Obtaining a social work degree shows a dedication and commitment to helping others who are facing challenges. However, social work students can face challenges of their own when trying to finance their education. Fortunately, many organizations and institutions offer financial aid to individuals planning to pursue a career as a social worker. Financial aid available to social work students includes grants, loans, and graduate fellowships. Use this guide to learn more about the types of aid that are available, as well as some scholarships that specifically target social work students.
Social workers willing to work in high-need areas may qualify for special grants, loans, and/or loan repayment programs.
Financial Aid for Social Work Majors
Social work students typically finance their education through a combination of savings, loans, and other types of financial aid. Financial aid includes scholarships and grants that students do not need to repay, earned income from a work-study job, and low-interest student loans. Additionally, social workers willing to work in high-need areas may qualify for special grants, loans, and/or loan repayment programs. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out more about the types of federal aid you may qualify for. Most colleges and universities also ask students to complete the FAFSA.
Many organizations — including schools, non-profits, and charitable foundations — offer scholarships to students. The scholarships offered by private organizations tend to be more competitive than those provided automatically to qualifying students by colleges and universities. Merit-based scholarship applications often include essays, letters of recommendation, and GPA requirements. You can look for scholarships through your school’s financial aid office and online. Be sure to visit the websites of organizations related to your field of interest. You might qualify for specific scholarships based on where you live, your future plans, and/or your family background.
- Grants and Fellowships
Like scholarships, students do not need to repay grants and fellowships. Unlike scholarships, organizations typically award grants based on financial need. Thus, grant applications may ask for information related to your financial status or require you to fill out the FAFSA.
Graduate schools and other organizations offer fellowships to graduate students to help them pay for their living expenses while they conduct research and complete their dissertations. Fellowships often require students to provide some service to the institution -- such as research or teaching assistance -- in return for a stipend. Social work students planning to work with specific populations or in high-need areas may qualify for special grants and fellowships.
Student loans help learners fill remaining gaps between the cost of school attendance and the money they can assemble to cover these costs. Private organizations and the federal government offer student loans, which students must repay after leaving school. Federal loans available to students who demonstrate financial need typically offer much lower interest rates than private loans.
Students must complete the FAFSA to see if they qualify for federal direct subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans benefit students the most as they do not accrue interest while an individual is enrolled in school, and the federal government sets these interest rates. However, the federal government also limits the amount of subsidized loans that students may borrow. Visit this page to learn more about student loans and how they work.
- Work Study
If you attend school on campus and demonstrate financial need, you may qualify for federally subsidized work study. This form of aid guarantees you a part-time campus job where you can earn spending money. Your school will pay you directly as you work, and you can use your earnings however you wish. Work study helps many students pay for books, clothing, travel, and entertainment. Many work-study jobs also offer students valuable work experience in their field of interest.
Social Work Scholarships for Bachelor's Students
Majoring in social work at the undergraduate level offers an excellent introduction to the field. It can prepare graduates for careers in counseling or graduate school. Visit this page to learn more about earning an online bachelor's in social work (BSW). Social work majors may qualify for a variety of scholarships, including the awards listed below.
- American School Health Association Scholarship
Who Can Apply: College juniors and seniors majoring in school social work with a minimum GPA of 3.0 may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be members of ASHA.
- Bob Benedetto Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award targets undergraduates from Ventura County who hold a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students must submit a 500-700-word essay describing why they are seeking a BSW and what their plans are after graduation.
- Carl A. Scott Book Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Full-time college juniors dedicated to working for equity and social justice through social work may apply for this award. Applicants should possess a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Cenie “Jomo” Williams Tuition Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) offers this scholarship to student members enrolled full time in an accredited social work program. Applicants must be African American and possess a 2.5 GPA or higher.
- Davis-Putter Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Financially needy students active in social and economic justice movements can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must submit a personal statement and letters of recommendation. Judges give preference to students intending to work in the U.S.
Amount: Up to $15,000/year
- Emma & Meloid Algood Undergraduate Tuition Scholarship
Who Can Apply: African American student members of NABSW enrolled in a BSW program may apply. Applicants should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and want to work with the less fortunate.
- National Association of Black Social Workers Book Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Student members of NABSW with a demonstrated research interest in the Black community may apply for a variety of book scholarships. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose and two letters of recommendation.
- Painter Service for Others Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: Juniors and seniors at Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Denver, or Colorado State University who plan to assist youth as a social worker may apply for these awards. Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.5 and demonstrate financial need.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Who Can Apply: College graduates working in a public service field may submit an application to the federal government to enter an income-based repayment plan. After making 120 monthly payments while employed full time with a qualifying employer, applicants ask the federal government to forgive the balance of their federal direct student loans.
- Yarnold Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Financially needy postsecondary students from New Hampshire who intend to major in social work and stay in the state may apply for this award. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Master's in Social Work Students
Earning a master's in social work (MSW) may qualify you to provide direct clinical care. To help increase the number of MSW graduates, many organizations offer scholarships to individuals pursuing an online master's in social work. See the list below for a few examples.
- Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: California offers scholarships to social workers and other healthcare professionals willing to serve in a medically underserved area of the state for one year. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA and be accepted/enrolled in a social work program.
Amount: Up to $8,000/year
- Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The National Association of Social Work (NASW) awards this scholarship to MSW candidates interested in working with Hispanic/Latino or American Indian/Alaska Native populations. NASW members with a GPA of at least 3.0 who plan to enroll in an accredited MSW program may apply.
Amount: Up to $4,000
- Dr. Joyce Beckett Tuition Scholarship
Who Can Apply: NABSW offers this scholarship to African American student members who plan to work in the African American community. Applicants must possess a minimum 2.5 GPA and be enrolled in an accredited MSW program.
- EPICC Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: The Osman and Holm Awards provide scholarships to master's students who submit winning papers on clinical social work interventions related to their fieldwork placements. Applicants must be members of EPICC.
- Ima Hogg Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Accredited graduate schools in Texas that offer a social work program may recommend one MSW student for this scholarship. Recipients should demonstrate financial need and an intent to provide mental health services in Texas.
Amount: Up to $5,000
- Indian Health Service Health Professions Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Members of federally recognized tribes enrolled in an MSW program who plan to pursue clinical practice may apply for this award. Recipients must give one year of service for each year of funding they receive.
Amount: Full tuition and fees
- National Association of Junior Auxiliaries Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Graduate students planning to work directly with children/youth may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must reside in a state with a Junior Auxiliary Chapter (i.e., Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, or Tennessee).
- National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
Who Can Apply: Licensed clinical social workers may qualify to have the federal government repay their student loans in return for service in an area with limited access to mental or behavioral healthcare.
Amount: Up to $50,000
- Truman Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This merit-based scholarship recognizes leadership potential in public service. Undergraduates interested in being considered for this graduate scholarship should contact their institution's faculty representative regarding nomination during their junior year.
Amount: Up to $30,000
- Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: NASW members with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an interest in working in African American communities may apply for this award. Recipients must enroll in an accredited MSW program.
Amount: $5,500 ($4,000 to the student's university and $1,500 for conference attendance and leadership development)
Scholarships for DSW Students
Earning a doctorate in social work (DSW) can open the door to exciting careers in research, higher education, and advanced clinical practice. Many organizations offer scholarships and fellowships, such as those listed below, to help doctoral students complete their education, conduct research, and carry out their dissertation.
- American Fellowships
Who Can Apply: Female students with a commitment to helping women and girls may apply to the American Association of University Women for graduate fellowships to help them complete their dissertation research in any field. Recipients may use these funds to pay for their living expenses while completing research.
- CSWE Scholars Program
Who Can Apply: Doctoral students may apply to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for funds to help them complete research projects related to the field.
- Eileen Blackey Doctoral Fellowship
Who Can Apply: This fellowship, offered by NASW to its members, provides assistance to doctoral candidates completing a dissertation related to welfare policy and practice with a diversity component. The application includes a research proposal summary.
Amount: $4,000-$6,500 ($1,500 earmarked for conference attendance and professional development)
- Jane B. Aron Doctoral Fellowship
Who Can Apply: NASW offers this annual fellowship to a doctoral candidate planning to complete a dissertation related to healthcare policy and practice with a diversity component. Applicants must be an NASW member and submit a project proposal.
Amount: $17,900 ($15,500 to the university and $2,400 for conference attendance and leadership development)
- Minority Fellowship Program for Doctoral Students
Who Can Apply: CSWE encourages racial and ethnic minorities pursuing a doctorate in social work to apply for this award. Applicants must possess an accredited MSW degree and should intend to provide leadership at an organization serving at-risk or underserved populations.
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