Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership & Management

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At a Glance

Strengthen your nonprofit leadership and management skills with a master’s degree you can earn online in just 20 months from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences.

20 Months
30 Units
September 3
August 2


Students are admitted throughout the year for admission into one of three terms (spring, summer and fall). Two courses are offered each term, with students focusing on one course at a time — a total of seven weeks for each course.



Designed for motivated working professionals, the online Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership and Management program helps current and future nonprofit leaders build the practical skills needed to make a lasting impact.

The nonprofit sector is the third largest employer in the U.S., with one in 10 people employed by a nonprofit organization. As such, there is an abundant need for committed individuals to lead these organizations in working to positively impact their communities. The online Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership and Management serves as timely and practical preparation for those committed to measurable, sustainable social change. 

Degree candidates build upon a foundation of nonprofit experience to hone their skills in executive leadership, advanced management practices, governance, program development, evaluation, fundraising and philanthropy. Coursework is informed by real-time developments in the nonprofit world, delivered by faculty with hands-on experience.

The curriculum is grounded in the on-campus Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (MANP) program at USD. More information about the on-campus MANP program is available on the MANP degree page.


The online MS in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (MSNP) program is ideal for working professionals with experience in — and a passion for — the nonprofit sector.

It’s important to note that nonprofit work cuts across many fields; there are nonprofits working in nearly every industry imaginable, from scientific research, public safety and human services to education, broadcasting and the arts. In short, there is a need for nonprofit professionals across a broad spectrum of expertise and specializations. 

To enter this unique leadership and management development program, or its on-campus counterpart, you may have an undergraduate degree, background and/or relevant experience in areas including but not limited to:

  • Nonprofit Management
  • Business Administration, Sales and Marketing
  • Sociology
  • Public Administration
  • International Relations
  • Communications
  • Political Science 
  • Public Health
  • Fundraising 
  • Philanthropy
  • Community Organizing

Above all, this degree is best suited to those committed to a career with a meaningful social purpose.


Getting Started with Your Nonprofit Leadership and Management Master’s Degree Application

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. For details on specific requirements needed for admission, please connect with an Enrollment Advisor.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher on a 4.0 scale. An official transcript is required. 

Candidates with a GPA under 2.75 may be asked to have an interview with the program director, depending on experience.

International students hailing from non-English speaking countries will require a TOEFL score of 83 or higher.

Interested students must complete an online application, craft a statement of purpose and include a professional resume. Applicants are asked to submit one letter of support from a current supervisor. If you are unable to obtain a letter of support from your current supervisor, you are required to submit two letters of support from a previous employer, board member, and/or previous professor who can comment on your experience and potential for graduate studies.

Your 500-word maximum statement of purpose must answer the question:


In the nonprofit world, it is very common — and increasingly preferred — for those in senior-level positions to hold a master’s degree. Graduates of the online MSNP program will be ideally positioned to pursue leadership, management and development roles across the nonprofit sector, including:

Nonprofit organizations across the country — and the world — are in need of strong, strategic leaders with the most up-to-date knowledge of best management practices. Alumni of the on-campus MANP program have gone on to work at organizations like:

This is only a small sampling of the kinds of opportunities available to talented, motivated nonprofit leaders. The online MS in Nonprofit Leadership and Management program provides the fundamental tools needed to open up a world of professional possibilities.

Academic Calendar

Degree candidates are admitted throughout the year to begin their degree during one of three terms (spring, summer, fall). Students take two asynchronous courses during each 14-week semester, focusing on one seven-week course at a time. This degree program can be completed in five semesters (20 months).


Learn how to ensure nonprofit organizations deliver the greatest public benefit. 

The online MSNP curriculum focuses heavily on the intersection of theory and practice — students should be able to take what they learn on any given day and put it into practice immediately.

The curriculum of the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership and Management program will teach students how to: 

For their final semester capstone project, students conduct a comprehensive organizational analysis of a nonprofit organization of their choice and make recommendations for improvement. 


The online MS in Nonprofit Leadership and Management is designed to achieve the following outcomes:

Short-Term Programmatic Outcomes

  • Demonstrate mastery in concepts and theories related to leading and managing nonprofits.
  • Illustrate a meaningful transfer of knowledge from academic studies to professional practice.
  • Apply critical thinking and a synthesis of information from multiple theories, fields, and/or constituencies to draw conclusions and make recommendations.
  • Reflect personal/professional growth and leadership capacity through experiential learning
  • Demonstrate leadership on issues of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism through the development of a global mindset.

Long-Term Outcomes

  • Post-graduation alumni will demonstrate professional growth. (Measured by exit surveys, new jobs, promotions, raises, job satisfaction, and professional contributions)
  • Recent grads will report high levels of degree utility (measured by exit surveys, satisfaction with degree and relevancy of topics to career field) Need specific measures.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • MSNP students will demonstrate a deep foundational knowledge of the origins and significance of the nonprofit sector (voluntary action, philanthropy), compare its relationship to the government and the for-profit sector (domestic and international), and how the nonprofit sector is shaped by the larger political and economic environment.
  • MSNP students will be able to implement ethical standards and understand the implications of values-based management and leadership practices such as advocacy for diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism to advance social justice through nonprofit research and practice.
  • MSNP students will be able to execute relevant management and leadership skills related to nonprofit governance, finance, advocacy, public policy, and resource management. 
  • MSNP students will critically apply social science research and evidence-based practices to understand and respond to community needs, facilitate culturally appropriate solutions, and enhance organizational effectiveness. 
  • MSNP students will be able to effectively design programs or strategic initiatives that deliver high impact results to a nonprofit organization.


The MSNP program is led by a diverse group of full-time instructors and practitioner adjuncts who share a commitment to uplifting and providing a better quality of life for communities near and far. Each faculty member brings a wealth of hands-on professional experiences to their instruction.

Laura Deitrick
Laura Deitrick, PhD
Associate Director of The Nonprofit Institute; Professor of Practice, Department of Leadership Studies Program Director
Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD
Marcus Lamm, PhD
Associate Professor
Antonio Jiménez Luque
Antonio Jiménez Luque, PhD
Assistant Professor
René Molenkamp
René Molenkamp, PhD
Professor of Practice


Accreditation is an important quality indicator for college and university degree programs, generally regarded as a stamp of approval that ensures you will be able to apply for financial aid and transfer your credits if you decide to switch schools. Most state universities and private nonprofit universities will have a regional accreditation. The University of San Diego has earned both regional and national accreditations.

Accreditations include:

The WASC Senior College and University Commission – WASC is a regional accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as certifying institutional eligibility for federal funding in a number of programs, including student access to federal financial aid. Learn more about the importance of selecting a regionally accredited program.


Program tuition is competitive with other top institutions. Federal financial aid can help you fund your degree. Scholarships and grants may also be available.

One of the University of San Diego’s highest priorities is to ensure that sufficient tuition and financial aid support is available to all eligible students. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Tuition & Financial Aid

Find helpful information on tuition and financial aid.

Scholarships & grants

Discover possible additional sources of funding to help pay for your degree.

How to Apply

Learn more about the MSNP application process, including detailed instructions on how to apply.


What if I don’t have nonprofit management experience?

We are looking for applicants who are already (or have the potential to be) leaders in the nonprofit community, in addition to people with critical thinking skills, good interpersonal skills and strong writing skills. We have a preference for applicants who have professional experience or real-world knowledge that will help them immediately translate their learning in the program into concrete application for their work. That said, all candidates are unique. Interested applicants are encouraged to discuss their qualifications with the admissions team or program director to determine eligibility.

How much does the MSNP program cost?

Tuition for the MSNP program is $880 per unit. With a total of 30 units, the full cost of tuition for the program is $26,400.

Tuition amounts shown on this website, or in other university publications or web pages, represent tuition and fees as currently approved. However, the University of San Diego reserves the right to increase or modify tuition and fees without prior notice and to make such modifications applicable to students enrolled at USD at that time as well as to incoming students. In addition, all tuition amounts and fees are subject to change at any time for correction of errors. Please note that the displayed tuition covers only the cost of courses, and additional expenses such as books and other fees are not included.

Does the MSNP program admit international students?

Yes, provided they meet the additional requirements for admission, including a TOEFL exam score of 83 or higher and course-by-course transcript evaluation and report by an approved agency. If you are currently in the U.S. on an F-1 or M-1 student visa, you are not eligible to pursue the online section of our program, per U.S. immigration regulations. International students who are currently in the United States on an F-1 student visa may be able to transfer the F-1 record to the University of San Diego. Please contact an enrollment advisor if you think this situation applies to you.

What qualities are you looking for in applicants?

We look for applicants who have been in the workforce for three years or longer, preferably leaders in the nonprofit community in a management-level position. However, considerations are taken into account for any professional and/or volunteer experience in the nonprofit sector and for those who have the potential to be leaders and critical thinkers with good interpersonal and writing skills. Interested applicants are encouraged to discuss their qualifications with the admissions team or program director to determine eligibility.

How is the online MSNP program different from the on-campus MANP?

While the curriculum is much the same in both learning formats, there are a few differences that set the online and on-campus programs apart. The online MSNP does not offer consulting opportunities or electives — instead, the program culminates in a capstone project, which the on-campus MANP does not. The online program has lower tuition and fewer credit requirements and can be completed sooner than the on-campus program, provided students attend full-time.

Can I work full time to complete the program?

MANP: Yes, the majority of our students work full-time.

MSNP: Yes! The MSNP program was designed specifically for individuals working full-time. Classes are delivered online asynchronously, so you can complete your coursework at your own convenience wherever you have access to the internet.