The school made a formal announcement Friday and introduced her at a news conference.
Yow told the audience that she intends to build NC State into national contenders in both basketball and football.
University spokesman Keith Nichols says N.C. State's board of trustees approved a contract for Yow on Friday morning.
Yow, a North Carolina native and graduate of Elon University, held the position of athletic director at the University of Maryland. She began there in 1994, making her the first female athletic director in ACC history
Yow also is the sister of former women's NC State basketball coach Kay Yow. Kay died from breast cancer in 2009.
During her 16-year tenure at Maryland, Debbie Yow aided in the expansion of the university's athletic department to 27 teams and was involved in the construction of the Comcast Center in 2002.
NC State's former athletic director, Lee Fowler, resigned last month and will be leaving on June 30. State began its search for his successor on May 4, forming a search committee and hiring a search firm.