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Best Bachelor's Degrees in Nonprofit Management

Oct 20, 2021

What is a Nonprofit Management Bachelor Degree?

The leaders of nonprofit organizations must deal with many of the same issues that their counterparts in traditional businesses do, such as communication, human resources, and budgeting. In addition, they may have to work to raise funds and maximize efficiency due to a constrained budget.

People who earn this degree frequently have a passion for helping those in need and advanced skills in leadership. The skills learned in these programs usually transfer to for-profit businesses, but graduates from these programs may best fit in nonprofit organizations. A bachelor's degree in nonprofit management can take many forms including Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs (BSPA). It may be somewhat difficult to find a program in this subject at the bachelor's level, as many schools do not have an undergraduate degree dedicated solely to nonprofit management. Many nonprofit management programs are found as a concentration within other degrees, like a Bachelor of Business Administration.

Best Nonprofit Management Bachelor's Degrees

Study.com searched for and found an impressive list of top bachelor's programs in nonprofit management across the nation. We selected these schools utilizing Department of Education data on tuition, retention, and graduation rates. We then dug deeper to find the standout schools that offer collaborative and hands-on learning opportunities along with clubs and organizations that promote nonprofit management skills. Alumni of many of the programs we found also land careers at well-known and highly established companies and organizations. Check out our top schools below.

1. Indiana University-Bloomington

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10,947 78% 79% 84% Yes Yes AP Credits

Indiana University, based in Bloomington, tops our list of the best nonprofit management bachelor's degree with courses led by some of the top nonprofit managers and researchers nationwide. The university's cutting-edge Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs with a major in Nonprofit Management and Leadership is second to none in the field, offering a collaborative learning environment, opportunities to utilize classroom tools in student-led activities, and the Mentor Collective program that connects students to alumni with similar interests. The university boasts a Nonprofit Leadership Alliance student club that encourages networking and service-based projects. Alumni of this program have used their skills to acquire careers with the American Red Cross and Peace Corps.

2. California State University-Dominguez Hills

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6,946 77% 44% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits

At California State University - Dominguez Hills, in Carson, CA, students can find a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. This program combines in-class learning with guest speakers and symposiums to prepare students for public administration and management careers. Students can find a wealth of activities here outside the classroom to build their experience, such as the Dominguez Public Administration Association and a service-learning project that encourages real-world experiences in organizations like the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles or Watts Community Studio.

3. Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11,338 82% 58% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits

The downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University boasts a first-in-the-nation Bachelor of Science in Nonprofit Leadership and Management that produces highly sought-after graduates. This program encourages real-world experiences through internships and offers a unique National Certified Nonprofit Professional credential option. Students can also find accelerated options here, providing them with opportunities to earn a bachelor's and a Master of Science in Community Resources and Development within just five years.

4. University of Central Florida

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6,368 44% 72% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits

The University of Central Florida in Orlando offers a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Nonprofit Management. Offered through the College of Community Innovation and Education, the program helps students develop into professionals who will have a transformative impact on their communities; that goal is supported by opportunities for students to complete research projects and internships with local agencies and to participate in policy development programs. We liked how much students can tailor their studies to their career goals -- they choose a minor like emergency management or urban planning, and they round out their education with a capstone seminar in nonprofit leadership.

5. Austin Peay State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,303 95% 43% 99% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

Clarksville, TN-based Austin Peay State University offers a minor in nonprofit administration that students can combine with relevant degrees like a Bachelor of Business Administration or a Bachelor of Science in Public Management. Students here take part in what the school calls High-Impact Practices (HIP), sharpening their skills through experiences like first-year learning communities and capstone projects; the Department of Political Science and Public Management also hosts events and seminars like its Young Women's Leadership Symposium.

6. Lindenwood University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$18,100 88% 50% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

Business students at Lindenwood University can earn either a BA or a BS in the field with an emphasis in nonprofit administration. This 12-credit hour specialization gives students a solid background in nonprofit leadership, fundraising, marketing, and management, and some courses in the department are conveniently offered online. Based in St. Charles, MO, the university is the only one in the area to offer both undergraduate and graduate options in nonprofit administration, and students even have the option to begin their graduate studies while still enrolled in the bachelor's degree program. The Robert W. Plaster School of Business and Entrepreneurship is also home to the Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise, an education center that hosts speakers, documentaries, and seminars that can enhance students' understanding of current economic and social concerns.

7. The University of Texas at Dallas

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$13,442 79% 70% 78% Yes Yes AP Credits

Students can earn undergraduate degrees in public affairs through the Public and Nonprofit Management program at the University of Texas at Dallas. As they pursue their Bachelor of Science degrees, students gain leadership skills and a broad understanding of both the public and nonprofit sectors--an advantage afforded by this interdisciplinary program. In addition to public affairs courses, the curriculum incorporates coursework in government and economics, and students can complete a capstone course focused on entrepreneurship and social change leadership. Outstanding students can take advantage of the Fast Track program, which allows them to take graduate-level coursework while still pursuing their bachelor's degrees; those credit hours can then be applied toward a master's degree.

8. Central Michigan University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$12,833 70% 61% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

Central Michigan University is located in small-town Mount Pleasant, MI, and offers flexible, high-quality options with its undergraduate Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Public and Nonprofit Administration programs. CMU is known for its commitment to civic engagement and public service. Courses allow students to develop diverse skill sets in areas such as human resources, leadership, and employee motivation and enhance their degree by using elective credits to complete a certificate in NGO Administration, Citizen Engagement, Public Policy Analysis, or Public and Social Entrepreneurship, allowing for more focus on specific career paths. The program also offers internship opportunities through which students can earn three course credits and valuable real-world work experience.

9. Cleveland State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10,825 94% 46% 89% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

Cleveland State University, situated in the heart of downtown Cleveland, OH, lands on our list for their Bachelor of Arts in Nonprofit Management, which is tailor-made for nonprofit leaders - both those pursuing careers in the field and those already employed. The program offers elective options focused on serving diverse populations such as Gender and Leadership, Managing Urban Diversity, and Distressed People, Distressed Places. Students looking to also study at the graduate level have the option to apply for CSU's 5-year program to earn both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Nonprofit Administration and Leadership degrees.

10. Northern Arizona University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11,142 85% 57% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

Northern Arizona University is nestled in scenic Flagstaff, AZ, and offers a Bachelor of Public Administration degree that serves as a terrific option for aspiring nonprofit managers looking for the convenience of a fully online program without compromising the quality of their university experience. The program gets high marks for its flexibility and affordability; the school's unique competency-based curriculum costs just $3,000 for a 6-month subscription. Students also have the unique opportunity to work with the Northern Arizona Center for Nonprofit Entrepreneurship, which equips aspiring nonprofit professionals and organizations with knowledge and skills geared toward creating positive change and making an impact.

11. Grand Valley State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$13,180 83% 67% 87% Yes Yes AP Credits

Allendale, MI's Grand Valley State University offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs in Public and Nonprofit Administration built on a solid liberal arts foundation and with a strong emphasis on a well-rounded academic and co-curricular student experience. The program features small class sizes that allow for interactive classes and every student engages directly with the community through service-learning courses and internships. Students in this program have the opportunity to study abroad and join one or more of several active student organizations, including Students Leaving a Mark (SLAM) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). GVSU is also home to the Steelcase Library's Johnson Collection on Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, one of the largest nonprofit-focused collections in the United States.

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Nonprofit Management

Generally, the curriculum for a bachelor's degree in nonprofit management aims to teach students to lead the people and operations of a nonprofit. That means students may focus their studies on subjects like communication, leadership, fundraising, law, finance, public policy, marketing, and more. At least one internship is normally required in these programs, typically as a capstone class. Possible course topics include:

  • Introduction to sociology
  • Macroeconomics and microeconomics
  • Administrative theory
  • Resource development in nonprofits
  • Budgeting and fiscal management for nonprofits
  • Research methods in public administration
  • Nonprofit leadership or management
  • Law for nonprofits
  • U.S. public policy

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Nonprofit Management?

It usually takes around four years to get a bachelor's degree in nonprofit management. Most schools require students to complete approximately 120 credit hours of coursework, with students traditionally taking 15-16 credit hours of classes per semester. It is possible to accelerate this through some programs or by taking classes during nontraditional times like summer or winter break, though the internship requirement of many programs may make this slightly more difficult.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Nonprofit Management Degrees

Accreditation from an independent organization demonstrates that a school or program has met certain standards when it comes to faculty, graduation rates, and curriculum quality. The two types of accreditation to consider are programmatic and regional accreditation. In the former case, nonprofit management programs typically fall under a college or university's school of business or school of public policy. If a program is in the business school, two of the most widely respected accrediting bodies are the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). If the program is in a public policy school, the premier editing organization is the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

Regional accreditation covers the entire school; it helps ensure that the education you receive will be of high quality. Attending a regionally accredited school is also a requirement to receive federal financial aid and makes it much easier to transfer credits to other schools. Regional accrediting bodies are ones approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education; some examples include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSOC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Nonprofit Management Licensure and Certification

Individuals do not need a license or certification of any kind to work in nonprofit management. The government does not regulate the industry in that regard, though there are many other rules with which a nonprofit manager would need to comply. While no license or credential is required in this field, it is possible to earn optional credentials that may benefit the professional who holds them.

The best example of this is the credentialing program offered by the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE). The NANOE is the only nationwide membership organization in America that offers credentials specifically designed for executives who work in the nonprofit realm. There are three options focused on nonprofit executives, development executives, and nonprofit consultants. Earning these credentials involves paying for them (there are discounts for those who earn more than one of them), and passing an examination. NANOE describes those who hold these certifications as being best practice experts.

Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Nonprofit Management?

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when determining whether you should get a bachelor's degree in nonprofit management is your interest and aptitude for leadership and charity. In terms of leadership, those who work in these positions within the nonprofit must have a diverse array of skills. A perusal of the common courses alone shows that nonprofit managers need to have many of the abilities that traditional business leaders, like budgeting, marketing, and human resources, in addition to skills specific to this industry, such as fundraising, resource development, a grasp of specific elements of the law, and public policy.

Additionally, prospective nonprofit management majors should consider the particular difficulties associated with this field. Unlike a for-profit company that funds its operations through its business efforts, nonprofits often must rely on the generosity of others or government funding to keep their doors open. This may necessitate less lucrative salaries and shoestring budgets, causing additional stress on leaders.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Nonprofit Management?

Those who decide this field is for them can work in many industries, giving them ample career options. Nonprofit organizations exist in religious communities, healthcare, arts and culture sectors, education, and more. This can help ensure that graduates with a bachelor's degree in nonprofit management can work in an industry that they are especially passionate about, which can make the work more rewarding.

Within these entities, nonprofit management students may serve in several possible roles that vary from place to place. Again, this may allow professionals to tailor their career toward their particular strengths. If someone excels at or enjoys fundraising, for example, they may be able to make a career out of only working in that part of nonprofit management. Possible job titles include:

How to Become a Social Service Manager

A social service manager or director may also be known as a community service manager or director. Regardless of the title, these individuals coordinate and supervise organizations and programs that help members of the public, including overseeing workers who interact directly with the public. This can include identifying needs for services, overseeing administrative facets of programs, analyzing the effectiveness of offerings, raising awareness of programs, and securing funding from several sources.

To become a social service manager, individuals usually need at least a bachelor's degree and related work experience, though some positions may require a master's degree. In terms of education, a bachelor's degree in nonprofit management should fulfill many qualification requirements. For work experience, it may be best to work at entry-level positions in the field to gain an idea of what those under you do. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported in 2019 that those who meet these requirements and work in this field made a median annual wage of $67,150. Job openings for this field are also expected to grow 17 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much higher than the national average for all occupations.

How to Become a Fundraiser

Social service managers might begin their careers as fundraisers. In this role, individuals raise money and other donations through fundraising events and campaigns. Likewise, they may be tasked with raising awareness of an organization's work or financial needs by creating promotional materials or campaigns. As part of their jobs, fundraisers may need to contact potential donors, use online platforms to raise money, train volunteers, and complete required reports.

To do this, most fundraisers have a bachelor's degree. They can come from several academic backgrounds, but they usually need strong organizational and communication skills to succeed. The BLS reported in 2019 that the median annual wage for fundraisers was $57,970. The job is also expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, as the BLS estimated employment will grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Professional Organizations in Nonprofit Management

Multiple organizations exist whose aim is to serve professionals in nonprofit management. This may involve providing credentials like those mentioned above, offering continuing education opportunities, connecting professionals at networking events, researching issues in the field, advocating on behalf of members, and more. With the range of services provided, it is important to consider each organization before deciding which one or ones would be right for you. Possible groups to consider joining include:

  • Alliance for Nonprofit Management - The Alliance aims to improve the effectiveness of those who help nonprofits and communities change for the better. It is made up of coaches, funders, executives, consultants, and academics from across the nation whose goal is to help the nonprofit field by bringing together those disparate perspectives. One of the main ways the group does this is its annual conference.
  • Association of Fundraising Professionals - As its name implies, the AFP is designed for those whose job involves raising money. A global organization, it provides resources for its members to enhance their skills including short learning videos, webinars, and in-person events.

What Other Kinds of Nonprofit Management Degrees Are There?

Education is a keystone of nonprofit management, with advanced degrees being highly prized as individuals seek employment or promotions in this sector. Nevertheless, it can be somewhat challenging to find lower-level degrees in this field, as postgraduate ones are much more readily available. Given the complexity and sensitivity of the issues handled by professionals in this field, that may come as no surprise. Still, those seeking a degree in nonprofit management at any level of academia have numerous options that they may pursue.

Associate Degrees in Nonprofit Management

There are at least a few associate programs in nonprofit management, but students may need to broaden their views and pursue a degree in a related field like public administration to earn an associate degree. These degrees can be Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS). Most commonly, degrees at this level serve as a stepping stone to higher education, though some programs (usually, an AAS) are designed to prepare students for careers in nonprofit management. It typically takes about two years to get this degree, with students completing around 60 credit hours of coursework.

Master's Degrees in Nonprofit Management

Conversely, a master's degree is perhaps the most common degree in this field. With the multitude of options, it is important that prospective students choose the best graduate degree for nonprofit work. Depending on the student and his or her goals, this may be a master's in nonprofit management or a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management. In either case, these degrees prepare students to lead nonprofits in a wide variety of contexts and normally take around one or two years to earn, with graduates finishing 36-60 credit hours of coursework.

Doctoral Degrees in Nonprofit Management

A doctoral degree in nonprofit management is the terminal degree in this discipline. It can take the form of a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). The specific titles of this degree often vary from school to school, with possible names including nonprofit leadership and management, nonprofit and philanthropic leadership, and nonprofit and community leadership. A doctoral degree in nonprofit management is also often a concentration within a larger discipline. These degrees often take several years; students in them have a chance to learn the skills necessary to lead organizations in creative ways, conduct original research, or teach at the university level.

Certificates in Nonprofit Management

Certificates in nonprofit management are offered at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. At the undergraduate level, these programs typically give students an introduction to the key elements of nonprofit management, focusing on the foundational skills needed to work in this sector. In the case of graduate-level certificates, the focus is more on continuing education, as the programs usually aim to teach new or innovative skills to those already working in leadership. It can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to earn a certificate in nonprofit management, depending on the program.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Nonprofit Management Degrees

The first step in getting financial aid to earn a bachelor's degree in nonprofit management is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form shows students what federal funds they may qualify for, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. Various documents, like social security numbers and federal tax information, are required to complete the FAFSA.

For scholarships, students should research their chosen school and area organizations. Both these resources frequently offer scholarships in this discipline, and schools sometimes partner with area nonprofits of businesses to offer scholarships. Earning these funds may be highly competitive and possibly time-consuming, but the rewards are often worth it.

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