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Eight Online Degrees That Will Help Your Non-Profit Career

Jul 7, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Interested in starting your own nonprofit, or taking the helm at an established charity?  Your education can help prepare you to reach this goal.  Many colleges offer degrees that can help working professionals start or advance a nonprofit career.

Many nonprofit degree programs center on management and leadership, and these are appropriate for anyone who wants a high-level administrative position in a nonprofit.  Some concentrate on entrepreneurship—ideal for those interested in starting their own nonprofits—and others focus more on human services, community outreach, and social work.  Here are six degrees that will help you start a career in a nonprofit agency.

Master of Science in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy

This degree teaches the finer points of managing a nonprofit and how to achieve philanthropic goals.  The program includes training in fundraising, nonprofit leadership, and strategic thinking.  It’s designed for mid- and high-level professionals who already work in or with the nonprofit sector.   The program is available at Bay Path College, which offers it online, on campus or in a hybrid program.

Master of Business Administration: Nonprofit Management

Marylhurst University offers an MBA degree with a concentration in nonprofit management.  The program is ideal for those who work or want to work in a leadership position within a nonprofit, and is designed for adult working professionals.

Master of Science in Human Services: Management of Nonprofit Agencies

This program, offered by Capella University, is designed for experienced human service professionals interested in making the leap to nonprofit management.  While it’s designed for those interested in managing a nonprofit, it’s also geared toward those wishing to start their own—there’s an important entrepreneurship component to the program.  Classes include strategic planning for nonprofits, accounting and economics for nonprofit managers, ethnic and cultural awareness, volunteer management and human resources, and entrepreneurship.

Master of Arts in Human Services, Mental Health Counseling Specialization

Interested in working in a nonprofit as a counselor?  Many nonprofits, from adult education to controlled substance rehabilitation centers, need professional counselors.  This program from Capella University is rigorous, including requirements for hands-on work, residency, and field training.

Master’s in Nonprofit Management

This program is designed for working professionals at all career levels interested in nonprofit leadership.  The faculty includes experienced nonprofit professionals who have successfully started and run their own nonprofits.  It’s oriented to hands-on application.  The program includes a capstone project that requires students to either design a product or program that can help a community with a specific challenge, or travel and participate hands-on in a service project. 

Master of Human Services

You don’t need a nonprofit specialization to earn a degree that will help you in the nonprofit world.  A Master’s degree in Human Services, like this one from Capella University, will help you acquire important knowledge about community services and delivery, cultural sensitivity, using community resources effectively, and how to affect social change and public policy.   Students in this program may also choose to focus on counseling.

Bachelor of Arts in Social Science: Social Services

This social science degree from Ashford University has a concentration on social services, which is designed to give students an understanding of today’s social challenges, how they affect communities, their causes, and how to develop effective solutions. This background is ideal for anyone looking for a career in nonprofits that allows them to design and implement new programs to address specific problems within a community.


Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing


Need to get the word out about your nonprofit’s programs?  Need to generate public support, attract volunteers or reach out to funders?  A background in marketing and public relations isn’t just useful in business—it’s also crucial in nonprofits.  While a specification in nonprofit public relations would be useful, it’s difficult to find a marketing program that has this specialty—and a general degree in the subject will be enough to qualify you for most nonprofit marketing and publicity positions.

Your degree can be the key to a great nonprofit career—and even if you don’t concentrate on nonprofit-specific skills in college, a degree in marketing, business management, finance, counseling, and other areas provides you with transferable skills that are immensely valuable in the nonprofit world.  No matter your philanthropic passion, a degree can help you land a nonprofit job that will help you make a difference.

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