Becoming a Grant Specialist: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A grant specialist can expect to earn a median annual salary of $53,000 as of January 2016. How do you train for this position? See real job descriptions and get information about the skills you need to become a successful grant specialist before deciding if this is the right career path for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Grant Specialist

A grant specialist is an administrator who oversees the pre-award and post-award grant application process at a nonprofit organization, school, medical center or similar agency. If you are not shy about asking for money, consider some the following pros and cons before deciding if becoming a grant specialist is right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Grant Specialist
Demand for these workers projected to increase as the U.S. population increases*
Meaningful work that will address issues of public concern and improve lives*
Advocacy organizations are usually positive, team-oriented environments*
New information technology has made it easier to collect data and communicate with stakeholders*

Cons of a Career as a Grant Specialist
Potentially stressful position: financial health of organization depends on you*
High level of public contact may be difficult for shy people*
Evening and weekend travel required to meet donors*
Smaller advocacy organizations may have cramped working conditions and outdated equipment*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Grant specialists supervise and coordinate the steps and staff involved in researching, applying for and implementing a grant for a nonprofit or other organization. General responsibilities usually include identifying sources of funding that have given money to similar projects, budgeting, writing or assisting others in the preparation of a grant proposal and post-award grant management. Due to new advances in information technology, administrators are able to perform many of these tasks electronically and online. Grant specialists also meet and develop relationships with foundation officers to ensure the success of their applications.

Career Prospects and Salary

Grant specialists can work for international development and relief, cultural, educational and human services organizations. While salaries can vary depending on the organization, grant specialists can earn a median annual salary of $53,767, as reported by Salary.com in January 2016.

Education and Career Skills

The BLS reports that there are many ways for a person to acquire the experience and skills necessary for working in the advocacy environment. Some employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's, if not a master's, degree in business administration, public administration or a related area. Those who begin their careers as grant writers usually enter the field with a bachelor's degree in communications, English, marketing or a similar major. Specialized training in grant writing can be found at colleges and universities that offer 1-day workshops, on-site and online classes or certificate programs. General course topics typically include grant-writing basics, funding research, nonprofit development and grants administration. In addition to a degree and an outgoing personality, grant specialists should also be knowledgeable in:

  • Research methods
  • Content and mechanics of the English language
  • Accounting principles and practices
  • Business, management and human resource principles and practices
  • How to work both independently and as a member of a team

Real Grant Specialist Jobs From Real Employers

Most employers prefer to hire candidates with previous administrative or grant writing experience. A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement, and some employers prefer applicants with a graduate degree. Additional experience working with state and federal grants is also a plus. The following job listings from March 2012 will give you an idea of what to expect when you begin to research the job market.

  • A college in New York advertised for an entry-level, computer-literate grant specialist with a bachelor's degree and strong communication and interpersonal skills to oversee the application process. The preferred candidate would have had prior experience working in budget or program development, higher education or nonprofit management.
  • An Iowa nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families at risk looked for someone with a bachelor's degree and 3-5 years of experience to share a grant specialist position. This person would be responsible for completing a minimum of ten grants per month, including research, organizing statistical data and writing public and private grant applications.
  • A New York BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) needed a full-time grant specialist with either a bachelor's degree and four years of experience or a master's degree and two years of experience to fill a civil service position. Candidates should have had a solid knowledge of educational principles and practices; corporate, private and public funding sources and grant preparation.
  • A New York City medical center had an opportunity for a senior grant specialist with a bachelor's or preferably a master's degree and five years of experience in grant administration. As the point person for the organization's faculty, staff and other personnel, this person would oversee proposals to raise funds for rehabilitative medicine.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Volunteer work is an important way for an aspiring but inexperienced grant writer to enter the nonprofit community, stand out in the applicant pool and advance to the position of grant specialist. Short-term assignments provide you with a broad view of the field. Long-term assignments with real responsibilities give you a chance to become more familiar with how nonprofit organizations work. Both give you something to put on your resume. These opportunities can be found through high school guidance counselors, college career offices, government offices and libraries.

Other Careers to Consider in the Nonprofit Community

Public Relations Specialist

In the nonprofit environment, public relations specialists work on behalf of an organization to develop a positive relationship with the public. They do this by writing press releases and interacting with members of the media. According to the BLS, many public relations professionals eventually choose to specialize in fundraising as directors of development. College graduates with a degree in public relations, journalism or communications have the best opportunities in this field.

Fundraiser

Fundraisers secure the financial health of their organizations by raising money from individual donors, writing grants and holding special events. Beginning fundraisers or development associates might update donor databases, write grants and organize benefits. Clerical and office work help new fundraisers learn about an organization and how it raises money. In addition to a degree, an internship or other related work experience helps candidates advance in these positions.

Foundation Program Officer

While fundraisers are responsible for asking for money, foundation officers are responsible for giving it away. Program officers evaluate the issues that their foundations want to address and decide what types of grants will be awarded and to which organizations. These professionals typically hold an advanced degree in a specialized area, such as healthcare, and have experience working in the nonprofit environment. Candidates with less education and experience can enter the field as foundation program assistants.

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Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Finance - Financial Analysis
  • BS in Finance - Investments
  • Associate: Accounting

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Accounting
  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • AA: Business Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA: Finance
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Regent University

  • Master of Business Administration - Finance and Investing
  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Bachelor of Arts in English - Government
  • Bachelor of Arts in Government

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master of Finance
  • BS - Accounting
  • Graduate Specialization - Accounting

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Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
  • MBA - Financial Management
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

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