University of Pennsylvania- Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership

Why you should consider this program

The Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) Program at the School of Social Policy and Practice welcomes individuals who are bright, passionate, and energized to be transformative thought leaders, social entrepreneurs, and innovators for social impact. The world needs innovative approaches to address the world’s complex social challenges.

Our students are the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs who will help transform nonprofits, social enterprises, international NGOs, educational systems, social service agencies, art and cultural institutions, foundations, and advocacy and volunteer organizations. Our program allows students to build a foundation for their professional and civic journeys as collaborative agents of innovation and impact.

Given the dynamic experiences of international development and service, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) are a natural fit for study within the program. Learning practical skills like fundraising, governance, and management, along with the more theoretical foundations for social impact like design thinking and ethics, can help Returning Volunteers continue their impact after their Peace Corps service.

Benefits for Coverdell Fellows

Tuition/fees for Complete Program Value of Coverdell Fellowship Net cost *
In state $ 65,742 $ 23,890 $ 41,852
Out of state $ 65,742 $ 23,889 $ 41,853
* Net cost is equal to tuition/fees minus fellowship value. For some universities, the fellowship value includes non-tuition/fee benefits such as health insurance or housing—see the first point below for more details.

Where the cost savings value of the Coverdell Fellowship comes from

  • Tuition waiver: $21,825
  • Work study (if eligible): $2,000
  • Application fee waiver: $65

Fellowships awarded per year (average)

2 Coverdell Fellowships can be awarded each year with this benefits package

Other benefits or opportunities

No other program-specific benefits are offered, but the NPL program staff can assist Coverdell Fellows with seeking additional sources of funding within the University of Pennsylvania network to defray the cost of attendance.

Annual cost of living (estimated)

$ 22,582

Application fee waived?



The Leadership Practicum is an integral part of the experiential learning for all full-time NPL students, which builds upon core competencies and principles of leadership developed in the classroom. It consists of:

  • a supervised mentoring and leadership development experience with either an executive director or senior level leader at a Philly-area nonprofit organization or foundation;
  • a partnership with the goal of learning about the organization and providing student support on various levels that can include strategic planning, succession planning, branding or marketing, development and philanthropy, or other targeted projects; and
  • a commitment of 180-225 hours of practicum time with the sponsoring organization during the academic year beginning in early October and ending in mid-April

The Leadership Practicum enhances students’ understanding of leadership in nonprofits and social enterprises and fosters a commitment by local nonprofit leaders to cultivate the next generation of transformative leaders. Students witness leadership in action and benefit from individual mentoring and leadership development


  • Mentors meet with students regularly.
  • Mentors provide advice, coaching, and encouragement.
  • Mentors lead through example and share their professional growth with students.
  • Mentors play a critical role in guiding the development of the leadership practicum.
  • Students act as participant observers in key processes in which leadership skills are demonstrated in real time.
  • Students gain the social and political skills necessary for successful leadership.
  • Students and mentors develop projects together that address needs within the organization.

The Leadership Practicum is a mutually rewarding partnership to engage and develop future nonprofit and social impact leaders. The practicum is an opportunity for organizations to have a graduate student assist in completing projects and allows students to apply principles taught in class to the workforce and put their own spin on teamwork, accountability, and finding solutions to ongoing problems.

Jobs for program alumni

Alumni of the NPL program tend to secure employment in leadership positions at nonprofit or social impact organizations across the sector. While we have many alumni who choose to enter careers at existing nonprofit organizations in myriad capacities – with fundraising and program management representing a significant percentage of alumni career paths – we also have a growing percentage of alumni who choose to launch and grow their own nonprofit organizations or social impact ventures.

Some examples of our recent graduates’ jobs include Director of Operations, City Blossoms (Washington, DC); Founder and CEO, StudentsCare (Philadelphia, PA); Director of Education and Strategic Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy (Philadelphia, PA); Chief Operating Officer, Rescue Mission of Trenton (Trenton, NJ); and Director of Gift Planning, University of Pennsylvania Development and Alumni Relations (Philadelphia, PA).

Other details

Program length

• Full time 1 year • Part time 2-3 years

Application requirements

  • College transcripts (bachelor’s degree, GPA of 3.0 or higher)
  • TOEFL if English is not a first language (score of 100 or higher)
  • Resume
  • 3 letters of recommendation, at least one academic and one professional
  • Application essay
  • Admissions Interview

Admissions process

See above

Program begins

Late August

Non-traditional options

  • Online degree program
  • Option to pursue degree part time while receiving the Coverdell Fellowship

Coverdell Fellows applicants will be evaluated and selected using the same admissions criteria as the general admissions for the NPL program. When reflected in the professional history (resume/CV), the public service orientation and international focus of the Peace Corps are certainly traits that the NPL program actively seeks out in our candidates.

Coverdell Fellows can complete the program in any of the three learning formats in which it is offered – full-time residential, part-time residential, or online. Of the on-campus courses offered, about half are offered in the evenings.

Year Coverdell Fellows partnership started



Sue Perls, Associate Director

3815 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104