Non-Profit Jobs For Public Administration Graduates

While many who earn a degree in public administration go into a career with the government, others prefer the unique challenges and rewards of the non-profit world

By Curtis Ross
Posted 2012

Public Administration Degree Jobs
Public Administration Degree Jobs

While a career in public administration most often brings to mind work with a government agency, some degree holders may feel more at home in a non-profit setting.

While the pay is generally lower, students or job seekers with a strong commitment to service, particularly toward a favorite cause, may find their niche with a non-profit group.

In general, public administration involves finding creative solutions to complex problems, a definition that works equally as well for government or non-profits.

Students seeking a bachelor’s or master’s in public administration will find a wealth of programs geared toward non-profit management.

Jobs With Non-Profit Corporations

A public administration degree can lead to a variety of jobs depending on the organization. Here are some of the jobs a person who has earned a public administration degree or a master’s of public administration degree could aim to eventually hold.

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Chief Executive Officer. A non-profit’s CEO’s duties fall under the categories of leadership, policy creation, strategic planning and budget management. The CEO often is the public face of the organization, keeping the organization and its goals in the public eye. Leadership skills are crucial: Salaries are lower than with government or for-profit organizations, so the CEO must be active in motivating employees. The CEO must devise policies and implement them in ways that stretch the group’s often-limited resources. Like most executive positions, an MPA will be necessary to get your foot in the door.

Chief Financial Officer. The chief financial officer works with the CEO to ensure the proper allotment of funds for the organization’s projects and goals. Many CFOs are certified public accountants, according to With recent economic turbulence, gifts and donations to non-profits have shrunk significantly. In this case, it is the CFO’s duty to do more with less, to make sure employees are paid, that all funds going into and out of the organization are accounted for, and to find creative ways to stretch an organization’s budget to cover its needs.

Chief Development Officer. The chief development officer is in charge of making sure the CFO has funds to manage. The CDO’s duties primarily relate to fundraising, from cultivating relationships with potential benefactors to planning fundraising events. The CDO works with staff and fellow executives on annual strategic planning initiatives and is in charge of their implementation.

Chief Marketing Officer. For non-profit CMOs, writes Beth Snyder Bulik on the Ad Age Web site, “Inventiveness is as important as efficiency and effectiveness. Of necessity, the more successful non-profit chief marketing officers are also some of the most passionate, innovative, pragmatic and quick thinking around.

The CMO creates awareness of the organization and what it does through advertising, public events and even celebrity endorsements. The advent of social media has been a boon for non-profit CMOs, allowing them to stretch marketing dollars further.

Major Gifts Officer. The major gifts officer’s duties are similar to but more specific than those of the CDO. The MGO focuses specifically on individual or corporate donors who can supply a non-profit with large sums, often for a specific project. This is done through face-to-face meetings as well as follow-up telephone meetings and letters.

Public Administration Benefits More Than Just Money

A non-profit executive’s compensation most often pales in comparison to a corporate peer’s. But there are less tangible, but just as significant, benefits.

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Jeff Davidoff spent more than a quarter century in marketing, working with clients including Whirlpool, Coca-Cola and Sony. As middle age set in, Ad Age reports, he began to ponder doing something more meaningful, if less profitable.

He was offered the top marketing position with One, the anti-poverty charity founded by Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2.

As Bulik writes, Davidoff “found that the work is not only compelling and challenging, but comes with added bonus of being soul-satisfying.

"I naively underrated how important this would become to me," Davidoff told Ad Age. "I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder or at a higher level, but I love it."

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