Degree enhancement Featured

6:07am EDT September 21, 2006
For many people, including a growing number of adults seeking a new career in a field that is mission-driven, the nonprofit sector is an intriguing but often misunderstood career opportunity. Many people think that nonprofits are just in the human services areas, but there are a variety of sectors including higher education, health care, trade organizations, recreation, arts, animal welfare and the environment, according to Judy Singleton, assistant professor of sociology and social work at the College of Mount St. Joseph.

“Nonprofits work to make the community a better place and need effective leaders who can help organizations fulfill their missions,” she says. “There is a real need for leadership skills in the nonprofit sector, and pursing a nonprofit leadership course of study can give someone looking to enter the not-for-profit sector a real leg up in their career.”

Smart Business spoke with Singleton about the nonprofit leadership course of study.

What is a nonprofit leadership course of study?
A nonprofit leadership program is designed to give people who aspire to be in management positions in an organization the skills to lead a nonprofit organization. Part of the education is to help students better understand what a nonprofit organization is, how it’s governed and how it functions.

Nonprofit leadership programs can be offered to people who have already completed an associate or bachelor’s degree in any subject. It is an enhancement to the degree they already have, and the courses can be geared toward helping students learn very specific skills they’ll need.

Why would one look at nonprofit leadership as a course of study?
In a recent report of the nonprofit sector, we found that the number of people working in this particular area has more than doubled in the last 25 years; roughly 9.5 percent of the total work force. By 2010, the nonprofit work force is projected to reach 15 million, with most of the growth in the health and human services sector. There are simply more jobs available in the nonprofit sector today than ever before.

As a result of this growth, a number of schools across the country are offering nonprofit leadership courses to prepare students to work more effectively in the nonprofit sector.

What are the requirements to enroll in the nonprofit leadership program?
To obtain a certificate in nonprofit leadership at the Mount, a student must already have completed an associate or bachelor’s degree in any field and be accepted through the admissions process.

Students take such courses as accounting, basic organizational management, human resources management, leadership, marketing, news writing, public relations, and general nonprofit management and fund-raising. They need to take a total of 24 hours to complete the certificate.

What will a person gain from enrolling in a nonprofit leadership program?
Basic skills development — especially for someone who doesn’t have previous work experience in the nonprofit arena. While such programs often will not prepare someone to walk into a CEO-level position, it can provide a basic understanding of nonprofit management and the skills necessary to begin a career in a nonprofit organization — especially for someone who aspires to a leadership or management position.

Among the skills most needed from their employees in a survey of nonprofits: dealing with financial management, raising money, understanding how nonprofits are governed, and working with volunteers and boards.

What are the career opportunities in the nonprofit sector?
In addition to the job growth in the nonprofit sector, there are a variety of jobs ranging from human resources and public relations to financial management, fund-raising and development, and leadership.

The types of organizations also vary widely from higher education to trade organizations to animal rights and environmental organizations. There are more opportunities in this job sector than ever before, and having a certificate in nonprofit leadership can really help students not only get a foot in the door, but accelerates their careers as well.

JUDY SINGLETON is assistant professor of sociology and social work at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Reach her at or (513) 244-3269.