Best Community Development Graduate Programs

This article covers 10 of the most highly-rated graduate programs in the country for students interested in a community development degree. Learn about the program levels to make an informed decision about which school is best for you.

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Though some schools do offer a master's degree program in community development, the discipline very often falls under the broader umbrella of public affairs or urban policy. Since no formal rankings for just community development programs exist, this list draws from the 2018 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools Public Affairs ratings.

The broader field of public affairs has been chosen to include those who wish to pursue aspects of community development that are not necessarily urban (such as rural communities) or directly involve policy-making (such as community activism and organization). The public affairs department of each of these schools will likely have some manner of degree program or concentration that suits whatever a student's individual community development interests might be.

Indiana University-Bloomington

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Bloomington offers a Master of Public Affairs program with a broad range of concentrations that are relevant to community development. Some examples include sustainable development, public management, local government and policy analysis.

Syracuse University

Syracuse has highly-ranked master's degree programs in both public administration and international relations, as well as a public administration PhD program. There are also several dual-degree options at the master's level. Students who are interested in community development overseas can pursue relevant concentrations in the international relations program such as region-specific programs and humanitarian assistance.

University of Southern California

The Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC offers master's programs in a number of related disciplines such as public policy, urban planning and nonprofit management. PhD programs are available in urban planning and development as well as public policy and management. There is also an online option for the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. A number of graduate certificate programs in related fields, such as sustainable planning, public management and city management, are additionally available.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

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  • Child Care Management
  • Child Care Services
  • Child Development
  • Community Organization and Advocacy
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  • Family Systems
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Social Work
  • Youth Services

Harvard University

One of America's most prestigious universities has a very highly rated school of public affairs. The JFK School of Government has both master's and PhD programs that relate to community development. Master's options include public policy, public administration, and some dual degree options in both disciplines. Students interested in a doctoral program can enter a flexible PhD program in the general areas of economics, social policy and health policy.

Other Top Schools With Graduate Programs

The following schools round out the U.S. News & World Report top 10 in this area.

School Name Location Distinction
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Offers joint PhD options pairing public policy with sociology, economics or political science
University of California Berkeley, CA MPA program offers the option of taking electives online
University of Georgia Athens, GA Double Dawgs program allows new students to obtain a bachelor's and master's degree in 5 years or less; various public administration-related options
University of Washington (Evans) Seattle, WA Global MPA program offered in partnership with Beijing's Tsinghua University
Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ Hybrid (online and in-person executive sessions) Executive MPA program for public sector leaders
New York University (Wagner) New York, NY Highly regarded Executive MPA for Public Service Leaders program

Source: U.S. News Best Graduate Programs 2018

These schools are the cream of the crop when it comes to overall evaluation of their public affairs course content, but they're also just the tip of the iceberg in terms of graduate program possibilities for students interested in community development.

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