Ask Amber: Continuing education

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

If continuing education of some sort is on your radar (and I personally feel it should be on everyone’s!) you may be faced with the decision of what program is right for you and how you will pay for it. There are a number of opportunities to continue your personal and professional growth, but make sure to examine the program for how it fits your needs and budget. For a list of continuing education programs, see the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Continuing Education Guide, and keep reading below to find out about some of your options:

Graduate school

Not only are there nonprofit tracts in business and marketing schools, there are also independent programs for nonprofit studies. In her blog, Shannon Bond lists several degree options that may be of interest to nonprofit employees and discusses how the specific programs apply to nonprofits, such as a Master of Public Policy, Master of Urban Planning and Master of Social Work. Carefully consider what nonprofit positions are of interest to you and the special skill set required. You should also talk to the admissions department at the school you are interested to see how their graduates have succeeded in those jobs. If possible, connect with alumni through social media networks or the referral of an admissions counselor. Informational interviews are not just for jobs, they can be very useful when choosing a school.

If cost is an issue, you can also speak with admissions about scholarship opportunities, grants, fellowships or loans. Use resources like FAFSA and College In Colorado or Fastweb to research scholarships and grants offered beyond what the school offers.

Certificate programs

If you are already on track with your career but are looking to advance to a specific position, a certificate may be just what you need to accelerate your promotion. Certificate programs that focus on finance and fundraising are available, but leadership and management are more common certificate programs.

While certificate programs are traditionally less time and money than a graduate degree, Master Degree Online cautions that “Graduate certificates are no longer cheap substitutes for degrees. Many are highly concentrated courses of study that provide limited expertise in a targeted field.” There is no reason that you can’t pursue a certificate and a masters degree in either order, the important thing is that your education is as broad or narrow as you need to move forward.

Professional development trainings/resources

If you aren’t ready to go back to school, already have an advanced degree in nonprofit work or just need to learn specific skills at an accelerated pace, take learning into your own hands, on your own time. Research books that reflect current trends in the sector, attend conferences near you, or seek out webinars and in-person trainings. Because all of this can be a pricey, I recommend getting creative about cutting costs. Borrow books from friends or the library, ask providers if there are sponsorships or scholarship opportunities to attend leadership programs or conferences (if not, this is a great opportunity to practice your development and networking skills by seeking out your own sponsorships from friends and local businesses) and look into discounted programs like the JVA Subscription Series. The Subscription Series allows any two members (board or staff) to attend an unlimited number of trainings for a year. If the opportunity is also relevant to your employer, see if the organization will front the cost. Building a library of professional development books is beneficial to everyone in the office. If your pursuit of professional growth can help others, why not share the chance to invest in it with your organization?

Bottom line? Everyone can benefit from continuing education, from simple steps like keeping up to date on the newest literature in the sector to pursuing an advanced degree.


This entry was posted in College graduates and nonprofits, Education, Human resources, Training Opportunities, Trends and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ask Amber: Continuing education

  1. Another great continuing education option is joining a Toastmasters group. JVA is starting a Toastmasters club tonight, Wednesday, March 7 at 5:30 pm. The group will meet every other Wednesday evening. We are looking for guests to join us who may be considering joining Toastmasters–a premier method to ramp up your speaking skills! If you can’t make it on March 7, then try to join us on March 21.

  2. Chad says:

    Yes to library cards! Such a fabulous + under-utilized institution. Considering the economics of higher ed (increasing loan burdens), I have opted for continuing ed. Most recently, that was a Quickbooks course at the local community college. Four sessions for $95 was a wise investment.

    Tell me, what do you have to say about online learning (free or paying) in this sector? Programs to recommend, or other portals that you suggest?

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