A reader's response to Egger:
The nonprofit sector is a funny area of grey. When picking such a career trajectory, you enter knowing you will never make as much as your attorney or banker friends (pre-recesh), but the fact that you are “doing something good” makes up for part of that salary difference. That being said, despite the trade off, you still must earn a livable wage. It is a difficult field to get into though when you have any experience, but not quite enough to be considered for a management level position (and salary).
As a 20-something college grad, there are a lot of us struggling to find ways to manifest these meaningful career opportunities that set us in a position for a climb of the not-so-corporate ladder. Oftentimes, this does not come without a serious monetary investment in an advanced degree or skill-specific, post-collegiate training that is required to be taken seriously in your field of choice. At the graduate level, programs that train such employees—MPAs, MAs in psychology, education, etc—are often those with the least financial aid available to prospective students. Thus, individuals take on a huge economic burden, which will become a consideration after their graduate training. Once completed, such an investment should be compensated appropriately.
In my current position, I have a masters degree and am paid adequately, but certainly not in line with someone who has an MBA and four years of employment experience (which would make us employment and educational equals). To make things more complicated, in order to achieve any sort of jump on the pay scale, beyond the cost of living raise, I need a Ph.D. and several more years of experience (keep in mind, I work in an odd position--evaluation). This happens at the level before me as well. A system of gradual (and livable) salaries must be considered. Often those doing the most work (in our case, direct service with a large caseload of students and families) are paid the least or mandated to be part-time. This effects quality and scope of service in a negative way. It also impacts the rate of employment turnover.
Ultimately, it’s a complicated and delicate formula. Simply because individuals work in the non-profit sector does not mean that they should expect to succumb to a lifetime of living paycheck to paycheck. We will never get a retention bonus, but we should be able to leverage our experience, education, and potential in order to secure a fair wage. Now if only someone could give me a dollar figure of precisely what that may be…