August 04, 2008

Should Nonprofit Employees Seek Advanced Degrees?

Should nonprofit employees bother attending graduate school to earn a masters of business administration or other advanced degrees?

Absolutely, says Heather Carpenter on her blog Nonprofit Leadership 601.

Last week the Financial Times reported that more and more nonprofit employees are going back to get MBAs.

Tracy Kaufman, who works at the Foundation Center, wrote a response to the article on the PhilanTopic blog questioning the wisdom of going back to graduate school.

“Don’t get me wrong, higher salaries and increased professionalism in the nonprofit sector aren’t bad things,” she writes. “But to suggest that what nonprofits really need to be effective is a couple of MBAs and more business discipline strikes this nonprofit employee as, well … beside the point.”

Ms. Carpenter, in a post titled “Don’t listen to them—you should go to grad school!” argues that many MBA programs are focused especially on nonprofit management, and that as the nonprofit world becomes more competitive, it’s beneficial to earn an advanced education.

She also responds point-by-point to a post by Penelope Trunk Brazen entitled “Seven Reasons Why Graduate School Is Outdated.”

What do you think? Is graduate school a waste of time and money for the nonprofit executive? Or do employees with MBAs increase the professionalism and the impact of nonprofit groups?