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Top Online MSW Programs: North Carolina

If you’re ready to advance your education in social work, a master’s program is the place to start. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best online MSW programs in North Carolina and how to take the next step in your career.

Author: Megan Harrington

Editor: Staff Editor

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Panoramic view of a black and white striped lighthouse beside a wooden walkway through a marshland, with mist hovering over the scene at sunrise.

Thanks to its booming economy, temperate climate, and natural beauty, North Carolina has one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States. In fact, the Tar Heel state is predicted to add 3.5 million residents by 2050. These residents are expected to be more diverse than ever, and with that changing demographic and increasing population comes a demand for social workers — especially in schools and healthcare.

Whether you already have a bachelor’s in social work or are looking to make a career transition, earning your MSW is a great investment in your future. Many online MSW programs in North Carolina are either completely remote or offer hybrid options, ensuring you have the flexibility you need to continue to work and balance your other responsibilities.

Enrolling in a master’s program is a significant commitment, so it’s normal to have questions about earning an MSW in North Carolina online. This guide is here to help. Keep reading to discover the very best online MSW programs in NC as well as an overview of the different types of programs, potential career paths, and answers to FAQs.

College Spotlights: Best Online MSW Programs in NC: 2024

In the section below, we’re identifying some of the top North Carolina MSW programs that combine affordability, flexibility, and student support. Every program has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), so you can be confident that your coursework will count toward licensing. If you’re thinking about taking the next step in your social work education, it’s time to consider one of these stand-out online MSW programs in North Carolina.

East Carolina University

The MSW program at East Carolina University offers a 100% online, part-time option, with synchronous courses on Saturdays combined with asynchronous online coursework. Students can choose from either the traditional pathway (also called a “regular” pathway — for students who don’t already hold a BSW) or the advanced standing pathway, and both take about three years to complete. East Carolina also offers full-time MSW programs on campus in Greenville, NC, which you can complete in two years for the traditional program and one year for the advanced standing program.

In addition to coursework, traditional students complete 1,032 hours of fieldwork, while advanced-standing students need 672 hours. The lengthy fieldwork requirements give graduates a leg up when it comes to professional experience. The program also offers concentrations relevant to North Carolina’s needs.

Both the on-campus and online programs are selective, requiring a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution as well as a 3.0 GPA — but no GRE is required.

Delivery:

  • Online (part-time regular pathway and part-time advanced standing programs)
  • On-campus (full-time regular pathway and full-time advanced standing programs)

Specializations:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Gerontology
  • Integrated Behavioral Health with Rural Youth
  • School Social Work Licensure

Program Options:

  • Advanced Standing
  • Traditional

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University’s MSW program focuses on preparing students with a strong generalist foundation. Beyond the core classes, students can choose from two concentrations: Individuals and Families or Community and Organizational Practice. While students must choose a concentration, you can integrate courses from both specialties. Additionally, the MSW program offers unique elective options including Appalachian studies and autism spectrum disorders.

The school offers in-person courses for traditional pathway students and a completely online option for advanced-standing students. However, even the on-campus program offers some online class options. Both full-time and part-time study options are available, adding to the program’s flexibility. Students gain professional experience via a yearlong fieldwork placement, totaling 240 hours per semester.

This program is selective, requiring a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, a GPA of 2.5-3.0 (depending on the type of program), and GRE scores; in certain cases, the GRE requirement may be waived.

Delivery:

  • Online (for advanced standing students only)
  • On-Campus (for regular program students who do not hold a BSW)

Specializations:

  • Individuals and Families
  • Community and Organizational Practice
  • School Social Work Licensure

Program Options:

  • Advanced Standing
  • Traditional
  • Full-Time
  • Part-Time

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

The MSW program at UNC Pembroke focuses on rural issues and social injustice and aims to prepare students for working with North Carolina’s unique population. Graduates will be ready to practice in a variety of settings with diverse client populations.

UNC Pembroke offers both fully online and hybrid options, following either a traditional or advanced standing pathway. The traditional option generally takes about 24-36 months to complete, while the advanced standing program can be completed in 12-24 months. Like peer programs, students gain real-world experience through 500-930 hours of fieldwork. While classes can be completed entirely online, students must be able to complete in-person fieldwork within the state of North Carolina.

Admission to the MSW program is selective and comparable to similar programs; students must have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the online program or 2.75 for the hybrid.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • Hybrid

Specializations:

  • Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery
  • School Social Work Licensure

Program Options:

  • Advanced Standing
  • Traditional
  • Full-Time
  • Part-Time

Types of Master of Social Work Programs in North Carolina

Traditional MSW Programs in North Carolina

A traditional (or regular) MSW program is aimed toward students who have a bachelor’s degree in something other than social work. Unlike BSW grads, these students don’t have the necessary foundational coursework, so they’ll be starting from scratch. While the exact length of the program will depend on the school and whether courses are taken part-time or full-time, most traditional MSW programs can be completed in about two to three years.

Traditional MSW Programs in North Carolina Worth Exploring

No-GRE MSW Programs in North Carolina

Preparing for and taking the GRE can be a lot of work, so here’s some good news: Many MSW programs in North Carolina don’t require GRE scores. Instead, admissions criteria require a minimum undergraduate GPA and that you’ve earned your degree from an accredited institution. However, if your undergraduate GPA is lacking, some programs will allow you to substitute good GRE scores. It’s important to note that many MSW programs that don’t require GREs are still selective and high quality; they just don’t require students to submit standardized test scores.

No-GRE MSW Programs in North Carolina Worth Exploring

Advanced Standing MSW Programs in North Carolina

If you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree in social work, obtaining an MSW is a great next step. Students with BSW degrees should consider an advanced standing program. As a student with prior social work knowledge, you’ll be able to skip many of the foundational classes typically required by traditional programs. An advanced standing program jumps right into higher-level coursework and typically takes about one year to complete (full-time).

Advanced Standing MSW Programs in North Carolina Worth Exploring

Part-Time MSW Programs in North Carolina

Whether you have family obligations or plan on working while earning your degree, a part-time program might make the most sense. Depending on the program, a part-time online option may include asynchronous coursework (study at your own pace) or synchronous (zoom meeZooms at a set time). These are different approaches to learning, so you may want to seek a program that caters to your optimal learning style. Part-time programs take longer than their full-time counterparts — two to four years, on average.

Part-Time MSW Programs in North Carolina Worth Exploring

Fulfilling Roles for MSW Graduates in North Carolina

Graduates of MSW programs are well prepared to work in a range of environments including public and private schools, state and county government, and health care systems. The most popular job titles include school social workers, healthcare social workers, and substance abuse social workers. If you’re looking for job opportunities, the outlook for social workers in the U.S. is very good; demand is expected to grow by 9% over the next decade, which is higher than the national average for job growth.

While some social work jobs only require a BSW, an MSW degree is necessary for senior roles. And most importantly, along with more responsibility comes a bigger paycheck: A report from the National Association of Social Workers found that MSW graduates earned about $10,000 more per year than their BSW-holding counterparts.

To give you an idea of state-specific data, the salaries listed in the tables below are representative of Charlotte, NC.

Child, Family, and School Social Worker

Child, family, and school social workers are employed by child welfare agencies, academic institutions, local/state/federal agencies, and human rights organizations, just to name a few. If you’re not interested in working with clients directly, you may want to consider earning your Certified Social Worker Manager (CSWM) certification. This will allow you to work at an administrative level.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$37,227

$46,447

$56,670

Source: Salary.com, 2023

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers serve in a variety of roles often working to help patients navigate insurance and obtain adequate healthcare. While BSW graduates can work as Certified Social Workers (CSW), many positions in the healthcare sector require licensure as a Certified Master of Social Work (CMSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$55,430

$68,419

$80,160

Source: Salary.com, 2023

Mental Health Clinician

Once you receive your LCSW certification, you’ll be able to diagnose and treat a variety of behavioral and emotional disorders. As a mental health clinician, you’ll be prepared to offer therapy services and help individuals develop strategies to manage their behavior and deal with challenges. Individuals with an LCSW certification may even choose to open their own practice.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$51,382

$62,952

$75,796

Source: Salary.com, 2023

Social Work Licensing Requirements in North Carolina

There are several different certification levels for social workers in North Carolina. The North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board (NCSWCLB) sets standards and oversees the licensing process. For individuals with a BSW, the only option is to become credentialed as a Certified Social Worker (CSW). If you graduate from an accredited MSW program, you’ll have more options, including a Certified Master of Social Work (CMSW) certification, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), or a Certified Social Worker Manager (CSWM). All three master’s-level credentials have slightly different requirements.

CMSW Credential

  • Graduation from an accredited MSW program, including all required fieldwork.
  • ASWB master-level exam or ACSW exam.
  • $145 application fee

LCSW License

  • Graduation from an accredited MSW program, including all required fieldwork.
  • ASWB clinical-level exam.
  • Minimum of 3,000 hours of post-MSW paid clinical employment accumulated in less than two years and no more than six years.
  • Minimum of 100 hours of supervision from an experienced LCSW or MSW. Supervision must be performed regularly (i.e., one hour of supervision for every 30 hours of clinical practice).
  • $145 application fee

CSWM Credential

  • Graduation from an accredited MSW program, including all required fieldwork.
  • ASWB advanced generalist exam.
  • 3,000 hours of post-MSW paid employment completed in no less than two years and no more than six years.
  • Minimum of 100 hours of regular supervision by a certified Social Work Administrator who has a minimum of five years’ experience.
  • $145 application fee

Making Your Education Feasible: Financial Aid for Online Social Work Master’s in North Carolina

Committing to graduate school is a big step, so before you begin classes, it’s important to plan how you’ll pay for your education. As a potential MSW student, start by familiarizing yourself with the various types of financial aid. A good starting place is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); as a graduate student, you may be eligible for federal loans such as the grad PLUS loan. In addition to loans, you may also be eligible for grants or scholarships. There are several national scholarships available, as well as scholarship programs specifically for students in MSW programs based in North Carolina.

You may also find options for loan forgiveness after graduation. Established by the North Carolina General Assembly, the Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) program forgives up to $10,000 per year in master’s degree loans for North Carolina residents who meet the specifications.

How Much Your Online MSW in North Carolina Might Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Tuition Cost

39 (advanced standing) or

60 (traditional pathway)

$288.82 (NC resident)

$11,263.98-$17,329.20

42 (advanced standing) or

60 (traditional pathway)

$323.55 per credit hour

(NC resident)

$13,589.10-$19,413

33 (advanced standing)

$282.28 (NC resident)

$9,315.24

(advanced standing program)

Frequently Asked Questions About Online North Carolina MSW Degrees

What are the general admission prerequisites and guidelines for pursuing an online MSW degree in NC?

Admission requirements will vary depending on the school and program (traditional vs. advanced standing), but in most cases, students will find similar application components. In certain circumstances, students may be able to waive requirements or offer substitutions. For example, if your GPA doesn’t meet the requirements, you may be able to take the GRE and offer your score as a substitute. In addition to transcripts and references, MSW applicants are usually asked to write a personal essay explaining why they want to enroll in the program. Below are common requirements:

  • Graduation from an accredited undergraduate institution
  • A minimum GPA (commonly 3.0)
  • An official copy of undergraduate transcripts
  • GRE results (depending on the school, these may or may not be required)
  • A personal statement
  • Personal/professional references

Do online MSW programs in North Carolina offer flexibility in meeting fieldwork?

The total number of fieldwork hour requirements will depend on the program. Generally, students work with their professors and advisor to set up in-person practicums. The fieldwork is usually about 15-20 hours per week and is taken in conjunction with classes; these are almost always scheduled for the latter half of the program and must take place in North Carolina. If you are planning on taking a 100% online MSW program, plan on living in the state when it comes to fieldwork.

How long will finishing my MSW in North Carolina online take?

For the most part, traditional pathway programs consist of about 60 credits. Assuming you enroll full-time, you’ll take about 15 credits per semester and finish in approximately four semesters or two years. If you take classes over the summer or take more than 15 credits at a time, you may finish sooner. Advanced standing programs bypass the foundational courses and usually consist of about 33-42 credits. Full-time (including summer), this type of program takes about a year. If it’s taken part-time, it usually takes about two years to complete.

Are there fully online MSW programs available in North Carolina, or is campus attendance required?

In certain programs, it is entirely possible to complete your MSW degree online. In some online MSW programs in NC, students complete their studies through a mix of synchronous and asynchronous classes and coursework. Whether your classes are “live” or at your own pace will depend on the program. Keep in mind that while classes and exams can be completed online, fieldwork requirements must be completed in person within the state of North Carolina.

Are students from outside of North Carolina eligible to apply for the online social work master's program?

Many home institutions of MSW programs in North Carolina participate in what is called the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). This nonprofit organization was formed about a decade ago to help regulate and standardize online education and expand access. If you live in a member state, you will be able to enroll in an online MSW program in North Carolina. However, keep in mind that tuition rates are often based on residency, and thus you may end up paying a higher rate if you live out of state. Finally, in-person fieldwork must be completed in the state. This is a necessary component for obtaining your post-graduation credentials and licensure, so plan on living in or near North Carolina when it comes time for fieldwork.

Resources for Social Work Students and Professionals in North Carolina