Master's Degrees in International Development: Online & Campus-Based

Find out what courses you'd take in a master's degree program in international development, and explore some potential concentration areas for your degree. Review practical and hands-on components to this program, like study abroad. Check the prerequisites for enrollment, and learn about online degree program options in this field. Read about some career opportunities related to international development. Schools offering International Business degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Do I Earn This Degree Online?

Several international development degree programs allow many or all of their graduate courses to be taken online. Therefore, you can earn this degree while located anywhere on the globe, which is suited to working development professionals. Wherever you are, you will need a viable computer and sufficient Internet connectivity to access course materials and assignments. Using the course's website and course management software, such as Blackboard, students upload papers, discuss issues with peers and take exams. Typically, courses are asynchronous to allow greater flexibility in a variety of time zones, and communication with professors is conducted by e-mail.

Online Availability Fully online programs are available and can be accessed from any location in the world; must have a computer with Internet connection
Common Courses Development management, project monitoring and evaluation, quantitative analysis, leadership, economics
Other Requirements In-person practicum, language study, travel abroad or internship may be available
Prerequisites Prerequisite coursework, such as calculus, economics, and statistics, is required; 3-5 years of relevant work experience may be required
Possible Careers Project manager, technical expert, researcher
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 14% growth (for management analysts)
Median Salary (2018) $83,610 (for management analysts)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

As an international development graduate student, you will take courses in political science, public health and sociology. The primary focus is on economics. Master's courses blend theory and practice to support you whether you're a development professional seeking to move into a leadership position or whether you're wishing to pursue research in a Ph.D. program. In addition to demonstrating the multidisciplinary nature of the field, core courses in international development reflect an emphasis on economics, analysis and leadership:

  • Organizational leadership and management
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Advanced microeconomics and macroeconomics
  • Ethnic conflict
  • Knowledge and education for development
  • Sustainable human development
  • Monitoring and evaluating development projects

Various course tracks prepare you to work, make policy or do research in your area of concern. Specialized track options include:

  • Environmental management and policy
  • Development management
  • Global health and development
  • Peace and conflict resolution
  • Human development
  • Applied economics

What Hands-On Studies Might I Do?

Beyond coursework, your graduate studies probably include practicums, language studies and internships. For example, at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, international development students engage in 6-month study and research projects that culminate in a 2-week visit to a developing nation, most recently to El Salvador. These practicums allow you to pose a development research issue, collect data and interview agency directors and development project participants in a host country. Practicum experience can lead to internship opportunities working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Are There Prerequisites?

Because this field permits many specializations, applicants from diverse educational backgrounds apply. Master's students must have the prerequisite courses necessary to take graduate classes in their area of specialization. You can't take a graduate economics course, for example, without having taken beginning and intermediate economics classes. Furthermore, many programs are research-intensive and require students to interpret quantitative data. At some schools, statistics is a prerequisite. Others integrate statistics into the program.

Particularly if the specialization you choose is economics-intensive, the following courses may be prerequisites or strong recommendations:

  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus
  • Statistics
  • Linear algebra

In most cases, 3-5 years of development work experience is either required or preferred. Master's programs in international development might appeal to those who have served in the Peace Corps or worked in other aid organizations and who have decided to commit to international development as a career.

What Career Options Are Available?

While there are many international development and aid organizations, the international development news and business website Devex explains that there are basically three types of positions in the field. Technical experts, project managers and researchers account for most entry-level through executive positions. Understanding these essential job categories can help you position yourself for the international development career for which you're best suited.

Technical experts have demonstrated expertise in areas that include water sanitation, irrigation, judicial reform and public health. They commonly work for specific projects sponsored by organizations such as the World Bank or the U.S. Agency for International Development. Language skills, advanced technical ability and significant experience are typically required for these projects, which are often located in post-conflict areas.

Project managers don't need the same technical expertise. They coordinate the efforts of professionals involved in development projects. As a project manager working for a non-governmental organization, you can build technical experience. Researchers generally work in think tanks and examine issues and policies that affect international development. Though based in the capital cities of the world, researchers often perform short-term field research projects in developing countries.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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