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What kind of nonprofit jobs do you need a masters degree for?

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I am hoping to go into the nonprofit sector and want to know if I will need to get my masters. #nonprofits

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Amy’s Answer

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It really depends on what kind of work you want to do in the nonprofit world. If you're going into something like social work, you'll most likely need a masters. If you're going into something more on the admin side, you might not. There are a lot of great certificate programs you can do for fundraising, grant writing, and program development. If you want to run an organization, more education might help. I got my Masters of Nonprofit Leadership from Seattle University, and we covered a variety of subjects including finance, management, leadership, evaluation, and fundraising.


In my experience, while more education is great it doesn't necessarily replace experience. I would suggest getting your Bachelors and then go out into the sector and get some experience. Then once you're figured out what path you want to do you'll have a better idea on the kind of education you need.


Good luck!

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Kate’s Answer

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Hi Alayna,


Great question! I generally agree with Amy's answer, with a few additional thoughts. I have personally worked in the nonprofit sector for around 8 years with a bachelor's degree. I work as a grant writer although I have no education at all related to fundraising or grants - all my skills come from experience.


I completely agree with Amy that you should first work in the nonprofit sector to gain some practical experience and figure out where you want to focus. Then you can explore degrees such as a Masters of Public Policy, Masters of Public Administration, MBA, etc. - whatever fits well with your area of interest.


In my experience, some jobs will pay more if you have a master's degree but will still hire you without one - such as social work. I have a friend who works in this field with a bachelor's and has done very well, but her organization pays new employees more if they come in with a master's degree. When thinking about this pay difference, be sure to also factor in the cost of the degree itself! Unfortunately there is no perfect formula to figure out what makes the most sense financially - some experience in the sector will help you get a better idea of salaries to make an informed decision. (You can also learn about nonprofit salaries using resources like this survey data from Third Sector New England: http://tsne.org/valuing-our-nonprofit-workforce-2014/compensation-data.)


Most of the jobs that I have seen which require a masters degree are high-level program manager jobs or department director type positions. For example, at my last job we had program directors for program areas such as the human right to water and economic justice, and those people really needed a masters degree (or law degree). Beyond entry level positions, a master's degree is always helpful, but only sometimes required.


Finally, I recommend you spend some time looking at jobs on sites like idealist.org to get an idea of what jobs are out there and what the requirements are. If you are interested in a particular area, such as program management or fundraising, definitely search for jobs in that area and read some job descriptions. This will help you get a sense of what education would be most helpful for your future plans, as well as what tasks are involved.


Good luck!


Kate

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Cynthia’s Answer

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I worked in non-profit management for 8 years after my bachelor's degree. Promotions and leadership positions often mirror academia so there is a certain point where a Master's is important, especially in Education and Program offices. I got my master's in Public Policy and it really opened up my options. The great thing about non-profits is that you don't need any degrees to start contributing, volunteer now to find the type of organization you want to work for.
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