A Post-MSW PEL program is a non-degree program for master’s level social workers to obtain the course credits and internship experience to secure a professional educator license (PEL) for working as a school social worker in the state of Illinois. This post touches on paying for the Post-MSW PEL program including a breakdown of costs and fees as well as internship stipends and scholarship options.

I completed the Post-MSW PEL Licensure program at the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2018-2019. In addition to securing a school social work internship, I also had to figure out program costs and fees. Unfortunately, school websites do not usually publish those costs and fees outright which is why I decided to share the numbers from my own experience in the program.

How much were your Post-MSW PEL program tuition and fees?

Here is a breakdown of tuition and fees I paid throughout the program and when applying for the PEL in 2018-2019:

Application FeeFree
– Special Studies in Field Instruction I [Fall]$2,072
– Special Studies in School Social Work Practice [Fall]$1,554
– Exceptional Learners [Fall]$1,554
– Special Studies in Field Instruction II [Spring]$2,072
School Social Work Licensure Exam$122
Licensure Application & Fees$160

How did you pay for the Post-MSW PEL program?

Being that I was only one year out of graduate school and working in community mental health, I did not have very much savings. I actually paid for some of the costs and fees with the income I was getting from my part-time job and the rest I put on a credit card. There were no scholarship or student loan options available to students in the Post-MSW PEL program.

Fortunately, in 2023 the state of Illinois began offering the Post-MSW School Social Work Scholarship Program to encourage those with MSWs to get their PEL and work in schools. There has been a long time shortage of school social workers across the state and this scholarship program helps to counter that.

How did you get a school social work internship stipend?

My school-based internship placement was at a public suburban high school. Some of the suburban school districts are able to offer a stipend to their interns whereas urban school districts, like Chicago Public Schools, does not. At my internship placement the interns received a biweekly stipend check, the same as regular school employees. 

How much did you receive for your internship stipend?

I had to look back at my tax forms to remember how much the stipend was that I received from the 2018-2019 academic year. 

August to December 2018$3,857.19
January to June 2019$5,142.87

Reflecting on the costs and benefits of the Post-MSW PEL Program

All in all, it felt like I was paid to go to school and obtain a Professional Educator License (PEL) with a School Social Work Endorsement. Even though I spent $7,534 on program tuition and licensure application fees, I was also paid $9,000 through my internship stipend for the entire school year.

I am incredibly grateful that my placement at a suburban high school offered a stipend because otherwise I do not know how I would have afforded food, housing, and transportation with only working a part-time job as a therapist in community mental health.

The biweekly stipend basically paid me what I was getting paid at my therapy job so it did not feel like I was making less than the year before. I paid for part of the costs from my savings and put the rest on a credit card as there were no loan or scholarship options.

I highly recommend you research paid internship opportunities at schools via their job board before deciding on which placements to apply to and that you also look into the Post-MSW School Social Work Scholarship Program. Please reach out if you have any questions.

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Click here to read the full blog post titled "Paying for the Post-MSW PEL Program" on jessicatapia.com

Hi, I’m Jessica! I’m a licensed clinical social worker, entrepreneur, and wellness expert with a passion for helping others thrive. Join me as I offer practical tips and resources for fellow students, professionals, and anyone seeking wisdom on improving their well-being.

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