Social Work License Requirements in North Carolina

Becoming a social worker in North Carolina offers the opportunity to make a profound difference in the community, whether it’s through hands-on work with diverse populations in need, or by implementing agency policies and programs that have a wider reach. North Carolina social work offers multiple levels of licensing, and the education requirements vary for each licensure. That means aspiring social workers can start gaining real-life experience with a social work license almost immediately after getting an undergraduate degree. It’s also important to know North Carolina’s reciprocity policies for those who are already a licensed social worker in another state.

Check out our lists of the best BSW programs and best MSW programs in North Carolina.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in North Carolina

For those wishing to become a social worker in North Carolina, there are three primary paths to licensure. The first license is as a certified social worker (CSW) and is the least advanced social work license available in the state. Applicants need just a bachelor’s degree in social work to meet the education requirements.

The second license type is for a certified master social worker. It’s the equivalent of a licensed master social worker (LMSW) and requires a master’s degree in social work. These first two social work licenses are not required to work in the field but can give a competitive advantage.

The final option is to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), which is mandatory for those who wish to practice in a clinical setting. The minimum education requirement is a master’s in social work, although it’s also common for candidates to hold a doctoral degree. Graduates must also meet some extensive requirements surrounding post-graduate work experience.

Certified Social Worker

Aspiring social workers can become a social worker in North Carolina without completing a master’s degree. The Certified Social Worker (CSW) is an optional license that can give an edge in the job market. Applicants for this licensure must have a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) from a college or university with a program that is accredited by the CSWE. There are currently 23 schools in North Carolina that have an accredited social work program.

To get started, an application must be submitted to the North Carolina Social Work Board. Applications require two to four weeks to review and must include an application fee. Next, applicants must submit an Exam Request Form and take and pass the ASWB’s bachelor-level examination. This process requires additional fees.

Certified Master Social Worker

Aspiring social workers with a master’s degree in social work, along with other requirements, can apply to be a CMSW. There are multiple steps that need to be taken to become a social worker with this type of license. Applicants need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. There are currently 12 universities offering this program in North Carolina.

No post-graduate work experience is necessary to apply as a CMSW, so the application can be submitted once the degree is completed, along with the associated fee. Graduates also need to take and pass the ASWB’s master level examination or the ACSW examination. Before this, the Exam Request Form must be submitted so that the NC Board of Social Work deems the applicant eligible to sit for the exam. Applicants also must submit $40 with the request form. This is separate from the cost of the exam itself.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Unlike an LMSW, the LCSW social work license allows for clinical practice. To become a social worker in a clinical setting, applicants need an MSW, DSW or Ph.D. in social work from a school that is accredited by the CSWE. There are also a number of experience-related requirements. Over a period of two to six years, graduates must accumulate at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate experience in a paid clinical job. At least 100 hours must be supervised under an LCSW. Applicants need at least one hour of supervision for every 30 hours of clinical practice and only 25 hours may involve group supervision. When ready to apply, graduates can fill out the LCSW application along with an application fee. For North Carolina social work in a clinical setting, applicants must also take the ASWB’s clinical level exam and can fill out the Exam Request Form to make sure they’re eligible to sit.

Social Work License Reciprocity in North Carolina

There’s no direct reciprocity agreement between North Carolina and other states. Instead, each social work license is reviewed on an individual basis. For those wishing to become a social worker in North Carolina after practicing elsewhere, applicants can get certified based on substantial equivalency. Each aspiring social workers must have their credentials verified by the current jurisdiction. Additionally, applicants must have the appropriate exam results sent to the North Carolina Social Work Board.

With just a few steps, however, out-of-state licensees can get approved for the appropriate social work licenses, whether it’s a CSW, LMSW or LCSW. After approval, applicants can start with their North Carolina social work practice and carry out their renewal requirements throughout the year.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The social work license renewal process varies depending based on the license held. For all North Carolina social work licenses, the renewal process is biennial, meaning social workers have two years to complete the continuing education requirements and apply. Regardless of the type of license held, social workers must log 40 hours of continuing education, four of which must be in ethics. The renewal fee differs for each license.