The Job Hunt: Not-for-profit jobs growing

I've been looking for months to work for a not-for-profit group, mostly because I'm interested in the work they do and would like to find a job helping the community. A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out a few other good reasons: Non-profits are experiencing rapid employment growth, and they pay a little better than other businesses.

As a former newspaper editor, I can write and edit for pay, among other skills, and I'm always on the lookout for expanding industries that may need my talents. The most expanding area is in general, medical and surgical hospitals, followed by colleges, universities and professional schools. If you want to go where the money is, or at least where more jobs are, then your local not-for-profit hospital or university is a good place to start.

Although for-profit businesses pay better, more jobs are being created in the not-for-profit businesses, according to the BLS report. Not-for-profit employment has increased 5% in two years between 2002 and 2004, while total private employment increased by less than 1%.

A not-for-profit is defined as an establishment with a 501(c) tax-exemption status. According to the Internal Revenue Service, they are "corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational part of the net wages of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual."

As with many reports by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it's lengthy and dense reading, but the in-depth report does have a lot of interesting information if you want to dig in.

Not-for-profits tend to employ more community and social service workers, teachers, healthcare workers and personal care and service workers, according to the report. The jobs are concentrated in healthcare and social assistance and education industries. The not-for-profits have fewer workers in sales, food service, construction, maintenance, production and transportation because those jobs are more commonly associated with profit-seeking companies.

What struck me as odd is that the not-for-profit employees earn slightly more than for-profit employees: $19.93 on average vs. $18.13 for the for-profit workers. I had always heard the mantra that they pay less, but the report's reasoning makes sense. It pointed out the occupational composition of the not-for-profit jobs and the relative lack of very low paying occupations in these groups. Many of the jobs that would be low paying are instead done by volunteers at not-for-profits, as anyone who has volunteered probably knows. However, the report states that despite the high averages, for-profit workers had higher wages in 12 of the 22 occupational groups.

Maybe the lesson here is to start volunteering at a not-for-profit because it might be a way in the door to a paying job at one. From there one could move into a higher paying job in the private sector. Or stay if the work there is your passion. Either way, if it's an expanding field, it's a good place to be.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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