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Graduate Scholarships and Resources for Social Work Students

Paying for grad school is a significant investment. With tuition rising each year, students are graduating with more student loan debt than ever before. Scholarships and fellowships help to ease the financial strain of getting an advanced degree. This guide outlines some of the best scholarship opportunities to help MSW students cut debt and come out ahead.

Author: Michael Hoffman

Editor: Staff Editor

Diverse group of volunteers and children of various ages engaging joyfully with toys on the floor in a colorful playroom.

Pursuing a master’s in social work (MSW) is an expensive proposition. For many social work graduate students, getting an advanced degree means taking on substantial debt. There are, however, scholarships, grants, and fellowships that MSW students can tap into to help pay for their degrees. That’s what this guide is all about.

Below you’ll find an extensive list of funding sources for social work master’s students. We’ve also included information on professional associations, online communities, and more for both social work students and professionals, along with important advice on how to stand out from the crowd with your scholarship applications.

Available Graduate Scholarships for MSW Students

Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are great funding sources for MSW students. The first step is to locate the ones you have the best chance of winning and then apply. Keep reading to discover our list of top funding options. When you find a match, click the program links to get all the details on how and when to apply.

National Scholarships for Master of Social Work Students

AAUW Career Development Grants

  • American Association of University Women
  • $2,000-$20,000
  • Deadline: Nov. 15
  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Preference is given to women of color and women pursuing their first advanced degree.

Description: This scholarship is for those who identify as women and are enrolled in or plan to enroll an advanced degree program in social sciences (including social work), education, health and medical science, or a STEM field.

Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund Book Scholarship

  • Council on Social Work Education
  • $500
  • Deadline: April 4
  • Applicants must be MSW students in their final year of studies with a demonstrated commitment to racial, equity, economic, and environmental justice in their social work careers.

Description: This award honors Carl A. Scott, an early advocate for diversity in social work education.

Charles Richard Drew Memorial Scholarship Commission

  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (OPPF)
  • Up to $5,000
  • Deadline: Varies by OPPF district.
  • Open to OPPF members enrolled full-time in a graduate or professional degree program in social work, social sciences, or criminal justice. Must have a minimum 3.1 GPA.

Description: The award is designed to recognize future leaders and foster scholastic achievement.

Christine Smith Graduate Studies Scholarship

  • Independent Order of Odd Fellows
  • $15,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Requirements include a bachelor’s degree, two or more years of recent professional experience in the social work or a related field, and admission to a master’s or doctoral program specializing in children and families.

Description: The scholarship supports research and study focused on issues related to children and families.

Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship

  • National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASW)
  • Up to $4,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Open to NASW members currently in or planning to enroll in an MSW program with a commitment to working with Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native populations. Applicants with a demonstrated commitment to working with voluntary nonprofit agencies, public agencies, or local grassroots groups in the U.S. are also eligible.

Description: Consuelo W. Gosnell was a champion of civil and human rights in the Southwest.

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

  • Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
  • Up to $15,000
  • Deadline: April 1
  • Open to all undergraduate and graduate students (including MSW students). Applicant must demonstrate financial need.

Description: This scholarship is for students actively working for peace and justice.

IHS Health Professions Scholarships

  • Indian Health Service (IHS) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Varies
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Available to American Indian and Alaska Native health professions students (including those in MSW programs leading to clinical social worker licensure). Applicant must agree to a service commitment (one year for each year of scholarship funding, minimum of two years) at an IHS-approved site.

Description: The goal of this award is to educate and train health professionals to staff IHS health programs.

The Melanie Foundation Scholarships

  • The Melanie Foundation
  • $2,500
  • Deadline: March 5
  • Applicants must provide evidence of past involvement in extracurricular, research, volunteer, and/or career-related activities.

Description: This scholarship is for a student currently enrolled in a graduate program related to the mental health field, including an MSW program. The award is named for Melanie Merola O’Donnell, who died at the age of 33 while completing her doctorate in psychology.

NABSW Scholarships

  • National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW)
  • $250-$2,500
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Requirements include financial NABSW membership, enrollment in an accredited undergraduate or graduate degree program, demonstrated community service, and expressed interest in social work in the Black community.

Description: These scholarships fund tuition or books.

NAJA Graduate Scholarship

  • National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA)
  • $1,000
  • Deadline: Feb. 1
  • Available to students who are permanent residents of states with Junior Auxiliary Chapters, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Both full-time and part-time students are eligible.

Description: Since 1962, NAJA has awarded over $1.4 million in scholarships for graduate studies in fields that address the special needs of children and youth.

Phi Alpha MSW Scholarship

  • Phi Alpha Honor Society
  • $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000
  • Deadline: May 31
  • Available to MSW students who are also current Phi Alpha members.

Description: This scholarship recognizes outstanding academic achievement, service, and leadership.

Pi Gamma Mu Scholarships

  • Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences
  • $1,000 and $2,000
  • Deadline: May 1
  • Open to Pi Gamma Mu members for their first or second year of study in a graduate degree in one of several fields, including social work.

Description: This scholarship places special emphasis on the student’s commitment to and interest in social sciences.

Truman Scholars

  • The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
  • Up to $30,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Offered to students nearing the end of their undergraduate degree programs. Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident of American Samoa, or expecting U.S. citizenship by the date of the scholarship award. Graduate program can be either domestic or international.

Description: The foundation identifies aspiring leaders who are committed to careers in public service.

Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholarship

  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation
  • $4,000 (plus cost of NASW virtual conference registration)
  • Deadline: March 17, 2024
  • You must be an NASW member. The application must include a two-page biographical essay, two letters of support, and academic transcripts.

Description: This award is for current or future MSW students with experience or demonstrated interest in health/mental health practice and a commitment to working in African American communities.

State-Specific Scholarships for Master of Social Work Students

Alice M. & Samuel Yarnold Scholarships

  • Alice M. & Samuel Yarnold Scholarship Trust
  • $1,000-$5,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Applicants must demonstrate financial need.

Description: This scholarship is open to New Hampshire residents intending to work in the state of New Hampshire pursuing a post-secondary degree in the social work, nursing, or medicine field.

Graduate and Professional Scholarship Program

  • Maryland Higher Education Commission
  • $1,000-$5,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Available to Maryland residents with demonstrated financial need enrolled at one of several Maryland colleges and universities.

Description: This scholarship goes to students in graduate and professional programs in social work, dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine.

Ima Hogg Scholarships

  • Hogg Foundation for Mental Health
  • $5,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Applicant must be recommended by the dean of their program, self-identify the need for the award, and demonstrate a commitment to serving underrepresented or underserved individuals and their communities in Texas.

Description: This scholarship program is open to MSW and MSSW students who have completed or are in the process of completing their first year in one of the 18 graduate programs in Texas accredited by the CSWE.

James F. Reville Scholarship

  • The Arc New York
  • $3,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Open to New York residents who are full-time students.

Description: Scholarship winners must be pursuing a career related to intellectual or other developmental disabilities.

Latino Social Work Coalition Scholarships

  • Latino Social Work Coalition & Scholarship Fund, Inc.
  • $500-$1,500
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Award is based on economic need and demonstrated commitment to working with the Latino Community upon completion of graduate studies.

Description: These awards are available to New York State residents who identify as Latino/Hispanic and are pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

Mental Health Career Scholarships

  • Touchstone Foundation/The John F. Steinman Fellowship Fund of the Steinman Foundation
  • Up to $6,000
  • Deadline: May 15
  • Open to all social work bachelor’s and master’s students (including MSW) residing in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with a demonstrated commitment and passion for clinical healthcare leading to licensure as a clinical social worker. Recipient must agree to work one year full-time in clinical healthcare in Lancaster County for each year of scholarship funding.

Description: This new scholarship is designed to develop the workforce and meet the demand for mental health services for youth in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Fellowships for Master of Social Work Students

CSWE Minority Fellowship Program Master’s Fellowship

  • Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • $10,000
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Open to students in the final year of a CSWE-accredited MSW program. The recipient’s career goal must be to “lead practice, research, teaching, and policy in government or private organizations serving underrepresented and underserved persons with or at risk for mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.”

UJA Graduate Fellowship Program

  • UJA-Federation of New York
  • Up to $7,500 for up to two years
  • Deadline: TBD
  • Offered to MSW graduate students studying in the New York City area. Recipients must be interested in working and/or interning within one of UJA-Federation of New York’s nonprofit partner agencies, grantees, day schools, or synagogues.

20 Resources for Master of Social Work Students

We all know how important networking is in building relationships and developing a career. But connecting with other social work professionals is also a great way to find out about potential funding resources for your MSW. Below is our list of some of the best resources for social work grad students to help you before, during, and after you’ve earned your social work master’s degree.

National and International Social Work Professional Associations and Organizations

Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW)

International nonprofit organization with over 1,200 members dedicated to enhancing services to people with cancer, their families, and their caregivers. AOSW members have access to an array of services and benefits including student supervision and field instruction resources.

Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)

Nonprofit organization comprised of social work regulatory boards and colleges in the U.S. and its territories. The ASWB owns and maintains the licensing examinations used throughout the U.S. to ensure the competence of social workers in their professional practice.

Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA)

Nonprofit organization offering professional support, essential products and services, and professional identity for clinical social workers. Student memberships are available to those in degreed social work programs.

Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

National association representing social work educators, agencies, and practitioners throughout the United States. The CSWE Commission on Accreditation is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting body for social work education programs in the U.S. and its territories.

International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)

Global confederation of over 130 social work organizations. Individual (IFSW Friend) memberships are available with benefits such as access to the IFSW’s journal (International Social Work), the opportunity to participate in local, regional, and international social work and social justice campaigns, and more.

National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW)

Professional organization committed to the empowerment and enhancement of the quality of life of people of African ancestry through research, advocacy, and the delivery of human services. Student memberships are available.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

Billed as the largest organization of professional social workers in the world, the NASW is dedicated to the professional growth of its members and advancement of sound social policies. Offers great resources for social work students and recent grads.

School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA)

Nonprofit professional association dedicated to the empowerment of school social workers and promotion of the profession both nationally and around the world. The SSWAA website offers a wealth of professional development opportunities and other useful resources. Student memberships are available.

Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR)

With over 1,800 members representing more than 200 institutions and universities, the SSWR is dedicated to the advancement of social work research. Student memberships are available to social work students of all degree types, including MSW students.

Academic, Degree and College Related Resources

Journal of Social Work Education

Taylor & Francis Online provides access to all regular and special issues of this professional journal concerned with education in social welfare and social work.

Michigan State University MSW Student Resources

This webpage for social work master’s students provides an excellent example of the types of services and resources to expect from your school’s MSW program. Included is a full range of academic, career-related, and personal services (Career Services Network, Financial Services, Writing Center, MSW Student Veterans Resource Center, etc.) plus professional resources.

Phi Alpha Honor Society

National social work honor society with chapters on over 100 college and university campuses throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Virgin Islands. Membership is available to social work students, faculty, and practitioners.

The Social Work Graduate School Site

Sponsored by the publisher of The New Social Worker magazine, this blog site offers excellent information on succeeding in MSW programs. Includes excerpts from The Social Work Graduate School Applicant’s Handbook as well as articles on a range of grad school topics.

Practice-Related Resources

Social Workers Toolbox

Huge clearinghouse of free social work tools and resources for working with both adults and children. Includes hundreds of guides, workbooks, videos, group and individual activities, and much more covering practically any issue or practice area.

Blogs, Online Communities, and other Social Media

A Spot for Social Workers…

This Reddit community has over 50k members. The community provides a place to seek and receive advice and support from fellow members.

The New Social Worker

Online site for The New Social Worker magazine. The site offers a wealth of useful resources for both students and working professionals, including news articles on education and credentials, careers, ethics, field placement, tech, social work practice, self care, and much more.

Social Work Career

This website offers tons of information and advice for current and prospective social work professionals. Visitors access free articles, blog posts, webinars, expert interviews, and more covering topics such as education and training, personal growth, and licensure test prep.

Social Workers Helping Social Work Students

Facebook group with over 4,000 social work professionals and student members that describes itself as “a safe place for social workers to ask questions and learn from each other.”

Social Workers Speak

This NASW-sponsored site is designed to provide social work professionals the opportunity to positively influence how the news media and entertainment industry depicts the social work profession and the issues workers in the social work field care about.

SWHelper

Progressive media outlet providing current news, information, entertainment, and other resources related to “social work, social justice, and social good.” Content is provided on a number of topics, including news, culture, politics, mental health, tech, LGBTQ, and disability.

How to Stand Out on Your Scholarship Application

Now that you’ve found one or more scholarships to apply to, it’s time to put in the work to create a great application package. Remember, most scholarships are competitive, so it’s crucial that you find ways to make your application shine. Here are five tips for doing just that. Keep in mind that scholarship selection committees are most interested in picking exceptional recipients, so don’t be afraid to let your strengths shine.

Expand Your Extracurriculars

College admissions committees prefer well-rounded students who are used to getting out of the classroom and participating in lots of extracurricular activities, both on-campus and in their communities. The same goes for scholarship selection committees. Extracurricular activities that relate to the scholarship type (e.g., computer clubs for computer science scholarships, volunteer work with the Red Cross for public health scholarships) are particularly good. Whatever activities you choose, it helps tremendously if you’ve been active for a good while before you start your scholarship search. If not, then you’d better get started. Now.

Letters of Recommendation

Don’t underestimate the value of personal essays and letters of recommendation. Both application components offer you a major opportunity to impress selection committees by letting them know what makes you special. But you must do them right. For your letters of recommendation, the most important thing is to pick your letter writers carefully. Select ones who know you well and can provide a glowing recommendation based on that personal knowledge. Also, provide your writers with plenty of time to get their letters written and submitted well before the deadline. And be sure to follow up with your writers to confirm that their letters were submitted.

Wow With Your Essay

This is where readers often make their first impression of applicants, and the best essays are ones where an applicant has found a way to connect their passion for public health with their personal story or experiences. Be genuine and reflective. Tell the truth about why this scholarship means so much to you and how it will impact your future career and life goals. Use strong, vivid language. Readers want to see standard grammar and writing proficiency, but they also want to feel the humanity within your story. Impress them with your writing skills and show off your personality with humor and creativity.

Wow with Your Essay

Your essay is probably the single most important component to your scholarship application package. Unless your application process includes a personal interview, your essay is your only chance to speak directly to the selection committee to let them know why you are the best choice for their award. So, be sure you put the time and effort into your essays to really make them great. Start early and plan on lots of revisions and drafts. Bring in a great reader or two (like professional writers, English professors, or English grad students) to provide quality feedback. Anddefinitely don’t write one generic essay for all your applications. It’s crucial that your essays are properly tailored to the unique character of each specific scholarship.

Be First in Line—Well Before the Deadline

You might be surprised to learn that you’re likely to gain an advantage by getting your scholarship application package in early. An application submitted early means you’ll probably get considered sooner than the late submitters (that’s most of them), allowing you to make a fresh and lasting impression on the selection committee. One big caveat: Only submit your application early if it meets all requirements and all the other tips in this list. An exceptional application package far outweighs any advantage you may gain by an early submittal.

Follow Instructions and Be Thorough

You’d think this would go without saying, but many applicants blow their chances simply by not reading the application instructions carefully and meeting all stated requirements. Follow all application and submittal instructions to a “t.” Don’t leave anything out. And most important of all: Don’t miss a deadline! You can be certain that you’ll be wasting all your hard work just by submitting a portion of your application late.