For many students, the lure of the corporate world has long been a draw over things like nonprofit work. But in the past few years, the University has taken steps to support students interested in nonprofit careers.
David Grossman, director of Civic House and the Civic Scholars Program, said there are plenty of resources available to students, including the Civic House Philadelphia Nonprofit Internship Program and summer funding at Career Services for nonprofit-related work.
“Over the years, there are more funds available for students to do nonprofit work. Apart from the programs at the Civic House, there is also the Wharton Social Impact, the Public Policy [Initiative] and so on,” he said. “This year we have the President’s Engagement Prizes, which is an award given by the school to encourage students to work for the common good after they graduate.”
Grossman noted that the obsession with business at Penn shouldn’t interfere with students’ intention to explore different options. “Pre-professionalism isn’t exclusive to traditional for-profit careers. It is important to inform our students of the broad variety of opportunities and create the perception that there are a lot of alternatives to just making money,” he said.
But making money may not always be an issue in the nonprofit sector.
According to career survey reports from Career Services, Penn alumni who graduated more than 10 years ago and are now working in nonprofits can earn an amount comparable to the salary in the consulting industry. Average pay for entry-level positions in nonprofits also increased 9.4 percent from 2013 to 2014, compared to roughly a 1 percent increase in financial services and an 8.6 percent decrease in consulting.
“There are certain industries that are never going to pay as high as others, but there have been several jumps in salary in recent years, including nonprofits,” Career Services Senior Associate Director Claire Klieger said. “You can now certainly make a living out of this, and most people choose to do it because they think the work is important and meaningful.”
Klieger also pointed out that jobs in nonprofits offer better “work-life balance,” something hard to get in the corporate world.
Indi Ekanayake, a 2013 Graduate School of Education graduate, has been working for Teach For America since graduating. He studied health care insurance as an undergraduate but did not continue down that path because he wanted to do service for others.
“For me, a big motivation is to help someone’s life to be better,” Ekanayake said. “We can help build systems that help students realize their potential, and that’s much more rewarding than just making money.”
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