Why Get a Non-Profit Management Degree?

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - April 20, 2017
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Those who are in the field of nonprofit management are charged with ensuring that nonprofit organizations run efficiently and can meet their organizational goals. There is a strong focus on finding new funding for programs and for managing them. However, because the organization is not for profit, the nonprofit manager does not aim to generate revenue. Rather, managers focus their efforts on improving their services, aiming to make the world a better place. Nevertheless, even those organizations have to have properly managed finances in order to be able to survive, and that is what a nonprofit manager will also need to do.

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What is Non-Profit Management?

Nonprofit agencies have very different goals from those that are for profit, such as protecting the environment, providing support to the community, giving religious instruction, or protecting animals. A nonprofit manager has to make sure that these goals are met, and they do this by analyzing what the impact of the organization’s work and find ways for improving it. They create strategic plans, focus on media exposure, sit on board meetings, and so on.

Money management is also key to the role of the nonprofit manager, but from a very different perspective. In this field, revenue isn’t generated. Rather, funding is sourced and it is spent in its totality on services. Funding is often very limited, however, which means that advanced skills are needed to make every dollar go as far as possible, and also secure new funding as and when it is available and needed.

Non-Profit Management DegreeOpportunity

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nonprofit managers as social and community services managers. According to the BLS, they earned some $63,530 per year in May 2015 at the bachelor’s degree level. The BLS has also predicted a 10% growth in demand for these managers from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the national average. This will translate into 13,200 new positions.

What is known is that the field of project management is likely to grow tremendously over the years. This is due to a variety of factors, not in the least the fact that our country has a new Administration, which means government involvement in different sectors of society is likely to change. As a result, there may be a greater demand for nonprofit managers as well. Similarly, people have an increased requirement for services rather than goods, which again means that the demand for managers will increase as well.

Non-Profit Management DegreeCareer Paths

According to the BLS:

  • 27% of all social and community services managers work in individual and family services, where they earn $58,150 per year.
  • 18% of all social and community services managers work in state and local government, excluding education and hospitals, where they earn $74,070 per year.
  • 14% of all social and community services managers work in religious, grant-making, civic, professional, and similar organizations, where they earn $65,180 per year.
  • 11% of all social and community services managers work in nursing and residential care facilities, where they earn $58,570 per year.
  • 9% of all social and community services managers work in community and vocational rehabilitation services, where they earn $57,570 per year.

Meanwhile, Payscale.com has reported that nonprofit managers in this country earn around $48,000 per year on average. Indeed.com has reported, however, that project managers in nonprofit organizations earn around $81,299 per year, which is quite different from the Payscale report.

Non-Profit Management DegreeSalaries

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for all social and community service managers stood at $63,530 per year as of May 2015. The bottom 10% earned $38,770 per year or less, while the top 10% earned $108,960 per year or more. Of strong influence on how much managers can earn is where in the country they work. That being said, the parts of the country with the highest salaries are also usually the parts of the country with the highest cost of living. The BLS has nevertheless reported on the five states with the highest earnings, which are:

  • The District of Columbia, with average annual earnings of $97,800
  • Rhode Island, with average annual earnings of $91,000
  • New York, with average annual earnings of $88,380
  • New Jersey, with average annual earnings of $86,100
  • Virginia, with average annual earnings of $85,620

Non-Profit Management DegreeEmployers

Payscale.com has reported on various nonprofit employers and their average annual salaries. These include:

  • The American Red Cross, which pays $36,174 per year on average
  • City Year, Inc., which pays $38,663 per year on average
  • Goodwill Industries, which pays $39,996 per year on average
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters, which pays $50,402 per year on average

Non-Profit Management Bachelor’s Degree

In order to have a great career in the field of nonprofit management, you will need to have the appropriate education. This starts with a bachelor’s degree. For the convenience of students, and to remain relevant with the developing digital world, many schools now offer their degree programs online. At the same time, on campus studies continued to be popular. One example of a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit management is offered by Bellevue University, whose Nonprofit Management Degree is also offered online and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Core courses as part of the curriculum of this degree include:

  • Foundations for Professional Success
  • Foundations of Business Communication
  • Management and Governance of the Non-Profit Organization
  • Decision Making for Non-Profit Organizations
  • Foundations of Fiscal Management for Non-Profit Organizations
  • Generating Revenue for the Non-Profit Organization
  • Financial Management of the Non-Profit Organization
  • Special Issues for Non-Profit Organizations
  • Strategic Planning and Evaluation for the Sustainable Non-Profit Organization
  • Non-Profit Management Capstone Project
  • American Vision and Values
  • Tradition and Change
  • Freedom and Responsibility

Non-Profit Management Master’s Degree

To really advance your career in the non-profit sector, you might want to consider completing a master’s degree. This will give you the opportunity to gain advanced skills and knowledge in your field, and set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. As with bachelor’s degrees, many master’s and MBA programs are now also offered online, which makes it easier than ever to complete a degree without having to completely stop working. One example of a highly rated master’s degree is the Master of Nonprofit Management offered by the University of Oregon.

This degree comes with various fields of interest, which are:

  • Marketing and Development
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Equity/Social Justice
  • Policy
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Arts & Cultural Leadership
  • International Development
  • Education and Social Services
  • Public Relations and Advocacy
  • Food Studies
  • Community Development Planning

Non-Profit Management Admission Requirements

Each school sets its own admission requirements but these are usually quite similar across the board due to the fact that these requirements are designed to find out whether or not the applicant has the academic capacity to complete a program at the graduate degree level.

The admissions requirements for the University of Oregon for the master’s degree are:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
  • Transcripts
  • GRE/GMAT scores
  • TOEFL scores for non-native English speakers
  • Personal statement
  • Resume
  • Three letters of reference, one of which must be from an academic source

Non-Profit Management Degree Curriculum

Schools establish their curriculum for each degree program as they see fit. This is why it is very important to study with an accredited university as this guarantees prospective employers that your degree included courses that meet the minimum requirements for the profession. The University of Oregon’s curriculum includes:

  • Public Sector Theory
  • Managing Nonprofit Organizations
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Professional Development
  • Fundraising for Nonprofit Organizations
  • Grant Proposal Writing
  • Public and Nonprofit Financial Management
  • Philanthropy and Grantmaking
  • Nonprofit Board Governance
  • Strategic Planning Management
  • Nonprofit 48-Hour Charrette
  • Nonprofit Management Consultancy

Non-Profit Management Degree Financial Assistance

It is a known fact that completing a higher education, especially a master’s degree or even higher, is a very expensive endeavor. First, you will need to invest a substantial amount of time. While this can be mitigated to a certain degree by studying online, there is no doubt that you will need to set aside a significant amount of time for your studies. The second major investment is a financial one, naturally. Fortunately, the college or university will be able to signpost you to financial aid, and they may also have scholarships and grants available that you can apply for. At the same time, there are a number of external scholarships that you may want to consider. These include the:

  • Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Scholars Program, to the value of up to $17,500
  • Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement Scholarship
  • Glenn Cheatham Memorial Scholarship
  • Harry S. Truman Scholars Program
  • Hearst Endowed Fellowship for Minority Students, to the value of $2,000
  • Institute for Conflict Management Nonprofit Scholarship
  • Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program
  • JCC North America Graduate Education Scholarship, to the value of up to $10,000
  • Jerry King Memorial Scholarship, to the value of $1,000
  • Judith O’Connor Memorial Fund Scholarships
  • Non-Profit Arts Management Training Scholarship, offered by Marlboro College Graduate School in partnership with the Vermont Arts Council
  • Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship, offered by the Government Finance Officers Association to the value of $5,000
  • Hearst Fellowship in Non-Profit Management offered by New York State’s Baruch College, covering a full year of studies
  • Heller MBA Fellowships and Scholarships for Non-Profit Management offered by Brandeis University, ranging in value from $3,000 to $10,000
  • Jerry King Memorial Scholarship for Project Management Excellence, offered by the Project Management Institute, to the value of $1,000

Generally speaking, applying for a scholarship means that you have to meet certain requirements. For example, they may require studying at a certain school, taking on a certain concentration, aiming to work in a certain field, demonstrating financial need, holding a minimum GPA, belonging to a certain minority group, being a member of a professional organization, or being of a certain gender.

Non-Profit Management Degree Certifications

It is not really required to become certified in the field of nonprofit management, but it is often advisable to do so. Through certification, you can demonstrate that you are committed to your own professional development, and to the advancement of the field in general. That said, pursuing certification does require a further investment of time and money, and you often have to maintain certification through continuous education credits. Nevertheless, most people would agree that this is a worthy investment because it can result into more career opportunities. Some certifications that you may want to consider in the field of nonprofit management are:

  • The CNP Credential
  • Nonprofit Leadership & Management Certificate
  • Risk Management Certification
  • Fundraising Training
  • Nonprofit Management Certificate
  • Fundamental Management Skills
  • Nonprofit Leadership & Strategic Management

Non-Profit Management Degree Associations

It is also advisable that you become a member of certain professional organizations as soon as you decide to study towards a nonprofit management degree, even at the bachelor’s level. This is because professional associations and organizations often have scholarships and grants that may help you financially. More importantly, by being a member of associations, you will always be at the forefront of new developments within your field, ensuring your skills and knowledge are always up to date. Additionally, you may be able to complete certifications and continuous education credits. But perhaps the greatest benefit of being a member of a professional association or organization, however, is the fact that you can build a professional network.

Some of the associations you may want to consider in the field of nonprofit management are the:

  • Alliance for Nonprofit Management
  • American Association for Budget and Program Analysis (AABPA)
  • American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
  • American Evaluation Association (AEA)
  • American Public Works Association (APWA)
  • American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)
  • Project Management Institute


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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