The Best Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management

by TBS Staff
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An online Ph.D. in nonprofit management can develop your skills in finance, management, fundraising, and leadership in order to help your community.

If you strongly value community outreach and social justice, you might consider working for or pursuing leadership roles in a nonprofit. These organizations need leaders with knowledge of public policy and business to succeed.

These managers remain in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for social and community service managers will grow by 17% from 2019-2029. Professionals can advance to the top of this field by earning Ph.D. degrees in nonprofit management.

A Ph.D. in nonprofit management can open doors to fulfilling, lucrative work. This terminal degree can help you become an executive-level public relations manager, fundraiser, or development overseer in a large charitable organization. You can also prepare to become a research scientist who sets public policy for the future.

Nonprofit leaders have used teleconferencing technology to safely complete their work and uphold the principles of nonprofit management amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With strong employment projections from the BLS, these professionals are expected to continue to find work and maintain employment following the pandemic.

Read on to discover some of the top online doctorates in nonprofit management. These programs are listed alphabetically and not ranked.

The Best Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Programs

University of Arizona Global Campus true View School Profile San Diego, CA University of Arizona Global Campus is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

University of Arizona Global Campus is an online, for-profit university which offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. These programs include an online Ph.D. in human services with a nonprofit management specialization.

The online Ph.D. program requires a total of 62 credit hours for completion and consists of core courses, dissertation work and specialization courses. Students learn advanced nonprofit leadership knowledge and develop skills by engaging with key topics in the field. These topics include:

  • Financial and grant management
  • Fundraising
  • Volunteers and non-profit governance
  • Ethical issues and decision making
  • Government and community funding

The program’s students develop the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully and sustainably lead their nonprofit and achieve its goals.

In order to be admitted to this online Ph.D. program, applicants should have of a master’s degree from an approved institution.

Colorado Technical University true View School Profile Colorado Springs, CO Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Colorado Technical University is a for-profit university that was established in 1966. Colorado Technical offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees that focus on career-readiness and professional success. Colorado Technical offers an online doctor of management with a nonprofit leadership specialization for students who seek advanced leadership roles in nonprofit organizations.

The online doctorate program requires 100 quarter-credit hours for completion; these credits include a blend of core coursework, dissertation research credits and 20 specialization credits. Students learn advanced knowledge and develop skills by engaging with key concepts, such as:

  • Nonprofit leadership, management theories and practices
  • Philanthropy and grant writing
  • Public administration and advocacy
  • Career strategies

In addition to coursework, the program requires students to complete a dissertation project and a brief residential symposium.

Liberty University true View School Profile Lynchburg, VA Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Liberty University is a private, non-profit Christian research university which was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell. Liberty enrolls a massive student population of over 75,000 students in a full selection of undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Liberty offers an online doctor of business administration with a nonprofit leadership and management specialization.

The online DBA program consists of 60 credit hours; these credits include core courses, specialization courses and dissertation work. The curriculum covers key topics such as:

  • Nonprofit administration theory and practice
  • Strategic supply chain management
  • Workforce planning and employment strategic communication campaigns
  • Grant acquisition and management

Student develop the ability to lead nonprofits in a variety of settings. Students also learn how guide a nonprofit to sustainability and success through grant and personnel management.

Walden University true View School Profile Minneapolis, MN Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Walden University is an online, for-profit university that was established in 1970. Walden offers numerous online degree programs; these program include an online Ph.D. in public policy and administration with a nonprofit management and leadership specialization.

The online Ph.D. program requires 88 quarter-credits for completion; these credits include 53 credits of core courses, 15 of specialization courses and 20 of dissertation work. The program builds advanced knowledge and skills by covering key topics, such as:

  • The nonprofit sector, board governance, and volunteer management
  • Leadership and organizational change
  • Ethics and social justice

The program’s students learn how to effectively and sustainably lead nonprofit organizations. In addition to their coursework and dissertation project, students must complete four four-day Ph.D. residencies on-campus.

The program is open to a wide array of applicants from outside fields. However, students who have earned a master’s in public administration, public policy or nonprofit policy will automatically receive 15 credits toward their degree.

Best Online Doctorate

Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

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While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

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The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

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Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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Featured Online Nonprofit Management Doctorate Programs

What Is an Online Ph.D. in Nonprofit Management?

Though online Ph.D. in nonprofit management programs vary in requirements, curriculum, and available concentrations, most share some common elements. Most programs require an accredited master's related to management or public service and experience with research methods and statistics. A Ph.D. in nonprofit management typically takes 3-5 years to complete and culminates with a thesis.

Coursework for most online nonprofit management Ph.D. programs covers quantitative research methods, public policy and advocacy, and nonprofit management ethics. Learners prepare for careers spent solving issues in policy and public administration.

Learners develop their leadership and critical thinking skills. They also learn to apply nonprofit ethics to real-world problems. They also learn to use research designs and methods to further organizational goals or contribute to nonprofit management theory.

Learners in doctoral nonprofit management degree programs generally take two paths: executive roles in nonprofit management, fundraising, and marketing; or research-oriented roles as scientists or educators. Online nonprofit management Ph.D. degree-holders can use their skills and knowledge to become leading contributors to the public good and the nonprofit management field, regardless of their chosen pathway.

Choosing an Online Doctoral Nonprofit Management Program

When looking for the right online nonprofit management doctorate for your needs, you should consider a few key factors, such as cost. Though financial aid can help lower the overall burden of paying for your degree, learners should remain realistic about whether they can afford tuition without incurring significant loan debt.

Prospective enrollees can also research program length. Does the degree's length fit into your personal timeline? Consider the curriculum — does this degree's available concentrations and overall area of focus align with your career plans? Make sure you're selecting a program that prepares you for work in your desired field.

Accreditation for Online Nonprofit Management Degree Programs

Accreditation ranks among the most important factors for when deciding on the right nonprofit management Ph.D. program. Aside from only considering programs from regionally accredited schools, you should research programmatic accreditation for nonprofit management.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation accredit nonprofit management schools and programs. The Nonprofit Academic Center Council handles accreditation for subject-specific programs oriented toward nonprofit leadership, public administration, and public service.

What Else Can I Expect From a Ph.D. in Nonprofit Management Program?

Some nonprofit management Ph.D. programs feature concentrations in specialized public policy areas, such as environmental law or public health policy. Others may even allow for the option to complete a non-written dissertation. However, most programs cover similar topics.

Foundational nonprofit management coursework prepares enrollees for the leadership, conflict management, and financial concepts needed to manage organizations successfully. The courses below represent some common subjects in the typical online nonprofit management doctoral program. Nonprofit management Ph.D. programs also typically feature coursework on quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Common Courses for an Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management

  • Financial Management in Nonprofit Organizations: This course provides an overview of how financial management concepts and analyses apply to the world of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. Coursework explores accounting, budgeting, and cash management, along with how these concepts build stability in organizations.
  • Fund Development for Nonprofit Organizations: Students develop familiarity with tools to develop funding, including grant proposals and fundraising campaigns. The course culminates with a portfolio presentation for a real nonprofit organization.
  • Technological Innovation in the Public Sector: Enrollees in this course investigate modern technologies used in the public sector to streamline workflows and increase transparency, including collaborative work management programs and platforms like Worksheet Gov.
  • Fundamentals of Conflict Studies: This course offers a broad view of conflict analysis and resolution. Learners can develop the ability to understand and resolve workplace conflicts.
  • Human Resources Management: This course covers the basics of managerial tasks in HR departments, including hiring, training, and retaining employees. Students also investigate how conflict studies and cultural competency influence human resources management.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management?

It typically takes 3-5 years to complete an online Ph.D. in nonprofit management. However, the exact amount of time can vary due to several factors. Many programs feature accelerated tracks for students to earn their degrees in under three years by taking heavier course loads.

Conversely, taking courses at a part-time pace adds time to your schooling. Some programs also feature extra requirements. Whether you take courses at a part-time, full-time, or accelerated pace, check whether your program features asynchronous or synchronous courses.

Nonprofit Management Jobs

Nonprofit management careers combine organizational behavior and leadership theory with nonprofit ethics and knowledge. Earning a nonprofit management degree can prepare learners for roles as consultants, public relations managers, and training managers in nonprofit organizations.

Many top executives at nonprofits hold doctoral degrees. However, many high-level management positions require significant management-related work experience along with an advanced degree.

A degree in nonprofit management provides a solid foundation for careers across different industries. Many individuals with nonprofit management Ph.D. degrees pursue work as research scientists or professors. The following list includes some of the most popular nonprofit management careers:

Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
Median Salary (2020): $118,430 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 9%

A public relations manager maintains an organization's public image, while fundraising managers coordinate campaigns to attract donors to fund their organization. Both types frequently interact with the public and attend community events for their work.

Other job duties might involve identifying target audiences or possible donors and writing press materials and grant applications. To work in these roles, you need strong written and verbal communication skills.

A candidate typically needs at least five years of experience in a related field and a bachelor's at a minimum.

Training and Development Manager
Median Salary (2020): $115,640 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 7%

Training and development managers coordinate skill and knowledge-related programs for employees. These managers select training materials from vendors, develop training programs, and evaluate their own programs. They also train lower-level instructors and managers who work directly with staff.

An aspiring training and development manager typically needs five years' experience in management and a minimum of a bachelor's degree. The research aspect of a Ph.D. fits well with this position, which requires strong communication and critical thinking skills. This job may appeal to managers who possess a strong interest in teaching and problem-solving.

Administrative Services and Facilities Manager
Median Salary (2020): $98,890 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 6%

Administrative services and facilities managers help with organizations' day-to-day upkeep. They handle support services such as mailing, recordkeeping, and security. These managers need strong people skills to oversee various types of workers.

They need expert written and verbal communication and problem-solving skills to navigate unique workplace problems that can interfere with daily functioning.

Applicants to this role typically need five years of management-related experience and a bachelor's degree. The role typically attracts detail-oriented people who enjoy leadership roles in a team-focused environment.

Top Executives
Median Salary (2020): $107,680 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 4%

Top executives rank among the most highly-educated and salaried professionals in the management field. These professionals occupy the highest positions in organizations and companies, where they set and carry out departmental and organizational goals, policies, and practices.

To work in this position, top executives need excellent written and verbal communication and leadership skills to command respect at the helm. They also need strong problem-solving abilities.

Top executives need five or more years of experience and a minimum of a bachelor's degree, but many hold master's degrees or higher.

Social and Community Service Manager
Median Salary (2020): $69,600 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 17%

Social and community service managers coordinate, plan, and oversee programs that serve the public good. They commonly work for nonprofits and government agencies. These managers need a strong sense of empathy and cultural competency skills to help the populations with which they work, in addition to strong communication and leadership skills.

Most social and community service managers hold bachelor's degrees and less than five years of management experience. This role often attracts people with a strong sense of social justice and a drive to help others.

Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Degree

Paying for an online Ph.D. in nonprofit management can seem daunting at first. However, if you know where to look for financial aid and how to access it, the process can become much easier.

First, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and send it to your prospective school. Completing your FAFSA will help you determine how much financial aid you need. It is a prerequisite for applying for any kind of federal funding, such as Pell Grants, but colleges and universities need it to know your expected family contribution.

Once you receive an idea of your expected need, you can start applying to different forms of financial aid. Aside from federal grants, you can also consider private and local scholarships, state government grants, and work-study programs. These sources do not require repayment.

Finally, investigate different student loan options. Many student loans offer flexible payment timelines or do not require full repayment. Choose whichever resource best fits your needs.

Nonprofit Management Professional Organizations

Seasoned professionals and students looking for guidance can join professional organizations to access resources and expand their networks. These organizations offer networking events, online webinars, and even financial aid resources such as scholarships. Professional organizations also provide a sense of community in a niche discipline such as nonprofit studies.

The Alliance advocates for professionals in nonprofit management nationwide by amplifying research and public discussion of issues affecting nonprofits and their communities. Its conference is a cornerstone of educational and mentorship opportunities for nonprofit management professionals. This organization also offers scholarships and fellowships for students with experience working in nonprofits. The Council of Nonprofits represents 25,000 members across a nationwide network of nonprofit organizations. This organization provides members with up-to-date news on trends, best practices, and solutions to policy issues. Students and working professionals can join their state's constituent associations as a Council of Nonprofits affiliate member and receive access to funding opportunities, education, and fundraising software and databases.

Frequently Asked Questions

true Can You Get a Doctorate in Nonprofit Studies?

Yes. Two of the most popular doctoral degrees in the field include the Ph.D. in nonprofit management and the doctor of public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management.

What Can You Do With a Nonprofit Management Degree?

A nonprofit management degree can help you pursue work as a high-level manager or executive at a nonprofit organization, or as a scientist or educator in research and academia.

What Degree Is Best for Nonprofit Work?

A nonprofit management degree offers a solid foundation for a career in nonprofit organizations. However, other degrees in nonprofit studies might suit your needs better, depending on your career goals.

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