Nonprofit & Advocacy Career Field

Non-Profit Career Field
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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. 

Click to expand each yellow 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 Handshake, 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


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 Handshake, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students or search for on-campus jobs. As you are looking at opportunities, please keep in mind there are CLA Internship Scholarships you can apply for!

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

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.

Go Abroad

Connect with the Learning Abroad Center!

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 (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

Handshake - search this free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students, you can filter by your career interests to find opportunities that connect with your career goals

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Job Board

Guide to Nonprofit Jobs & Careers

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) directory


New Sector Alliance

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

State of Minnesota-careers page

Association of Minnesota Counties-careers page

National Emerging Museum Professionals Network Job Board

American Alliance of Museums Job Board

Minnesota Associations of Museums Job Board

Building relationships, also known as networking, is another important strategy, click the "Building Relationships" gray box below for advice for how to approach this!

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.

Young Nonprofit Professionals Network

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Guidestar Nonprofit Directory

National Council of Nonprofit Associations

“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

Below is a list of some CLA courses that may help you explore and/or prepare for this career field. This list is not all inclusive. Please discuss your academic and career interests with your Academic Advisor for guidance.

Careers in Psychology,  PSY 3960

Political Engagement Careers: Planning and Preparing For Your Future, POL 3065

Latino Immigration & Community Engagement, SPAN 3401

Topics in Global Studies, in Spring 2018 topic was  professional practice (topics change each semester), GLOS 3900

Writing on Issues of Land and the Environment, WRIT 3315    

Writing Proposals and Grant Management, WRIT 4573W    

You may want to consider taking courses in Policy, Management, Leadership, Social Sciences, and/or Ethnic and Gender Studies. There is not one major or minor that will prepare you for this field as there are many pathways.

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.

Writing and Modern Cultural Movements, WRIT 3381W    

Urban Studies Internship Seminar, URBS 3896

Urban Studies Workshop, URBS 3500

Social Movements & Community Education, ENGL 3506

Politics of Engagement and Social Justice, GWSS 4002    

Internship for Academic Credit, GWSS 3896    

Topics: Social Change, Activism, Law, and Policy Studies, GWSS 3590

CLA Career Management Courses, including internship reflection courses