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A Guide to North Carolina Social Work Programs

By Janice Monti


One of the best known helping professions, social work offers a multitude of career possibilities for compassionate and socially-driven individuals.

Undergraduate social work degrees can lead to entry-level positions in case management, public and community health, and substance abuse counseling. A master's prepares graduates for clinical roles in child welfare and family services, school social work, and mental health areas, providing direct services to individuals, families, and groups. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an overall 11% job growth rate for social workers through 2028.

Read on for a look at the best online social work programs in North Carolina and the careers you can pursue with a social work degree.

In This Article

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work

What does a social worker do?

Social workers help people cope with hardships and challenges. Social workers find employment in a variety of settings, from schools and hospitals to nursing homes and mental health facilities. They may work with adults dealing with divorce, teenagers struggling with substance abuse, or children in foster care.

How is a social worker different from a therapist?

While a master's and state licensure serve as essential qualifications for both professions, their degrees and responsibilities differ. Therapists hold counseling degrees that prepare them to diagnose emotional and behavioral disorders and administer psychotherapy. In contrast, a master's in social work emphasizes case management and advocacy. Social workers may provide counseling, but spend most of their time locating resources for their clients from government, community, and social service agencies.

What does it mean to be a mandated reporter?

State law requires social workers, educators, mental health staff, and law enforcement officers to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities. Some states require social workers to report elder abuse or institutional wrongdoing. Social workers who fail to report suspected cases may face civil or criminal liability.

Is social work a good career?

Forbes Magazine has ranked social work among the country's most meaningful professions. Social workers help people confront and find life-changing solutions to challenges. While social workers may not earn the highest salaries, they receive considerable personal and professional satisfaction from guiding their clients to a better quality of life, shaping social policy, and promoting social justice.

Why is accreditation important?

The Council on Social Work Education accredits baccalaureate and master of social work programs in the United States. CSWE accreditation ensures that the program meets nationally recognized standards and curriculum competencies, maintains ethical educational practices, and provides adequate field experiences. Social workers seeking state licenses must graduate from a CSWE-accredited program.

How do I become a social worker?

While a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) or a related field prepares graduates for entry-level positions, many employers require candidates to hold a master's in social work (MSW). Although students can enter MSW programs after earning a non-social work bachelor's, a BSW provides a sound educational foundation for an MSW program and may shorten the time needed to finish the degree.

What Can I Do With a Social Work Degree in NC?

Employment projections for North Carolina social workers indicate strong growth through 2026, including a 21.5% increase for mental health and substance abuse social workers, and a 14% growth rate for child, family, school and healthcare specialties. Most of these careers require either a BSW or an MSW.

BSW programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions in child welfare, family services, and community and public health, while an MSW leads to a broader array of careers as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LCSWs must hold an MSW and pass the Association of Social Work Boards' master's-level exam to earn state licensure.

Child and family social worker

These social workers connect families with services, assist in abuse and neglect cases, and monitor at-risk children's well-being. While some opportunities exist for bachelor's degree-holders, many positions require an MSW.

School social worker

Working in elementary and secondary schools, these professionals help students achieve academic success, counseling students with emotional and behavioral issues and consulting with parents and staff. This position generally requires an MSW and direct school experience.

Healthcare social worker

These social work specialists find positions in hospitals, clinics, and social service agencies. They provide support and help patients and caregivers access healthcare and services. Most hold an MSW and LCSW license.

Mental health and substance abuse social worker

These professionals assess and treat clients individually and in group sessions, addressing emotional, mental, and substance abuse conditions. While educational qualifications vary by state, most require some form of licensure and a master's degree to provide counseling services.

Top-Ranked Schools with Social Work Programs in NC

Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges 2018*

  • Appalachian State University (#29 in-state, #22 out-of-state)
  • North Carolina State University (#9 in-state, #7 out-of-state)
  • University of North Carolina-Asheville (#61 in-state, #71 out-of-state)
  • University of North Carolina-Wilmington (#62 in-state, #68 out-of-state)
  • Western Carolina University (#58 in-state, #48 out-of-state)

*Institution-wide ranking.

US News Best Graduate Social Work Programs 2018

  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (#5 tie)
  • University of North Carolina-Charlotte (#54 tie)
  • North Carolina State University (#75 tie)
  • University of North Carolina-Wilmington (#75 tie)
  • University of North Carolina-Greensboro / North Carolina A&T State University Collaborative (#88 tie)
  • East Carolina University (#147 tie)
  • Appalachian State University (#174 tie)
  • University of North Carolina-Pembroke (#174 tie)
  • Western Carolina University (#174 tie)
  • North Carolina Central University (#201 tie)
  • Fayetteville State University (#220 tie)

Schools with Social Work Programs Accredited by the CSWE

  • Appalachian State University
  • Barton College
  • Bennett College
  • Campbell University
  • East Carolina University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Livingstone College
  • Mars Hill University
  • Meredith College
  • Methodist University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • North Carolina A&T State University / University of North Carolina at Greensboro Collaborative
  • North Carolina Central University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Shaw University
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • University of North Carolina-Greensboro
  • University of North Carolina-Pembroke
  • University of North Carolina-Wilmington
  • Warren Wilson College
  • Western Carolina University
  • Winston Salem State University

Schools in North Carolina with Social Work Degree Programs

BSW and Other Undergraduate Programs

Meredith College

Meredith College is a private college located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The school was recently ranked 5th among regional colleges in the southern U.S. by U.S. News & World Report. The Department of Psychology and Social Work offers female-only liberal arts education at the undergraduate level, including a CSWE-accredited BSW program that surveys the history, values, and ethics of social work and social justice.

All students take core biology, psychology, and political science courses, along with social work courses on policy, research, human behavior, and generalist social work theory. Honors students enjoy the option of completing an undergraduate thesis. All learners must complete at least 430 hours of supervised generalist social work practice in their final semester while completing related coursework. The college also offers a minor in social work, although the minor coursework alone does not meet the CSWE accreditation requirements and will not qualify graduates to become licensed social workers in North Carolina.

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is a public institution, ranked 16th among southern regional colleges and 6th among public regional colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report. UNCW’s School of Social Work offers a CSWE-accredited BSW program that prepares students for many social work career paths, including generalist practice, policy analysis, or graduate social work education and research. Students learn the skills necessary to practice with individuals, families, groups, communities, and macro institutions.

Candidates also complete core biology, sociology, psychology, and politics courses. Social work course content reflects the region's diversity and specifically addresses social justice issues relevant to local populations. Students must complete both a service-learning project during their junior year and a supervised field education placement during their senior year. Both placements can be completed in a variety of settings to provide a broader experience. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington also offers a CSWE-accredited MSW program.

MSW and Other Graduate Programs

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Located close to the state capital, Raleigh, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill houses a social work graduate school offering a CSWE-accredited MSW degree program and a Ph.D. in social work. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked the social work graduate school 5th in the country. The MSW program at the UNC School of Social Work prepares students for advanced generalist practice and organizational leadership in the social services.

Individuals with a recently-conferred, CSWE-accredited BSW degree can complete the degree in as little as one year through advanced standing. Other candidates may earn the MSW in two years of full-time study or three years of part-time online study. Dual degree programs in cooperation with the public health, law, or public administration graduate schools within the University of North Carolina or the Duke University graduate program in divinity are also available. The school occasionally offers a study abroad opportunity in the summer for students interested in international social work. Previous destinations include China, Mexico, and Ireland.

Appalachian State University

Based near Boone, Appalachian State University offers CSWE-accredited BSW and MSW degree programs. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked the university 10th in the Regional Universities (South) category. App State’s Department of Social Work offers an MSW program focused on advanced clinical practice, leadership, and social service administration skills. Graduates are qualified to apply for clinical social work licensure in North Carolina. Candidates may choose a concentration in individuals and families or community and organizational practice.

Advanced standing status is available for students with an accredited BSW degree conferred within the past seven years. App State began offering a hybrid program featuring up to 50% online learning capability in Fall 2016. Face-to-face portions of the program are based at the university’s Hickory, North Carolina distance education campus. All students complete field education placements in various settings across the state, which can be individualized based on student interests and future career plans.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University offers an MSW for students interested in becoming advanced practitioners. The program's clinical community social work can be further developed through elective courses. Students may also earn graduate certificates in gerontology or substance abuse while completing the MSW curriculum, or pursue a minor in gerontology.

Students may follow a full-time two-year course of study or a full-time one-year advanced standing track for those with an undergraduate degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school. Part-time degree tracks are also available. Students may elect to join the Graduate Association of Social workers or the Phi Alpha Honor Society and gain access to the school’s social work skills lab. East Carolina University's MSW program is accredited by the CSWE.

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University's MSW program builds leadership skills and lays the foundation for contributing to the field through research and responsible practice. This MSW follows an advanced generalist program of study with two tracks: traditional full time or advanced standing full time. Summer courses are available to potentially reduce regular semester course loads.

The traditional admissions track requires 60 credit hours to complete, while the advanced standing admissions track consists of 39 credit hours. Students on both tracks complete field placements during each year of study. Field experiences are scheduled around the assigned course sequence. North Carolina State University’s MSW program holds CSWE accreditation.

Accreditation Information for NC Social Work Schools

School Graduation Rate1 Transfer-Out Rate1 Associate’s SW Program Bachelor’s SW Program Graduate SW Program CSWE Accred.5 US News Best Social Work Grad Schools Ranking3 Net Price*1
Appalachian State University 70% 12% No Yes Yes Yes #174 tie $11,508
Barton College 44% N/A No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $20,199
Bennett College 45% N/A No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $21,505
Campbell University 51% 40% No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $26,865
East Carolina University 59% 17% No Yes Yes Yes #147 tie $12,908
Elizabeth City State University 39% 17% No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $2,490
Fayetteville State University 35% 22% No Yes Yes Yes #220 tie $6,848
Gaston College 21% 18% Yes No No No Not Ranked $10,580
Johnson C. Smith University 44% 39% No Yes Yes Yes Not Ranked $19,032
Livingstone College 24% N/A No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $15,812
Mars Hill University 37% 42% No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $17,657
Meredith College 62% N/A No Yes No No Not Ranked $22,642
Methodist University 34% N/A No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $21,487
North Carolina A&T State University 48% 13% No Yes Yes Yes Not Ranked $10,145
North Carolina Central University 47% 19% No Yes Yes Yes #201 tie $9,701
North Carolina State University at Raleigh 75% 9% No Yes Yes Yes #75 tie $13,579
Piedmont Community College 14% 20% Yes No No No Not Ranked $8,671
Shaw University 25% N/A No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $19,342
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 90% 2% No No Yes Yes #5 tie $10,936
University of North Carolina at Charlotte 55% 18% No Yes Yes Yes #54 tie $10,196
University of North Carolina at Greensboro 56% 19% No Yes Yes Yes #88 tie $10,076
University of North Carolina at Pembroke 34% 28% No Yes Yes Yes #174 tie $10,686
University of North Carolina at Wilmington 71% 14% No Yes Yes Yes #75 tie $14,418
Warren Wilson College 51% N/A No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $23,617
Western Carolina University 58% 20% No Yes Yes Yes #174 tie $12,916
Winston-Salem State University 46% 19% No Yes No Yes Not Ranked $7,737

Directory of NC Social Work School Programs

Appalachian State University*
287 Rivers St
Boone, NC 28608
(828) 262-2000
School Site

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
340 Victoria Rd
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 398-7900
School Site

Barton College*
200 E ACC Dr
Wilson, NC 27893-7000
(252) 399-6300
School Site

Bennett College*
900 E Washington St
Greensboro, NC 27401-3239
(336) 517-2100
School Site

Campbell University*
450 Leslie Campbell Ave
Buies Creek, NC 27506
(910) 893-1200
School Site

East Carolina University*
1001 East 5th St
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
(252) 328-6131
School Site

Elizabeth City State University*
1704 Weeksville Rd
Elizabeth City, NC 27909
(252) 335-3400
School Site

Fayetteville State University*
1200 Murchison Rd
Fayetteville, NC 28301-4298
(910) 672-1111
School Site

Gaston College
201 Hwy 321 S
Dallas, NC 28034
(704) 922-6200
School Site

Johnson C. Smith University*
100 Beatties Ford Rd
Charlotte, NC 28216-5398
(704) 378-1000
School Site

Livingstone College*
701 W Monroe St
Salisbury, NC 28144
(704) 216-6000
School Site

Mars Hill University*
100 Athletic St
Mars Hill, NC 28754
(828) 689-4968
School Site

Meredith College
3800 Hillsborough St
Raleigh, NC 27607-5298
(919) 760-8600
School Site

Methodist University*
5400 Ramsey St
Fayetteville, NC 28311-1420
(910) 630-7000
School Site

North Carolina A&T State University*
1601 E Market St
Greensboro, NC 27411
(336) 334-7500
School Site

North Carolina Central University*
1801 Fayetteville St
Durham, NC 27707
(919) 530-6100
School Site

North Carolina State University at Raleigh*
2101 Hillsborough St
Raleigh, NC 27695-7001
(919) 515-2011

Piedmont Community College
1715 College Dr
Roxboro, NC 27573
(336) 599-1181
School Site

Shaw University*
118 E South St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 546-8200
School Site

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill*
103 South Bldg Cb 9100
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
(919) 962-2211
School Site

University of North Carolina at Charlotte*
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
(704) 687-2000
School Site

University of North Carolina at Greensboro*
1400 Spring Garden St
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
(336) 334-5000
School Site

University of North Carolina at Pembroke*
One University Dr
Pembroke, NC 28372-1510
(910) 521-6000
School Site

University of North Carolina at Wilmington*
601 S College Rd
Wilmington, NC 28403-5963
(910) 962-3000
School Site

Warren Wilson College*
701 Warren Wilson Rd
Swannanoa, NC 28778-2099
(828) 298-3325
School Site

Western Carolina University*
92 Catamount Rd
Cullowhee, NC 28723-9646
(828) 227-7100
https://www.wcu.edu/

Winston-Salem State University*
601 Martin Luther King Jr Dr
Winston-Salem, NC 27110-0001
(336) 750-2000
School Site

Schools with an asterisk (*) have programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).