Online Community Development Master's Degree and Graduate Certificate

Program Summary
Cost per credit hour:

2020-2021: $590

Coursework can be completed in:
Master's degree: 24 months or less
Graduate certificate:
6-12 months

36 Hours

12 Hours

For those committed to people and place

The Great Plains IDEA Community Development master’s degree or graduate certificate is offered 100% online and will empower and equip you to be a changemaker in your community or organization.  This program is diverse, just like our profession.  With flexibility in course selection, you can create a program that feeds your passion.

This graphic is celebrating the community development program's anniversary. For 15 years they've been teaching and learning online with project-based, high-quality curriculum, and creating tangible change in communities. There is a photo of a street fair in the mountains.

What is community development?

Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, equality, economic opportunity, and social justice, through the organization, education, and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings. (As adopted by IACD, CDS, and NACDEP.) 

Learn more about how faculty and students leverage a community's assets to make change.

Join us at the Annual
CDS Conference



FAQs for
Community Development



Community Development
Student Handbook

CDS conference save-the-date message for the 2021 annual conference to be held July 10-14 in Fargo, ND.

In this video, a current student explains why this program is helping him reach his goals as a park ranger for the National Parks Service.

What can I do with this degree?

A master’s degree or graduate certificate in community development is ideal for current and aspiring professionals 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

In this video, a graduate of the program explains how the project-based curriculum provided her the opportunity to become a changemaker in her community.

Read about how the flexibility of this program benefits a high school history teacher.

Am I right for this program?

This program is perfect for those who:

  • Enjoy working with others to find solutions to local or regional problems.
  • Are passionate about working in urban neighborhoods, rural areas, or tribal communities.
  • Seek to better understand how global issues are tied to specific places.
  • Volunteer in communities and want to be even more effective.
  • Desire to lead change that improves the quality of life in communities.
  • Already work with communities and want to enhance your skills, knowledge, and credentials by earning a graduate certificate or degree.
  • Are new to the profession and seek to gain expertise to help you be most effective.

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In this video, community development professor emeritus Dr. Gary Goreham explains the characteristics a student needs to be successful in this program.

Degree and certificate titles vary by university.  Download the Community Development Student Handbook (PDF) to see a list.

A master's degree for community leaders, practitioners, and those working to help communities and regions build their capacity for an inclusive, sustainable future. The program has six core courses leaving you with six elective choices to create a custom degree program.

Course List for Master's Degree

The graduate certificate is offered by Kansas State University, North Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University. The certificate includes two core courses and your choice of two elective courses.

Course List for Graduate Certificate

University Contact
These campus coordinators can help you navigate Great Plains IDEA. Click on the university name to learn more about how Great Plains IDEA works at that campus. Casey Smith
Rachel Ohmes
Melissa Selders-Ortez
Aimee Maher
Dan Cotton
University Members
Members of the Great Plains IDEA are universities accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Member universities recruit, admit and graduate students, teach in an academic program and contribute to the leadership and maintenance of the alliance. Membership in the alliance is a selective process that engages institutional leadership at all levels.

Andrew Carl on duty as a park rangerThe Great Plains IDEA community development program has helped me become a better leader as a park ranger for the National Park Service. The skills I have gained empower me to bring colleagues and community members together toward positive change.

– – Andrew Carl, Community Development Student,
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