas. 

  • Learn how to develop a multicultural social work practice.  
  • Pending accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
  • Complete in 18 months full time, or in 36 months part time on the traditional track.
  • Complete in 12 months full time or 24 months part time on the Advanced Standing Track. 

Simmons University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 9 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

  • Prepares students to pursue licensure, including LCSW 
  • Full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks 
  • Minimum completion time: 9 months

Howard University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

  • Concentrations: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice
  • Complete at least 777-1,000 hours of agency-based field education
  • Earn your degree in as few as 12 months

Syracuse University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available.

  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks
  • No GRE required
  • Concentrate your degree in integrated practice or clinical practice

Case Western Reserve University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

  • CSWE-accredited
  • No GRE requirement
  • Complete in as few as one and a half years


Common Steps to Become a North Carolina Social Worker 

1. Complete an Accredited Degree Program

Most social work licenses in North Carolina require a minimum of a master’s in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). But you also can complete a bachelor’s in social work and obtain a certified social worker license that lets you hold certain positions.

If you didn’t get a bachelor’s degree in social work, it isn’t too late to become a social worker. Many North Carolina MSW programs offer two-year paths that provide foundational and specialized education. You don’t have to have a BSW to get an MSW. 

2. Apply to the Board to Take the ASWB Exam

Once you’ve completed your accredited degree program, the next step is to apply for permission to take the appropriate exam with the Social Work Certification and Licensure Board. There’s a $115 application fee, and you’ll have to provide materials like an official transcript and three references from professors, supervisors, managers, or other mentors.  

3. Complete Work Experience Requirements

If you want to become a clinical social work or a social work manager in North Carolina, you have to gain 3,000 hours of post-graduate work experience. There are several components to this field experience. You need at least 100 hours of supervised work, and only a small amount of that can be from group supervision. You have to document your hours and supervision, and as a clinical associate, you have to update the Board on your program every six months. 

4. Pass the ASWB Exam

The Board will approve you to take the exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Which exam you take depends on which license you’re pursuing. North Carolina has you take the ASWB Bachelor, ASWB Master, ASWB Clinical, or the ASWB Advanced Generalist exams, depending on the license you want. 

5. Receive Certification from the Board

You’ll notify the Board of passing the ASWB exam, and within a few weeks, you’ll receive your license or certification.

Social Work Degree Programs in North Carolina

North Carolina colleges and universities offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in social work that are accredited by CSWE. You can attend classes on campus during a one- or two-year full-time program. Or you can find part-time programs while you work, whether classes take place on campus or are a mixture of online and in-person sessions. Universities also offer different concentrations and specialties. Some focus on general practice, while others emphasize clinical work. Having so many options can help you choose the best fit for your circumstances and career goals. 

Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs

Online MSW Programs North Carolina

Although none of the accredited MSW programs in North Carolina are 100% online, many universities offer hybrid programs for those who can’t participate in a full-time program on campus. Many of the hybrid programs are a mix of online and face-to-face classes evenings and weekends. 

Also, as a North Carolina resident, you aren’t limited to online MSW programs in the state—you can seek online programs offered to out-of-state students. There are many online-only options, including those that focus on clinical training or advanced standing programs, if you already have a BSW. Looking at fully online programs also gives you the opportunity to look for universities that offer a specific concentration or specialty. 

Most MSW programs require a certain amount of field experience, though. While you can pursue a degree online, you will have to find internship opportunities where you live. 

Social Work Licenses in North Carolina

North Carolina has four levels of credentials administered by the Social Work Certification and Licensure Board: certified social worker, certified master social worker, licensed clinical social worker, certified social work manager and licensed clinical social worker associate. The first three levels are voluntary, but the state requires the fourth for social workers who wish to gain a clinical license. You must obtain the associate license to gain the necessary clinical work experience. 

Certified Social Worker (CSW) 

  • Education: BSW program accredited by CSWE
  • Work Experience: None
  • Exam: Apply to Board to take the ASWB Bachelors Exam
  • Renewal: 2 years, $70 fee, 40 hours of continuing education 

Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) 

  • Education: MSW, Doctor of Social Work (DSW), or PhD in social work program accredited by CSWE
  • Work Experience: None
  • Exam: Apply to Board to take ASWB Master’s Exam
  • Renewal: 40 hours of continuing education 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Association (LCSWA) 

  • Education: MSW, DSW, or PhD in social work program accredited by CSWE
  • Work Experience: None
  • Exam: Must pass the ASWB Clinical Exam within two years to renew  
  • Renewal: 2 years, 40 hours of continuing education. Cannot exceed six years (two renewal cycles). 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) 

  • Education: MSW, DSW, or PhD in social work program accredited by CSWE
  • Work Experience: LCSWA and 3,000 hours of post-graduate clinical social work services, including 100 hours of supervision by an LCSW in good standing. Must be accumulated between 2 and 6 years
  • Exam: Apply to Board to take the ASWB Clinical Exam
  • Renewal: 2 years, 40 hours of continuing education 

Learn more about how to become a LCSW.

Certified Social Work Manager (CSWM) 

  • Education: BSW, MSW, DSW or PhD in social work program accredited by CSWE
  • Work Experience: 3,000 hours of post-degree paid employment in administrative social work duties, including 100 hours of supervision by a Board-certified administrator
  • Exam: Apply to Board to take ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam
  • Renewal: 2 years, 40 hours of continuing education 

Social Work Salaries for North Carolina

One factor in deciding to pursue an MSW is the salary you can hope to earn. Salaries for MSWs vary by location, though. Be sure to look at statistics for where you might practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2022, the annual mean salaries for social workers in North Carolina were: 

North Carolina Social Work CareersNumber of Social Workers in North CarolinaAnnual Mean Social Work Salary
Child, Family and School Social Workers
Healthcare Social Workers
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Social Workers, All Other

Information on the above social work salaries in Alabama was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates North Carolina in May 2022.

These figures are for the entire state. Average salaries can vary by region. For example, the average salaries for some social worker positions are higher in the Charlotte and Durham metropolitan areas than in the state overall. Salaries also vary depending on the setting, the position, your license, years of experience, and other factors. 

North Carolina Social Work Scholarships

You might hesitate to go back to school without financial assistance. Luckily, there are often social work scholarships available. One social work scholarship you can apply for in North Carolina is the N.C. Student Loan Program for Health, Science and Mathematics. Full-time students in an accredited health, science or math program can earn $8,500 per year in loan forgiveness, up to $34,000 for a four-year program. 

Always talk with a university or college about applying for scholarships. There might be some available to all students, to graduate students specifically, or to students in the social work program. You can also search social work associations for scholarship opportunities, such as the Presidents’ Award given to an MSW student member of the National Association of Social Workers, North Carolina Chapter. 

North Carolina Social Work Organizations

There are numerous social work associations students and licensed professionals can join. They typically offer educational, training and networking opportunities, continuing education, and other support. In some cases, they have scholarship opportunities for social work students. Another reason to consider joining a social work association is for mentoring opportunities. Connecting with licensed professionals can help you understand what to expect during a job hunt and at the beginning of your career. 

Social work organizations include: 


Does North Carolina have social work reciprocity?

The Board reviews each application individually and offers licenses based on verifying “substantial equivalence” with the other jurisdiction in terms of education and examination requirements. If you are licensed in another state when you move to North Carolina, you can apply for a license. Whether or not the Board grants you a license depends on whether you had similar training and passed the same exam North Carolina requires. If not, you might be required to pass an exam again.

What are the social work continuing education (C.E.) requirements in North Carolina? 

Every two years, social workers in North Carolina must complete 40 hours of continuing education. If you have your initial license for fewer than two years, you have to complete 30 hours. In both situations, you must take at least four hours related to social work ethics. 

What is the best way to look up my social work license in North Carolina?

You can’t work as a social worker without a valid license. And even with a license, you’re limited in which types of duties you can perform. Each state offers the ability to look up a professional’s license to verify their qualifications. You can conduct an online search through the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board. 

Start a Career in Social Work in North Carolina

If you are interested in a career in social work, North Carolina offers several traditional and hybrid accredited MSW programs. The bottom line is there are enough options to fit any prospective student’s circumstances. 

Last Updated: April 2022