Career Field - Nonprofit - Getting Started

Identify Organizations
Identify Type of Job
Gain Experience & Demonstrate Commitment
Prepare a Resume
Acquire Skills
Network with Nonprofit Professionals
What's a Typical Career Path?

1 Identify Organizations

  • Do you want to work for one of these types of organizations?
    Advocacy and political groups
    Lobbying groups
    Professional associations
    Think tanks, scientific and research organizations
    Educational organizations
    Art, historical, cultural organizations
    Direct social service agencies
    Religious organizations
    Labor organizations
    Environmental organizations
    Social change organizations
  • Do you want to work with a specific population or issue? What do you really care about?
    Disability issues
    Children and families
    AIDS, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's
    Economic development
    Senior citizens
    Political reform
    Endangered species
    Water quality
    Prison reform
    Consumer rights
    Civil and human rights

2 Identify Type of Job

Identify types of jobs you might want to assume within an organization. Jobs are classified as Direct Service, Management/Administrative or Research. These are examples of some roles you can find in nonprofit organizations. There are many roles one can play in a nonprofit, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Direct Service
Community Organizing
Social Work
Program Coordination
Marketing and Public Relations
Human Resources
Information Technology
Policy Analysis
Quantitative Analysis
Program Evaluation
Scientific Research

3 Gain Experience & Demonstrate Commitment to the Field

Internships or part-time jobs provide an opportunity to gain exposure to a field, develop new skills and to meet professionals working in the field. Volunteering is also a wonderful way to gain experience in the nonprofit sector, and many organizations will often hire committed volunteers when job opportunities do arise.

4 Prepare a Resume

You must have a professional resume. Key components nonprofit employers will be looking for include demonstrated commitment to the field, experience, training and skills related to the job. It's important to include information about volunteer and paid internships, related academic projects, and student activities.

5 Acquire Skills

Following is a list of skills that appear frequently on nonprofit job listings. This does not include specialized skills required for specific job functions (e.g., grant monitoring, computer programming, financial management). Read nonprofit job announcements to familiarize yourself with the specialized skills required by job function, or talk to professionals in the field for first hand information about skills required on the job.

Typical Skills & Abilities
Organization & coordination skills
--Press releases
Grant writing
Public speaking
Program planning
Computer skills

Problem solving
Language skills (esp. Spanish & Asian languages)
Subject knowledge

6 Network with Nonprofit Professionals

Job opportunities in nonprofits exist, but often are not publicized as prominently as opportunities for business and technical jobs. Networking with nonprofit professionals is the best method to learn about job openings. The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) was formed to facilitate networking amongst young professionals. People working in nonprofits tend to be very interested in helping young people break into the field. Networking is more than asking them for a job. It's about developing relationships with people in your field.

7 What's a Typical Career Path?

The majority of entry level bachelor's level jobs tend to be research assistantships, direct service or administrative support. Initially, the job may not sound ideal, but often jobs in nonprofits require you to assume a variety of duties. Your first job may not be exactly what you envisioned, but hopefully it will put you on the path to developing the experience and knowledge needed for your next career move.

There is no typical career path. In some organizations opportunities exist to assume a great deal of responsibility and move up fairly quickly into a coordinator or management position. In other organizations the staff may be so small, there may not be room for advancement so you must move to another organization in order to move up. 


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