The nonprofit sector in the United States is large and diverse, employing about 10 percent of American workers across many fields. It includes large organizations like the American Red Cross and small organizations like local food banks. Not all nonprofits provide social welfare services either. They can include think tanks, churches, universities, arts councils and credit unions. Because the nonprofit sector is so large and diverse, many different fields of study can help prepare you for a nonprofit career.

Practical Vocational Training

Many vocational college degrees can help prepare you for a nonprofit career, whether social work, public health, public policy, non-profit management or even business or accounting. Vocational degrees provide training that is directly applicable to the job you hope to get. That is, with a social work degree, you may work directly with poor communities to help provide basic welfare services. In non-profit management, you will learn to write grants. As a business major, you'll be able to manage your employer's money, create budgets and even help carry out fundraising drives. Pre-law and paralegal studies can also provide needed skills to an organization.

Social Science

Think tank organizations employ analysts who can ascertain the effectiveness of various policies and projects, as well as assess a target population's most pressing needs. A student may major in a social science and take an additional major in statistics. International development nonprofit Research Triangle International employs social science-based statisticians who can carry out macro studies. Organizations that conduct extensive research may also employ language experts or graduates with backgrounds in political science, international studies or sociology.

Liberal Arts

Nonprofits need employees who can write and communicate effectively, so liberal arts majors like English and philosophy can help. These employees may write or edit content for websites or brochures. They may prepare newsletters about the work of the nonprofit for donors and volunteers. They may even prepare educational materials for volunteers or people who are served by the organization.


University students can supplement their studies by doing internships during the school year. Some schools, such as the University of North Carolina and Brandeis University, incorporate service-learning opportunities into students' work, providing payment and/or course credit in exchange for internship work hours. These provide hands-on learning opportunities in which students can learn to apply practical skills and concepts they learn in the classroom.

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