Aid Based on Your Career Choice

    Want a scholarship or grant money for your education? The easiest way to accomplish that might be to select a career that’s in demand.

    Whether it’s the government, college and universities, community-service organizations or businesses seeking qualified candidates to fill positions in their workforce, there are scores of scholarships and grants available, if you already know what you want to do when you graduate from college.

    For these career-specific scholarships and career-specific grants, what sort of occupations are needed?
    • Federal and state governments want teachers.
    • Colleges and universities want students who are pursuing degrees in engineering and accounting.
    • Hospitals want more nurses and therapists.
    • Businesses want well-trained information technology programmers.

    Both government and private employers are more than willing to help finance the education of students in those fields. This page highlights grants and scholarships based on career choice and how that money can be obtained.

    Federal Funding For Careers

    Overall, for the 2016-17 school year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $120 billion in grants, work-study funds and loans to more than 13 million students. Included were programs that encourage careers in teaching, nursing, science and technology. The aid covered expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation.

    Federal grant amounts depend on students filling out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form that will determine the expected family contribution for the cost of college. Some federal grants have requirements such as a minimum grade-point average. There are some grant retention standards, such as enrollment status, accumulative GPA and post-graduation service.

    Federal funding for careers can offer some attractive options. Here are some notable scholarships and grants:
    • The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) program provides up to $4,000 in grants for students who are willing to work in low-income areas and teach subjects such as foreign language, math and special education. Students must sign a contract to teach for four complete academic years within eight years of completing their degree.
    • The Department of Health and Human Services has a Nursing Scholarship Program that covers tuition and fees while offering a monthly stipend. In exchange, students must work two years at health care facilities where there is a nursing shortage.
    • The Department of Homeland Services offers about 100 scholarships annually in fields that include computer sciences, math, languages, forensics and investigative services. The DHS requires students to perform summer internships and serve in the DHS after graduation for up to three years.
    • The federal government awards $4,000 annually to college juniors and seniors seeking degrees in math, science, technology and engineering as part of the SMART (Science, Math and Research for Transformation) program.
    • Don’t forget one of the primary benefits of military service. The Army, Navy and Air Force offer grants in many fields in exchange for a post-graduation commitment to service.

    State Government Grants

    Each state offers grants and scholarships that sometimes mirror offerings at the federal level. Some state financial aid dollars are matched through federal initiatives.

    Here are some of the more widespread state scholarships:
    • Academically Talented Students These are often funded by state lottery profits and property tax contributions. Low-income students can qualify through good grades and civic participation
    • Unique Student Populations These are offered to minorities, women and students with disabilities. They are designed to “lift up’’ specific student groups and increase their access to higher education. There are some state-subsidized first-in-family scholarship programs.
    • Career-Specific Scholarships The most popular are offered in fields of emerging technology. They are designed to bolster innovation and scientific advancement. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholarships are sometimes a partnership between state governments and forward-thinking private sources. They often lead to internships and permanent employment.
    • High-Need Fields Every state seems to want nurses and teachers. By doing your research, you’ll find some unique grant/scholarship offerings in many states.
    • A few examples of fields of study for state specialized grants:
    • California: Child care and development.
    • Iowa: Barbers and cosmetologists.
    • Maine: Journalism, photography, broadcast and other communications fields.
    • New Jersey: Vocational and trade schools.
    • North Carolina: Accounting.
    • Tennessee: Gerontology or geriatrics.

    Career Choice Aid From Schools

    For students who know their planned career, look for schools that specialize in that field and investigate grant opportunities.

    Most schools, even community and technical colleges, have grants by specific departments or alumni funding for specific fields of study.

    Examples?

    The University of Minnesota Women’s Center has grants for students, faculty and staff interested in women’s studies and improving the campus climate for women through special projects.

    Santa Clara University’s School of Law has Social Justice Grants for students and alumni who work in the public interest for little or no pay. 

    Other Career Grants

    Beyond federal and state governments, there are ample career-specific grants from businesses, foundations and individuals who have opportunities for students in a specific field.

    STEM fields, traditionally dominated by white males, are trying to diversify their ranks.

    For women and ethnic minorities, there are abundant scholarships available in places like:
    • SMART Grants
    • National Science Foundation
    • Department of Homeland Security.

    If you study fields that relate to DHS’s specific needs — such as chemical engineering, computer or IT security, forensic science or cryptography — you could qualify for substantial help.

    In a STEM-targeted world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find scholarships in the arts, but non-profits and private sources often support students of creative writing, film, acting, fashion design, theater, graphic arts and game design, photography, music and dance.

    In fields such as healthcare, where multiple funding sources exist. For example, physical therapy students can find grant money from the American Physical Therapy Association, the National Association of American Business Clubs and the Julia Conrad Scholarship. Reflecting the profession’s role in rehabilitation for injured soldiers, the Army and Navy also have funding programs.

    Accounting majors can benefit from the government (Texas Fifth Year Accounting Scholarship), business (HSF/Marathon Oil Corporation Scholarship) and individuals (Carl W. Christiansen Scholarship) helping to pay in their degree-seeking field.

    There is funding available for diverse professions such as court reporters, morticians and library workers.

    Want to be a cowboy? If you can weather one of the most challenging academic schools in the country  there is a full-ride scholarship waiting for you at Deep Springs College.

    So if you know what job you want before you start college, you’re ahead of the game. Spend some time online researching grants for that job and you’ll be even further ahead.

    Bill Fay

    Bill Fay is a journalism veteran with a nearly four-decade career in reporting and writing for daily newspapers, magazines and public officials. His focus at Debt.org is on frugal living, veterans' finances, retirement and tax advice. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

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