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Home  > Article

Non-Profits Offer Profitable Engineering Jobs

By John R. Platt

The best job opportunities for engineers aren't always at for-profit tech companies. Non-profit institutions -- which often do work in similar fields as corporations -- offer a wide range or jobs and opportunities, especially for engineers who want to put their technology skills to work going good for the world.

Opportunities Abound

Once you take corporations out of the equation, you will find that all kinds of new and different jobs open themselves up to you. Electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, software programmers, and other technology professionals are all highly desired by associations, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charities, museums, research institutes, and, of course, educational institutions and universities, which need people just like you if they hope to meet the needs of their missions.

It's these missions that set non-profits apart from most companies. While a corporation's mission statement might be something like "Invent and exploit technologies in order to earn profits for our shareholders," a non-profit's mission statement might read "Use technology to alleviate the ills facing our world and its people."

Sounds just a little bit better, doesn't it?

What Engineers Do for Non-Profits

The work being done by non-profit employees varies widely, depending on their mission, location, field and needs. Mechanical and electrical engineers could find themselves doing research in a lab to develop biomechanical devices or out in the field building power sources for remote villages. Communications specialists could be put to work developing systems to help an organization stay in touch with its workers around the world. Software engineers are needed to help organizations program their websites or business systems, or develop education tools or programs. Employees can find themselves working in disaster relief, or maintaining the equipment that helps other employees serve the needs of disaster victims. You could even find yourself conducting more "pure" research than you might otherwise do in the for-profit world.

Technology professionals are also highly valued in non-profit management, because they understand what other employees will need to do their jobs and accomplish their missions. Tech people are also effective as subject-matter experts for writing grants, editing journals, publicizing an organization's activities, or developing vital ties with corporate partners, government agencies or other not-for-profits with complementary missions.

The Paycheck Versus Other Benefits

So what's the downside, right? Well, obviously, non-profits might not be able to match the salaries and other benefits you could earn at a for-profit company. But if money isn't everything, working for a non-profit can bring you a number of other non-financial benefits, not the least of which is a sense of accomplishing something good.

Sadly, not all non-profits can pay for your work, but many still need your help. Volunteering can not only let you put your skills to good work, it can help you gain valuable experience and even leadership skills in the process. You can find local, international or virtual volunteering opportunities at Volunteer Match (, or join the thousands of  volunteer working on projects around the globe for Engineers Without Borders ( You'll be doing good work, and the inner peace you find might further enhance your work, no matter where (or at what profit level) you do it.


John R. Platt is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who often writes about technology, entrepreneurship, and the environment. He frequently interviews expert sources.

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