Congrats on choosing such a rewarding field! Social work is a versatile profession that will provide you with various opportunities to help others improve their lives and also give you a strong sense of accomplishment.
Let's address the financial aspect of schooling first:
You are absolutely correct in that school is pricey. Every year schools increase their tuition in order to remain competitive. Thankfully there are ways to find financial assistance. Here are a few:
- Complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid). This form will allow you to qualify for various government grants and other potential financial options. Be cautious when considering a loan. They can rack up quickly. (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out)
- Research scholarships and grants at the schools that you would like to attend. I would suggest attending a local, state school, as those tend to cost less. You can start your research with this site https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships
- If possible, pursue employment at an organization that offers tuition assistance. The most obvious places that offer tuition assistance are local colleges and universities. Additionally, several companies offer tuition assistance for those looking to attend school while employed.
All of these opportunities will provide you financial assistance to pursue your social work aspirations.
Regarding gaining experience in the Social Work field, there are several patient and client centered positions that you can pursue as you work to find finances for your degree.
- Direct Care- If you are willing, providing direct care to the elderly and individuals with disabilities will provide you with adequate experience in the Human Services field. In this profession, you will be assisting clients with daily care skills such as eating, bathing and self care. Working in this field will get your foot in the door at a Nonprofit, Hospital or other Human Services Institution where you can work directly with social workers who are responsible for the services your clients are receiving. With that being said, you can observe the field first hand and gain more information about how you will fit into the field after receiving your degree.
- Nonprofit/ Medical Administration- If you want to work on the logistics side, obtaining an administrative or office position at a Nonprofit or Medical Institution will put you on the front lines of the Human Service field. In a position like this you can learn the logistical and administrative aspects of working in social work and case management. This is another "foot in the door" position that will allow you to build rapport and relationships with co workers who can help you advance in the Human Services field without yet having a social work degree.
- Nonprofit/Medical Volunteer- Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience in the Human Services field without a degree. Several institutions welcome passionate volunteers who want to share their time with those in need. Check out local areas where you can volunteer, as well as this link which provides national groups who are always looking for volunteers. https://www.socialworkdegreecenter.com/10-places-volunteer-youre-interested-career-social-work/
I hope these suggestions were helpful and I wish you the absolute best in your pursuit of this fulfilling career!
This professional recommends the following next steps:
- Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out and complete the application. Be sure to have your tax return available as they will need to know how much you earn so that they can determine your qualification.
- Visit the degree programs of local schools and see what scholarships and grants are offered.
- Seek out applicable employment and volunteer positions in the Human Services Field.
- Have fun!