Should I Earn a Nonprofit Management Degree?

woman laughing in business office
Sam Edwards / Caiaimage / Getty Images

A nonprofit management degree is a type of degree awarded to post-secondary students who have completed a college, university, or business school program with a focus on nonprofit management. 

Nonprofit management involves supervising people or affairs of a nonprofit organization. A nonprofit is any group that is mission-driven rather than profit-driven. A few examples of nonprofit organizations include charities, such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and YMCA; advocacy groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); foundations, such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and professional or trade associations, such as the American Medical Association (AMA).

Types of Nonprofit Management Degrees

There are three basic types of nonprofit management degrees that you can earn from a college, university, or business school:

  • Bachelor's Degree in Nonprofit Management: A bachelor's degree program in nonprofit management will take approximately four years to complete. The program will usually start with general education courses and conclude with electives and courses with a specific focus on nonprofit management. Students who have already earned a two-year degree may be able to complete bachelor's degree requirements in as little as two years.
  • Master's Degree in Nonprofit Management: A master's degree or MBA degree program in nonprofit management takes two years to complete on average. Some students attend part-time and take longer to earn their degree, while others participate in an accelerated program that lasts anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Nonprofit management degree programs at this level generally combine core business courses with specialized coursework in nonprofit management.
  • Doctorate Degree in Nonprofit Management: A doctorate program in nonprofit management is not as common as nonprofit management degree programs at other levels. A program of this caliber can be found at several colleges and universities. A doctorate program in nonprofit management requires intense study and research. Program length can vary but usually averages somewhere around three to five years.

An associate's degree is acceptable for some entry-level positions with nonprofits. In some cases, you may need nothing more than a high school diploma. Larger organizations often prefer a bachelor's degree or MBA, especially for more advanced positions.

What You Can Do With a Nonprofit Management Degree

Students who earn a nonprofit management degree almost always go on to work with nonprofit organizations. Of course, the knowledge and skills gained in the program are transferrable to for-profit companies. With a nonprofit management degree, graduates could pursue any number of positions with nonprofits. Some popular job titles include:

  • Fundraiser: Fundraisers are essential to any nonprofit. They help to get donors interested in the cause. They may get donations by speaking to people face to face, organizing campaigns, or grant writing. It is possible to get an entry-level fundraising position with a high school diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nonprofit management. However, larger organizations may look for graduates with a master's or MBA degree.
  • Nonprofit Program Director: Although responsibilities can vary depending on the size and scope of the organization, nonprofit program directors are usually tasked with managing the people and mission of the entire organization or a specific part or program. They may oversee fundraisers, marketing campaigns, or special events. Nonprofit program directors usually have at least a bachelor's degree. Many have master's or MBA degrees in nonprofit management.
  • Community Outreach Coordinator: A community outreach coordinator, also known as a community outreach specialist, is responsible for the marketing, outreach, and event planning efforts of a nonprofit organization. They do not usually ask directly for donations like a fundraiser, but they do help to coordinate volunteers and plan fundraising efforts. Most community outreach coordinators have at least a bachelor's degree. Marketing or public relations experience--either at school or work--can also come in handy.

There are many other job titles and career opportunities available to graduates with nonprofit management degrees. There are more than one million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. alone, with more being created each day. See a list of other nonprofit job titles.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Schweitzer, Karen. "Should I Earn a Nonprofit Management Degree?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Schweitzer, Karen. (2023, April 5). Should I Earn a Nonprofit Management Degree? Retrieved from Schweitzer, Karen. "Should I Earn a Nonprofit Management Degree?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).