Types of MSW Degrees Available in North Carolina

Written by Jack Levinson

young lady talking with social worker in her office

Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of others? If so, you may find you are called to the social work profession.

An MSW will help you build the skills and expertise needed to launch a thriving and rewarding career as a social worker.

Looking for Social Work Master’s Programs in North Carolina?

North Carolina is an excellent state to pursue a Master’s in Social Work (MSW). The state is home to a diverse range of communities in urban areas as well as rural regions, providing aspiring social workers with a wide array of opportunities for field placements and hands-on experience. The state’s vibrant social work community and network of agencies, nonprofits, and healthcare organizations also offer numerous internship and employment prospects for MSW students, helping them build valuable professional connections.

Furthermore, North Carolina boasts a number of reputable universities with accredited MSW programs, ensuring a high standard of education and training. These programs often emphasize culturally competent social work practice, aligning with the state’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The cost of living in North Carolina is another major reason to consider establishing a career as a social worker in the state. Indeed, the Tar Heel State is known as a relatively affordable state with a higher quality of life than many other states, making it an attractive option for students concerned about tuition and living expenses.

About the MSW

Master’s in Social Work programs are designed to equip aspiring social workers with the knowledge, skills, and expertise needed to address complex social issues and help individuals and communities thrive. If you’re considering pursuing an MSW, you’ll embark on a rewarding journey of personal and professional growth that will prepare you for a fulfilling career in the field of social work.

In an MSW program, you will develop a wide range of skills and competencies that are essential for effectively serving diverse populations and advocating for social justice. Some of the key skills you will build during your MSW program include:

Social work master’s programs provide a comprehensive education that prepares you for a dynamic and impactful career in social work, allowing you to address the complex social challenges of our time with confidence and competence.

How Long Does it Take to Get an MSW in North Carolina?

Obtaining a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree can vary in terms of time commitment, with options ranging from 1-year accelerated programs to traditional 2-year and extended 3-year programs.

The duration you choose for your Master’s in Social Work program often depends on your individual circumstances, career goals, and prior education.

1-Year Accelerated Programs

These intensive programs are designed for individuals who already hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. Typically, these programs take just one year to complete and focus on advanced coursework and hands-on fieldwork experience. They are ideal for those who want to fast-track their MSW and are confident in their foundational knowledge of social work concepts and practices. There are also many 16-month MSW programs that set a slightly slower pace while still offering a faster option than a traditional 2-year MSW program.

2-Year Traditional Programs

The majority of social work master’s degree programs fall into this category. They are structured as two-year programs and are open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a related field, although some programs offer advanced standing options for BSW graduates. This timeframe allows for a more in-depth exploration of social work theories, methods, and specialized areas of practice, along with ample opportunities for field placements and internships.

3-Year Extended Programs

Some Master’s of Social Work programs are designed to be completed over three years, offering a more relaxed pace of study. These programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who are working part-time or have other commitments outside of their academic pursuits. The extended timeframe provides additional flexibility and may be a suitable option for those seeking a balanced approach to their education and professional development.

Ultimately, the choice of program duration should align with your academic background, career aspirations, and personal circumstances. Each option has its advantages, and your selection should be based on what best suits your goals for pursuing a career in social work.

Different Types of MSW Programs

North Carolina offers a variety of Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree programs to cater to diverse student needs and preferences:

Traditional MSW Programs

Traditional social worker master’s programs in North Carolina are typically structured as two-year, full-time programs. They provide a comprehensive education in social work, covering foundational theories, practice methods, and fieldwork experiences. Traditional standing MSW programs are suitable for students who are seeking a well-rounded education in a traditional classroom setting.

Accelerated MSW Programs

Accelerated MSW programs in North Carolina are designed for individuals who already hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. These programs offer a shorter path to an MSW, often taking just one year to complete. Accelerated social work master’s programs acknowledge the foundational knowledge and skills acquired during a BSW program and allow students to focus on advanced coursework and field experiences. In some cases, it is possible to receive your accelerated master’s in social work online.

Clinical MSW Programs

Master’s in Clinical Social Work programs in North Carolina specialize in preparing students for careers in clinical social work. These programs place a strong emphasis on advanced clinical practice, counseling, and psychotherapy techniques. Graduates are equipped to work with individuals, families, and groups in a therapeutic context. Clinical MSW programs often include rigorous clinical internships and may take various durations, typically two or three years.

Online MSW Programs

Online MSW programs in North Carolina provide flexibility for students who prefer to study remotely or have other commitments, such as work or family. These programs offer the same high-quality curriculum as traditional on-campus programs, but with the convenience of online coursework. They often allow students to complete their field placements locally. Online MSW degree programs can be a great option for those who need a flexible schedule while pursuing their degree.

The diverse offering of North Carolina Master’s in Social Work programs ensures that prospective social workers can find a program that aligns with their career goals, prior education, and lifestyle.

helping elderly woman walk outside

Advanced Standing MSWs

If you don’t yet have your undergraduate degree but are dead set on becoming a social worker, you may be able to expedite the process of completing social worker masters degree programs. Advanced standing Master’s in Social Work graduate programs are a specialized option within the field of social work education, designed for individuals who already possess a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. These programs are structured to provide BSW graduates with a streamlined path to earn their Master’s in Social Work (MSW) in a shorter timeframe (typically one year as opposed to the traditional two-year Master’s of Social Work programs).

Advanced standing social work master’s programs recognize the foundational knowledge and skills that BSW graduates have acquired during their undergraduate studies, allowing them to skip redundant coursework and focus on advanced topics, specialized practice areas, and more in-depth field placements. This accelerated approach not only saves students time and money but also allows them to enter the workforce as licensed social workers sooner.

Dual Degree Programs

Are you interested in combining your social work practice with another area of expertise? Dual degree Master’s in Social Work programs are an innovative educational option that allows students to simultaneously pursue an MSW degree along with another advanced degree in a complementary field. Typically, dual degree programs combine social work with fields such as public health, law, business, education, or public administration, among others.

One of the key benefits of dual-degree MSW programs is the ability to address complex societal issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. For example, a dual MSW-MPH (Master of Public Health) program equips graduates to tackle public health challenges with a deep understanding of social determinants and community-based interventions. Similarly, a dual MSW-JD (Juris Doctor) program prepares individuals to advocate for social justice, navigate legal complexities, and effect systemic change. These dual degree graduates often find themselves in high demand in both the public and private sectors, as they possess a unique blend of skills that can address the intricate interplay between social, legal, economic, and health factors in the lives of individuals and communities.

Ultimately, dual degree MSW programs empower students to become versatile professionals who can lead and innovate in their chosen fields, making a lasting impact on society. If you are interested in these career paths, some popular options are MSW/JD dual degree programs, MSW/MPH dual degree programs, and MSW/MBA dual degree programs.

Finding Funding for your MSW Degree

Finding funding for an MSW degree program can indeed be a challenging endeavor, often requiring students to navigate a complex landscape of scholarships, grants, loans, and work commitments. The cost of tuition, coupled with the demands of field placements and coursework, can create financial stress for aspiring social workers. However, there are reasons to be optimistic.

Many MSW programs offer various financial aid opportunities, and students who are dedicated and proactive can secure funding.

By carefully researching the options available to help you offset their financial burden, students can pursue their passion for social work with confidence, knowing that their education is an investment in a brighter and more equitable future.

Stipend Programs

Many MSW programs offer stipend programs to help students finance their education while gaining valuable experience. These stipends are often awarded in exchange for a commitment to work in underserved or high-need areas after graduation. For example, some stipend programs may require recipients to work in child welfare, mental health, or substance abuse treatment settings. These programs not only provide financial support but also offer practical training and job security. It’s essential to research MSW stipend programs to understand their specific requirements and application processes.

Fully Funded Social Work Master’s Programs

Some MSW programs provide fully funded opportunities, covering tuition and offering a living stipend. These programs are highly competitive and typically come with service or research obligations during and after the program. Fully funded MSW programs are often linked to universities’ research initiatives, and students may work on research projects while pursuing their degrees. Such programs are an excellent option for those who want to minimize student loan debt and gain substantial research or work experience. Be sure to inquire about the availability of fully funded Master’s in Social Work programs at your chosen institutions and explore the conditions for funding.

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid

Beyond stipends and fully funded programs, students can explore traditional avenues for financial assistance, such as scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Many social work schools and organizations offer scholarships specifically for MSW students based on academic achievement, financial need, or specific areas of interest within the field. Additionally, federal financial aid options, like loans and work-study programs, may also be available to help offset the cost of tuition and living expenses. It’s crucial to research and apply for these opportunities early, as deadlines and eligibility criteria may vary. Additionally, consider reaching out to the financial aid offices of your prospective MSW programs for personalized guidance on securing funding.


What are the field placement requirements for an MSW program?

MSW programs typically require students to complete field placements, which involve working in real-world social work settings. The duration and requirements vary by program.

Are there specialized MSW programs in North Carolina?

Yes, North Carolina offers specialized MSW programs with concentrations in areas like clinical social work, child welfare, and healthcare. These programs allow you to focus on your specific career interests.

What are the licensing requirements for social workers in North Carolina after earning an MSW degree?

In North Carolina, to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you typically need to complete supervised clinical hours and pass the state licensing exam. Licensing requirements for other types of social work may vary.

Can I work while pursuing my MSW degree?

Yes, many MSW students work part-time while pursuing their degrees. Some programs even offer evening or weekend classes to accommodate working professionals.