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Community Question | Do You Need A Lot Of Academic Qualifications In Order To Find A Nonprofit Job?

A pile of books. There is an open book at the top of the pile.

When thinking about a career path, people often struggle with how many years to dedicate to education versus gaining work experience. Some careers require higher education, others “suggest” it, and others don’t necessarily need a degree. Recently, an Idealist submitted this question about the two types of experiences:

"I don’t have many “academic qualifications” to make me a desirable candidate via my resume. Because of that, I am hoping to gain experience within the field. However, I also feel that because of the myriad of social causes and the variety of operational practices used, getting work experience may or may not be beneficial to a potential job opportunity. Is my thought process accurate? If so, what are other ways that I can make myself more marketable to nonprofit organizations without having to go back to school for a second bachelors?"

There are several arguments to this debate. Higher education proves you can succeed in academics, but not necessarily in a work environment. But the skills you gain may be transferable. Work experience can often seem more valuable, but if you are transitioning to a new career or moving to an organization that does things differently, how much does that on-the-job experience actually add to your abilities? Investopedia highlighted these questions, but also suggested a situation that may be best:

"In the ideal case, you – the job candidate – can show that you have both education and experience, which equip you to better perform in the job you want to get. To end up with this combination, you might have to take a slower route through your higher education journey, in order to have time available for employment while you’re in school getting those advanced degrees. You’ll lose time, potentially; but you’ll end up with experience and education, and you’ll get to make money along the way. Approaching potential employers with a substantial degree, accompanied by a good work history, can help you not only get the job, but be sure that you’re applying for the job you actually want."

But while getting another bachelors or a masters degree may be expensive and time-consuming, the Boston Globe highlighted the value of continuing studies classes, an in-between solution.

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