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Those who wish to pursue careers as social workers in the state of North Carolina are in luck: the state has a tremendous number of excellent schools with Master of Social Work programs that can help you launch a thriving, lasting career.

In addition to being a fantastic place to live, North Carolina is full of opportunities for aspiring social workers.

Throughout the state of North Carolina are exceptional colleges that offer social work programs, meaning no matter where you’re located, you should be able to find opportunities that can set you up for success.

In order to find the right school for you, it’s important to take stock of your academic, professional, and logistical needs, which can vary greatly from one student to the next. These are the factors that only you can take into account to determine your preferences and goals.

That said, there are some requirements and expectations that you are likely to find from one school to the next. These are worth knowing at the outset of the application process to be sure that you are fully qualified for the programs that appeal to you.

To learn more about the baseline requirements for social work programs, what to consider as you choose from program options, and a directory of the best schools in North Carolina for social work, read on.

Determining Your Social Work Degree Level

First thing’s first: if you’re choosing your social work degree program, you must know which degree level you’re eligible for.

If you already hold a bachelor’s degree of any type, you are eligible to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW). If you do not yet hold a bachelor’s degree, you are advised to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), which may accelerate your social work education in the long run.

Additional requirements for social work programs are listed below.

Master of Social Work Requirements

As noted above, Masters in Social Work schools require all applicants to already hold a bachelor’s degree in order to apply. You do not need to hold a BSW in order to qualify for an MSW, though it may be advantageous to hold one (more info on that in the section below). In fact, many who pursue social work come out of other academic backgrounds. While not every subject is relevant to the field of social work, your other interests may help inform your approach to the social work field. Those with a sociology background, for example, may have an advanced understanding of the needs of a particular community, making them better equipped to serve that community as a social worker.

Most MSW schools will require the following from qualified applicants:

While prior work or volunteer experience in a field related to social work can be helpful in indicating your commitment, most schools do not expect or require that you will have this.

* Most schools in North Carolina will not require you to take the GRE unless your undergraduate GPA is less than a 3.0. It is nevertheless advised to look carefully at the requirements of whatever schools you apply to.

Bachelor of Social Work Requirements

Enrolling for a BSW program requires the same application components as a normal undergraduate program. This typically means:

In fact, it is typically not required for you to declare that you intend to pursue a BSW in your undergraduate application. However, those who do know that this is where they’d like to direct their academic efforts may benefit from saying so, as it will indicate your seriousness of purpose to the schools you’d like to attend.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Your School

Beyond your own personal qualifications, there are several factors that it’s important to take into account as you determine which program is best for you.

Choose an Accredited School

This is imperative, and should inform which schools make your list as you plan your applications.

Only those who graduate from accredited schools will be able to qualify for licensure, without which you will not be able to work in a social work setting. This means accreditation is a must.

In North Carolina, accreditation is overseen by the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board (NCSWCLB). In addition to setting the academic standards for clinical social work schools and Master of Social Work schools in North Carolina, they also are responsible for licensing new social workers.

Consider Your Intended Focus Area

It is not an expectation that you will know what type of social work you plan to specialize in at the outset of your academic journey. In fact, many who attend MSW or BSW programs discover the focus area that appeals to them while in school.

If you don’t yet know what type of social worker you’d like to be, don’t worry; you have plenty of time in school to figure it out.

However, those who already do know what cause they’d like to focus on as a social worker may benefit from taking this into consideration as they review their schooling options. This is because some schools specialize in particular social work focus areas, and some even have partnerships with particular social work organizations where students can work to complete their required field work hours. This means that motivated students with a strong sense of the career they want can tailor their school choices to meet these longer-term goals. If this is you, do yourself the favor of looking carefully into each program you are considering to see how it will support these plans.

Consider What License You Want

While your social work specialization may not be in the foreground of your mind when you are applying to social work schools in North Carolina, it is highly recommended that you consider the level of licensing you hope to earn, as this is an important part of your academic path.

There are two primary types of social work license for those who hold MSWs: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW).

Both of these licenses require an MSW in order to be eligible to take their respective qualifying exams. So what’s the difference between them?

The primary difference between an LCSW and an LMSW is that an LCSW is authorized to perform clinical duties such as counseling and therapy, while an LMSW is not. This means that if you are hoping to be a therapist or any other form of counselor, you will need to pursue LCSW standing.

Put simply, becoming an LCSW in North Carolina requires you to take on a significant amount of additional field work hours, normally amounting to about two additional years of work if completed on a full-time schedule.Those who wish to become LMSWs are still eligible for high-ranking social work positions as long as they do not involve clinical practice. You do not need to take on additional field work hours to be eligible for the LMSW exam.

So how should this influence school decisions? It’s a question of curriculum, mentorship, and field work opportunities. While most graduate schools in social work should make it possible to pursue becoming an LCSW, some schools are explicitly clinical social work schools whose program offerings are oriented around counseling and therapeutic services. If you are interested in this path, it is recommended to look specifically into LCSW degree programs near you.

Why is North Carolina Such a Great State for Social Workers?

In recent years, North Carolina has risen to national attention as one of the best places in the country to live. Boasting beautiful natural landscapes, a diverse offering of cities and towns, and houses that are still affordable (for now), North Carolina is seen as one of the last places in the U.S. to make a comfortable middle-class lifestyle possible. That might not be true for long – Zillow recently named Charlotte, NC as the hottest real estate market in the country, meaning now is the time to make moves if you are considering relocating from out of state.

North Carolina is a great state for social workers for many of the reasons listed above. Social workers can make the most of their salaries in the state, working toward homeownership and other benchmarks of stability and success. This makes it a far more attractive place to start a thriving social work career than more expensive states, such as California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Social workers in North Carolina can also benefit from the wide range of social work jobs in the state. Based on its geography and demographics, North Carolina has opportunities to work on causes in both urban and rural areas, with diverse communities in need of support. From improving access to healthcare and other public services to supporting people of all backgrounds with mental health challenges, there’s no shortage of social work causes that will benefit from your commitment and hard work.

Social Worker Salary in North Carolina

Social workers are typically drawn to their line of work not for the lavish pay but to provide meaningful services to others. Still, it is crucial to your career planning to take stock of salary ranges for social workers so that you can consider how it will support your long-term plans in life.

As mentioned above, North Carolina currently offers a lower overall cost of living than many other states, meaning your social worker salary can go further here than in many other places. It will still require careful planning, but with hard work and preparation, you can plot a career that meets the rest of your goals and expectations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers in the state of North Carolina earn the following salaries on average (numbers reflecting mean annual income):

Put in terms of hourly wages, the numbers break down as follows:

These numbers may be less than encouraging to those who are looking into long-term social work careers. However, it’s worth noting that salaries for top-ranking social work employees can be significantly higher than these averages. While the BLS does not report the highest bracket of earners among social workers in North Carolina specifically, their reported numbers for the top 90% of social workers nationwide can serve as a rough benchmark:

Similarly, it bears mention that most clinical social work positions are considered more specialized than non-clinical positions, and often boast a salary to match.

The lesson here is this: by pursuing advanced expertise and committing to your social work career in the long term, you can arrive at a solid salary to support your lifestyle goals in North Carolina.


Can I become a social worker in North Carolina without getting my MSW?

No. The state of North Carolina is strict in enforcing its licensure requirements, and holding an MSW is the most substantial qualification you can hold to be eligible for one. While there are some lower-ranking job opportunities in the social work field for those who do not have master’s degrees, you will not be able to hold a full-fledged social worker position without attending one of the excellent MSW schools in North Carolina.

How do I find LCSW schools near me?

The directory included on this page features many clinical social work schools that will go beyond a basic social work education to give you the training and expertise needed to go into clinical practice. It’s always a good idea to look carefully at their program offerings to see if their curriculum and opportunities will benefit your long-term goals as a social worker.

Why get a BSW if it is not needed to qualify for an MSW?

If you don’t yet hold an undergraduate degree but are dead-set on becoming a social worker, you are advised to pursue a BSW, as it will expedite your academic journey. The education you will receive in a BSW program will overlap with the first year of coursework in a Masters in Social Work school in North Carolina. To spare students from repeating the same coursework again, those who attend BSW programs are eligible for Advanced Standing Master of Social Work programs, which bypass the first year of the MSW program, making for a one-year full-time program. This is a tremendous boon for students who are eager to jumpstart their social work careers, and is worth taking seriously if you do not yet hold a bachelor’s degree.

Do the best schools for social work in North Carolina offer online programs?

Yes. Thanks to the rise of virtual conferencing, it is easier than ever to attend school virtually. This is a fantastic option for prospective students who also have professional or personal responsibilities to juggle while in school. Many online MSW programs are also available part-time, for those whose schedules do not allow a full course load. Do take note that the fieldwork component of your MSW program will still most likely be required in person.