We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

How Students Can Prepare for a Nonprofit Career

Not everyone looks for a lucrative career after college. Some students strive to make a name for themselves in a way that's more meaningful and valuable to others. These students seek work with nonprofit organizations in the field of social impact, research, public service and many more. That way, they’ll be a part of something greater than themselves and work towards the greater good.

However, being a part of a nonprofit organization with a mission is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, it demands dedication and a lot of effort to help turn that mission into a reality. That being said, you'll need more than your passion and commitment to succeed. What's more, there are over 150 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. Therefore, there's no shortage of demand for people willing to make a difference. Here are a few ways students can prepare for a nonprofit career.


Determine the right cause for you

Each nonprofit organization has some unique goal or mission. Whether it's about saving animals, caring for the environment or people in need, you need to determine the cause you want to support and find a nonprofit that aligns with your motives. That way, you can determine which organization is the most suitable for you and where you'll be able to contribute something of value. Moreover, by doing some research, you'll be able to identify which skills a nonprofit can use the most and find your ideal fit within the organization. It's important to understand that a nonprofit career means you'll be devoting your time and effort to a worthy cause. That's why it's equally important to find the right cause you want to dedicate to.



Nonprofit organizations are always looking for volunteers willing to help out with their cause. It's a good opportunity to gain firsthand experience on how things work and how your future responsibilities might look like. More importantly, you'll get experience in the field and valuable knowledge on how you can contribute to the cause the best way possible. Furthermore, if you haven't started college yet, extracurricular activities in community services might help you get into more prestigious colleges. For instance, public service involvement might help you get into Harvard University easier, especially since Harvard values visionaries willing to commit to a worthy cause. What's more, they offer education in public affairs, such as environmental policy and management, health policy and many more, which will help you out immensely in your nonprofit career.


Hone your existing skills

Aside from cultural fit, nonprofit organizations are always on a lookout for people with exceptional skills that can bring value to the organization. There's almost always a functional skill deficit in nonprofits and they're more than willing to hire people who can contribute. That's why you need to hone your skills for your nonprofit career. As a matter of fact, one of the most highly rated criteria in nonprofits is specific functional experience. For example, traditional business skills, such as marketing, finance, communication, planning, general management, evaluation, technology, operation and human resources are highly sought after in nonprofit organizations. These are for-profit skills you can learn at college that can be transferred to a nonprofit sector. Therefore, if you have such skills, you'll be able to contribute to a nonprofit organization more efficiently.


Get a degree

Many colleges these days offer degrees in nonprofit management. It would be a good idea to involve yourself in such program. The main reason is that the knowledge and the skills you'll learn throughout the course will be of great benefit in your future nonprofit career. Moreover, even if your college doesn't provide a program in nonprofit management, doesn't mean you can't get a degree. Consult with your academic advisor to see whether you can attend a nonprofit course at another college. In most cases, your additional nonprofit education will count toward your final degree and you'll be able to add public service degree to your resume. Your professor can provide guidance and information about nonprofit programs and internship opportunities.


Join a student organization

Many students come together to form an organization on campus, much like a nonprofit organization you'll associate yourself with in the future. Joining such an organization is a good opportunity do some quality public service and meet some interesting people that might be your colleagues even after college. Student organizations arrange philanthropic events, such as charities and fundraisers. That is a good way for you to gain a few extra skills for your future career. Moreover, your on-campus experience will give you valuable insight into how your nonprofit career will look like and you'll be able to apply your newly found experience into your future work.

Pursuing a nonprofit career is a noble cause. You'll be able to do much good and perhaps even make a world a better place than it is now. However, the career ahead of you is nothing short of difficult, so you best prepare adequately before you start your new venture.


Page last edited Feb 28, 2018 History

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.

Find how-tos