Help me pick a grad program
November 5, 2011 1:38 AM   Subscribe

What graduate program should I choose to get into the field of non-profit management and program evaluation? I'm considering the MIA program at SIPA and this MA in Econ/Business/Politics at Claremont (non-profit track). Will these work? What else should I be looking for?

I would like to transition to work in non-profits, specifically in evaluating the impact of development programs. I spend far too much time reading the papers posted on J-PAL at MIT and looking at the Evaluation jobs at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It seems to me that a significant amount of money flows into poverty prevention programs; I would like to help distributed it in ways that effectively help the targeted community. It's also appealing that really smart people are working on these problems in very interesting ways.

The programs I linked to above are exciting, but I don't know if they are the most appropriate for this career move. I'm also having trouble finding similar programs. I'm not particularly interested in working in government or policy (which many MPAs and similar seem to focus on). I am also considering an MBA because it is more versatile, but frankly, the list of electives at many programs bores me to tears.

My information: late 20s, BA/BS in English and engineering from an Ivy league school, several years of work experience (management consultant, sourcing analyst), currently working in research grant administration and evaluation at a non-US university, currently taking an econ class and really enjoying it.

1) If you work in evaluating programs for a non-profit or non-profit strategy, what is it like?
2) What (if any) masters degree would be best?
3) Can you recommend any programs or tell me anything about the ones above?
posted by oryelle to Education (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The key is not to look at job postings but to look at the people who have the jobs that you want. Find their bios, linkedins, etc and figure out what degrees they have.
posted by quodlibet at 2:44 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am at SIPA now (I am supposed to be doing a timed take home exam right now) and you sound like a lot of my friends. You can take a look at SIPA's placements here: about a third of 2009's MIAs and a quarter of MPAs ended up in the non-profit sector. Part of my decision in going to the public policy school was a quality of life issue: I just didn't want to spend two years with B-school kids. Most people at SIPA were also considering John Hopkins' SAIS (but that is more government focused) or Harvard's Kennedy School.

I find SIPA quite fun, but my idea of fun is learning programing languages and reading International Relations theory. YMMV. Great students smart, worldly and nerdy. I spent 20 years hanging around with econ PhDs and I defiantly have to bring my A game when I am in a study group here. The teachers are good but you only get access to the names in second year. Columbia is sort of flawed institution, but it doesn't get in the way too much.

If you want to do developmental impact (and the new hotness of Randomized Controlled Trials) you will only get a few courses that deal with that directly, though if you are really focused on that you might be able to swing something ie, do work for a professor directly. There is enough demand at this instant that my (imperfect) understanding is a fairly passing familiarity is enough to get you an internship or part time job at some NGO whose sources of funding are demanding RCTs.

If you want to get into development, and that is the most popular specialization at SIPA, everyone expects you to do serious (measured in years) field work to build up street cred. May or may not work with your lifestyle.

Feel free to MeMail with questions.
posted by shothotbot at 7:05 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look at the Heller School at Brandeis, and the Wagner School at NYU. Both pretty much specialize in non-profit management.
posted by cushie at 8:31 AM on November 5, 2011

Non-profit management is not the same as program evaluation. In fact, typically, non-profits will outsource their program evaluation, not only because they don't have the staff for it, but also because a lot of foundations prefer that the evaluation be done be a third party. And then, program evaluators come from all kinds of educations and backgrounds, and it frequently depends on what kind of non-profit you want to be involved with, i.e. program evaluators for poverty prevention programs are going to look a lot different from education evaluators. If you specifically want to be an evaluator, I would look at something like the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute of the University of Minnesota.

Non-profit management will prepare you to be an ED or similar administrator, and while program evaluation will be perhaps a part of that, and Masters in Non-Profit Admin or MPA will involve mostly fundraising, strategic planning, finance and similar management type skills.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:01 AM on November 5, 2011

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