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Best MSW Programs in North Carolina

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Best MSW Programs in NC BadgeIf you’re a prospective social work student in North Carolina with a stellar academic track record and a desire to receive the best education possible, you have several excellent options to choose from as you select your Master of Social Work program.

There are many excellent accredited schools for social work in North Carolina, and a few of them rank among the nation’s very best MSW programs.

Academically rigorous and often highly selective, these schools are great choices for students who boast high GPAs on their undergraduate transcripts and are ready to commit to intellectually rich, deeply rewarding MSW experiences.

What the Best MSW Programs Have to Offer

Prospective social work students in North Carolina have a variety of options to consider as they select which schools to apply to. So what really makes the best MSW programs the best?

The most selective MSW programs all offer the following:

Some of these benefits are specifically features of an on-campus education, an option all of these schools offer (and which some of them offer exclusively, with no online option available). However, several of these schools do offer their courses online, making them the top CSWE accredited online MSW programs in the state. In these cases, students can still benefit from their school’s strong reputation, exceptional course offerings, and supportive student network as well.

Making the Cost of Your MSW Program Work

It’s no secret that many graduate programs are quite pricey, and a few of the schools featured on this list are no exception. Fortunately, many schools offer financial aid to students, some coming in the form of work-study programs and some coming in the form of scholarships, grants, and prizes.

As you’re looking into MSW programs, it’s worth taking a careful look at their financial aid offerings and making sure you are aware of whatever application materials and deadlines they might involve. It’s also always worth reaching out directly to admissions departments, who might be able to help you find specific financial aid or scholarship opportunities that can put your MSW degree within reach.

Beyond the financial aid offered within schools themselves, there are many outside funding opportunities to help motivated social work students receive their degrees. Indeed, applicants who are qualified candidates for these top MSW programs are also likely excellent choices for private scholarships, grants, and awards, which can help make graduate school a feasible option for you. To review our list of scholarship opportunities in North Carolina, visit our guide here. 

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The Best Social Work Programs in North Carolina

Take a look below at the top accredited schools for social work in NC. As you will see, this list includes accredited online MSW programs and on-campus MSW programs alike.

For complete information about each MSW program, take a look at their respective websites, which will provide you with more complete information about course offerings, financial aid opportunities, and the application process.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

Location: Raleigh

nc state university raleigh

Per-year tuition (in-state): $12,041
Online option: No



GRE Requirement: Optional

NCSU’s Raleigh branch offers a full-time MSW program that will provide a thorough foundation in the social work profession and equip students to build lasting careers in the field. The MSW program offers an exemplary version of the traditional MSW curriculum, with introductory courses that form a comprehensive basis of knowledge from which students can then choose areas of specialty. In this program, students will be expected to complete a year-long field work internship both years. Prospective applicants should note that this program is only available in an in-person format.

Another advantage of attending NCSU-Raleigh is the phenomenal city surrounding the school. Making use of the diverse and thriving city of Raleigh, students will have extensive offerings to choose from when pursuing their field work internships. Students who are interested in learning about the phenomenon of urban growth and the social problems it gives rise to will benefit from learning here, witnessing a case study in the city around them and contributing to positive change to make the city a better and more equitable place for all. Please note that this program is only available in an in-person, full-time format, meaning it is only recommended for Raleigh residents who are able to attend regular classes on campus.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Location: Chapel Hill

Per-year tuition (in-state): $10,552
Online option: Yes



At over one hundred years old, UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work (SSW) is one of the oldest in the nation, and it also ranks as one of its very best (#7, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2023 School Rankings). This means it draws world-class professors as well as highly motivated students whose committed work ethics and thoughtful approaches to the social work discipline will greatly enhance one’s education.

For students who need to balance their studies with work or other commitments, great news: UNC-Chapel Hill offers its own accredited online MSW program. Students can take classes on their schedules while receiving the world-class education UNC-Chapel Hill has to offer. This degree track is only available on a full-time (two-year) schedule, in line with the traditional on-campus option. It is worth noting that if you choose this option, you will still be expected to complete your field work practicum in person. Those who do not live in Chapel Hill will be able to complete their field work in a location near them.

For prospective students who live near Chapel Hill or wish to move there, the on-campus option offers a rich experience of its own. The city itself is an excellent place to receive one’s social work training, largely due to the school’s longtime presence in town. Indeed, having existed in the city for more than a century, UNC-Chapel Hill is deeply embedded into the surrounding community, offering access to a variety of social work organizations for field work opportunities. If you’re a stellar student who wishes to receive the most rigorous and prestigious education you can find in North Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill should be your first choice.

Johnson C. Smith University

Location: Charlotte

Per-year tuition: $18,308
Online option: No



For students who wish to receive a top-tier education on a schedule that matches their personal needs, Johnson C. Smith may be the perfect choice for you. This private university in Charlotte is a historically Black institution founded over 150 years ago, making it among the oldest in the nation. Their excellent MSW program is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge to take on the advanced responsibilities of a social worker in any specialization.

For those who require that their MSW program fit in with other logistical and personal needs, the degree program at Johnson C. Smith is an excellent choice. Their MSW program offers classes on evening and weekend schedules specifically to make it possible for students to pursue their degrees while continuing to work or uphold other obligations like childcare. Offerings like these can be game-changing for those who would love to pursue their master’s degrees but aren’t sure how they will be able to fit them into their schedules. There is no GRE requirement to apply for Johnson C. Smith’s MSW program, another time-saving advantage for those who are wary of the application process.

Western Carolina University

Locations: Asheville and Cullowhee

Per-year tuition (in-state): $11,536
Online option: Yes



Western Carolina University is part of the University of North Carolina system, with a main location in Cullowhee and an instructional facility in Asheville. This means students in either location have an excellent educational opportunity in their immediate vicinity. Beyond offering the foundational coursework that any social worker needs to enter the field, WCU offers several concentrations and related certification programs that can help you define your specialty early to work toward a thriving and focus careers. These specializations include Addiction Studies, the Child Welfare Education Collaborative (CWEC), the Culturally-Based Native Health certificate program, Integrated Care, and a School Social Work certificate.

For students who seek more flexibility in their graduate studies, WCU offers part-time versions of both their traditional MSW program and their Advanced Standing MSW program. These are designed to take three and two years to complete, respectively (in each case taking one year longer than a full-time program). These can be ideal options for students who are working, raising families, or maintaining other outside responsibilities while in grad school.