Non-profit and NGO Degrees

Last Reviewed: April 28, 2020

Consider an online MPA program currently accepting applications.

Non Profit / Nongovernment Organizations Degree Programs

Advocacy groups, churches, and college fraternities are some examples of nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt and use fundraising techniques to accomplish their goals instead of traditional income methods at other organizations. It is important for nonprofit organizations to have a clear mission in place to gain trust from the public and receive money to further their cause. Many higher education opportunities provide leadership skills for management positions in these organizations, and there are many institutions that offer online education for further convenience to those that have established careers in this sector already.

Consider a Featured Online MPA Program

University / School Online Program Admissions
Johns Hopkins University AAP
MS in Government, MS in Public Management Website
Drake University
Master of Public Administration Website
Aurora University
Online MPA (one year) Website
Johns Hopkins University AAP
MA in Non-Governmental Organization Management Website
Lindenwood University
Master of Public Administration Website

What are Nonprofit Organizations and Why Consider this Degree?

Nonprofit organizations typically advocate for a certain cause, such as climate change, social equality, and professional associations (like NASPAA). There is technically a difference between nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations; the latter receiving extra money will use those funds to pay their working members. Those at nonprofits will typically earn a salary, but will use fundraising efforts for the advocacy efforts they pursue. Both of these entities are tax-exempt from the Internal Revenue Service.

Many students that complete a Master of Public Administration have had successful employment within a nonprofit organization in leadership and management positions. At Northeastern University, one-fifth of the students that completed the 2017-18 academic year and responded to a college survey entered into nonprofit domestic-oriented positions. It is important to look for programs that offer electives or an area of emphasis within nonprofit management. Another possibility is looking at programs that directly have a discipline in nonprofit management.


Consider an online MPA program currently accepting applications.

NASPAA Accreditation

Many higher education programs within nonprofit organizations will hold an accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). This accreditation agency is located at Washington DC and is a nonprofit organization itself, designating the best programs within public administration, public policy, and public affairs across the world. Programs that apply and succeed in their peer review to gain this accreditation must maintain it on an annual basis and reapply for the accreditation after a certain period of time. Students can be assured that their education will hold the latest innovations and best practices within the curriculum that focuses on policymaking and managing nonprofit organizations.

Learning Online: Different Methods and Reasons

There is plenty of flexibility for students to choose an online education toward nonprofit organizations. Many institutions provide the Master of Public Administration online, including a specialization in management positions. Those that do not have a direct area of emphasis may still have electives or the core curriculum will consist of leadership and management skills that students can develop. Gaining an online education makes it simpler for those that already have established their professional career and are looking at higher-level positions at the nonprofits they work for.

Students should check the program website to determine if there are any on-campus residencies that are required. These are typically completed at the beginning of the program to prepare students for the program, meeting with faculty members or getting to know other students. When pursuing an online program, students should have a modern computer with the Windows or Mac operating system. Applications and software needed will be based on the courses that the student takes. High-speed internet access is recommended for viewing class lectures, which will typically be offered on-demand.

Examples of Graduate Programs

Seton Hall University

One of the many NASPAA-accredited universities across the country that have a Nonprofit Management track within the Master of Public Administration is at Seton Hall. Students will discover theory and the evolution of public services at nonprofits through a curriculum that requires 42 credit hours to complete. The program culminates with a capstone project that is one of the following: an internship, group counseling project, or research project for those that already have employment in the nonprofit sector.

The MPA program is divided up with the majority of education in nonprofit courses. Example courses that students will take include Nonprofit Fundraising and Development, Nonprofit Human Resources Management and Volunteer Management, and Nonprofit Advocacy and Lobbying. Students taking the online program will not have set times to meet in classes, but there will be set assignment and testing dates. There are no residency requirements needed to fulfill. When applying for the program, GRE scores are not necessary to submit, but students should hold an undergraduate degree with exemplary academic work.

Arkansas State University

There is a Nonprofit Management track offered through the Master of Public Management at Arkansas State. This is an online program that can be completed in as little as 18 months, and there is a requirement of 36 credit hours for the curriculum. Students that pursue this specific track will gain fundamental knowledge in how to firmly balance finances at a nonprofit and gain an understanding of fundraising practices. This program offers the flexibility of taking courses in any order, with the exception of the Seminar in Public Administration taken in the first year and the internship after 18 credit hours have been completed.

Courses that are taken within the Nonprofit Management track include a Nonprofit Management overview, Nonprofit Fundraising, and Nonprofit Planning and Marketing. There are prerequisite courses that need to be taken early in the program if credit is not already gained for them: Intro to US Government, Economic Issues, and College Algebra. The program culminates with students being able to complete a thesis or comprehensive exam, but the former is only recommended for those that plan to pursue a PhD in public administration. Up to nine credit hours can be transferred over into the program as long as they have been accredited by NASPAA.

Northeastern University

The College of Professional Studies offers a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management, which specifically helps students gain the skills needed for leadership positions at nonprofit organizations – specifically universities, hospitals, and religious organizations. Concentrations that students can take with this program include Fundraising, Leadership and Communication, Project Management, Social Media Analytics, and Social Innovation. This provides ample customization to succeed in the career chosen. Students can pursue the degree fully online and it is tailored to those that must maintain a work-life balance.

Alternative nonprofit education can also be obtained through the Master of Public Administration, which is also offered by the college. The concentration in the Nonprofit Sector is also helpful for government positions for those that may consider one or the other. Various levels of government are relying on nonprofits to fund, manage, and implement programs within communities. This specific concentration can also be earned as a standalone certification, which requires three courses to complete. This program is also fully available online, and credits can be transfered toward the full MPA program if necessary.

Central Michigan University

The College of Graduate Studies provides a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. This NASPAA-accredited program is offered completely online and requires 37 credit hours to complete the program. Example courses in the core curriculum that students will take are Public Budgeting and Finance, Administration and Ethics in Public Service, and Organization Theory in Public Administration. In addition to a solid education, students will be able to enhance their networking potential by joining the Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance to join community gatherings and gain an edge in employment opportunity.

By taking the online program, students can complete the program anywhere they have a modern computer system and high-speed internet access. Specific programs needed are based on the requirements set by each professor in the courses. Admission requirements to get into the program include holding a Bachelor’s degree with a 2.8 cumulative GPA or higher. The discipline should be within economics, statistics, or research methods. Other submissions needed are the application with fee, official transcripts, updated resume, up to three pages for a personal statement that detail the goals of the program, and three letters of recommendation.

Typical Courses

Strategic Leadership

These courses will provide a look at successful practices when leading a group or organization toward stability. Executive positions must have these soft skills in order to create a fundamentally sound organization, which include being able to clearly communicate goals, being able to listen and collaborate with teams across the organization, showing enthusiasm for what is being worked on, and being fully ethical and honest when working with others and the goods and services that the nonprofit is working on.

Grant Report Writing

Creating a grant report is important to receive continuous funding from the same sources, even when it is not required. Grant reports will describe how the money that was funded was used by the nonprofit organization, which can include financial statements and what goals have been met with the money. These courses will help students create the structure of a grant report and provide lessons to create a visually impactful report that can improve the relationship between the nonprofit and the funding party, such as organizing subjects and using data visualization.

Promotion and Marketing

Since fundraising is an important aspect of nonprofit organization, it is imperative for workers to spread awareness of the services and goals they are trying to accomplish. These courses will provide strategy and theory on what has worked in the past, such as organizing keynote speeches at conferences related to the organization, collaborating with others to spread awareness of these topics, and giving further information and strong visual content through social media.

Social Entrepreneurship

Provides the skills necessary to look at social or environmental issues and find solutions for them. Topics will typically include how to define a specific problem and what exactly can be done to fix that issue, creating a successful process that works in a nonprofit situation, and how to advocate for this issue successfully and bring other people into the project – this includes those that want to work on these issues and those looking to help fund it.

Brand Strategy

Courses like this will focus on strengthening the services and goals that the nonprofit is advocating for. For example, environmental nonprofits will be emphasizing the importance of eliminating waste and will promote alternatives that communities can utilize instead of what creates that waste or is part of the issue to begin with. There will also be subjects on ethics when it comes to promotion, and these strategies must follow compliance.

Career Options

Fundraising Manager

Organizes the fundraising efforts of a nonprofit, developing the strategy involved to inform the community of what the cause is and why should support it. Typical duties include forming a team to create these efforts, setting up special events to attract new supporters, or taking part of already established conferences to get the message out – particularly at events that are advocating for the cause. They may also meet directly with donors to thank them for their contributions. Salaries for fundraising managers at nonprofit organizations will typically be around $115,360 annually according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Community Services Manager

Supervise and coordinates social service workers in the community they operate within. Their duties will generally be to implement and adjust any programs to fit in with the community, analyze information to determine if these services are effective and what needs to be changed, and create advocating efforts to further knowledge and awareness of the services being offered. Examples of social services include creating shelter and facilities for homeless people, working opportunities for veterans, and tutoring unskilled workers to be more flexible with underemployed companies in the area.

Program Director

Head of the organization’s programs offered, ensuring that they deliver the quality expected and operations are running smoothly. They will evaluate these programs and make the final decisions on improvement procedures or if they will make any significant changes. Typical duties including forming a staff to run these programs, gathering information, and developing solid communication with management and supervisor positions. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, those that work in director roles at nonprofits make an average of just over $70,000 annually.