Working for non-profit vs. working for-profit

Kicking around terms like “non-profit” and “for-profit” requires some sweeping generalizations. It’s easy to get caught up in the overarching distinctions between the two – things like non-profit work pays less, or for-profit jobs mean ethical compromises.

Value of idea. Concept of brain and money

Really, neither of those items are true – at least, not always. But in order to explain the primary differences that most workers can expect to perceive between the two, so that you can think about which avenue might be the best fit for you, we’ll generalize away!

For-profit sector jobs

“For profit” refers to the principal mission of making money.

  • Income potential will be greater. While the top echelon of non-profit organizations take home very nice salaries, the reality is that corporate bosses usually earn much, much more. For entry-level employees, the disparity won’t be as wide, but it will remain. Whether you’re a coder, a lawyer, a project manager, or a painter, you can typically earn more in the for-profit sector.
  • Competition is tough, and employees are commodities. You may have an awesome supervisor who genuinely cares about you as a human being. But when the purse strings tighten, salaries and even employment can become unpredictable and unstable.

Non-Profit sector jobs

“Non-profit” refers to tax status, but the term is usually used to describe an organization’s mission, which will encompass something more than mere profits. Money earned is put back into the organization, be it a charity, foundation, or school.

  • Non-profit employees typically earn less than their for-profit counterparts.
  • The work is noble, and the causes are oftentimes deeply admirable. Sure, some organizations make few measurable improvements. But there are also amazing opportunities: Help developing nations source clean water, or run community centers that teach inner-city kids job skills, or raising money to cure diseases. The list is absolutely endless.
  • There are some hidden benefits. Non-profit employees may be eligible for loan forgiveness, so don’t forget to add that variable into your equation as you weigh options!

Be careful not to draw too deep of a line in the sand, as there are enormous benefits on both sides of the employment world. Whatever your priorities, you can find employment that is deeply satisfying and furthers your long-term goals.

Start off your career by interning at a for-profit or non-profit organization. Begin your search at

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