Online Youth Development Graduate Certificate

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Online Youth Development Graduate Certificate

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 graduate certificate 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.

If you currently work in youth programming, or would like to someday, this online Youth Development Graduate Certificate will equip you with the knowledge of best practices in providing programs for youth. In some cases, K-12 educators may benefit by honing their skills in using data to develop high-quality programs for youth.

Information Session Video

Learn more about the online youth development graduate certificate and master's programs.

Program Description

The online Youth Development Graduate Certificate is a collaborative, inter-institutional program offered by Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP IDEA), a web-based distance education program. The program requires 13 credits.

Earning a Youth Development Graduate Certificate indicates to employers that you have studied a cohesive set of classes in youth development. A graduate certificate provides you with advanced credentials faster than a full master's degree in youth development. Once you have completed your online graduate certificate in youth development you can transfer all credits earned into the online M.S. in HDFS: Youth Development program.

You may also be interested in our online Youth Program Management and Evaluation Graduate Certificate.

Sample Plan of Study

Below is a sample plan of study. This will give you an idea of the type of courses you will take. Once you are admitted, be sure to visit with your advisor to create your actual plan of study. 

Foundations of Youth Development must be taken in the first semester. 

Course titles may vary from what is listed on the GP IDEA website. These are the course titles and numbers used for registration at NDSU.

Required Courses:
Elective Courses:

Select two courses from the following list.

Total Credits: 12

Graduate Faculty

A list of graduate faculty for the Youth Development Graduate Certificate as well as their current research interests is available on the NDSU catalog page. In addition to faculty information, you can find more information about the program in the catalog.

Tuition and Fees

The tuition and fee structure for this program is set by the GP IDEA consortium. Classes you take are charged at the same tuition rate regardless of which university is your home university. Books and supplies are not included in the tuition and fees. Since a certificate is not a degree track, federal Title IV student financial assistance and tuition waivers will not be available for certificate students. Please note that courses offered through GP IDEA are not eligible for NDSU tuition waivers.

Admission Requirements

To apply for this graduate certificate program, click the link below to start the application process. You will be required to fill out a request for information form which sets up your login information to complete the application form. The application fee is $35.

The deadline to apply is one month before the beginning of the semester you choose to begin. 

Fall Semester = Begins the third week in August.
Spring Semester = Begins the second week in January.
Summer Semester = Begins the second week in May.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the Graduate School’s required application requirements, submit a statement of purpose indicating reasons for pursuing graduate study, specifying your special interests within your chosen discipline and including your background preparation in that area. Mention any relevant skills or experience you have acquired. In addition, be sure to address the following, in 500 words or less:

  • How your interest in this field developed.
  • Why you chose our program at NDSU.
  • The experiences you have had (e.g. informal, academic, employment, volunteer) that you see as related to this graduate program or your professional goals.
  • What your professional goals are and how this graduate program will help you accomplish your professional goals.

Contact Information

NDSU Department of Human Development and Family Science  |  Youth Development Program
Phone: (701) 231-8269

NDSU GP IDEA Coordinator

NDSU Graduate School
Phone: (701) 231-5945


Frequently Asked Questions

How long are the online Youth Development Graduate Certificate programs?
In either of the online certificate programs, a student can finish in two semesters.

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 certificate options have no practicum or thesis requirements.

Which university will I receive my graduate certificate 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 Graduate Certificates cover a subset of courses that are in the master’s program. If you are interested in the online certificate program and decide to continue on to the online master’s program the courses you take for the certificate program will apply.

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 one course (the 3-credit Foundations 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 Non-degree students cannot be registered until a couple weeks before the semester in order to allow students in the program to register.

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 NDSU’s GP IDEA campus coordinator. Students will need work with their advisor to identify the classes they should register for and then register for those classes as soon as possible since class sizes are limited.

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