Are liberal arts degrees the norm in the nonprofit sector? These days, many recent college graduates experience cautious optimism. The world is at their fingertips, but what lucrative direction will their degrees take them?

For liberal arts graduates in areas such as sociology and philosophy, job prospects could seem limited – on the surface. However, isn’t the nonprofit realm a place of comfort where such job seekers may utilize their broad studies in writing, analysis, and research for the plethora of tasks required of most positions?

According to a June 2014 report in Nonprofit Quarterly, the type of degree a nonprofit employee holds seems to depend on his or her generation – Baby Boomer or Millennial. While the Baby Boomers’ top three degrees include education, accounting, and business, the top degrees for Millennials are information and science technology, computer science, and electronics.

Much of this move towards specialized technical fields relates to the state of the economy and the haunting reality of college loan debt. According to an April 2014 article in Elite Daily, the Millennials’ fascination with “meaning” has led to a high percentage of psychology degrees.

Unfortunately, the job market cannot sustain the field, as suggested by a 2012 piece in The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute comparing 62% of psychology graduates pursuing unrelated work to only 17% of engineering graduates pursuing work unrelated to their degrees.

A career path in the nonprofit sector could provide a home to recent psychology and other liberal arts graduates, allowing them to make use of their studies in nontraditional ways.

Some busy nonprofit pros confirmed their appreciation of the strengths of a liberal arts education:

  • One professional at a national healthcare organization with mixed generations observed that representative degrees in her organizations vary. Her department staff members primarily hold liberal arts degrees. She uses her own degree in communication to successfully interact with colleagues and customers. While some employees at the organization do not have college degrees, promotional opportunities are available to all staff.


  • A long-time editor in higher education says she prefers the skills and savvy of liberal arts graduates for writing and reporting in marketing, pr, and social media roles. “It’s about thinking and the ability to manage diverse content,” she said, “not any particular major. If you can can navigate graduate school in most any discipline, your skill set should be marketable.”


  • The managing director for a small theater nonprofit with primarily Millennials at the helm says that the staff has varied degrees in business, humanities, and trades. The type of degree in prospective employees does not matter as much as their “experience, passion, and drive.”


Ultimately, those seeking a nonprofit position should research the current employees’ educational backgrounds at the desired nonprofit and then closely examine the particular job description regarding preferred qualifications and education. Each position within a nonprofit requires a certain skill set that just may resemble some facet of a graduate’s degree, whether it is technical or humanities based.

For information on the skills that polled employees feel they are lacking for their jobs, how college degrees impact salary, and the types of careers and university courses that are on the rise, check out the varied statistics, background, and analysis in LinkedIn’s Economic Graph.