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Non-Profit Management Degrees

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Those who are interested in working in a leadership role for organizations that help make a difference in society might want to consider pursuing a degree in non-profit management. Several traditional schools, as well as online colleges, offer degree programs that will instill the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in this field. Graduates are capable of obtaining employment as managers in public relations, finance, or the administrative services department of their organization. There is a high demand for well-qualified non-profit management professionals, as nine percent of the United States' gross domestic product comes from charitable and non-profit organizations, and 10 percent of workers are employed by non-profits. Non-profit management degrees and certificates can be found at the undergraduate and graduate level.

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Bachelor's Degrees in Non-Profit Management

The minimum education required to work as a non-profit manager is a bachelor's degree. Those interested in pursuing this kind of degree might earn a bachelor's specifically in non-profit management, or they might earn a degree such as business administration with a concentration in non-profit management. This type of degree can be found in both an online and face-to-face format.

During their bachelor's studies students will learn the distinctive requirements necessary to run a non-profit organization and how this differs from managing a for-profit business. They will learn skills such as finding funding resources and securing grants, managing volunteer teams, and setting long-term goals for their organization. Courses that students take may include principles of management, grant writing, accounting, decision making for non-profit organizations, foundations for professional success, and foundations of business communications. A capstone course may also be required.

Tuition for these programs can vary greatly depending on the school a student attends. For example, Alaska Pacific University reports an annual tuition of $29,810 a year for its bachelor's programs, while City Vision University offers bachelor's degrees for a reported $6,000 a year. Upon completing a bachelor's degree in non-profit management, graduates can find work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, and social service organizations, in roles ranging from public relations to grant writing.

Master's Degrees in Non-Profit Management

Professionals who want to advance in their non-profit careers, or who have a background in something other than non-profit management and wish to enter the field, can earn their master's degree in non-profit management. In a master's program students will enhance their leadership abilities and learn the skills they need to lead non-profit organizations on both a local and global scale. Classes that students will have the opportunity to take may include non-profit ethical leadership, humanitarian emergency management, sustainable development leadership, non-profit board governance, and strategic planning management. Students will also get to participate in an internship in order to get valuable hands-on experience.

Non-profit management master's degree programs are available in a face-to-face format, as well as more flexible online formats for busy working professionals. Tuition varies by program. For instance, Capella University offers a tuition rate of $13,338 a year for its students, while students at prestigious Harvard can expect to spend $39,846 a year on their master's degree. Once they have finished their program, graduates will be qualified to work in advanced leadership positions within social justice and advocacy groups, environmental non-profits, and cultural and arts organizations, to name a few.

Doctoral Degrees in Non-profit Management

There are a few doctoral programs in non-profit management, or programs in a related discipline that offer non-profit management as a concentration. This type of degree may be appropriate for an individual who wants to want to gain a deep understanding of non-profit management and how to lead within the non-profit sector. Students in one of these programs will take classes such as diversity in the workplace, quantitative design and analysis, non-profit legal issues, strategic fund development, governance and public policy, and leadership and organizational change. Students will also complete independent research and write a dissertation.

After earning a Ph.D, job opportunities include working in the non-profit sector as a chief financial officer, director of community engagement, fundraising manager, or professor at the university level. The amount of time it takes to complete a doctoral program depends on several factors, including how long it takes a student to complete their dissertation, but those interested in one of these programs should count on dedicating at least five year to their studies. Tuition rates for these programs are also highly variable. Some schools may offer teaching assistantships or other funding opportunities to offset costs for their students.

Certificate Programs in Non-Profit Management

There are certificate programs in non-profit management available at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Graduate-level certificates require participants to have already obtained an bachelor's degree, while undergraduate certificates typically only require a high school diploma to enroll. Certificates are available for those who are already working in the non-profit sector who want to advance in their careers and add to their skill set, as well as for people looking to enter the field. Depending on the type of certificate and the specialization it cover, classes may cover the topics of grant writing, fundraising, accounting, public policy, community development, and non-profit governance. As there is so much variation in the types of certificates an individual can enroll in, the length of time to completion, number of credits required, and tuition rates will change from program to program. However, non-degree certificates are usually designed to be completed in a year or less.

Non-Profit Management Specialties

Some individuals may find it useful to earn their degree in a subject other than non-profit management and choose to add non-profit management as a specialty or concentration. A common option is to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration with a non-profit management specialization. Students enrolled in this type of degree will receive an education based on a strong core of business principles such as accounting, human resources management, and business law, which will be applicable to a variety of career choices in and out of the non-profit sector. Other degree subjects that commonly have a non-profit management specialization option are leadership and human services. 


There are no specific accrediting boards that accredit non-profit management degrees. However, if a student is pursuing a degree that is in business administration or similar with a non-profit emphasis, they may want to consider choosing a program that has AACSB accreditation. AACSB offers accreditation to business programs and is recognized globally for the excellence that its accreditation denotes. Students who graduate from an AACSB accredited program can be assured that they have received an education that will adequately prepare them for their future careers.


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