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If you are interested in advocacy and non-profit work, you may combine developmental courses in sociology, public policy, and business administration to develop a unique set of skills. We have identified many courses that you can take to learn skills relevant to these careers. We have clustered them according to where they fit into your degree audit to assist you with planning.

Relevant General Education Classes

Your general education courses are particularly important because people in these careers need to have strong written and verbal communication skills, good administrative skills, and to move up, the ability to use administrative data, manage budgets, and supervise staff. You also want to develop substantive knowledge in the area that interests you, such as education, inequality, or environmental protection.

Be sure to do well in English 202, and consider taking Business Writing (202D).

* Be sure to check the supporting courses list (supporting-courses) for Gen Eds that may be relevant to HDFS students. You may count these courses as either a gen ed or a supporting course, but they do not double count.

Your Social & Behavioral Science classes can be helpful as you explore careers in advocacy and non-profit work. Be sure to consider the 3-6-9 option (gen-ed).

There is a very relevant GQ course for this career path:

CMPSC 203 (GQ)
Introduction to Spreadsheets and Databases (4) Design, use, and programming of spreadsheets and databases with applications from a range of disciplines.

Examples of relevant GS courses include, but are not limited to:

AEE 201 (GS)
Interpersonal Skills for Tomorrow's Leaders (3) Study of concepts of self identity, values, and interpersonal relations as related to professional and personal life.

AM ST 106 (COMM 100) (GS)
The Mass Media and Society (3) Mass communications in the United States: organization, role, content, and effects of newspapers, magazines, television, radio, books, and films.

AYFCE 211 (CAS 222, CIVCM 211) (GS;US;IL)
Foundations: Civic and Community Engagement (3) Conceptual foundations of public scholarship and orientation to contemporary themes and issues in civic and community engagement.

B A 100 (GS)
Introduction to Business (3) A comprehensive view of the contemporary environment of business.

CAS 203 (GS)
Interpersonal Communication (3) Exploration of competent communication and the skills necessary to manage personal and professional relationships.

CED 155 (GS)
Science, Technology and Public Policy (3) This course will survey the main issues that relate science and technology to public policy.

ECON 323 (GS)
Public Finance (3) Contemporary fiscal institutions in the United States; public expenditures; public revenues; incidence of major tax types; intergovernmental fiscal relations; public credit.

EDTHP 200 (GS)
Educational Reform and Public Policy (3) The course uses an interdisciplinary approach to explore the reforms that shape the nation's largest social institutional-public education.

GEOG 030 (GS;IL)
Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems (3) Introduction to theory, methods, history and contemporary issues in global and regional relationships between human activity and the physical environment.

IST 110 (GS)
Information, People and Technology (3) The use, analysis, and design of information systems and technologies to organize, coordinate, and inform human enterprises.

LER 201 (GS)
Employment Relationship: Law and Policy (3) An examination of basic legal principles underlying the employment relationship and their social, political, and economic bases.

PL SC 001 (GS)
Introduction to American National Government (3) Introduction to development and nature of American political culture, constitutional/structural arrangements, electoral/policy processes; sources of conflict and consensus.

PSYCH 281 (GS)
Introduction to Industrial-Organizational Psychology (3) Personnel selection, training, accident prevention, morale, and organizational behavior.

SOC 005 (GS)
Social Problems (3) Current social problems such as economic, racial, and gender inequalities; social deviance and crime; population, environmental, energy, and health problems.

Relevant HDFS electives

Many HDFS courses are relevant to this career path. Some of the required courses are particularly important including HDFS 301, HDFS 311, HDFS 411, and HDFS 455. Many other courses are very relevant to these fields.

Knowledge of development:

Administrative knowledge:

  • HDFS 216: Personal and Interpersonal Skills
  • HDFS 440 – Family Policy
  • HDFS 446: Programs and Services in Gerontology
  • HDFS 453: Family Participation and Involvement in Child Services

Special topics that may be relevant, based on your career goals:

Supporting courses for students interested in advocacy and non-profit careers

**Keep in mind you may take either HDFS courses or courses in other fields to fill in your supporting courses. It is your choice.

Courses that may be particularly relevant:

  • ACCTG, BA and MGMT: take courses in small business administration and management.
  • CAS: courses in conflict resolution, organizational communication, and civic and community engagement are highly relevant.
  • Courses in CRIM, SOC, WMST may offer you opportunities to learn about populations you want to work with and social problems you want to solve.
  • ECON: many social problems come from poverty. A basic understanding of economics is important if you want to be involved in social policy.
  • HPA: courses in public health administration may be relevant.
  • LER: understanding labor and employment relations can be helpful for managing non-profits and for advocating for clients.
  • PSYCH: there are interesting courses in organizational psychology that are very relevant.
  • RHS: courses focus on helping clients within social service organizations.

Optional Minors

As you think about courses to take, you may want to consider adding a minor. Relevant minors include Business/Liberal Arts, Business Logistics, Communication Arts and Sciences, Educational Policy Studies, Global Health, Health Policy Administration, Political Science, Recreation, Parks & Tourism Management, and Sociology.

Courses with hands-on components

Be a teaching assistant

Many advocacy and non-profit jobs involve training volunteers or program staff, or otherwise assembling and disseminating information. Teaching experience can be quite helpful. Undergraduates with strong grades are often asked to be undergraduate teaching assistants for larger courses. If you are interested in being an undergraduate teaching assistant, e-mail the instructor to inquire if there are any opportunities to be an undergraduate teaching assistant for that class.

Students enroll for 3 credits of HDFS 497 after they have been accepted as a TA for a specific instructor.

Work on a research project

Research projects relevant to students interested in advocacy and non-profit careers abound on campus. Some students do very “non-profit” like administrative work on research projects including recruiting subjects, conducting surveys of participants, setting up for group interventions, entering data, and analyzing data. Research experience can also help you understand the population you are interested in working with on further projects. Look for projects not just in HDFS, but in HPA, Sociology, and Business Administration.

Penn State is a world-class research institution. Some of the studies that you learn about in your classes are being done right here, and you can be part of them. Working on a research project is also a great way to get to know a professor and get a strong reference for graduate school, even if you don’t plan to go to graduate school for research.

Available research projects change all the time. For more information, see the research experiences website.

Students enroll for 1 – 3 credits of HDFS 496 after they have been accepted as an RA for a specific research project.