Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the best states in the country for higher education, which is why it makes sense that the state is also a leader in social work degree programs as well. In fact, the Tarheel State has 35 accredited social work degree programs available to students and 12 of those programs are MSW programs leaving students with a lot of options if they intend to get licensed as a social worker in North Carolina as well. It is a good profession to be entering as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for social workers is growing about 19 percent annually. It’s even greater, at 23 percent, for social workers who specialize in mental health and substance abuse. As baby boomers get older and face more health issues, social workers will be the resource they turn to while finding the services they need to live a full life. Schools are another place where social workers make a difference in the lives of students who need assistance in coping with complex issues.

In North Carolina, the BLS estimates that there are nearly 20,000 social workers employed across the state and that makes it one of the best states in the country for finding work in the industry. The social workers in North Carolina make an annual average salary of between $44,610 and $48,670 depending on the social worker and his/her employer.

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The North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board is responsible for issuing licenses to social workers within the state. There are four levels of credentials available in North Carolina.

  • Certified Social Worker (CSW) is for applicants with the BSW
  • Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) for applicants with an MSW
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) requires the MSW, and 3,000 hours of direct clinical work while under supervision. This is the license necessary to practice clinical social work.
  • Certified Social Work Manager (CSWM) is for applicants with an MSW and 3,000 hours of post degree employment while under supervision.

Each license also requires sealed transcripts from the accredited college, three professional references, and an application fee. There is no reciprocity between other states and North Carolina. Applicants who wish to provide social work services in North Carolina must submit an application to the Board. Once the license is issued, it is good for two years, then re-application is required along with continuing education credits.

When looking for a college program to earn the MSW, the first consideration is that it is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Most programs require the BSW, but a student may be able to take required prerequisites if their degree is in another field. Although each school has an individual application, most require a personal statement and letters of reference with the student’s transcripts. Graduate schools with a social work program can be competitive. Having experience in the field through volunteer work or internships do help show commitment to the industry.

Most MSW programs can be completed in two to three years, depending on whether you attend full-time or part-time. Many colleges offer weekend or evening classes for professionals who need to continue working while they finish their degree. The coursework for the MSW includes lectures, classroom discussion, and fieldwork to gain real world experience with clients. Some programs do require a thesis, which is a larger project designed to gain insight into one area of interest.

Charlotte Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and thus has the largest population of professional social workers in the state. According to the BLS, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill metropolitan area has more than 3,000 professional social workers employed across the area. Now, Rock Hill is in South Carolina, so this data is skewed slightly, but it is still indicative of the size and opportunity in Charlotte for social workers. North Carolina is home to many different colleges which offer the Masters in Social Work degree. Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, #16 on U.S News & World Report’s college rankings for a historically black school offers the MSW, and their program includes 900 hours of fieldwork over the course of four semesters. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (and also the branches in Chapel Hill, Pembroke, and Wilmington) was named as one of the most affordable programs in the nation by one organization. It also has an advanced standing program to focus on the needs of those in North Carolina who are the most vulnerable.

Just north of Charlotte, Appalachian State University in Boone offers the MSW with a concentration in clinical practice or community development. ASU ranked #10 in Regional Universities in the U.S. News & World Report list for Southern colleges. Another college in the eastern part of the state, North Carolina Central University in Durham offers classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday. The program at NCCU takes two years to complete.

Raleigh Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina but its social work industry is smaller than its southern neighbor, Charlotte. In the Raleigh-Cary metro area, the BLS estimates there are more than 1,000 professional social workers and they are earning an annual wage of between &35,170 and $50,330. North Carolina State University in Raleigh ranks #79 on the U.S. News & World Report college list for social work, and Princeton Review ranked it as the 4th in Best Overall Public University Value.

With a BSW, a student can earn their MSW in one year at NCSU. West of Raleigh in Cullowhee, Western Carolina University also offers the advanced standing program, but it has the traditional full-time and part-time programs for those without a BSW. Shaw University offers a BSW to students while nearby prestigious universities like the University of North Carolina and North Carolina Central University offer a MSW and a BSW/MSW programs respectively.

Online Social Work Schools in North Carolina

Surprisingly, despite all of the schools offering social work education, only UNC-Chapel Hill offers online social work education. The school actually offers a three-year distance education MSW program. The CSWE has approved many online programs, and most of these can be entirely completed online and in the local community.

The University of Southern California is one of the most popular online programs and it does not require a visit to the school during the coursework. University of New England is also a top ranked program that is online. Fieldwork is arranged through the college but performed close to home.

Career Opportunities for Social Workers in North Carolina

Social workers have many employment opportunities in both public and private sectors. Currently, the government does employ the majority of social workers, but many in the industry believe this may change as budgets get tighter. It does not eliminate the need, and the private sector will have to meet the demand. Hospitals and community service organizations require social workers, not just to provide clinical services to individuals, but to help the population find resources and cope with challenging situations.

According to the BLS, the average annual wage for a North Carolina social worker is about $47,000. Although this is lower than the national average for social workers, it is in line with the average income in North Carolina that is not growing as fast as the national average.

There is a need for social workers across the United States. Although social work has traditionally been seen as a female profession, as about 82 percent of social workers are women, men are needed to serve the unique needs of the male population. It’s a good time to work toward an MSW to be in a rewarding career that serves the needs of the public.

For more information about the process of becoming a social worker in North Carolina, visit our page on North Carolina social worker license requirements.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in North Carolina

United States$27,800$34,230$43,250$56,740$75,140
North Carolina$32,550$38,520$45,380$53,030$62,310
Asheville, NC$24,870$33,540$41,350$52,910$59,300
Burlington, NC$31,260$34,370$39,570$46,110$50,590
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC$33,710$39,540$45,800$54,990$62,840
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC$34,440$40,400$44,900$50,380$61,280
Fayetteville, NC$33,820$40,090$44,820$51,020$58,030
Goldsboro, NC$32,890$37,160$42,620$47,280$51,840
Greensboro-High Point, NC$35,100$40,430$45,360$52,440$59,160
Greenville, NC$36,200$40,770$45,700$52,820$59,530
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC$33,430$38,830$43,810$48,500$56,580
Jacksonville, NC$34,010$39,470$43,600$47,840$59,770
Raleigh-Cary, NC$32,800$38,640$44,460$53,150$64,450
Rocky Mount, NC$26,110$29,640$36,380$44,910$53,240
Wilmington, NC$34,500$41,310$48,850$56,140$60,870
Winston-Salem, NC$29,710$34,710$41,400$48,050$58,740

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Healthcare Social Workers Salary in North Carolina

United States$32,750$41,620$53,760$65,860$80,020
North Carolina$36,150$42,660$50,920$59,870$68,530
Asheville, NC$33,310$40,520$45,430$52,660$59,840
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC$39,160$43,230$50,150$58,860$68,190
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC$42,210$53,740$66,030$74,230$82,280
Fayetteville, NC$28,030$33,480$41,890$50,320$56,760
Greensboro-High Point, NC$34,160$38,990$45,470$54,770$67,940
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC$32,350$39,060$44,940$54,030$67,360
Jacksonville, NC$33,800$38,010$44,250$55,940$75,620
Raleigh-Cary, NC$30,190$42,930$52,560$58,630$62,610
Rocky Mount, NC$33,470$37,070$46,600$58,740$69,790
Wilmington, NC$37,460$41,490$46,480$53,400$60,030
Winston-Salem, NC$34,280$40,040$48,780$56,510$61,190

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in North Carolina

United States$26,730$33,240$42,700$56,610$74,650
North Carolina$33,060$38,490$45,940$54,110$62,130
Asheville, NC$32,250$35,170$40,540$47,790$56,000
Burlington, NC$33,580$37,430$43,840$57,840$70,870
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC$34,120$40,460$46,640$55,200$61,060
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC$27,290$32,330$41,700$52,370$78,140
Fayetteville, NC$28,950$34,310$42,280$51,410$57,480
Goldsboro, NC$34,190$39,050$43,430$47,720$58,910
Greensboro-High Point, NC$33,170$36,840$44,520$57,200$83,710
Greenville, NC$31,860$34,660$39,360$64,630$72,140
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC$18,220$32,530$42,990$50,000$57,300
Raleigh-Cary, NC$33,170$38,530$44,020$51,100$61,500
Wilmington, NC$19,000$34,160$41,590$51,030$58,470
Winston-Salem, NC$33,320$37,150$43,610$51,900$58,270

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Featured North Carolina Schools with Social Work Degree Programs