Deciding on a graduate program is an exciting experience. I can still recall my first time flipping through a Best Graduate Schools publication, fashioning myself in a history doctoral program (ha!) or in astrophysics certificate program (ha! ha!). Although the process of actually deciding on a field and on a specific program was lengthy, I’m glad that I took the time to decide what I actually wanted to “do.”
Have you found yourself flipping through a graduate school publication? (I’m aware that you’re probably more like to be clicking through them today.) Interested in nonprofit organizations? Maybe a graduate program in nonprofit management is right for you. Do you want to learn about private sector AND third sector best practices? How about an MBA with a nonprofit focus? Throughout the decision-making process, be sure to ask yourself these questions to determine if one of these programs is right for you!
Are you interested in a hybrid skill set or would you rather exclusively focus on nonprofit management principles?
The administration of nonprofit organizations involves a number of skill sets…skill sets that are covered in a number of different classifications of graduate programs. MBA programs are adept at covering many of the entrepreneurial aspects involved with starting and cultivating an organization. Additionally, many of these programs mix a number of different courses and subjects together in order to develop a sub-specialization, more distinctly focused on the unique characteristics associated with third sector management. This balance is useful for not only acquiring a number of different proficiencies, but also for gaining more conclusive perspective and insight into the best practices of the sectors.
As much focus as these programs may attempt to provide special consideration for nonprofit organization management, ultimately, there are certain areas that simply do not fit with private sector or government work. Fundraising can literally be the lifeblood for a nonprofit organization, yet is a topic that you will rarely find, at least in the appropriate context, outside of a program focused specifically on nonprofit management. Additionally, legal considerations, especially aspects that directly affect target populations, will not be covered in the same amount of detail that specialized programs offer. Because of this, programs focused solely on nonprofit management can be especially valuable.
Do you value strength in diversity or do you prefer networking with like-minded individuals?
In your MBA classroom you could end up sitting near the next Michael Bloomberg or Anne Moore (well, you could also be sitting by the next Gordon Gecko or Patrick Bateman ... so we’ll quit with the name-dropping!) Within your subfield, you’re also likely to interact with others who have a special interest in nonprofit organizations. The combination of diverse ambitions with sector-focused interests ensures a very comprehensive and fulfilling experience.
In contrast, a program that caters to and specifically attracts those who are either currently working for a nonprofit organization or have aspirations to work in the guarantees that all of your classmates will share very similar outlooks and priorities. The sector-specific knowledge that classmates possess is as valuable as any course lesson. Networking opportunities are plentiful and you may just find yourself with a job offer from one of your fellow students!
Have a few more things to think about as you continue to click away? Does the search seem even more difficult now? Rest assured that either program will be very rewarding and will put you in a great position to succeed, regardless of your ultimate career path … even if you decide on the history or the astrophysics program!