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Career-Specific Grants

As new hires are sought out in high-needs fields, there has been an increase in the grants awarded to these students. For example, nurses and teachers have a wealth of opportunities available to them when it comes to career-specific grants, especially if they’re interested in working in areas of shortage. For more information on these grant awards, contact your local student assistance commission or your college’s financial aid office, as both will have information on the high-needs fields, as well as how you can save significantly on your college education. If you are undecided on your major or career, look into which fields are constantly in need of new graduates. For information about scholarships and grants based on other criteria, conduct a free scholarship search. You may find yourself eligible for a multitude of scholarships you hadn’t known about for. We have provided some examples on how your career choice can help pay for school.

From the Government

Most of the grants received on the federal level will be through the results of your Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. These are need-based awards, although a minimum GPA may also be a requirement. Read the fine print when applying for, and before accepting any grant award, as something may be required of you post-graduation, such as years of service.

The federally-funded Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 to students who intend to teach in low-income, high-need school districts. High-need fields of study include foreign language, special education, math and science, and then some. If students receive the grant and later choose not to pursue the field, the TEACH Grant will be turned into a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

Grants targeting nursing students include the Nursing Scholarship Program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which rewards prospective nurses with a monthly stipend and covers the costs of tuition and fees, in exchange for two years of service at a health care facility where there is a nursing shortage.

The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants provide up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth years in college if you major in a list of eligible fields of study like math, science technology or engineering. Eligible recipients must already be Pell recipients, and demonstrate they have high enough need to qualify for grant funding beyond their Pell award. Students must also have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and have at least one class in an eligible field of study during the year the grant would be awarded.

If you plan on staying in-state for school, you could also be eligible for state grants if you’re entering a field with high local demand. The Illinois Future Teacher Corps (IFTC) Program, for example, is available to juniors and above who want to be teachers in Illinois, especially in districts with high teacher turnover rates.

From Your School

If you know exactly what you’d like to be doing after you graduate, consider approaching colleges that specialize in certain fields, or making sure you investigate all of the grant possibilities at your intended college. Many schools, including community and technical colleges, have grant funds set up by specific departments, or funding set up by alumni in certain fields that you may be interested in. The University of Minnesota's Women's Center offers grants to not only students but faculty and staff interested in the field of women’s studies and enhancing the campus climate for women through special projects.

If you’re pursuing an advanced degree, you could have the option of receiving a research grant or fellowship. Grants for advanced degrees will often not only fund your education, but help pay for internships, career-advancement opportunities and research positions that will give you valuable experience and a resume boost once you complete your program. Santa Clara University’s Law School, for example, has several Social Justice Grants that provide students and alumni with funding opportunities for doing things like working in summer public interest positions as volunteers or for low pay.

There are many outside organizations that aim to expand college opportunities for students pursuing certain fields through grants and scholarship programs. Make sure you contact these particular groups when doing your research. While some will require you to work in the field post-graduation, others may only want you to complete a degree. The Institute of Museum and Library Services department of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities has a number of grant opportunities for not only supporting the nation’s library systems, but recruiting and educating the next generation of students entering the library sciences. The National Association of Black Journalists provides grants for black student journalists who are also members of their professional organization. It may be optimal to join local organizations in your intended field if it means you can earn free college money. .

If you’re looking for an advanced degree and are already in the working world, contact your employer. Chances are there are funding opportunities that you are unaware of, although you may be asked to remain with the company for several years after completing your advanced coursework. Employers desire expanded skill work so that you’re more valuable and productive at their company. Why not let them take the bill if you like your job and want to take some professional development classes?

From Outside Organizations

There are many outside organizations that aim to expand college opportunities for students pursuing certain fields of study through grants and scholarship programs, so make sure to get connected with those organizations. While some may require post-graduation employment and service, others only want you to complete a degree in that field. The Institute of Museum and Library Services department of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities has a number of grant opportunities for not only supporting the nation’s library systems, but to recruit and educate the next generation of students entering the library science profession. The National Association of Black Journalists provides grants for black student journalists who are also members of their professional organization. It could be worth joining the local organization of the field you’re interested in if it means you have a better shot at landing free money for college.

If you’re looking for an advanced degree and are already in the working world, contact your employer. Chances are, there are funding opportunities that you may not have known about, although you may be asked to remain with the company for several years after you’re done with your advanced coursework. Employers want you to expand your skill sets so that you’re more valuable and productive at their company, so why not let them foot the bill if you like your job and want to take some professional development classes?

Last Edited: July 2015

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