Online Masters in International Development: Degree Info

Dec 03, 2019

Get info about online programs in international development. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Many schools offer online master's degree programs in international development. Most of the courses are available online, and students can usually view lectures and access assignments as their schedules permit. They can communicate with instructors and classmates through online forums, chat rooms and e-mail. While most classes are online, there may be some on-campus requirements. Also, many programs call for an international work/study trip to explore the topics of study firsthand. It takes about two years to complete the requirements for this degree. To be accepted into these programs, students will need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and meet GPA requirements.

When working on a master's degree in international development, students will learn about international topics, often ethical issues, and look at case studies. Courses may cover topics such as sustainable human development, healthcare and international economics. Students may have to complete a thesis or take a final comprehensive examination.

Master's Degree in International Development

Online master's degree programs in international development examine both developing and developed nations with the goal of improving human living conditions around the world. The program combines several humanities disciplines, including economics, anthropology, global studies, public health, urban development, sociology, law and political science.

To apply, candidates usually must hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and meet a minimal GPA requirement. Applicants may need to submit a letter of intent, multiple references and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Some universities also require students to provide proof of a valid passport, since programs often require students to travel to a foreign country as part of the master's degree program coursework.

Program Information and Requirements

The majority of online master's degree programs in international development take two years to complete. The first year is usually spent examining international issues such as human rights violations, as well as looking at specific case studies in different countries. Most programs culminate with a master's thesis, in which students identify a global problem and propose measures to alleviate the issue. A few programs offer a comprehensive final examination in place of a thesis.

Most of the coursework can be taken entirely online. However, many schools do require students to travel outside of the U.S. to work and study in an international arena. These travel requirements usually take place during the summer so that students can resume regular online coursework in the fall.

Common International Development Courses

International development courses often approach global issues from an ethical perspective. They often pay particular attention to examining both the beneficial and harmful effects of technology on developing countries.

Sustainable Human Development

This course examines solutions for sustainable development, particularly among poverty-stricken areas of dense human population. Students examine the many factors needed for sustainable living in a certain area, including lower levels of crime and violence, natural resources, agricultural opportunities, education and access to birth control.

International Economics

Students explore theories behind economic world growth and the causes of extreme disparities of wealth in the U.S. and around the world. Students also examine the need for ethical economic policy making.

International Development and Health Care

Students evaluate healthcare systems in the U.S. and abroad, paying particular attention to global problems such as infant mortality rates, access to affordable care and nutrition. This course looks at the problems that are encountered when organizers try to provide healthcare to low-income communities; it also examines policy options for improving healthcare when a country is under financial and organizational strain.

Career Information

Graduates with a master's degree in international development often go into leadership positions as managers and officers at nonprofit entities. Within this field, graduates can assume a multitude of positions, such as social and community service managers who organize meetings and events, public relations specialists who help promote the nonprofit organization in the news, or administrators who help organize the day-to-day activities of their branch.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social and community service managers earned average hourly wages of $34.46 as of 2018 ( In that same year, the BLS also reports that public relations specialists within the grantmaking and giving services industry made an average hourly wage of $32.90.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates may wish to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in International Development, which can also be completed online. A Ph.D. program focuses on international development theories and prepares students for postsecondary teaching and academic research.

In summary, at the master's level, online degrees in international development will generally allow students to complete all coursework online in a two-year time period, though students should expect to have to participate in some sort of international field experience before graduating.

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