MSW Tuition: What to Expect

Social work is more than a career. It is a commitment to help the underserved. It is a call to advocate for those whose voices are not heard. It is a role that can provide hope for the vulnerable and marginalized in society. As a field, it can play a vital role in improving communities, one person at a time.

Likewise, a master’s degree in social work (MSW) is more than an education. It is a path to obtaining the knowledge and skills to help others through difficult times. And demand for people with this unique skill set is increasing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work careers are projected to grow 12% nationally between 2020 and 2030, creating approximately 89,200 new jobs.

To meet these needs, prospective social workers must be prepared to impact communities and the world immediately after they have earned their Master of Social Work degree. They must also be prepared to handle the costs of earning an MSW, both during enrollment and potentially after graduation. For those who are interested in joining the growing social work field but are unsure of the costs associated with earning an MSW, there are a few ways to address and manage these expenses.

How Much Does an Online MSW Cost?

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

Tuition rate:

  • In-state: $385 per credit hour
  • Out-of-state: $770 per credit hour

Total tuition:

  • In-state: $23,100 for the traditional program and $11,550 for the advanced standing program
  • Out-of-state: $46,200 for the traditional program and $23,100 for the advanced standing program

Note that other mandatory fees may be applicable.

MSW Salary

In 2020, social workers earned a median annual salary of $51,760, according to the BLS. The Bureau also noted the top 10% of earners brought home more than $85,820.

Several factors can influence salary, such as education and experience. Location can also be a factor, as those working in cities with higher costs of living may earn more than those in cities where living costs are lower.

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

In general, a master’s degree in social work can prepare you for a robust career upon graduation. However, the broad skill set and advanced expertise offered in a program like the University of Nevada, Reno’s advanced generalist practice (AGP) focus, could qualify you for even more career opportunities.

A social worker meets with a client.

How Do I Manage the Costs of My Online MSW?

After you determine the costs to acquire your master’s in social work, there are a variety of options to help 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 six different scholarships.

Those include:

  • The Alicia Smalley Scholarship: This scholarship is commonly awarded to a student who exhibits an abiding interest in social justice.
  • The John and Louise Semenza Family Scholarship: This scholarship is for juniors, seniors and graduate students planning on entering a career with public agencies that serve special needs populations.
  • The Kris Tower Scholarship: This scholarship is commonly awarded to undergraduate or graduate students interested in working with individuals with disabilities.
  • The Heather Morsberger Memorial Scholarship: This scholarship is for juniors, seniors and graduate students interested in a social work career with an emphasis on child abuse prevention or child abuse protection.
  • The Barbara West Larsen Founders Scholarship: This scholarship is intended for full-time undergraduate or graduate students who are admitted to the School of Social Work and have maintained a 3.0 GPA.

To be considered for any of these scholarships, students need to complete an application and meet specified qualification requirements.

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 your degree expense.

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. If you need financial assistance to pay for your education, loans are always an option. However, bear in mind that you will have to pay back these loans after graduation.

Grants do not have to be repaid, but loans have fixed interest rates and must be paid off. 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 them after you graduate. According to the Project on Student Debt from the Institute for College Access and Success, 62% of 2019 college graduates owed an average of $28,950.

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, then reduce the amount over subsequent years.

Earn the MSW That Can Evolve Your Career

Earning an MSW is an important building block for a social work career. More importantly, it provides a means to help make a visceral impact in the lives of others. This can make the role immensely satisfying.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Social Work program can help you achieve success in this crucial field. The program is offered at an affordable rate, and covers the skills to help address complex problems faced by diverse, vulnerable communities — enabling you to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Learn how our program can help prepare you to pursue your professional goals.

Recommended Readings

Can You Get an MSW Without a BSW?

MSW Field Education Program Fact Sheet

What is the Value of an MSW in Today’s Social Work Marketplace?


The College Grants Database, Social Work

Federal Student Aid, Types of Financial Aid

The Institute for College Access & Success, Project on Student Debt

National Association of Social Workers, Why Choose the Social Work Profession?

University of Nevada, Reno, Loans

University of Nevada, Reno, Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships

University of Nevada, Reno, Online Master of Social Work

University of Nevada, Reno, Work Study

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Workers

U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid