PhD in Nonprofit Management

An advanced degree in nonprofit management can prepare you for a career in philanthropic research or community development. Learn about Ph.D. programs in nonprofit management, including specializations and concentration areas available, and find out about nonprofit careers and salaries. Schools offering Nonprofit Management & Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Will I Learn In a Nonprofit Management Ph.D. Program?

Available areas of focus for this degree program are generally optional, and they include higher education and community resources and development. A higher education concentration will likely require you to take courses like postsecondary policy formation, student services programs and higher education administration. If you declare a community development specialization, you may be required to take courses on natural resources in society, entrepreneurial tourism and civil society governance.

While program content varies somewhat based on the exact degree you earn and course of study you follow, nonprofit management is generally a multidisciplinary field of study, encompassing both business and liberal arts. You can earn a Ph.D. degree in leadership studies, strategic leadership or nonprofit management through several colleges across the country. These programs are currently not available online.

Specialization Options Higher education, community development
Common Courses Community sustainability, ethnography, resource management, data analysis, charitable development programs
Career Options Philanthropic research, nonprofit management
Mean Annual Wage (2014) $165,270 (for chief executives working in grantmaking and giving services)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kinds of Classes Will I Take?

As a doctoral student in a nonprofit management program, you'll take standard business classes like managerial finance, accounting, human resources management, supervisory decision-making, marketing and business information systems. You'll also likely take several courses related to community development, an important area for anyone aspiring to manage or research charitable organizations. Some topics frequently covered in a Ph.D. program include:

  • Community sustainability
  • Charitable development programs
  • Resource management
  • Child mentoring
  • Community leadership
  • Leadership research theory
  • Inferential and multivariate statistics
  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Ethnography
  • Data analysis

Prior to graduating, you'll have to complete, present and defend a dissertation on an issue related to nonprofit management. You may also be required to take one or several classes specifically devoted to dissertation research.

What Can I Do With a Ph.D. In This Field?

A Ph.D. in an area related to nonprofit management can lead you in one of two directions: philanthropic research or actual nonprofit management. Most Ph.D. programs have a course curriculum that is heavily based in research and statistics. These courses aim to prepare students for post-graduation positions as academic researchers.

If you pursue a career in the philanthropic research field, you may work in the graduate department of a college or university. There, you will likely be responsible for researching and presenting scholarly studies investigating the productivity of charitable organizations. Such positions may even require you to do research on the state of nonprofit management programs in higher education.

Because a Ph.D. is the highest attainable level of education for a nonprofit manager, you may have a strong edge in obtaining top-level management positions at nonprofit organizations. The skills you'll acquire from a Ph.D. program can also give you the expertise to start your own non-profit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, chief executives working in grantmaking and giving services earned a mean annual salary of $165,270 (www.bls.gov).

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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