Do you need to get a philanthropic-focused MBA to get a CSR job?
I am very interested in pursuing CSR, non-profit work, social entrepreneurship, etc. as a career after college. My university offers a 5-year Bachelors + MBA program which would mean less time and money but they only offer focuses in the big business areas (EX: marketing, management, finance, etc.) Should I choose this option or move to a 2-year MBA program that is more focused for my career goals? csr mba business nonprofit philanthropy
Teryll recommends the following next steps:
Typically, it's best to pursue an MBA after 5-7 years of work experience. That way you get the most value out of the network and professional opportunities on the other side.
You can get a CSR job coming out of undergrad with the right network and set of skills/experiences. Some national organizations like Net Impact offer pipelines to CSR jobs right out of undergrad. Here's an article from their blog: https://www.netimpact.org/blog/four-tips-for-starting-a-career-in-csr
Syed recommends the following next steps:
Also, traditional MBAs are still very useful depending on what type of CSR you pursue. Certainly in the private sector, you will find many CSR leaders who began their careers in other areas and then made a switch later on in their careers.
I resonate with your question as not too long ago I was in your shoes. The advice provided by those above is extremely valuable and their career paths mirror the journeys of many in the CSR field. Since full time CSR roles are relatively new compared to other professions, many CSR professionals found their way to this path after having established themselves in other fields prior.
As someone that, similar to you, was aware of the variety of opportunities that are now available in the CSR field while still in school, I was interested in jumping into the field directly from college rather than cutting my teeth somewhere else first. Happy to report that, while it is challenging, it is possible! While I also considered an MBA as a way to get an edge over more experienced applicants, I was given advice similar to that above that an MBA is most useful after a few years experience.
My recommendation is to try to get some internships while you're in school in both the non-profit and corporate sectors (a CSR professional needs to understand both) and try to volunteer with non-profits that have a strong corporate engagement model. This will be much more valuable than an MBA straight out of undergrad and you can always go back to school later!
I'll add my two-cents because my experience is a little different.
I completed my undergrad in Chemistry and went on to work in the field for about a year. I had realized that, while I hugely value science, it wasn't quite right for me, professionally. I went back to school for my MBA after that with an emphasis in data analytics. From there, I went to work with the risk department at my current company as an analyst and that eventually lead to working into a position in sustainability.
My MBA really gave me a lot of the skills that have made me successful at my job and actually made it possible for me to move into this position. I think that an MBA gives you a unique ability to evaluate various options, look at projects and programs with a strategic and business-balanced mindset, and communicate with stakeholders outside of the CSR and sustainability world. I definitely believe you can be just as successful without it, but I do think an MBA can be an asset that sets you apart from other candidates and can help you bridge some important gaps in the business world. I'm now leading my company's sustainability efforts and I truly think that they will be more effective because I can make a solid business case for why a focus on CSR is important.
All of that being said, I don't think you need to get a philanthropic-focused degree, and actually think it could be more helpful to get something that applies beyond the CSR world. I use a lot of strategy and project management skills and tools.
Keep in mind that the nonprofit sector is not the only place to pursue a career in social responsibility. All major corporations are (or will be) pursuing some form of CSR because it is increasingly demanded by the marketplace. Many companies are doing it right. Take a look on corporate websites to find their social impact annual report or similar publication, and reach out to ask for informational interviews to gauge the authenticity of those reports.
Thank you for that great question! I was in a similar situation to you after college, as I wanted to pursue a career in CSR/social impact. I'm currently on an internship at PagerDuty's social impact team, but worked in nonprofits and philanthropies previously. A lot of companies offer internship programs and I'm currently on an internship at PagerDuty's social impact team. I agree with the previous answers and their advice on getting informational interviews with folks in the field and job experience before pursuing an MBA.
If your college offers courses about nonprofit management, corporate social responsibility, etc, I would encourage you to take those, so you can learn about the systemic issues and context around the field. I would also recommend talking to your professors and expressing your interest in the field and willingness to learn more, and they might be able to connect you to their colleagues in the nonprofit/CSR space.
Overall, it's a great field to be in, a lot of companies are focusing more on giving back to the communities they work in, with employee time (volunteering), product support, and funds (grants/giving campaigns). I hope this helps and best of luck in your career!
Andrew recommends the following next steps:
Fresh off college, I was in Public Relations and worked for just about 2 years in communications/PR. I moved cities, and tried to find any work possible. I stumbled upon a temp/part-time opportunity that allowed me to work on a big financial company's volunteer month of service. I was actually filling in for the CSR manager that took some time off during this peak season of volunteering at the company. I was literally thrown into all the different aspects of managing the employee volunteering program on the very first day I started work, but I was lucky to have an excellent mentor and guide to help me through this process. I quickly made connections within those two weeks I worked there. After a few months, they called me back and wanted me to work on a few more projects. Slowly, I started getting more such projects, and before you know it, I had learnt so much on the job and through networking. Today, I'm an experienced, passionate CSR professional in the private sector working for a large pharmaceutical manufacturing company helping make important, meaningful community connections for the company and our employees.
My advice to you is: Get a feel for the CSR work through smaller gigs and internships. If that's something you end up being passionate about, go for it all the way and even gain from an MBA education to help you grow in this career track.
I am now 5+ years out of my bachelors degree and I am just starting to look into a MBA program. As much as I wanted to go straight into a graduate program, I am very happy to have the work experience that I have now to build upon with further education.
Hope this provides insight to how some CSR professionals fall into the work, and how you can continue education down the road.