North Carolina, known as the “First in Flight” state because of the Wright brothers’ experiments with aerodynamics in 1903, is home to three distinct topographies: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont and the Appalachian Mountains. Other landmarks in the state include the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout.
The population of North Carolina is quite large, numbering nearly 9.3 million people, making it the tenth largest in population in the United States. North Carolina’s population is growing rapidly at a rate of 9.7 percent a year, which is twice the national average (1). Natives joke that the state is being flooded with people who moved from the Northern states to Florida, decided it was too hot in Florida, and then moved halfway back – landing in beautiful North Carolina.
North Carolina: A Rapidly Changing Social Landscape
The population explosion in North Carolina is mostly due to an influx from other states and an increasingly large immigrant population. A study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute based on data from 2000 to 2012, shows that North Carolina is one of five states with the largest percentage growth (125 percent) of children living with immigrant parents. The other four states include Tennessee (141 percent), Alabama (125 percent each), Kentucky (124 percent), and South Carolina (122 percent). That means North Carolina has one of the highest percentages of children living with immigrants (2). More than one in ten North Carolinians are either Hispanic or Asian. While the state’s total immigrant population is still relatively low, the rapid increase is affecting the state’s demographics and as a result, changing the needs for social services (3).
Twenty-two percent of the population is African American, which is a much higher percentage of the population than the national average (13.1 percent). Approximately 16.8 percent of the population is living in poverty, which is higher than the national average of 14.9 percent (4), and the income gap between the richest and the poorest in the state is wider than typical across the nation (and growing wider) (5).
Substance abuse is a concern in the state. Between 2001 to 2011, the number of admissions to substance abuse treatment centers has almost doubled (from 33,846 to 61,488) (6). According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, over 700,000 citizens in the state (ages 12 and up) report being addicted to tobacco, alcohol or other substances (7). The state is also one of the largest entry points in the nation for black tar heroin (8).
Excellent Educational Opportunities
If you would like to get your master’s degree in North Carolina, you have several great options from which to choose. The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work is ranked number 5 in the nation (according to the 2014 US News & World Report school rankings). Three other graduate schools in the state rank in the top 100, and there are several other options. UNC Charlotte’s Department of Social Work ranks number 66, NC State University’s Department of Social Work ranks number 79, and UNC Wilmington’s School of Social Work ranks number 89 (6).
UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work offers both traditional and distance learning options and a variety of degree options, including dual degree programs for both master’s and doctorate degrees. The school is known for its extensive fieldwork where students get hands on experience through programs such as the Jordan Institute for Families (founded by Michael Jordan) (7).
After you graduate with your Master’s in Social Work and start looking for a job, you’ll want to check into loan forgiveness programs for social workers. The National Health Service Corps loan forgiveness program (NHSC) rewards graduates who choose to work in a “Health Professional Shortage Area” (HPSA), or, in other words, an underserved community. You might also want to apply to the NC Student Loan Program for Health, Science and Mathematics (Loan Repayment Program).
Employment in Social Work
Over 18,000 social workers are employed in North Carolina. More than half of those social workers are employed as child, family or school social workers (9,810), making a median wage of $43,000 per year (above the national average of $42,100). Job growth in this sector is predicted to increase at a rate of 16 percent (8).
Approximately 25 percent of the social workers in the state work as mental health and substance abuse social workers (4,660), making a median wage of $43,400 per year. This is also above the national average ($41,000) per year. This sector also anticipates job growth at a rate of 13 percent (9).
Less than a quarter (3,280) of the social workers in the state work as healthcare social workers. The median salary for healthcare social workers is $46,000 per year, which is less than the national average of $50,800. Job opportunities should increase at a rate of 18 percent in this sector (10).
If you are interested in working as a college professor, postsecondary social work educators make a median salary of $64,000 per year. Only 420 people are employed in this capacity in the state, but opportunities should increase by approximately 19 percent between now and 2020 (11).
Licensure and Professional Development Resources
- National Association of Social Workers, North Carolina Chapter
- North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board
- North Carolina Society For Clinical Social Work
- North Carolina School Social Workers Association
Master’s in Social Work Programs in North Carolina
- About North Carolina, 2014. NC. Gov. http://www.ncgov.com/aboutnc.aspx
- Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States, 2014. Migration Policy Institute. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states
- New Americans in North Carolina, 2014. Immigration Policy Center. http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/new-americans-north-carolina
- State and County QuickFacts, 2014. United States Census Bureau. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/37000.html
- New Executive Paywatch Report Highlights Soaring Wage Gap Between CEO’s and Average NC Workers ,2014.NC Policy Watch. http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/tag/rich-and-poor/
- State Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services, 2001 – 2011. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/DASIS/TEDS2011St_Web.pdf”
- Cover Story: Charlotte #5 in Black Tar Heroin, 2011. WBTV. http://www.wbtv.com/story/14993292/cover-story-charlotte-5-in-black-tar-heroin
- Substance Abuse Services, 2013. NC Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.ncdhhs.gov/MHDDSAS/services/sa-services/index.htm
- Graduate School Social Work Programs, 2014. US News and World Report. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/search?spp=10&program=top-social-work-schools&name=&zip=north+carolina&program_rank=Any&sort=&sortdir=
- UNC School of Social Work. http://ssw.unc.edu/jordan
- Americas Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2014. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211021&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=37&search=Go
- America’s Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2014. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211023&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=37&search=Go
- America’s Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2014. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211022&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=37&search=Go
- America’s Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2014. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=251113&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=37&search=Go