Helping Out: 5 Degrees Beneficial to a Career in Nonprofits

Remember playing super hero as a kid? Darting around your house in a make-shift cape and sporting your underwear on the outside of your pants? It seems most kids eventually either lose their ambition to change the world (or have it driven from them with a heaping dose of cynicism). Some really crafty kids, however, grow into crafty adults who manage to actually build a career from these noble intentions. Enter the nonprofit professional.

Non profits are not no-profit organizations. They strive to earn money just like every other company -- they just reinvest their profits into their business rather than shareholders' pockets. Think: hospitals, schools and public advocacy groups. This unique business model allows professionals to better focus on their client's needs, which is precisely what makes non profits a magnet for do-gooders on a mission. In the end, however, even non profits need competent management and employees to stay afloat, so the right training is a must. Here are just a few degree programs that lend themselves well to now-and-future nonprofit pros.

1. Political Science & Public Administration

Transform your zest for politics into a meaningful career with a degree in political science or public administration. Develop a keen understanding of political theory and learn how to navigate both government and nonprofit organizations, skills that you will need to change the world. Earn a bachelor's degree to found or work within a nonprofit organization that you believe in, or use it as a stepping stone to an advanced degree in an area like law or business. Some colleges even offer specialties in areas like global issues, social justice or civic engagement, so tailor your education to your goals.

2. Sustainable Enterprise Management

Running a successful business takes special know-how; running one sustainably doubly so. While a nonprofit management degree of any sort is helpful, a degree in sustainable enterprise management goes a step beyond. Learn how to manage a business with a mind for both social and environmental responsibility all while bolstering basic management skills. You will learn how to determine an organization's or product's impact on the world, then how to develop the policies or strategies that ensure it is a positive one. While a bachelor's degree will likely get your foot in the door of a solid company, a master's degree improves your prospects all the more.

3. Health Care Administration

The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that health care is among the nation's largest and fastest-growing industries. Meanwhile, a 2012 report by John Hopkins University notes that 57 percent of all nonprofit jobs in the U.S. are in health care. Put these two factoids together and you already have a pretty strong argument for pursuing a degree in health care management. Learn how to navigate an ever-complicated health care system, and then use these skills to establish a promising career within a hospital, care facility or patient advocacy group.

4. Entrepreneurship

Have a great idea for a nonprofit organization? Found it with a degree in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship programs teach students how to transform their wildest (or most sensible) business dreams into successful organizations. Note that while all entrepreneurs benefit from training in business fundamentals, non profits require some specialized knowledge; choose your courses wisely. An online nonprofit management degree with an emphasis on entrepreneurship is another convenient option.

5. Service Management - Non Profit Enterprise

The service sector constitutes a solid share of the U.S. economy, which is precisely why it is such a fabulous vehicle for change. With a degree in service management, you will gain the skills you need to launch that Fair Trade coffee house or Slow Food restaurant you've always dreamed of all while honing a deeper understanding of the accounting, human resources and marketing know-how you need to run a successful organization, non profit or otherwise.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a… job?

Good karma is an excellent reason to pursue a career within a nonprofit organization, but it is only one. Another major reason? Jobs. According to John Hopkins University, nonprofit employment is alive and well, even in a shoddy economy: The University reports that nonprofit employment actually grew 2.1 percent in the decade preceding 2010, while for-profit jobs declined. By earning your degree in a non profit-centric discipline, you can boost your personal employment stock, improving your outlook even more.


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