Online Youth Development Master's Degree and Graduate Certificates

The Great Plains IDEA youth development master’s degree and certificate programs are designed to provide you with research-based skills and knowledge you can use with youth across multiple settings.

We will prepare you to work with youth representing every race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, to design and administer effective youth programs, and to advocate for youth issues and pro-youth policies.

What will I learn in this program?

The Great Plains IDEA youth development program has its roots in Positive Youth Development.  Rather than focusing solely on corrective measures, a Positive Youth Development approach equips young people in the second decade of life with the skills and opportunities necessary for a successful transition into adulthood.  This approach promotes positive outcomes for all youth by recognizing their strengths, fostering positive relationships, and providing youth with opportunities to learn, lead, connect, and serve.

Watch graduate Trisha Miller explain how the flexible curriculum allowed her to pursue her passion and interests.

In this program you will:

  1. Use the Positive Youth Development approach in all interactions with youth to promote supportive relationships, youth engagement, and youth leadership.
  2. Understand developmental processes and contexts that influence youth.
  3. Apply research, theory, and evidence-based practice to support positive outcomes for youth.
  4. Promote inclusivity in practice with youth.
  5. Develop, manage, evaluate, and sustain Positive Youth Development programs (e.g., funding proposals, program design, policy/advocacy efforts, etc).  This video explains how the youth policy course empowers students to engage policymakers.

To see a list of available courses, visit our interactive Course Planner.

Listen as graduate Penny Kittle shares how the youth development program impacted her life. 

Can I be successful in an online program?

Yes, you can, and the youth development faculty and staff are here to help! You will have an academic advisor at your home university, with technical support from a campus coordinator. The faculty instructors in the youth development program work collaboratively across the seven partner universities, providing you access to a lot of knowledge and experiences, and ensuring success every step of the way.

In this video, instructor Fransisco Villarruel explains the unique commitment faculty have to this program and its students.

How will this program advance my career?

When youth professionals take part in higher education and ongoing learning, research shows that youth program quality improves.  You will learn to use more effective practices and feel more confident about your work, all of which will benefit youth.

Our graduates work with various youth-serving organizations:
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
  • Cooperative Extension services, 4-H programs
  • Missouri State Correctional Office
  • Girls, Inc.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  • Administration for Native Americans
  • AmeriCorps
  • Family and Youth Services Bureau
  • Federal Youth Court Program
  • Learn and Serve America
  • National Guard Youth Challenge Program
  • Neighborhood Networks
  • Passport in Time
  • Preserve America Stewards
  • Promise Neighborhoods
  • YouthBuild

Youth development professionals with a master’s degree are qualified to work in a wide variety of settings, both in direct practice and in program management. A master’s degree is often required for professional youth work and can be an important step for advancing in your career. 

In this video, instructor Elaine Johannes shares how youth development program students become part of a community.

Great Plains IDEA Student Handbook

Degree and certificate titles vary by university.  See the Youth Development Student Handbook (PDF) to learn more.

This online master's degree includes 36 credit hours focused on Positive Youth Development.

Course List for the Master's Degree

A graduate certificate can complement a master’s degree in a related field such as education, social work, or other human services, or provide working professionals with additional skills needed to advance their career.

Course List for the Youth Development Specialist Certificate

 A graduate certificate can complement a master’s degree in a related field such as education, social work, or other human services, or provide working professionals with additional skills needed to advance their career.

Course List for the Youth Program Management & Evaluation 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. Katie Mott
Rachel Ohmes
Meagan Rau
Melissa Selders-Ortez
Tristin Campbell
Janice Clawson
Lisa King
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.

Kathryn Holt headshotThe Great Plains IDEA program was a perfect fit for my schedule as it allowed me to work, travel, and learn on the go. The nature of the program fosters a flexible learning environment, and as a student, you have access to all the tools you need with any online portal. With multiple universities contributing to the course roster, there are numerous offerings which provide students with plenty of options to build their skillset.

– – Kathryn Holt, Dietetics Student,
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