MSW Careers in North Carolina By Region and City

north carolina state map

If you’re a North Carolina resident who’s ready to pursue a social work education, it’s likely there are excellent graduate opportunities in or near your own hometown.

There are stellar Master of Social Work programs throughout North Carolina, offering a top-notch education with a maximum of convenience.

This means that aspiring social workers in North Carolina can find excellent educational options that can help kickstart thriving careers without upending your life.

There are many reasons why graduate students may not wish to relocate in order to attend school, from tending to family responsibilities to maintaining one’s employment while in school. Fortunately, thanks to the arrival of online learning options as well as the proliferation of fantastic MSW programs in N.C., you shouldn’t have to uproot yourself in order to get the degree you want.

This guide will help grad school applicants in every major area of North Carolina find the best social work masters’ programs for them, no matter what region they live in.

The North Carolina Population Boom

Native North Carolinans have long known about the many assets the state has to offer, from beautiful nature to a diverse array of cities to a lower cost of living – relatively speaking – than many other parts of the country. However, if that was once a little-known fact, the secret is out, and Americans from all over are moving to the state in striking numbers.

Indeed, according to the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (working from U.S. Census 2023 population estimates), North Carolina’s population growth ranks third in the nation over the past two years, behind only Texas and Florida. This certifies that the Tar Heel State is undergoing a bonafide population boom.

There is much to celebrate in the arrival of so many newcomers to the state, adding to its demographic diversity and bringing industry and activity to North Carolina’s many cities. Indeed, if you are not yet a North Carolina resident but are considering moving there for your MSW program, you may be intrigued by these newfound opportunities yourself.

That said, there are also many issues that emerge from such a rapid influx of new residents. Many of these cities have become sites of gentrification, leading to rising costs of living, the displacement of low-income communities, and even potentially further cross-demographic tensions. As a social worker, it is quite possible you will witness these issues in your own work, helping those impacted by these dynamics get their footing and keep up with the changing landscape of their own hometowns. Those who are interested in the “macro” side of social work may be intrigued by the link between this population boom and the social needs of marginalized North Carolinans.

Population growth in North Carolina is a complex phenomenon that is worthy of excitement as well as a real contemplation of the communities it adversely impacts. Understanding the reasons for this boom requires one to look outward at rising costs of living and job scarcity in other parts of the country. However, aspiring social workers can embrace the positive aspects of this growth while resting assured that their conscientious work is helping the state make the very most of its newfound popularity without leaving its most vulnerable communities behind.

Find Social Work Masters Programs Near Me

Take a look at the top regions in North Carolina to pursue a degree – and later, career – in social work. It also includes lists of the available MSW programs in each region. (Note: for more complete information about each school’s tuition, classroom format options, and specializations, see our comprehensive guide here.)

welcome to north carolina sign

Asheville, NC

Thanks to its vibrant community and emphasis on social justice, Asheville is an excellent place to build a social work career. It is home to a diverse and inclusive population that take pride in the region’s amazing local agriculture. There is a strong network of social work organizations in Asheville, which make it an attractive place to pursue your MSW, as you will be able to complete your fieldwork at one of these locations.

Demographically, Asheville also reflects a trend that is true in cities all over the state of North Carolina, which is an influx of newcomers based on a rising awareness of the high quality of life in the state. This means social workers in the region are learning directly from the dynamics of their own city, gaining insights that will serve them for the rest of their careers.

MSW programs in Asheville:

Western Carolina University (Also in Cullowhee, NC): Website

university of north carolina at chappel hill

Chapel Hill, NC

Nestled in the heart of North Carolina, Chapel Hill stands out as an ideal city for aspiring social workers to pursue their master’s degrees. The School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the nation’s oldest and also considered to be one of its very best, and therefore attracts students from all over the country. Indeed, those who have their sights set on top-tier programs should certainly give this one a look.

Beyond the educational experience itself, the city of Chapel Hill is known for its inclusive atmosphere, promoting diversity and social justice. With a range of community-based organizations, healthcare facilities, and social service agencies, students have ample opportunities for internships, field placements, and networking.

MSW programs in Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Website

Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, the bustling metropolis of North Carolina, offers an excellent environment for individuals pursuing a social work degree. The city is home to a variety of esteemed educational institutions, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which boasts a strong commitment to social work education.

Charlotte stands out as a city that actively addresses social issues. With a burgeoning population and a growing awareness of social challenges, there is a high demand for qualified social workers in various sectors, including healthcare, education, and social services. The city’s vibrant and diverse population provides students with a rich tapestry of experiences, allowing them to develop cultural competence and a deep understanding of the complex issues faced by individuals and communities.

MSW programs in Charlotte:

Johnson C. Smith University: Website

University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Website

Durham, NC

Another urban center of North Carolina, Durham is an excellent place to pursue an MSW. The city’s unique blend of urban development and historic charm provides an ideal backdrop for social work students to engage with various communities and organizations. As one of North Carolina’s most populous cities, it offers a great variety of job opportunities and the ability to work with communities of many backgrounds.

Indeed, Durham is the most ethnically diverse region in the state, a factor that has bearings on social workers’ professional lives. Social workers in Durham will be expected to have a high degree of cultural competence, allowing them to build bridges and empower individuals from all walks of life. If you are attending your MSW program in Durham, this is likely to play a central part in your social work education.

MSW programs in Durham:

North Carolina Central University: Website

Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville is another excellent choice of city for aspiring social workers in North Carolina. A distinct advantage of the city is its proximity to military bases like Fort Bragg, making it an ideal location for those who are interested in pursuing social work with veterans and their families. Indeed, many students who establish their professional roots here go on to work with people who have served in the military or are supporting a family member who has joined the service. If your heart goes out to veterans and their loved ones, this is an excellent choice of location for you to launch your social work career.

MSW programs in Fayetteville:

Fayetteville State University: Website

University of North Carolina at Pembroke: Website

university of north carolina at greensboro

Greensboro, NC

Greensboro, with its rich history and diverse demographics, offers an exceptional setting for individuals pursuing an MSW. Historically known for its pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement, Greensboro has a legacy of social activism and community engagement. This history has shaped the city’s commitment to social justice and inclusivity, creating an environment that encourages MSW students to actively address systemic issues and contribute to positive change. The city’s diversity provides an invaluable learning experience for social work students, allowing them to develop cultural sensitivity and an understanding of the unique challenges faced by various communities in the area.

MSW programs in Greensboro:

University of North Carolina at Greensboro / North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (Joint MSW Program): Website

Greenville, NC

Those in the eastern part of North Carolina who wish to become social workers are in a good position to do so, as the region’s primary school for MSWs offers all its courses in a variety of formats to allow students to take classes and pursue their social work careers on their own terms. Beyond that, the small city is an excellent place for burgeoning social workers to see how diverse community interests and relationships affect public services, offering a tremendous opportunity to make a lasting impact in the lives of others. If you live in Greenville or elsewhere in the eastern North Carolina area, you won’t have to relocate to make your dream career possible.

MSW programs in Greenville:

East Carolina University: Website

Raleigh, NC

The capital of North Carolina, Raleigh presents an excellent environment for individuals pursuing careers in social work. The city’s history is deeply intertwined with education, innovation, and social progress, and its size and status continue to rise as it grows into prominence as an especially desirable American city to live in.

Indeed, Raleigh is known for its diverse and rapidly growing population, attracting residents from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The city’s commitment to inclusivity and progressive policies further enhances the appeal for those pursuing an MSW, providing opportunities for internships and fieldwork in areas such as healthcare, education, and social services.

MSW programs in Raleigh:

North Carolina State University at Raleigh: Website

Wilmington, NC

The coastal city of Wilmington is a unique place to pursue an MSW. The city’s long history as a port town can be felt today, though its population is growing not due to maritime industries but to its coastal beauty and vibrant community that lives there. Indeed, Wilmington’s emphasis on local community engagement and the intersection of social work with environmental and cultural issues provides unique opportunities for MSW students to apply their skills in real-world settings.

MSW programs in Wilmington:

University of North Carolina Wilmington: Website