Community Development Degrees by Degree Program Level

See various levels of degree programs that are related to community development. The sections below highlight educational prerequisites, program coursework and popular career options.

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Essential Information

Community development is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates politics, economics and cultural diversity. Individuals can participate in undergraduate and graduate degree programs that prepare them for public, private and nonprofit managerial or academic career positions. Bachelor's degree programs provide a foundation of human services principles. Master's and Ph.D. programs continue these principles at more in-depth and advanced levels, and they include extensive research methodologies as well as dissertation and fieldwork requirements.


Bachelor's Degree in Community Development

Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in community development learn methods to build up and sustain communities. Community development degree programs emphasize communication and leadership skills for working within groups and in multicultural settings. Students are instructed in governmental, political and economic structures and policies. The skills learned prepare students for work in multiple sectors in the human services area, such as health, housing or economic development.

Program Coursework

In addition to general education requirements for a bachelor's degree program, coursework within a community development program introduces students to fundamental principles of human service and community growth, such as:

  • Government and politics
  • Community settings and structures
  • Community development methods and theories
  • Economic development in community
  • Intercultural and interpersonal communication

Popular Career Options

Graduates with a bachelor's degree are prepared to enter into junior-level positions, such as assisting in organizing a community health clinic. With a few years of experience in community development, individuals are capable of holding managerial duties, including running a community youth center. Listed below are a few examples of career positions:

  • Program associate
  • Development manager
  • Grant coordinator

Master in Community Development

A Master in Community Development prepares students for addressing issues and creating plans for areas, including housing or economic development. Community development graduate programs allow students to choose a concentration track, such as economic, land use, health, social justice or environment. In the spirit of community development, students in graduate programs are required to fulfill an internship or fieldwork in an area of interest.

Educational Prerequisites

Individuals interested in enrolling in a master's program in community development should hold a bachelor's degree. Students need to demonstrate their desire and dedication to pursuing a public service career in a letter of intent. Most master's programs in community development require individuals to submit GRE scores.

Program Coursework

Along with an internship or fieldwork, students are exposed to more advanced topics related to community development. These courses might be found in a Master of Community Development program:

  • Community development financing
  • Public policy
  • Planning methods and theories
  • Leadership and community involvement
  • Community development research methods

Career Outlook and Salary Info

Holding a master's degree in community development provides individuals with the education and training to enter into senior-level positions. A graduate could become an executive director for workforce development in a nonprofit organization.

  • Executive director
  • Chief development officer
  • Special events manager

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the number of positions for social and community service managers was projected to increase 27% between 2010 and 2020. While some professionals in this field can find work after earning a bachelor's degree, employers often look for managers with a master's degree. According to the BLS, social and community service managers earned a median of $59,970 per year in 2012.

Ph.D. in Community Development

Ph.D. degree programs in community development are interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from a number of subjects, such as education, law, business and communication. Most Ph.D. programs are research-based with an intended goal of completing a dissertation project. While there are core course requirements, most community development Ph.D. programs allow students a level of flexibility to shape research and studies to their interests and career goals. This flexibility might include the student taking elective courses in law or business, or the student could use multiple research strategies for the dissertation project.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a Ph.D. program in community development should hold a master's degree, preferably in the social sciences. Some Ph.D. programs consider students from other disciplines as well as bachelor's degree holders with exceptional coursework or experience. Individuals should submit GRE scores and a written statement of intent.

Program Coursework

Students learn advanced-level research methods, math and theories that aid in the completion of a dissertation project. Listed are courses Ph.D. students might encounter:

  • Advanced statistics
  • Community development theories
  • Economic development
  • Advanced quantitative analysis
  • Community and civic involvement

Popular Career Options

Individuals holding a Ph.D. can advance to upper senior levels in governmental, academic, private and not-for-profit sectors. Positions in these areas may involve research or overseeing projects, departments or organizations that provide human services or community development resources or support. Some potential job titles include the following:

  • Regional director
  • Policy director
  • University professor
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