Grant writers are, in a very real sense, the beating heart of any non-profit organization. It is their expertise and skill, after all, that helps secure the much-needed funding that ultimately makes it possible for any non-profit to achieve their goals and help their target audience.
What can grant writers expect to earn on an annual basis, and how can you become a grant writer?
Average Salary for Grant Writers
The latest statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, from May 2020, show that writers and authors as a whole earn a median annual salary of $67,120. This median reflects a very wide range, in which the bottom 10 percent make less than $35,880 while the top earners — generally in highly-profitable fields like TV script writing or speech writing — bring home over $133,460 a year.
Those writers who work in “religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations”, data from the BLS indicates, earn a median annual salary of $70,400 per year.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not show precise data for grant writers as a specific occupation, these professionals also fall under the heading of technical writers. In this realm, the median annual wage is currently $74,650.
That’s the story government data tells us — but what about private organizations?
- The popular platform PayScale suggests that grant writers have an average annual salary of $49,432. They indicate that ranges between $37,000 and $70,000 are most common.
- According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for grant writers is $50,854 per year. This platform shows that the grant writers at the lowest end of the pay scale make $15,000 or less per year, while the highest paying jobs can yield more than $75,000 annually.
- Salary.com offers data for the title of grant or proposal writer, holding that the average annual salary in this field is $73,032.
When you combine these averages, a figure of $57,772 per year results.
This shows that although grant writers are skilled professionals, the fact that they almost always work with either non-profit organizations or public institutions results in a lower salary than other technical writers. Nonetheless, grant writing is a fairly lucrative career choice that also allows professionals to engage in fulfilling work.
What Do Grant Writers Make Per Hour?
ZipRecruiter and PayScale estimate similar typical hourly rates for grant writers, at $24 and $24.69 per hour respectively. The hourly earning potential of any individual grant writer likely depends largely on their experience and educational background, although location also plays a major role.
When it comes to freelance grant writers, industry insiders suggest that the hourly rate may vary from $20 per hour for new grant writers to more than $100 per hour for seasoned industry experts. However, freelance grant writers will typically be paid per project rather than on an hourly basis.
Salary Based on Experience
To find out how much entry-level grant writers tend to get paid when compared to experienced professionals, we can look at data supplied by Salary.com. The platform estimates that:
- Brand new grant writers who have been in the field for less than a year make an average of $70,539 in that first year.
- After three to four years on the job, grant writers earn a higher average salary of $72,239 per year.
- With seven to nine years of experience under their belts, the average salary grant writers earn per year shoots up to $75,722.
- The most experienced grant writers, who have proven their commitment to this field by working in it for at least 10 years, are rewarded with average annual salaries of $76,394 or more.
This consistent progression demonstrates that staying in the field for longer pays off, regardless of an individual grant writer’s actual starting wage.
Salary Based on Education
Here, it is important to note that most employers will want their grant writers to have a Bachelor’s degree. Their precise major matters less than it would in many other fields.
Data provided by Salary.com would suggest that:
- Grant writers with an Associate’s degree earn an average of $71,899 per year.
- Those who have earned a Bachelor’s degree have an average yearly wage of $72,239.
- Grant writers who have completed a Master’s degree do not earn significantly more; their average yearly pay is estimated to amount to $72,805.
- Grant writers with a PhD earn, on average, $73,032 on a yearly basis.
Top Paying States
PayScale shows that grant writers based in California and New York earn the most, while ZipRecruiter indicates that those in Alaska, Washington State, Connecticut, and Wyoming also tend to earn more than average.
This data largely reflects the fact that the cost of living is also higher in these states. Interestingly, though, PayScale says that grant writers in Washington, DC, get paid less than average.
Those professionals who are actively searching for jobs as grant writers should take into account the fact that grant writing jobs are indeed available all over the United States. A sizable portion can even be carried out remotely. Grant writing is one of the areas in which self-employed, or freelance, professionals can also very much thrive.
The outlook for grant writers is unclear. Although technical writing jobs are projected to rise by 12 percent between now and 2030, that particular category is far broader than grant writers alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does hint that job growth in the non-profit sector is expected to slow down compared to careers in information technology, however.
With that in mind, we have already seen that experienced and skilled grant writers progressively earn a higher salary. Those who excel at their jobs will likely always have work.
What Exactly Does a Grant Writer Do?
Grant writers have the essential task of drafting and perfecting proposals that have the highest possible chance of securing required funding for their employers or clients. Although the bulk of professional grant writers are either employed by, or work as freelancers for, non-profit organizations or charities, some also work for public organizations that may include schools, national parks, or museums. Some grant writers can even work on behalf of individual people, often under the umbrella of a wider non-profit.
As part of their job description, granted writers will:
- Investigate available grants, trying to work out which grant opportunities are most suitable.
- Writing proposals. This is the “meat” of the job, and the task that most depends on a grant writer’s expertise. Writing proposals is a complex process that depends on extensive and watertight documentation, all of which has to be submitted precisely in line with funding organizations’ requirements.
- Many grant writers will carry out auxiliary tasks such as meeting with potential donors and explaining the scope and aims of the organization for which they are working, as well as reporting back to the boards of non-profit organizations. As a rule, the smaller the organization in which a grant writer is employed, the more multi-tasking they can expect to engage in over the course of their everyday jobs.
How to Become a Grant Writer?
Employers who are in search of qualified grant writers typically like to see candidates who have a Bachelor’s degree. Although some fields are preferred, almost any degree can be acceptable to certain employers.
Many grant writers become involved organically, through work in non-profit organizations. With experience an insider knowledge, they can subsequently apply for roles in other non-profit organizations that may pay more, or they may find themselves working for a public institution.
These roles may be advertised on popular job boards or industry-specific job boards, but grant writers may also be recommended through word of mouth. A career as a self-employed grant writer can be lucrative as well as varied and interesting, too.
Qualifications to Be a Grant Writer
Most employers in this field look for candidates who have a Bachelor’s degree. Fields such as communications, marketing, English, and journalism may all be helpful as you attempt to kick-start your career, as can a degree in social work. Having a degree in an unrelated area does not have to be a hindrance, however.
Some colleges now specifically offer courses in grant writing, and those can offer extremely helpful background knowledge.
Skills to Be a Grant Writer
Grant writers need to have a diverse skill set:
- Strong writing skills are a must.
- Being able to follow instructions and standardize proposal documents is also required.
- Grant writers have to work well under pressure, as grant opportunities have tight deadlines.
- Ideally, grant writers will be passionate about the cause for which they are writing proposals.
- When self-employed, grant writers additionally depend on business skills.
- In working together with numerous other people, grant writers require solid interpersonal skills, and background knowledge in negotiation can be extremely helpful.
Can You Be a Grant Writer Without a Degree?
Sometimes. Many of the skills grant writers depend on can be learned outside a college setting, and proven experience can be a substitute for formal education.