A career in social work requires a unique commitment to the well-being of others. Individuals who complete an education in social work provide an essential service to their communities: from addressing the needs of the economically disadvantaged to helping children, families, the mentally ill and others, social workers are vital to the overall health of communities, states and countries.
A social work degree provides the graduate with vast opportunities for employment; however, these degrees often require extensive education and training. For many students, the financial burden of higher education can prove too difficult. For these individuals, there are a variety of scholarship programs and other types of financial assistance that can help. For example, the scholarships and grants listed below can help students fulfill their educational goals and move on to a noble career path in social work.
Types of Social Workers
When applying for scholarships, grants and other forms of financial assistance, it’s a good idea to consider your long-term social work goals. By keeping your career goals in mind, you’re better able to narrow your search on the financial aid front. If you’re unsure about your long-term plans, keep in mind that there are three basic types of social workers, each of which is detailed below:
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
This type of social work entails addressing the needs of individuals who suffer from mental illness and/or addiction to drugs or alcohol. This can involve helping clients work through their issues in counseling sessions as well as placing clients in treatment and rehabilitation facilities. It’s also common for these types of professionals to work with outreach programs, which aim to seek people in need and provide assistance of all kinds.
Child, Family and School Social Workers
Child, family and school social workers work with all types of clients. In addition to placing children in foster homes and assisting in the adoption process, these professionals also provide assistance to the elderly, families and other types of individuals in the interest of improving overall quality of life. The most common types of social workers in the United States, child, family and school social workers also work with teachers and school systems to address issues like learning disabilities, bullying and more.
Medical and Public Health Social Workers
These types of social workers help ensure the adequate care of the seriously ill, injured and infirm. In addition to providing counseling services, these social workers also help clients access programs like medicare, medicaid and other resources.
Federal Grants for Social Work Students
The federal government, through the United States Department of Education, offers a number of grants for students pursuing careers in public service. While not offered exclusively to social work students, the following grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid.
Federal Pell Grant
The Federal Pell Grant is available for graduate and undergraduate students who can demonstrate the necessary level of financial need. Award amounts may vary according to factors such as need, tuition amount, long-term academic plans and status as a part-time or full-time student. The maximum Pell Grant award amount changes annually, but currently stands at $5,500 per academic year.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG, provides financial assistance to recipients of the Federal Pell Grant. Designed to further assist students in extreme need, the FSEOG is awarded on a first come, first serve basis and is administered through the financial aid offices of various universities and colleges. FSEOG award amounts typically range from $1,000 to $4,000 per academic year.
Most social work scholarship programs are awarded to students looking to pursue a career in a specific service area. A few examples of field-specific social work scholarship programs include the following:
The Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship
The Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship, established by the American Legacy Foundation, awards up to $10,000 annually to up to two candidates who wish to pursue a graduate or undergraduate degree in social work with an emphasis on reducing tobacco use in their communities. Candidates for the Dr. Alma Adams Scholarship must meet the following requirements:
The James F. Reville Scholarship
The James F. Reville Scholarship is designed to provide financial assistance to students pursuing degrees relating to intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. This $3,000 scholarship is awarded to two students each year and is given in installments of $750 each. Eligibility criteria includes the following:
The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship
Administered by the National Association of Social Workers, the Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship is designed to further the education of master’s degree students who are committed to working within the African American community. Up to two scholarships are awarded each year, each up to $2,000. Ideal candidates for this scholarship include students who work in, or have a desire to work in, hospitals, clinics and agencies which provide specialized health care, both mental and physical, to African American patients. Other guidelines include the following:
The Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship
The Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship is awarded by the National Association of Social Workers to graduate students who have demonstrated a commitment to working with the Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaskan Native populations. Eligibility criteria for this scholarship includes the following:
State-Based Social Work Scholarship
All across America, states are experiencing a shortage of qualified social workers in both the public and private sectors. Since social work is essential to the welfare and vitality of a state and its communities, and in an effort to address social worker shortages, most states are offering financial assistance to students pursuing careers in the field. These programs have been developed by a number of states and are designed to support and encourage social work students of all kinds and at all academic levels. Students pursuing social work degrees, whether undergraduate, graduate or doctoral, should contact their state’s Department of Higher Education for information on grants, scholarships, loans and more.
A career path in social work is a noble aspiration. Committed to the service of others, social workers improve the quality of life for individuals of all ages and types. And though social work is a challenging field, there are few as rewarding. With the types of financial assistance listed above, students are better-equipped to complete their education and fulfill their goals of becoming a dedicated, qualified social worker.