Online Masters Degree in Community Development

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About the Community Development Program

The online M.S. or M.A. in Community Development is designed for community economic development officials, community leaders, practitioners, specialists nationwide who are already employed in the field, and for those who are committed to people and places. The degree equips students with the tools necessary to build communities for the 21st Century. It provides the skills, information and networks needed to facilitate sustainable and prosperous community change. Graduates will be prepared to initiate social action processes and help to maintain balance to improve social economic cultural and environmental situations.

Community development training is essential because it:

  • Initiates social action processes and helps to maintain balance to improve social, economic, cultural and environmental situations.
  • Encourages people to see the whole picture.
  • Engages citizens in democratic decision-making and action.
  • Teaches critical thought, ethical consideration, careful planning and involvement of all stakeholders.

Program Structure and Curriculum

The program requires a total of 36 credit hours, including 16 credits (six courses) of core curriculum, 15 credits in two of the four track areas, and up to six credits of thesis. The four track areas include building economic capacity, natural resource management, working with native communities, and non-profit leadership. Students must also complete a thesis or culminating experience as part of their degree requirements.

The online M.S. or M.A. in Community Development is offered through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA). For more information the Great Plains IDEA consortium and this program, visit

Community Development Online Master's Degree Sample Plan of Study

Required Core Courses:
    Elective Tracks:

    Choose 15 elective credits from at least two of the following Tracks.

    Building Economic Capacity

    Natural Resource Management

    Working with Native Communities

    Non-profit Leadership

    Elective Courses:

    Additional Courses: (3 CREDITS)

    Total Credits: 36

    Careers and Outlook


    According to Zippia, "between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 13% and produce 52,200 job opportunities across the US." This goes along with the outlook provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also projects 13% growth. The average growth for all occupations in the US is estimated around 7%. Community developers and planners will be needed in new and existing communitites as they require development and the constant upkeep of infrastructure, schools, parks and more.

      What Can You Do with a Master's Degree in Community Development?

      Graduates of the Community Development programs are well-suited to enter impactful roles in government service, public policy, youth development, education, community advocacy, and health care services. In these industries, you will find yourself equipped to lead and make meaningful change in areas such as:

      • Community and regional planning
      • Economic development and entrepreneurship
      • Community health and wellness
      • Anti-poverty programs
      • Cooperative extension
      • Housing and infrastructure
      • Non-profit organizations
      • Parks and recreation
      • Natural resource management
      • Public administration
      • Applied Sociology
      • Tribal, immigrant, refugee, and youth programs

      Partnership with Great Plains IDEA

      The online M.A. or M.S. in Community Development is offered through a partnership with the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP IDEA). GP IDEA is a consortium of 19 public universities from across the United States, offering online degree and certificate programs in human sciences and agriculture. Through GP IDEA, students are able to take courses from any of the partner universities that all count towards their degree at their home institution. For the online Community Development program, four universities collaborate to provide an interdisciplinary curriculum covering a wide range of skill-building topics, giving you the opportunity to customize your degree experience to meet your goals and advance your career.

      The courses in this program are taught by the same instructors which teach on campus at the participating universities. Curriculum is specially adapted for the online environment to ensure students receive the same quality education as they would experience on campus. Course schedules are determined by the teaching institution, but do not have set class times, allowing students to access course content when it is convenient for them. Students meet deadlines as outlined by the instructor, and interact with instructors and other students through e-mail, chats, discussion boards, and other interactive methods. Students must have access to a computer, e-mail, and the Internet.

      Graduate Faculty

      A list of graduate faculty for this online program 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.


      To apply for this degree program, click the link below to start the application process. The application fee is $35.

      Degree applicants applying for Fall semester entry into the master’s program must submit a complete application to the Graduate School by May 1st. Applicants applying for Spring semester entry into the master’s program must submit a complete application to the Graduate School by September 15th.

      The application process includes completing the following:

      • Online application and fees
      • Statement of purpose
      • Three letters of recommendation
      • Transcripts
      • Test scores

      Contact Information

      NDSU Department of Sociology and Anthropology
      Phone: (701) 231-8657

      NDSU GP IDEA Coordinator
      Phone: (701) 231-6404

      NDSU Graduate School
      Phone: (701) 231-5945

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