Do I Need a Nonprofit Management MBA? [+5 More Options]

3 min read
Do I Need a Nonprofit Management MBA? [+5 More Options]

Leaders in the nonprofit sector play a crucial role in guiding and overseeing their organization’s operations. This is no small feat when it comes to the diverse social causes these groups take on.

To start, they must navigate complex fundraising strategies and cultivate strong partnerships with donors, stakeholders and employees to ensure long-term success. 

In order to excel in diverse skill sets, there are several effective educational journeys you may pursue.

Keep reading to learn more about the role of a nonprofit manager and admissions requirements that serve as the first step toward your future career goals.

Responsibilities of a Nonprofit Manager

The list of nonprofit manager responsibilities is lengthy, consisting of the following basic duties:

  • Designing and implementing effective programs
  • Planning and overseeing fundraising efforts
  • Applying critical thinking and synthesis as problems arise
  • Forming a working relationship with media
  • Ensuring employees are well-trained and motivated

Specific job responsibilities vary by organization, but fundamental leadership skills are consistently important. Many employers are in agreement that nonprofit job candidates should start by earning an undergraduate degree and then further their education with an advanced degree program.

Some people choose to focus on studies in a specific industry, such as education, healthcare or communication. Others opt for a more generalized program that will prepare them for the nonprofit sector at large, such as the University of San Diego’s 100% online Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (MSNP) degree. In 20 months, graduates are ready to take on many vital nonprofit leadership responsibilities.

Career Options With a Nonprofit Management Master’s Degree

Earning a master’s degree in nonprofit management has historically provided many opportunities for aspiring leaders in the field. While there are varying job titles to achieve in nonprofits, these are some of the most common:

PositionDescriptionAverage Annual Base Salary
CEO/President or Executive DirectorConvey impact of the organization to board of directors, run day-to-day operations$106,194
Executive DirectorOversee daily operations, fundraising efforts and employees$87,553
Senior Program DirectorCoordinate programs and services, manage staff, delegate tasks$77,342
Philanthropy ManagerForm and maintain relationships with donors$68,905

Admission Requirements For a Master’s In Nonprofit Management

Each college and university establishes its own admissions requirements, but many seek a bachelor’s degree and satisfactory GPA.

Use the following as a checklist for the aforementioned USD program:

  • An official transcript showing completion of a bachelor’s degree program with a GPA of at least 2.75 on a 4.0 scale
  • A statement of purpose — 500 words maximum — that addresses why leading and managing a nonprofit agency is complex, and how you expect earning a degree to help prepare you
  • A resume with work experience or curriculum vitae with educational background
  • A letter of support from a current supervisor

Additional information can be found here.

Alternative Degree Opportunities to an MBA

A Master of Business Administration degree continues to be a popular option for many professionals. However, there are several alternatives to an MBA that can help you achieve your goals.

The right decision depends on your specific goals and interests. Take time to research each, considering where prior students are now working, practical experience you can gain and more. These are a few options:

  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Online courses that are open to a large number of learners from around the world. These courses are typically provided by universities, colleges or other educational institutions, as well as online learning platforms for free or very low costs. MOOCs offer a flexible and accessible way for people to access high-quality educational content without traditional barriers.
  • Mini MBA Programs. Shorter programs that can typically be completed in a week to six months. Because of the abbreviated nature of these “mini” programs, they are more affordable. There is time to touch only on the most important topics.
  • MBA Certificate Programs. A faster and less expensive means of proving your investment in learning a particular topic. Certificate programs are useful when it comes to specific competencies rather than general knowledge. They are helpful for professionals who want to break into a new field and have limited transferable skills.
  • Online Accelerated Degree Programs. Specially designed for working professionals who need to balance education with existing responsibilities. These programs are more in-depth. USD’s MSNP program can be completed on your own timeline, and qualify you for many nonprofit leadership positions.
  • Real-World Experience. There is no lack of experience to be gained in the nonprofit sector. Instead of structured educational opportunities and the many networking opportunities they come with, some people forge their own path by diving directly into the work.

It’s clear that leaders in the nonprofit sector earn their positions in a variety of ways. But when it comes to choosing the educational opportunity that is best for you, be sure to consider your individual goals, passions and the specific skills and knowledge you need to advance. The decision is undoubtedly an important one. To help you select an online master’s degree, USD developed this free, downloadable eBook as a guide.


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