Online Master’s Degree in Youth Development

Youth development is a field dedicated to providing social, moral, and emotional support for adolescents, generally through organized programs. In practice, individuals in this field often work to help at-risk youth reach their full potential by offering opportunities for leadership, community involvement, and engagement in healthy activities. A masters degree in youth development is a good fit for current human services and non-profit employees who work with youth and want to qualify for new leadership roles, as well as career changers who want to transition into this occupation. Since many people who pursue graduate study are working professionals, universities have begun offering online masters programs in youth development so that busy adults can log in to their courses at any time of the day.

An online masters degree program in youth development typically requires two years to complete. However, program length of an online masters degree in youth development may differ depending on the number of credits required, whether the student attends part time or full time, and whether a student brings any applicable transfer credits into the program from previously completed graduate work. While some programs can be completed entirely online with no campus visits, others require students to visit campus for group activities or special projects.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Youth Development

Courses in an online masters degree program in youth development are focused on building a student’s leadership skills in working with adolescents and teaching students the most relevant youth development theories and best practices. Students also learn how to create effective youth development programs and measure their success and impact. Grant writing and research skills are also cultivated in such programs. While required courses may differ greatly from school to school, a few courses you may come across in your program include:

  • Community Youth Development
  • Contemporary Youth Issues
  • Program Design, Evaluation, and Implementation
  • Youth in Cultural Contexts
  • Federal and State Policies that Impact Youth Development

Major projects that are common in an online master’s program in youth development include internships and research projects, sometimes called capstone projects. Internships take place at an organization in a student’s community that’s primary focus is youth development. Students conduct supervised youth development activities, observe professionals who work in the field, and gain vital hands-on experience in the field. Capstone projects, on the other hand, allow students the opportunity to design programming and an implementation plan for a real-world youth development organization, drawing from what they have learned throughout their program.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Youth Development

Those who graduate from master’s programs in youth development often seek management positions in national youth-focused non-profit organizations, such as 4-H or the Boys and Girls Club; faith-based nonprofits that focus on youth; community-based non-profits that work with youth coming out of juvenile correction system; community recreation programs; or in social work or human services. Job titles might include youth development center field instructor, youth services specialist, youth development educator, youth director, program director, and youth recreation specialist, according to a sampling of careers posted on national job boards. While many of these jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree could give you an edge over other applicants for top-level jobs in a competitive job market.

Although job growth figures for youth workers are not specifically tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are some indications that career prospects could be positive in the non-profit realm. Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Civil Society Studies released a report that stated the nation’s non-profit sector has continued to add jobs in the past 10 years despite two recessions. In fact, non-profit organizations represent one of the largest employers among all U.S. industries, coming in third behind retail trade and manufacturing. A recent article in Nonprofit Quarterly reported that 43% of non-profits polled in an annual Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey responded that they will increase staff size in 2012.


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