Interested in social change? A degree in non-profit management can help you put your ideals into action.

Running a non-profit requires many of the same skills needed to run a business. You’ll need to raise capital, manage your organization for maximum cost efficiency, and effectively deliver a service to your “clients”. Management skills and financial savvy are even more essential in today’s tough economic climate.

The non-profit management curriculum is wide-ranging. You’ll be trained in core business skills like accounting, finance, human resources and management. You’ll also take classes specific to the non-profit world, such as fundraising, financial management of non-profits, board governance, and social entrepreneurship. Some programs offer training in public policy and related disciplines. There is a strong emphasis on hands-on learning, and you’re likely to spend a significant amount of time working with local organizations.

Students who pursue this specialty come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have business experience and are looking to translate their skills to the non-profit world. Others have a background in activism, social services or philanthropy, and are looking for the financial and managerial knowledge to implement their ideas more effectively.

A degree in non-profit management will prepare you to succeed at any organization that works for the public good.

Degree Information

If you’re looking for a strong grounding in business principles, consider an MBA with a concentration in non-profit management. These programs are generally two years long. You’ll spend the first year developing general business skills and the second year learning to apply those skills in a non-profit context.

Many graduate and business schools offer an MS in non-profit management. This degree has less of a focus on general business skills, and can often be completed in less time than an MBA. It’s ideal for mid-career professionals.

A Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) in non-profit management is usually offered through public policy schools, and has a stronger focus on politics and government. More about the MPA degree.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Is the degree designed for those with non-profit experience, or those new to the field?
  • What are faculty members’ areas of expertise?
  • What opportunities are available to gain hands-on experience with local or national non-profits?
  • Is it possibility to specialize in a sub-field like fundraising or marketing?

Career Overview

The non-profit world can be as competitive (or more so) than the business world. Competition for available positions is fierce, and many start-up organizations fail. Nevertheless, a graduate degree will give you the edge. Non-profits are always looking for skilled professionals, especially those with a business background.

You might start your own non-profit, work at an existing non-profit in a managerial capacity, or go into public service. Another option is to work for a for-profit company with a social mission, or in the social responsibility division of a large corporation.

Career/Licensing Requirements


Salary Information

Non-profit salaries tend to be low: people certainly don’t go into this field for the money. But many find the sacrifices to be worth it. If non-profit work is your passion, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference.

At small to mid-size non-profits, managers with a graduate degree can expect to earn a starting salary of $40,000 to $65,000, with (generally) strong benefit packages. Top salaries at large non-profits can hit six figures. Of course, if you’re working in the social responsibility sector of a for-profit corporation, you’ll make more than you would in the non-profit world.

Related Links


  • Corporate Governance, Accountability And Ethics

  • Entrepreneurial Management

  • Financial Management For Non-Profits

  • Fundraising

  • Grant Writing

  • Human Resources

  • Leadership

  • Marketing For Social Change

  • Non-Profit Accounting

  • Non-Profit Board Governance

  • Non-Profit Finance

  • Organizational Management

  • Project Management In Non-Profit Organizations

  • Public Policy Analysis

  • Recruiting And Managing Volunteers

  • Social Entrepreneurship

  • Strategic Program Planning And Evaluation