Careers in Nonprofit Organizations

Some individuals pursue an advanced degree in order to make a positive social impact. These individuals leverage their research skills and expertise to identify and improve existing social, political, medical, or economic problems. Others might find the mission of a cultural or academic institution deeply compelling, developing an interest in a professional role that will enable them to directly advance that mission. Candidates with Master’s and Ph.D. degrees who find themselves motivated by commitment to a cause might find work in a nonprofit organization (NPO) a fitting professional match.

A broad range of organizations operate as NPO’s. They include academic and professional associations, educational institutions (some educational institutions follow a for-profit model with a different approach to operations), medical institutions, humanitarian organizations, labor unions, foundations, museums and other cultural sites, and charities. Given the importance of mission to NPO’s, individuals with advanced degrees can make a compelling argument for their expertise – and ability to master new subject areas relatively quickly and comprehensively – as greatly valuable to an NPO.

Positions at nonprofit organizations vary widely. They include roles in research, administration, fundraising (development), and public relations. NPO roles may also directly overlap with the training an employee received while completing his or her professional degree. Biomedical organizations, for example, may require M.D.’s to care for patients or scientists in other fields to conduct laboratory research. Academic associations may prefer to hire experts in the disciplines they represent. What staff members in many of these institutions have in common is typically a commitment to the organization’s cause and to taking substantive and practical steps to achieving positive social change.

Roles in nonprofit organizations may require skills and experience pertaining to:

  • Networking with donors in development roles to assist in fundraising efforts
  • Researching and implementing initiatives that align with the NPO’s mission and strategic goals
  • Marketing the NPO’s work to members of the public and engaging in fundraising efforts via direct mail, email campaigns, and social media
  • Developing and strengthening NPO relationships with partner organizations and other stakeholders
  • Working directly on behalf of the NPO mission – roles may include community organizing, advocacy efforts, and educational activities

Professional Associations for NPO Professionals:

Job Boards for Nonprofit Organizations:

  • New York Nonprofit Jobs: This platform includes a database of employment opportunities at nonprofit organizations through the New York City metropolitan region.
  • Idealist: With listings that include many NPOs, the jobs database at Idealist specializes in employment opportunities for candidates interested in advocacy and social impact.
  • The Bridgespan Group: This platform includes an extensive database for jobs in the nonprofit sector.
  • Commongood Careers: This board specializes in placing candidates with management experience in NPO settings.