Graduate-Level Philanthropy: Master of Non-profit Management Degree Programs

By JoVon Sotak

Because there is no one standard place within a college or university to house a graduate-level degree program in nonprofit management, the graduates of these programs tend to be Masters of Art, Business, Public Affairs, Public Administration, Science, Social Work and much more--including Masters of Nonprofit Management. No one knows this better than Roseanne M. Mirabella, PhD, of Seton Hall University. Since 1995, Dr. Mirabella has been researching nonprofit education programs.

According to her research, 168 colleges and universities in the United States have graduate degree programs with a focus in nonprofit management. This means at least three of the courses in the program were specific to nonprofit organizations. Twenty-eight schools in Mirabella's study offered online education options, as well. Additionally, there are many private, for-profit institutions that offer online master's of nonprofit management degrees that were not included in Dr. Mirabella's research.

Graduate Degrees in Nonprofit Management: Specializations and Coursework

The degree-granting school or college affects the program's curriculum. A small number of programs are free-standing, meaning that a graduate would receive a Master of Nonprofit Management degree, not an MBA award from the business school or an MSW (Master of Social Work). The advantage to these types of programs is that a student may experience a comprehensive nonprofit management curriculum, instead of taking core courses toward a business or social work degree. However, a degree of this type may be less beneficial when it comes to future employment, especially outside of the nonprofit sector.

MBA or MSW programs with a concentration in nonprofit management may be beneficial depending on a student's ultimate career goal. Students of Masters of Public Administration degree programs with a nonprofit management focus may benefit those professionals whose nonprofit work overlaps with government agencies. Some schools also offer an interdisciplinary degree program option that allows the student to choose from several disciplines to design a program that's right for his or her academic and career goals.

Specializations in Nonprofit Management

In the United States in 2010, there were 1,514,530 nonprofit organizations. With so many nonprofits and so many different types of nonprofits, some degree programs allow students to further specialize. Some possible specializations in nonprofit management include:

  • Adult and aging services
  • Child and family services
  • Health care services
  • Social impact
  • Social policy
  • Sustainable development

Typical Coursework for Nonprofit Management

In general, curriculum for a master's degree in nonprofit management is designed to develop leadership skills and core operational competencies, including fundraising. Some programs may also include education in ethics and advocacy. The following are some of the nonprofit management courses a student may expect to see in a graduate-level program:

  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Capital campaign management
  • Community building for managers
  • Financial management in nonprofit organizations
  • Fundraising and development
  • Grantwriting
  • Information systems strategies
  • Marketing for nonprofit organizations
  • Nonprofit management and leadership
  • Nonprofit law
  • Planning in the nonprofit sector
  • Program implementation and evaluation
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Strategic communications for nonprofit managers
  • Theory and practice of nonprofit management
  • Volunteer management

Careers and Salaries

People who earn a master's degree in nonprofit management may find employment as a director of a nonprofit, take on a leadership role in a particular area of a large nonprofit organization (e.g., director of fundraising), start a new nonprofit, become a consultant for nonprofit organizations, and teach and/or conduct research at a post-secondary institution.

Although nonprofit organizations don't distribute revenue to owners or shareholders, these businesses do generate revenue and pay their employees just like any other well-run business. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2007, nonprofit managers made an average of $34.24 per hour, lower than private or government managers. One possible explanation for lower wages, according to the BLS, is that nonprofit workers donate a portion of their paid labor to receive a lower salary because they find satisfaction in their career's altruistic purpose.

Post-secondary teachers' earnings depend on the school in which they teach. College-level business instructors made an average of $83,840 (BLS, May 2009). Professors in social science disciplines made $77,040. In general, post-secondary teachers earned $74,330 a year.

Nonprofit work is something that many in the sector feel passionate about. With such a variety of nonprofits available, it makes sense for nonprofit managers to spend some time and select a school that is the right blend of business and policy or social work and administration for their career goals.

Schools Offering Related Degree Programs

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