Managing The Costs of a Master of Social Work

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A master’s in social work is more than an education; it’s a commitment to help the underserved cope with the challenges of life. And demand is increasing: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work careers are projected to grow 12 percent nationally from 2014 to 2024, creating 74,800 new jobs.

To meet these needs, you must be prepared to impact our community and world immediately after graduation — like how the University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Social Work students learn advanced generalist practice (AGP) to serve rural communities.

If you’d like to join this growing industry but are unsure of the costs of an MSW, here’s a closer look at how you can manage the expense.

What kind of salary can I expect to earn after I graduate from an MSW program?

In 2016, social workers earned a median salary of $46,890, with the top 10 percent taking home more than $78,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s online MSW program can enhance your earning potential and expertise with training in advanced generalist practice, a credential designed to prepare graduates for the future of social work.

“Advanced generalist practice teaches a pattern for how to work with any population. That is the beauty of a generalist program,” said Linda Anngela-Cole, assistant professor of social work. “Students are learning a pattern that can be applied to working with any population rather than a specific niche program that some students are taught.”

A master’s degree in social work can prepare you for a robust career upon graduation, and a broad skill set and advanced expertise, such as AGP, could qualify you for even more career opportunity.

How much does an online MSW cost at the University of Nevada, Reno?

On average, students who attend the Master of Social Work program at the University of Nevada, Reno, pay tuition rates that are more manageable than its competitors.

Tuition rate:

  • In-state: $350 per credit hour
  • Out-of-state: $700 per credit hour

Total tuition:

  • In-state: $21,700 for the traditional program and $11,200 for the advanced standing program
  • Out-of-state: $43,400 for the traditional program and $22,400 for the advanced standing program

How do I manage the costs for my online MSW?

After you determine the costs to acquire your master’s in social work, there are a variety of options to pay the expense:

Scholarships: Scholarships are an efficient way to pay for college tuition. Students have various options based on the school and program they’re attending. At the University of Nevada, Reno, seniors, juniors and graduate students who are eligible can apply for seven different scholarships.

Those include:

  • The Alicia Smalley Scholarship
  • The John and Louise Semenza Family Scholarship
  • The Kris Tower Scholarship
  • The Heather Morsberger Memorial Scholarship
  • The National Association of Social Workers Scholarship
  • The School of Social Work Diversity Scholarship
  • The Division of Health Sciences Scholarship

To be considered for any of these scholarships, students must complete the application and meet specified qualification requirements. Attached to the application must be an essay that addresses the scholarship you’re interested in, how it relates to your work and your interests and goals as a social worker.

Tuition reimbursement: Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs for employees. This can be a great option for full-time workers who are pursuing their online degree. If you fall into this category, talk to your employer and find out if this is an option. It could end up covering a large percentage of the expenses.

Student financial aid: The U.S. Department of Education awards $120 billion a year in loans, grants, and work-study programs to more than 13 million students. So if you need financial assistance to pay for school, loans are always an option — but you have to pay them back after graduation.

Grants do not have to be repaid, but loans have fixed interest rates and must be paid off after graduation. Work study programs are offered through the institution and allow students to participate in a work program to pay for their tuition.

There are two other common loan programs, each with differing payment stipulations:

  • Institutional loans are offered through a college or university, with repayment stipulations dependent on the institution
  • Private loans have interest rates that can change over time, and you must begin repayment immediately

If you’re considering private loans, just remember the debt that comes with it — according to the Project on Student Debt from the Institute for College Access and Success, 68 percent of 2015 college graduates owed an average of $30,100 — a number that is likely to increase.

Set financial goals and limits: Budgeting and managing expenses for your online master’s degree doesn’t have to be a stressful and costly situation. By being proactive in managing your payments, you can alleviate the pressure that comes with funding your education.

Here are some strategies:

  • Identify what you can pay out of pocket for tuition
  • Determine your estimated cost of living while enrolled
  • Know which type of aid you prefer to pursue

You should also educate yourself on the financial aid process. According to Forbes, some institutions offer higher scholarship amounts in the beginning, which then reduce in the amount over subsequent years.

Earn the MSW that can evolve your career

By enrolling in the online Master of Social Work program at the University of Nevada, Reno, you can earn the skills to help address complex problems in diverse, vulnerable communities — all at an affordable rate.


Suggested Readings

What Is The Value of an MSW in Today’s Social Work Marketplace?

MSW Field Education Program Fact Sheet

University of Nevada, Reno Online Master of Social Work



The Chicago Tribune

The University of Nevada, Reno

UNR – School of Social Work Scholarships

College Grants Database

UNR – Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships

UNR – Work Study and Regents Service Program

Federal Student Aid (Linking to the original URL)


UNR – Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships – Loans

The Institute for College Access and Success