Graduate Degree and Certificate Programs in Community Development

Students and working professionals who are interested in community development have two very specific options at the higher education level: a graduate degree and a graduate certificate. Schools offering Social & Community Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Value and Difference in Obtaining a Graduate Degree and/or Certificate in Community Development

Graduate Certificate in Community Development

A graduate certificate or master's degree in community development (often found under the title 'community development and planning') prepares students to be agents of change at the local, national, and international levels and foster the betterment of society at large by specifically targeting those oft overlooked urban, ethnic, indigenous, and low-income communities the world over. While the two program outcomes are similar, the length of the programs, courses offered, and admission requirements vary. Along with a bachelor's degree in a non-specific field, the graduate certificate program in community development and planning typically requires between 12-18 credit hours of coursework in foundational and theoretical studies, along with a set number of program electives. This grad certificate can be completed in 6 months to 1 year, and the average college or university allows up to 12 credit hours to be used toward the completion of a master's degree in community development and planning. Some of the career paths taken after the completion of this program include architecture, community and regional planning, work with immigrant and refugee programs, and work in non-profit organizations.

Master's Degree in Community Development

A master's degree in community development and planning is like an expanded graduate certificate program with a more in-depth focus on interdisciplinary studies, internship and research requirements, and final assessment options like final exams, experiential research projects, and/or a graduate thesis. Program lengths are school-specific but 12 graduate course units, or up to 30 credit hours, are required for a 2-year program. Master's degree programs in community development and planning feature coursework that specifically addresses issues facing high risk youths in the community, local food insecurity, housing and neighborhood planning, and political and economic challenges to equality. Students may also add additional hours to the required minimum in order to complete a concentration in a range of fields, from public policy to community health and wellness. Professional opportunities are similar to those with a grad certificate in the same program, but there are additional options such as city planner, director of programs for organizations like Girls Inc., and director of organizational effectiveness for programs like SNAP/EBT.

Degree Program Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
Graduate Certificate in Community Development and Planning 6 months to 1 year Undergraduate Degree Public Administration
Youth Programs
Master's Degree in Community Development and Planning 2 years Undergraduate Degree Economic Specialist
Urban Planner

Admittance Requirements for a Graduate Certificate in Community Development and Planning

  • Undergrad Degree Requirements: Depending on the school, undergraduate degrees may or may not have to be in related fields.
  • GPA Requirements: For the graduate certificate, GPA requirements average between 2.8-3.0, but some schools encourage students with lower GPAs to still apply as test scores, resumes, letters of intent, and reference letters (when required) weigh heavily in the admission decision process.
  • Transcripts: Transcripts are a necessary part of the process; unofficial transcripts are often accepted while official transcripts are requested only after admission to the program.
  • Letters of Reference: Not all colleges and universities require letters of reference for graduate certificate programs, so interested students must check with their schools of interest.

Admittance Requirements for a Master's Degree in Community Development and Planning

  • Undergrad Degree Requirements: Depending on the school, undergraduate degrees may or may not have to be in related fields.
  • GPA Requirements: While 3.0 is the standard minimum GPA requirement for graduate studies admissions, multiple schools offering master's degrees in this specific program require GRE scores to be submitted for review with no stated GPA minimum.
  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts from all previous colleges and/or universities need to be included with the application; official transcripts will be required upon admission.
  • Letter of Intent: A letter of intent states what you have already done academically and what you would like to do academically and professionally within the scope of the program that you are applying for.
  • Letters of Reference: 2-3 letters of reference from those familiar with a student's academic background, professional experiences, and future potential in the program are required for admission to the average graduate program.

A master's degree or graduate certificate in community development and planning aligns a passion for justice and equality for all with an interdisciplinary curriculum and direct community engagement to advance a student's professional and academic career. These graduate programs go beyond community development projects by digging deep and analyzing the root causes of socioeconomic disparity, repairing the cracks that vulnerable populations often fall through and actively managing transformative projects in order to foster sustainable communities.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Walden University

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    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

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  • Liberty University

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    Popular programs at Liberty University:

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  • Strayer University

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    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master

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  • Purdue University Global

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    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    • Master

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    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Master

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  • Saint Leo University

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    Popular programs at Saint Leo University:

    • Master

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  • Northcentral University

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  • Vanderbilt University

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    • Tennessee: Nashville