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Mission, Scope, and Leadership

Founded in 1920, UNC School of Social Work is ranked third in the nation among top schools of social work by US News & World Report.


“Advance Equity, Transform Systems, and Improve Lives” is the School’s mission.

The vision for the School is to become the leading school of social work for impact — generating knowledge with powerful and positive consequences.

The School has chosen six core values as its touchstone for excellence. Three values describe its work: Rigorous, Courageous, Persistent. Three values describe its interactions: Trustworthy, Inclusive, Compassionate.


Master of Social Work (MSW) programs

The School enrolls about 300 students in its MSW programs each year. These students choose one of the following options:

  • 2-Year MSW
  • 3-Year MSW, Chapel Hill
  • 3-Year MSW, Winston-Salem
  • 12-Month Advanced Standing MSW, Chapel Hill
  • 20-Month Advanced Standing MSW, Chapel Hill

The 3-Year MSW programs are designed for students who need a part-time option. These students attend classes only on Fridays during the first two years of their program. During the third year, they attend classes in Chapel Hill on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The two Advanced Standing MSW programs are designed for students who have already earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

Students may apply to earn a second master’s degree in a related field through partnerships with UNC School of Government, UNC School of Law, UNC School of Public Health, and Duke Divinity School.

The School also offers coursework leading to additional credentials for MSW students who plan to work as school social workers, substance use and addiction counselors, behavioral healthcare professionals, and other career specialties.

About 5,000 alumni have earned the MSW degree at UNC School of Social Work.

Doctoral (Ph.D. in Social Work) program

The School maintains an enrollment of about 30 students in its doctoral program. Typically, students complete their Ph.D. studies in five or six years, including the dissertation.

The School’s doctoral program was the first of its kind in North Carolina, with more than 100 graduates to date. The first graduate was Mimi Chapman (Ph.D. 1997), who currently serves as chair of the UNC Faculty Council and as associate dean of doctoral education at the School.

Doctoral students learn to design and evaluate social interventions, analyze data from their research, and disseminate their discoveries to advance knowledge within the social work profession nationally and internationally. Many graduates accept appointments to faculties of public and private universities. Some pursue leadership roles in policymaking institutions.

Service to North Carolina

UNC School of Social Work offers programming that extends to all 100 counties in North Carolina through specialized training for social workers and other behavioral, emotional, and mental health professionals.

In addition to its robust continuing education program, the School works with North Carolina government agencies to provide evaluation services and deliver training specific to the needs of county departments of social services; county and state correctional facilities; NC Area Health Education Centers (AHEC); NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services; NC Division of Aging; and many other public and private partners.

MSW students at the School are placed in field assignments at more than 250 different agencies and organizations throughout North Carolina, including hospitals, schools, and nonprofit organizations. Annually, they contribute more than 130,000 unpaid hours of service to these agencies, an estimated value of $1.2 million.


Ramona Denby-Brinson accepted the deanship of the School in August 2021. Dean Denby-Brinson brings extensive experience to her new role, with appointments as associate dean of academic affairs (The Ohio State University School of Social Work) and associate dean of research (Arizona State University Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions) during her 27 years in social work education.

The School’s Board of Advisors includes alumni, donors, community leaders, and other advocates among its membership. Members are appointed to two-year terms and may be reappointed. Current members of the Board of Advisors are listed on the School’s website.