Nonprofit & Advocacy

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People interested in careers in Nonprofits, Human Services, and Social Justice are passionate about helping others and creating positive social change. Nonprofit organizations have a mission tied to a cause and are tax-exempt organizations that invest all funds back into the organization. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are nonprofits that work on behalf of a voluntary group of citizens to create local, national, or international change; they may be partially funded by, but are not regulated by the government. Human Services are often offered through state, county, and federal governments, as well as through nonprofits, community organizations, and religiously-affiliated organizations; they include services such as child support services, domestic abuse support services, emergency assistance, mental health services, counseling and much more. Advocacy work can happen in a variety of contexts, such as through the work of a nonprofit that connects to a social justice issue, or it may be entwined in your work through entrepreneurship or public policy reform. In the corporate sector, there are diversity and inclusion and corporate social responsibility roles that also have social justice as a core value. There is not one major or minor that will prepare you for this field as there are many pathways, the lists below are not all-inclusive.

Undergrad Coursework

Consider taking courses in Policy, Management, Leadership, Social Sciences, and Ethnic and Gender Studies.

Graduate Coursework

For a deeper study on a specific discipline within this field, you may want to consider graduate school programs to enhance your expertise, or in some fields open up more job advanced job opportunities. Some programs to consider: Counseling, Public Affairs, Psychology, Race & Ethnic Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Social Justice, Youth & Family Studies.  Faculty in your department are fantastic resources to solicit information from. Additionally, you can search for graduate school programs use the Grad School Directory or Peterson's Guide.

Click to expand each gray box below for opportunities in this Career Field!


There are a variety of roles needed in the nonprofit sector. Just like any organization, nonprofit organizations need human resources, finance, accounting, marketing, and technology support. Beyond these typical roles, nonprofits often have unique needs that have to be met by employees, such as volunteer management, event planning, grant writing, and government relations. As you explore the career information below, consider what type of role may be a good fit for you and how you can not only gain experience in the nonprofit, human services, and social justice sector but also gain skills for the particular job role you would like to pursue. Use O*NET, a free online database that provides career information including job duties, salary, and job growth information for hundreds of careers to start exploring careers in this field. This list of Nonprofit Job Titles provides descriptions to help you explore career options within the nonprofit sector. You can also watch career profiles of professionals (including UMN alums) who are working in the fields of Human Services and Nonprofit & Philanthropy.

One way some graduates get a start in this field is through organizations that offer short-term (1-2 year) service opportunities. Some programs include Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, Teach For America, and Green Corps.

Below is a small sampling of organizations and their positions that have recruited CLA students in the past. For a more comprehensive list of job openings, search GoldPASS, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students.

  • Americorps Promise Fellow, Minnesota Alliance With Youth
  • Residential Supervisor, ACR Homes
  • Counselor Technician, RS Eden
  • Team Leader, Feed My Starving Children
  • Housing Advocate, The Salvation Army
  • Crisis Social Worker, Iron County Human Services
  • Streets to Home Associate, United Way
  • Family Advocate, Simpson Housing Services
  • Business Manager, Women of Nations
  • Development Trainee, Fraser
  • Bilingual Customer Service Coordinator, Prepare + Prosper
  • Youth Counselor, The Link
  • Health Educator 1, Ramsey County
  • Human Services Technician, Minnesota Human Services Department
  • Marketing & Events Coordinator, Canvas Health
  • Case Manager, RESOURCE


Get Experience: Internships and more!

Seek out opportunities, such as those listed below, to develop the 10 Core Career Competencies. Teamwork & Leadership, Engaging Diversity, and Active Citizenship & Community Engagement are especially valued in the Nonprofit, Human Services, & Social Justice Career field.

Internships and Part-Time Jobs

Below is a small sampling of organizations and their positions where CLA students have done internships and part-time jobs in the past. For a more comprehensive, search GoldPASS, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students or search for on-campus jobs. Another option to consider is the HECUA program which has an internship component with organizations often in the nonprofit sector.

  • Immigration Services Intern, The International Institute of Minnesota
  • Mentor Intern, Free Arts Minnesota
  • Intern, Everyday Miracles
  • Child Hunger Outreach Intern, Second Harvest Heartland
  • Communications Intern, United Nations
  • Intern, American Indian Family Center
  • Community Impact Intern, University YMCA
  • HECUA Intern, Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless
  • Youth Development Intern, Minnesota Children’s Museum
  • Court Monitor and Research Intern, WATCH
  • Youth and Family Advocate, Tubman
  • Civil Rights Intern, Council on American Islamic Relations
  • Administrative Intern, Outfront Minnesota
  • Developmental Traninee, Fraser
  • Events Intern, Special Olympics Minnesota
  • Community Center Intern, El Alferero
  • Intern, Cornerstone Advocacy Services
  • Somali Outreach Intern, The Arc Minnesota
  • Development and Communications intern, Domestic Abuse Project
  • Intern, Westside Boys and Girls Club
  • Entertainment Media Intern, GLAAD
  • Engagement Intern, FamilyWise Services
  • Operations Intern, Frogtown Farms
  • Equity and Inclusion Intern, League of Womens Voters MN
  • Women’s Human Rights Intern, The Advocates for Human Rights


One of the best steps you can take to prepare for this field is to volunteer with nonprofit organizations. The Center for Community-Engaged Learning  has advising staff that will help you get connected to one of the 300+ community organizations that match your interests.

Join a Student Group

Consider getting involved with a student group, select “Service” as a category to find groups that match your interests.

Job and Internship Search
  • Identify what causes you care about and/or the population of people you want to work  (examples: youth, heart disease, environment); this will help you narrow down what organizations to target your job search.
  • Identify what type of role you are seeking (examples: volunteer management, marketing, research, grant writing, etc.) and reflect upon how your past experiences have prepared you for that role and/or how you can gain the skills needed to be a strong applicant.
  • In your application materials, emphasize why you care about the mission of the organization, as well as your service-related experiences.
  • People who work in nonprofits tend to be very well-connected to others in the profession. Utilize contacts you know in the field for advice on job searching and for suggestions of contacts at other organizations in which you are interested. Don’t have any contacts? Use the advice below to find some!

Job & Internship Search Sites

Building Relationships

Talk with and Observe Professionals

Networking can help you explore a career field; start by doing informational interviews which is when you set up a time to have a discussion with people who are in organizations or professions that are of interest to you to ask questions about their career path. Then, find opportunities to observe (or Job Shadow) these professionals at work so you can get a better sense of what that career would be like. Find alumni and professionals to speak with by searching the free to use Maroon & Gold Network which allows students to do highly tailored searches to find alumni and professionals in the community who share their specific career interests. For example, you can browse the network to find individuals who are willing to share insights by industry, college, major, degree type, employer, location and more. You can also find contacts by using the LinkedIn Alumni Tool.

Professional Organizations

Get involved with one or more professional organizations to gain career insights, search for jobs and internships, attend conferences, and/or connect with people in this career field.

Advice From Employers

“Know your strengths and how they apply to the particular job in question.” -The Arc Greater Twin Cities, representative

“The jobs in the nonprofit sector do not typically match in compensation compared to the for-profit world. The person should have a passion for the clients that they serve in that particular non-profit. The work is exceptionally rewarding and gratifying, though, and each day a person can usually make a difference in the life of a client.” -International Institute of Minnesota, representative

"If there is an opportunity to start as a volunteer or intern, these are great ways to get your foot in the door and see if your values really do align with the nonprofit and how they run their organization.  Do you like the people working there?  These are also great ways for the staff to see how you do your work and you hear, directly, about the job openings.  There are many positions filled this way in the nonprofit world.” -International Institute of Minnesota, representative

“Volunteer! Or, seek out an internship with an organization or in a role you'd like to investigate. AmeriCorps positions are great starting points in nonprofit organizations. VISTA positions additionally offer an opportunity to build capacity, which is a great skill for a future nonprofit leader.”  -Project for Pride in Living (PPL), representative

“Nonprofits are a business with a mission - it is often misconstrued that you don't make money or can't make a decent living wage working for a non-profit. That is completely inaccurate.” -American Cancer Society, representative

“Volunteer and be able to share examples of how you can demonstrate key competencies such as adaptability, relationship building, result driven.” - American Cancer Society, representative

“In nonprofits, volunteering is a great way to get in the door. Volunteer and HR departments work very closely together, so if you are an awesome volunteer it’s a great foot in the door.”  –The Guthrie, representative

"The nonprofit world in the Twin Cities is vast, but be prepared for the common pitfalls: low pay, high staff turnover, and emotional burnout, to name just a few. Anticipating these challenges and preparing for the outcome will help you manage your expectations and set up a support system in advance. Understanding your personal career motivations and how they align with the organization's mission should always be at the forefront of your mind." -Spark-Y, representative

Resume Examples

Nonprofit & Advocacy Career Field Spotlights

Anran Zhou

Alumni Spotlight: Anran Zhou

Anran graduated in 2017 with a degree in Psychology and Family Social Science, she is currently working as a Mental Health Trainee at People Incorporated. Anran talks about her professional work, how she utilizes the liberal arts degree in her career and the most important step she took while still student in CLA.

Employer Spotlight: Serve Minnesota

​​​​​​​ Serve-Minnesota is the state’s hub for AmeriCorps that offers numerous national service opportunities. During their year-long service, AmeriCorps members not only get real-world experience applicable to a variety of jobs but also receive a small stipend for living expenses. In addition, they also receive up to $6,000 after their completed year that can be applied to undergraduate loans or future grad school expenses.
clean water action logo

Employer Spotlight: Clean Water Action

“With over 1 million members nationwide, Clean Water Action is at the forefront of grassroots efforts to protect our nation’s environment and public health. Clean Water Action offices work locally to sustain and improve environmental standards, preserve our invaluable natural resources and promote democratic processes in which the voice of the citizens determines the policy that affects our communities and quality of life.” 
the advocates for human rights logo

Employer Spotlight: The Advocates for Human Rights

“For more than 30 years, our innovative programming has changed the lives of refugees and immigrants, women, ethnic and religious minorities, children, and other marginalized communities. We investigate and expose human rights violations, represent immigrants and refugees seeking asylum, trains and assists groups that protect human rights, engage the public, policy-makers, and children; and push for legal reform and advocate for sound policy.”


The College of Liberal Arts Career Services and the University of Minnesota has no control or responsibility for the: (a) quality or safety of any experiential learning opportunity/position descriptions or (b) the application, hiring practices, or EEO/AA status of any of the organizations listed here. We encourage students to use precaution when applying to, interviewing at, or participating in volunteer, internship, job, or research programs outside of the University. These opportunities are not affiliated with the University of Minnesota and have not been fully vetted.