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Show Me the Nonprofit Job!

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - June 13, 2003) - American college students are very interested in careers in public service and view the nonprofit sector as the best way to help people.

According to 'In Search of Public Service' from the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution, college seniors think immediately of nonprofits when they hear the words 'public service,' rather than the government or government contractors. The report, which was released June 3, surveyed 1,002 college seniors who were nearing graduation and studying liberal arts and social work.

Twenty-six percent of the seniors said they had very seriously considered working in public service, while 36 percent had somewhat considered it. Among both groups, 42 percent said they preferred the public service job to be in the nonprofit sector, compared to 37 percent for government and 19 percent for a contractor.

The students viewed the nonprofit arena as the best career field if they wanted to help people, make a difference and gain the respect of family and friends. Of nonprofits, the government and contractors, nonprofits were seen as the best at spending money wisely, helping people and being fair in decisions.

'Young Americans are not saying 'show us the money,'' said Paul Light, author of the report and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a news conference releasing the report. 'In our surveys, what they're saying is 'show us the job.' They put the highest value on making a difference in the work that they do. They put a very high value on the chance to learn new skills and the opportunity to do challenging work.'

While only 44 percent said they knew how to find a job in government or at a nonprofit, 62 percent said they didn't think finding a job at a nonprofit would be difficult.

The report showed the connection between a student's previous volunteer experience and their desire to work in public service. Fifty-four percent said they had volunteered, interned or worked for nonprofits in the past, and 68 percent of this group said they had very much or somewhat considered a public service job.

While the students looked favorably toward the nonprofit sector overall as a career path, they didn't believe it would offer the best salaries, benefits or job security. When comparing nonprofits, the government and contractors, only 2 percent of seniors said the nonprofit sector offered the best salaries. Only 5 percent said the sector provided the best benefits.

But overall, the nonprofit sector was the clear winner in nearly every category when the students thought about public service. The report warned only that the sector may need to confront its low pay, lack of benefits and lack of job security down the road.

For a copy of the report, visit the Brookings Institution.

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