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Considering the Educational Pathway to a CSR Career

CSR Education

Raymond Fisman, director of the social enterprise program at Columbia Business School, once said, "There was no social enterprise program when I arrived at Columbia a dozen or so years ago. Now it is a major presence at school. That should give you a sense of how attitudes have changed." And indeed, since the corporate philanthropic consciousness took seed over fifty years ago in America and bloomed ever since, education and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives have become linked. In a 2013 survey conducted by Business4Better that measured how most SMEs spend their CSR-allotted funds, the survey found that over 60% of the SMEs' CSR funds for that year went to educational programs while another 40% of that funding went towards youth programs.

Companies demonstrate their dedication to the youth as they recognize that their programs will directly make an impact on the diverse workforce of the future; and more importantly, companies recognize the fruit they will harvest from hiring CSR-minded leaders to lead the charge for future change in their company and community.

It appears young professionals seeking a career in CSR have a bright future ahead with a variety of interesting and important tasks. CSR leaders are charged with promoting sustainability, protecting human rights, creating a unique philanthropic legacy, manifesting a company philanthropic consciousness, preserving the environment, and furthering the health, safety, and well being of everyone involved. Job duties for this field emphasize skills related to Human Resources, Operations Management, aspects of Community Psychology, Marketing, Social Work, and PR efforts. CSR professionals are hired by charitable organizations, NGOs, private organizations, universities, colleges, and government agencies. A day in the life of a CSR director or manager can be as varied and meaningful as the educational pathway there.

Although not many undergraduate degrees are currently offered for CSR, there is a plethora of Master's degrees available: Masters in Public Administration, Masters or MBA in CSR, Masters of Arts in Responsible Management, Masters in Corporate Citizenship, all from top-ranked American universities. Interested undergraduate applicants are encouraged to take a variety of business courses, especially those with an emphasis on ethics, as well as communication courses, to prepare them for the rigorous study of CSR in graduate school. The educational pathway to a career in CSR also offers a variety of certifications, as well as master's or higher degrees obtained abroad: and interestingly enough, a graduate student in the CSR field may benefit from receiving a specialized CSR education in a country that deals particularly well with an environmental or societal issue that the student is passionate about.

The demand for CSR-educated professionals in the workforce is increasing; as consumers demand more transparency and accountability for the corporate sector to optimize the value of their dollar towards a societal good, more companies seek the organization and initiative of a CSR manager. However, young professionals interested in pursuing a career in this sector should be aware of the potential tribulations involved. Those who seek to undo the phrase "Business as Usual" with their philanthropic initiative should also be vigilant that the company's philanthropic effort is "a Movement, not a moment." Many seeking to enter this field with a beneficent intention would benefit from confirming that a desired company's CSR initiative is not based solely on the company's public appeal and increased revenue, rather than for the environmental or sustainable effect. Additionally, those thinking about entering this field may also keep in mind the possibility that as CSR initiative increases across companies, the CSR departments may collapse in exchange for CSR values that percolate throughout a company's whole framework. This would effectively diminish the need for a CSR manager in many companies. An article published by U.S. News delves into this concerning challenge for professionals interested in this field.

However, despite these theorized challenges to the field, the passionate employee, as in any profession, need not shy away from changing the world for the better through a company's resources and will. The young professional may wish to compare his/her morals and values to that of an interested company of choice to make sure they are aligned with each other. It may also be beneficial to seek mentorship and network across different sectors in different locations abroad and at home to discover where specific personal talents and interests lie in this diverse field. Along with building and continuing to develop communication, network, and interpersonal skills, developing a true understanding of the language of CSR; writing CSR opinions and publishing them; leading CSR initiative at a university or company to show a personal talent for this field may be helpful in establishing your own identity in this field. Overall, this is an incredibly versatile field with many educational opportunities that will transform a career path in CSR. Each step takes one further along in the learning process.