NDSU Distance & Continuing Education (DCE)

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Online Degrees

M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Youth Development



Program Description

Sample plan of study

Frequently asked questions

Graduate faculty information

Admission requirements

Tuition and Fees

Contact information



Program Description

Youth development is an emerging professional field. It has a positive orientation, meaning its focus is on promoting the positive development of youth, and it is an applied field, with professionals who put developmental research and theory into practice in structuring and implementing programs and services for adolescents.

A master's degree in youth development prepares students for careers in organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, non-profits, faith based groups, community recreation, juvenile justice facilities, middle and high school programs, extension services, and military youth programs.

The online Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science: Youth Development option is a collaborative, inter-institutional program offered by Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA), a web-based distance education program. The program requires 36 credits, including a practicum experience. A master's paper or thesis is optional. Students can complete the program in two to three years.


Youth Development Brochure.pdf


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Sample Plan of Study

Required Core Courses:

*This course may be taken more than once, as long as the topic areas are different each time.       

Elective Courses:

Optional Courses:

Total Credits: 36


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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the youth development master’s program?
A student can earn the youth development master’s degree in two years as a full-time student taking nine credits a semester, with no summer classes. Students can take three, six, or nine credits a semester. Students who also take summer classes may be able to finish one semester early. 

Are students required to come to campus during the program?
No, the program is completely online.

Is a practicum or thesis required for this program?
Students enrolled in the master’s program typically take five credits of practicum. For students interested in further education or research, another option is to do a master’s thesis (6 credits) or a master’s paper (3 credits) plus one additional 3-credit course or practicum. 

Which university will I receive my degree from?
If you apply and are admitted to NDSU, you will receive a degree from NDSU even though some of your courses will be taught by professors from other institutions.

What is the difference between earning a graduate certificate and earning a master’s degree in youth development?
A certificate is a way of showing that you have completed a coherent set of courses within a certain field. Both the Youth Development and the Youth Program Management and Evaluation certificates cover a subset of courses that are in the master’s program. If you are interested in the certificate program and decide to continue on to the master’s program, the courses you take for the certificate program will apply to the master's program.

Can I transfer previous graduate coursework into this program?
You can transfer up to nine credits into the youth development master’s program if they are relevant to the program. The syllabus of those courses will need to be provided to the Department of Human Development and Family Science graduate program in order to determine if the coursework is relevant.

I am employed full-time and have a family. How many credits would you recommend I take each semester?
For students with family and employment obligations we recommend taking four credits (the Foundations course plus one other course) the first semester. Then students are able to see how it works with their schedule and can determine how many courses they are able to take each semester.

Can I take some youth development classes without being admitted to the program?
You can be admitted to the graduate school as a non-degree student and take youth development classes without being in the program. Class sizes are very limited and students who are in the program are able to register first. The instructor needs to agree to allow non-degree students into their class. If you want to register as a non-degree student you have to contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) from NDSU’s Graduate School. Non-degree students cannot be registered until a couple weeks before the semester in order to allow students in the program to register.

Will this program prepare me for a Ph.D. program?
If students are interested in a Ph.D. program we recommend our Ph.D. program in Developmental Science. Students can go directly into the Ph.D. program without getting their master’s degree first. If students are already in the master’s program but interested in the Ph.D. program we suggest they do a thesis instead of a practicum.

Is the program accredited?
There is no accreditation in the youth development field. Online degrees and classes offered through NDSU Distance and Continuing Education are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and are approved through the academic departments and colleges at NDSU.

Why go into the youth development field?
There is an increasing demand for employees of youth-serving organizations to obtain graduate degrees, certificates, and/or licensure. Students completing the master’s degree program in youth development will be qualified to work with various youth-serving organizations, such as: 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, community recreation, correctional facilities, and Cooperative Extension. A master’s degree in youth development will benefit elementary, middle, and high school educators; extension educators; and military youth specialists.

Is there a required degree to be admitted into the program?
There is not a required undergraduate degree to be admitted. Some experience as an undergraduate with social science courses (e.g. psychology, sociology) would be helpful.

What is the application process for the youth development program?
To be admitted to the program applicants must meet the Graduate School admission and application requirements.

What do I do after I am admitted to the program?
Students admitted by NDSU into the program will be contacted via email by Melissa Selders Ortez from NDSU’s Graduate School. Melissa Selders Ortez will register students in the Great Plains database and for classes. Students will need work with their advisor to identify the classes they should register for and then will notify Melissa of those classes as soon as possible since class sizes are limited. 



Graduate Faculty

For information about graduate faculty for this program as well as their current research interests, visit the M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Youth Development bulletin page.




Apply for admission
View Getting Started Guide

For current admission requirements, visit the M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Youth Development bulletin page.


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Contact Information

NDSU Department of Human Development and Family Science
Phone: 701-231-8269
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Web: http://www.ndsu.edu/hdfs/

NDSU Graduate School
Phone: 701-231-5945
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Web: www.ndsu.edu/gradschool/


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