How to Become a Social Worker in North Carolina

North Carolina Social Work Licensing Requirements

Social Work is an academic discipline that leads to a specialized profession in which credentialed individuals provide assessment, counseling, intervention and support services to various individuals or groups. Those who obtain social work services, for example, include people undergoing psychological issues as well as others who need help obtaining social and health services. Since the practice of social work deals directly with the health, wellness, and safety of individuals receiving assistance, the process of becoming licensed and practice of it is strictly regulated.

In North Carolina, there are two licenses available to those who have met the educational, examination, and experience criteria established by the State Board:

Both types of licensure come with their own requirements that qualify candidates to perform different levels of social work services. See these requirements broken down below:

Licensed Clinical Social
Worker Associate
MSW, DSW, or PhD in
Social Work 
No supervised
experience required
for initial licensure
No examination
required for initial
Licensed Clinical Social
Worker (LCSW)
MSW, DSW or PhD in
Social Work 
Minimum of 3,000
hours of post MSW
paid clinical
supervised clinical
practice, accumulated
in less than two (2) &
nor more than six (6)
ASWB Clinical level

Learn more about social work degrees in North Carolina

LCSWA Requirements in North Carolina

  1. Education: Applicants must hold an advanced degree in Social Work in order to obtain become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate. This means they must hold a MSW, DSW, or PhD in social work from a CSWE accredited school.
  2. Supervised Experience: No supervised experience is required prior to receiving the LCSWA license, as applicants obtain this license prior to receiving the LCSW. Upon being issued the license, LCSWA licensees are allowed to practice social work only under appropriate supervision.
  3. Examination: LCSWA licensees gain approval to sit for the ASWB clinical examination upon receipt of the license. As prescribed by the Board, they must pass the clinical examination within their 2 years of having their associate license. If a licensee does not pass the exam initially, he or she can re-test after 90 days, but the re-examination must take place prior to the LCSWA license expiration date. He or she must also pay another exam processing fee to the Board in this case.
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LCSW Requirements in North Carolina

  1. Education: Upon licensure, applicants are eligible to complete their supervised experience practice hours and sit for the clinical examination, after which they can apply to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
  2. Supervised Experience: Under no fewer than two years and over no more than six years, the licensee must obtain a minimum of 3,000 hours of appropriately supervised clinical practice. The supervisor of the licensee must be a LCSW with two years of post-LCSW experience. He or she must have obtained at least an MSW degree from a CSWE accredited university and currently be in good standing with the Board, i.e. not under discipline.
  3. Not all hours of practice must be directly supervised. However, a minimum of 100 supervision hours—at a ratio of 1 supervision hour for every 30 hours practiced—must be met in order to obtain LCSW status. Only 25 practice hours maximum can be met via group supervision. The remaining hours must be met via one-on-one supervision.Supervision and practice hours will be submitted to the Board every 6 months, reported through the LCSWA Six-Month Review Form. Legal action may be taken if licensee fails to report to the Board.
  4. Examination: The LCSWA is renewable after two years of the initial licensure date only if the licensee passes the ASWB clinical examination. Supervision and experienced completed under an expired license will not rollover to the new license.

The Importance of CSWE Accreditation

The Council of Social Work Education has developed standards that post-secondary and graduated level programs must meet via multistep process in order to obtain CSWE accreditation. Every state across the U.S. requires licensed social workers to attend a CSWE-accredited program. This ensures that licensees have obtained the proper critical thinking skills and knowledge that are necessary to practice Social Work.

Persons without a CSWE-accredited degree could potentially apply with their respective state board for an exemption. However, the majority of exemptions are typically granted to individuals already licensed to practice other related disciplines like medicine or psychology.

Search Accredited Social Work Programs

Additional Resources for Social Workers in North Carolina: