Social Work

The Path to North Carolina Social Work Licensure

The Path to North Carolina Social Work Licensure
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Noodle Staff March 5, 2018

So you want to be a Social Worker in North Carolina? Allow Noodle to guide you down the path to reaching your goals.

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The Path to North Carolina Social Work Licensure

If you are considering a career in social work, you are in for the ride of your life. Being a social worker can be a challenging and emotionally draining career. It is certainly a career that can have its share of bad days. However, being a social worker, whether you are looking at becoming a Clinical Social Worker or have the goal to obtain your Masters In Social Work, it can supply you with an endless amount of good days as well. A career in social work can be incredibly rewarding since your entire job is to help others when they need it most.

As a social worker, you will have the chance to make a real, lasting difference in people’s lives. You will be there to help individuals, families, and children through large life changes and counsel them through the transition. Social workers help arrange adoptions, match children will loving foster families, and something even reunite families. They also help provide support to children who are going through large life changes such as a family tragedy or a parent’s divorce. Beyond working with children, social workers help families and communities after local tragedies, counsel people who are in recovery from addiction, work with people with mental health issues, and support veterans and their families.

As a social worker, you can work in colleges, mental health facilities, hospitals, government offices, or even in private practice. The possibilities are endless for social workers. While the job may be difficult, if you are passionate about helping others in your community, this may be the perfect career path for you.

However, before anything else, it is important that you meet the qualifications for a job in social work. In the US, social work is taken very seriously, and the government believes in providing uniform, top-notch care to all individuals seeking help. Because of this, there is a variety of certifications and educational courses to get through to ensure you are ready to assist people in their time of need. Below you will find information about how to become a social worker in North Carolina no matter your education level or previous areas of study.

Social work practice is regulated in North Carolina to ensure that professional standards are maintained. Certification and licensure ensure that a social worker has the required expert understanding of relevant statutory legal protections and guidelines.

A North Carolina Social Work License is only awarded to individuals who have met the criteria in qualification, training, and experience; it is designed to adequately protect the public while promoting high standards of professional performance.

A Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) is the minimum degree required to become a Certified Social Worker (CSW), but there are paths for degree holders in other disciplines.

All applicants for licensure or certification must pass a criminal background check.


“I Want to Be A Social Worker!”

There are a couple of significant practical considerations:

- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification

Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:

- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. (source)

A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. (source)

- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees

University and Program Name Learn More

The path to a North Carolina social work licensure

There are various paths into license and certification. Some routes require no prior experience but may expect prior experience as well as relevant training. North Carolina license requirements vary dependent upon your existing level of qualification and experience.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in social work

The BSW is the minimum requirement for an individual to become a Certified Social Worker (CSW). It’s the entry-level requirement for working in both private and public agencies. If you have your BSW and have been granted North Carolina state certification, you’ll be eligible to work as a CSW. No additional training or experience is required.

I have a Bachelor’s degree but not in social work

You can study for a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) accredited by the CSWE. There are options for studying online. You can complete this course in two years or less. Once you’ve achieved your MSW, you can apply for any of the roles listed below.

I am a licensed social worker but do not currently live in North Carolina

It depends on where you achieved your license and what you had to do to get it. The Board doesn’t offer automatic licensure for license holders from other states but will review your application to establish whether your training is of a substantial equivalent to the standard required to operate in North Carolina. They can offer licensure and certification by comity. For all levels of comity, you must be current and actively certified and licensed or registered by examination as a social worker.

Types of North Carolina social work licensure

The Social Worker Certification and Licensure Act is a standards protection program, ensuring that all qualified social workers have relevant and current training and understanding of procedure and common practice. There are clear paths for each of the following licensing or certification qualifications.

Certified Social Worker (CSW) in North Carolina

Educational requirements: You’ll need a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from a CSWE-accredited (Council on Social Work Education) undergrad school.

Application process: Apply to the NCSWCLB (North Carolina Social Work Certification And Licensure Board) for certification. The NCSWCLB will send notice of approval, permitting you to take the exam.

You’ll need to complete the exam request form and pay the fees. Upon receipt, you’ll receive instructions to register for the ASWB exam. Details of the exam can be found in the ASWB Examination Candidate Handbook.

Prior requirements: There’s no prior experience required to obtain a social work license in North Carolina.

Examination: ASWB Bachelors-level examination. When you’ve passed the exam, you’ll receive a CSW license and will be eligible to pursue work as a certified social worker. There are no other educational or experience requirements.

Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) in North Carolina

The process for becoming a CMSW in North Carolina is practically identical to the method for achieving CSW recognition (see above). The principal difference is in the prior educational requirements. CMSW qualifies you for a range of roles, including medical social worker, social work supervisor, and school social worker.

Educational requirements: You’ll need a Masters of Social Work (MSW), Doctor of Social Work (DSW), or Ph.D. in social work. These need to be from a CSWE accredited school.

Application process: Apply to NCSWCLB for certification and complete the exam request form.

Prior requirements: No previous work experience is required to become a CMSW.

Examination: ASWB Masters level examination, or ACSW examination. Upon passing you’ll receive your CMSW license from the North Carolina licensure Board.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate (LCSWA) in North Carolina

The LCSWA qualification is mandatory for clinical practice and is the route to consider if you want to develop a portfolio of work experience in a clinical environment.

Educational requirements: You’ll require a master’s in social work, Doctor in Social Work (DSW), or a Ph.D. in social work (from an accredited CSWE school). If you lack any of the criteria for LCSW, but you require work experience in clinical social work practice, you can apply for license at Associate Level or LCSWA.

A LCSWA license is valid for two years, but it may be reviewed and renewed if necessary. Associate licensees may only practice under appropriate clinical supervision until full LCSW license is obtained.

Experience: An LCSWA is an available route to follow if you lack experience. New graduates are eligible to apply for LCSWA.

Application process: The application process is a 7-stage process

  • You need to notify the Board that you’re seeking an LCSWA license.
  • You should secure appropriate clinical supervision, which must be in place before commencing your practice. You should also arrange immediate access to emergency clinical consultation. An emergency crisis plan must be submitted in writing to the board.
  • The ASWB exam must be taken within the first two years of practice. If you fail the exam, it can be retaken after 90 days, but exam fees must be paid for a second attempt.
  • You’ll need to fulfill the Continuing Education (CE) requirement if you apply for LCSW license, or for renewal of your LCSWA license. The CE requirement is 40 hours, spread over a two-year period.
  • Every six months, you’ll need to report your practice and supervision to the Board, by using the LCSWA Six-month Review Form. This is an obligatory aspect of your training and needs to be submitted manually if you fail to report, it will be considered a violation of law.
  • On completion of the above conditions and requirements, you’ll receive your LCSWA license.
  • You’ll be required to take the ASWB exam once you have applied for your initial license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in North Carolina

LCSW is required for clinical practice, and this level can only be applied for after 3000 hours of work experience.

Education requirements: You’ll require a Masters of Social Work (MSW), Doctor in Social Work (DSW), or a Ph.D. in social work (from an accredited CSWE school).

Experience: You should have a minimum of 3,000 hours of paid clinical employment after achieving your MSW. These hours can be accumulated in no fewer than two years, and in no more than six. One-hundred hours of clinical supervision is required to qualify for LCSW, which must be completed within two years.

Application process: You should send your document of Continuing Education to the Board.

Experience: Fourty hours of CE is required within your two-year licensing period. Apply for certification via the application packet. On receipt, your application will be reviewed and approved by the Board.

Examination: Information about the ASWB examination is available in the ASWB Examination Candidate Handbook. If you pass the exam, you’ll be able to apply for LCSW licensure from the Board, using the application packet, along with your final six-month review and application fee. If you fail the exam, you’re permitted to re-sit after 90-days.

Certified Social Work Manager (CSWM) in North Carolina

Education requirements: You’ll require one of the following: a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW), Master’s of Social Work (MSW), Doctor of Social Work (DSW), or a Ph.D. in social work (from an accredited CSWE school).

Experience: You should have completed 3,000 hours of paid employment after your most recent degree, accumulated over a space of no less than two years, and no more than six. You should be supervised by a social work administrator for no less than 100 hours, a maximum of 50 hours of which can be under group supervisory. The supervising social work administrator must be certified by the Board, with a minimum of five years experience as an administrator in a mental health or social work setting.

Application process: Apply for certification with the NCSWCLB. You’ll need to complete the application and submit it to the Board for review and approval.

Examination: You’ll need to complete the NCSWCLB exam request form and pay the application fee. You’ll need to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam. If you pass the exam, you’ll receive your CSWM license from the Board. If you fail, you’ll need to wait 90 days to reapply.

Which states share social work licensure reciprocity with North Carolina?

Check for comity of requirements with this State-by-State Guide for reciprocity between North Carolina and other states. There is no automatic reciprocity in North Carolina, but each case will be considered by NCSWCLB on an individual basis, looking for substantial equivalence in examination and training standards.

North Carolina Board of Social Work

Standard BSW training is a four-year baccalaureate program, driven by topics ranging from human behavior and development, community resources and their use and development, family dynamics, social welfare policy and services, social work research and values, cultural and human diversity, skills, ethics, and developing a knowledge base.

There are plenty of NASW-accredited courses designed to help you prepare for your social work licensure in North Carolina. The National Association of Social Workers website,, contains plenty of information regarding relevant accredited courses.

North Carolina exam request forms, retrieved February 12, 2018.

North Carolina reciprocity, retrieved February 12, 2018.

Relevant accredited courses, retrieved February 10, 2018.

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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