Why Earn Your Master’s in Non-Profit Leadership Online?

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Earning a master’s in non-profit leadership online can prepare graduates for many opportunities and benefits in the non-profit sector. It can open doors to better jobs with higher salaries and help graduates develop a unique skill set that’s perfectly tailored for non-profit work. For those currently employed by a non-profit, this advanced degree can help them work toward higher executive-level positions or improve their everyday job performance. Non-profit leadership can also be a rewarding career choice for a variety of job seekers who may not already be working in the area.

Both those who long for more meaningful work and those who crave the stability of a thriving industry may be attracted to the non-profit sector. For those non-profit hopefuls seeking leadership positions, pursuing a Master of Science in Management – Non-Profit Leadership online can be the first step in the right direction. Specifically, this degree may help graduates achieve the following goals:

  • Find more fulfilling work
  • Attain a higher salary or a better job
  • Advance in their careers
  • Join a growing industry
  • Expand their professional network
  • Learn cutting-edge strategies

Fulfilling Work

Many people are drawn to non-profit work because they want a purposeful, fulfilling career. Writing for The Balance Small Business, Joanne Fritz affirms that non-profit work may be a good fit for those who want a job “that promotes work/life balance, that treasures your contribution, and that is all about giving back.”

However, her point is further supported by research and rankings released by the NonProfit Times as part of its annual list of the best non-profits to work for. According to this publication, employees of the 50 non-profits that made its list overwhelmingly agree with the following statements:

  • I feel valued.
  • I trust the leadership.
  • I like what I do.
  • I believe I can make progress.
  • I’m treated like a person, not a number.
  • I like the people I work with.
  • I can advance.
  • I can trust this organization.
  • I make good use of my skills and abilities.
  • I’m given the technology, equipment, and resources I need.

Even among organizations that did not crack the Nonprofit Timestop 50, the average score in the areas of overall engagement, role satisfaction, relationship with supervisor, and work environment was very high — above 80 percent. These organizations also averaged scores above 70 percent in the areas of leadership and planning; corporate culture and communications; pay and benefits; and training, development, and resources.

Industry Growth

Meaningful work is not the only benefit of working in the non-profit sector. Those who find non-profit employment will be joining a growing industry. According to the 2017 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey conducted by Nonprofit HR, 2017 was “the third straight year during which half of the nonprofits surveyed reported plans to increase their staff size.” Specifically, 50 percent of non-profits predicted that they would increase their staff size in 2017. This is well above the 40 percent of for-profit organizations that planned to expand their staff, as reported by U.S. News & World Report.

Figures cited in 2016 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics further demonstrate the positive outlook for non-profit employment. In fact, “nonprofit employment, total annual wages, and the number of establishments grew steadily each year from 2007 through 2012.” Specifically:

  • The total number of non-profit jobs rose from 10.5 million to 11.4 million — an increase of 8.5 percent.
  • Total annual wages rose from $421 billion to $532 billion — an increase of 26 percent, not adjusted for inflation.
  • The total number of non-profit organizations rose from 232,396 to 267,855 — an increase of 15 percent.


The non-profit sector is growing and many offer excellent benefits packages to help with attracting top job candidates. As Joanne Fritz notes, although salaries tend to be higher in the private sector, non-profit employers often supplement their lower pay with competitive benefits. These range from sabbaticals and generous vacation time to on-site fitness facilities, tuition reimbursement, work-from-home opportunities, flexible scheduling, and dental plans.

Better Opportunities

It is possible to pursue a rewarding non-profit career without earning a master’s degree. However, job candidates with a master’s degree — especially one specific to non-profit work — may find better opportunities upon graduation. Rather than settling for an entry-level job, they may be able to slip directly into a management position. A Master of Science in Management with a concentration in Non-Profit Leadership can help position graduates for such a role and the higher salary that comes with it.

In an article published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Rosetta Thurman explains that even new graduates may be able to advance more quickly in a non-profit organization than they would elsewhere.

As top positions open up, graduates of the non-profit leadership program may go on to work as chief executives, directors, or senior management at a local, national, or even international non-profits. Alternatively, those with an entrepreneurial spirit may use their degree to start their own non-profit.

Keep in mind that the non-profit sector encompasses a wide range of organizations, making it easy to find one that aligns with one’s personal passions. Examples include zoos, healthcare organizations, universities, museums, as well as need-based charities that address everything from disaster relief to malnutrition.

Career Advancement

Adding a master’s degree to their resume can also help current non-profit employees advance in their career.

When a new position opens up — either internally or at another non-profit — applicants with an advanced degree stand out.

Holly Hall, writing for Inside Philanthropy, notes that “Many organizations are too cash-strapped to send their employees to conferences, offer outside training, or provide tuition assistance.” Employees in that position can differentiate themselves from their colleagues by seeking a master’s degree on their own time. Taking this initiative speaks to the employee’s character, including how serious they are about their job and how much they value self-improvement.

An online program can be particularly appealing for non-profit employees, as they can continue to work full time while pursuing an advanced degree. This can help alleviate the financial costs of higher education as well as give students the opportunity to immediately apply what they are learning to real-world situations.

Professional Networking

Pursuing a master’s in non-profit leadership also provides ample opportunity to build more professional connections. Students at New England College will automatically join a vast network of school alumni across the U.S. and around the world. Currently, the NEC Alumni Association is over 12,000 strong and growing quickly, and many of the school’s graduates work in the non-profit sector. Some alumni even volunteer their time to assist in the career development of current students and recent graduates. The following are a few ways they can help:

  • Offering internships at their companies
  • Posting jobs to the College Central Network
  • Conducting mock interviews in person or over the phone
  • Participating in career panels
  • Sharing the story of their own career journeys

Taking advantage of these alumni resources can be a great way for students to expand their professional networks. The connections made at New England College can help graduates find employment as well as lay the groundwork for future partnerships and collaborations.

Cutting-Edge Strategies

A master’s in non-profit leadership can even be helpful for those who already hold a leadership role in a non-profit organization. It is easy to fall into a rut after a few years of non-profit employment. However, continued growth and innovation are vital for running a successful non-profit, and these elements need to start at the top. Through the coursework offered at New England College, leaders can refresh their perspective and revolutionize their approach to non-profit management. They will learn about cutting-edge trends and technology, as well as how to apply new theories and strategies to non-profits.

Keep in mind that non-profit leaders face somewhat different challenges than corporate leaders. For instance, non-profit leaders often experience greater difficulty with funding and staffing. They often rely heavily on donations, which are never guaranteed, and unpaid volunteers. These two issues — and many others — are unique to non-profits.

Take the first step toward a future in non-profit leadership today. To learn more about earning a Master of Science in Management – Non-Profit Leadership online through New England College, visit the School of Graduate and Professional Studies online.


The Balance Small Business

The NonProfit Times

Inside Philanthropy

Stanford Social Innovation Review

Nonprofit HR

U.S. News

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

NonProfit Leadership Alliance