Preferences for a Professional Doctorate in Philanthropy Program


  • Heather L. Carpenter Notre Dame of Maryland University



nonprofit management education, nonprofit and philanthropy programs, doctoral studies


To date, there are 42 PhD programs (Mirabella, n.d.) within the United States in which people can focus on advancing knowledge in nonprofit management and/or philanthropic studies. Focusing on nonprofit and philanthropic studies in a PhD program involves students taking one to two nonprofit foundational courses at the master’s degree level along with the rest of their doctoral level courses and then writing a dissertation in their desired subject area. However, most nonprofit-focused PhD programs involve earning the entire PhD in another subject area, such as public administration or political science. Only one program in the United States at Indiana University, Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI), allows students to pursue a PhD in philanthropic studies. However, because of the scarcity of research on doctoral level education in nonprofit and philanthropic studies, it is unknown if these PhD programs advance students for their intended careers in the academic or professional realm. Professional doctorates focused in philanthropy may be one option to advance students in their nonacademic careers. In this study, I report findings from a survey of 552 nonprofit and philanthropic professionals about their preferences for doctoral level education. Findings show that respondents wanted to pursue a professional doctorate rather than a PhD. For professional doctorate respondents, the traditional in-person classes incorporating case studies, discussion, and individual projects were the most preferable program format. Respondents also indicated that they would be like to be part-time doctoral students and commit 2 years to their doctoral studies. The final product that they would prefer to work on is an applied project or applied research. These findings suggest challenges and opportunities to implementing a professional doctorate program focused in nonprofit management and/or philanthropic studies.