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Certificate in Community Development


If you are a person who cares about people and places, the program is for you! The certificate in Community Development provides a grounding in the evidence-based practice of community development defined as: Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, human 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. [1] The Community Development program is delivered through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA). The master’s degree and graduate certificate are offered in collaboration with University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Kansas State University, Iowa State University and North Dakota State University. 

This program is intended for students already working in the field and is designed to provide them with access to cutting-edge practice and research. The program also includes components to assist students in connecting with existing networks and professional organizations to support their practice and to link them to new and emerging practices that may benefit their work. 

The field of community development is broadly defined to include employment in government, education, nonprofits, agencies and organization in the private sector, and those working in areas such as housing, economic development, business, health/wellness, local foods and arts-related development. Employers now show a preference for graduate education related to the field of community development. More specifically, a graduate certificate in community development is ideal for professionals working in additional areas such as:

  • Anti-poverty programs
  • Applied sociology
  • Community, regional and local planning departments
  • Cooperative extension services
  • Natural resource management
  • Non-profit organizations focusing on community enhancement
  • Parks and recreation
  • Public administration
  • Tribal programs

Personalizing Your Program

If you want to use your talents in working with people and places to make a difference by solving important and challenging problems, this program could be right for you. You don’t have to have an undergraduate major in Sociology, Planning or Community Development to succeed; this program is accessible to people from a wide variety of other undergraduate backgrounds. Additional information, including admissions criteria, course descriptions, topic lists, program plans of study and cost to attend is available on the Community Development Certificate program page.

Study anytime anywhere!

All courses in the Community Development Certificate are available online. 

Program Structure

The SDSU Certificate in Community Development is an online program consisting of four 3-credit, online classes:

  • CD - 601 - Organizing for Community Change - 3 credits
  • CD - 605 - CDI Principles and Strategies - 3 credits
  • CD Electives - 6 credits

Relation to the M.S. in Sociology: Community Development Specialization Program

For those who want to develop additional community development expertise, the Certificate program flows naturally into the M.S. in Community Development program. CD 601 and 605 are core courses in the M.S. in Community Development, meaning that those who complete the certificate already have a good start on getting their Masters Degree!

GPIDEA Partnership

This program is offered through SDSU's partnership with the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA). Collaborative, multi-institutional online programs expand and diversify your educational opportunities. Courses led by instructors from partner universities and interactions with geographically-dispersed students will broaden your perceptions and knowledge. Learn more about GPIDEA

Program Contact

Paul Markel
School of Psychology, Sociology & Rural Studies
Hansen Hall 029

SDSU GPIDEA Coordinator

Aimee Maher
Phone: 605-688-4154

SDSU Graduate Admissions

Phone: 605-688-4181