5 Great Degrees for Individuals Interested in Community Development

Community Development Degree

  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Social Work
  • Public Health

Community development is a a career for civic-minded and idealistic individuals who have a desire to help affect change in communities. This approach highlights the role of community members and other stakeholders in advocating for social, economic and environmental policies that benefit the community as a whole and demographic groups, families and individuals on the local level. It is a very broad field, and you have the option of studying to become a generalist or specializing in a particular aspect such as urban planning, local government and organizations or public health. There are programs of study that offer a community development focus, but you can also choose a tangentially related degree that will offer useful expertise in research, communication design, real estate development and community planning.

1. Human Development and Family Studies

Community studies begin and ends with individuals and families. A program of study that is focused on human ecology, public health issues and microeconomic solutions that affect certain demographics or geographic areas will provide a valuable perspective if you want a career in the field of community advocacies, organization and planning.

2. Sociology

Sociology is the study of factors that affect human society. You learn about social structures, developmental policies and other issues that affect how society functions. You will learn to identify social problems, understand how and why certain solutions have worked in the past and social phenomena that may indicate potential crises situations. As a sociologist, you will be suited to conduct research studies on the human condition and community structures that can serves as the basis for policy changes or the initiation of social programs that will alleviate existing social problems.

Related: Top 10 Cheap Online Sociology Degree Programs (Bachelor's)

3. Psychology

Psychology studies the science of the mind and how it affects human behavior. The focus may be on the study of the individual psyche, but many course offerings in psychology deal with crowd response and crowd behavior. Observing, documenting and analyzing this aspect of the human condition is useful when you are trying to effect changes in communities. It is important to have a clear understanding of how and what motivates individuals to behave as they do and how their behavior affects the people around them and the greater community.

4. Social Work

This is one of the traditional pathways to a career as a community advocate. You will be involved in a lot of social research, analysis of social policies and assessment of social programs. Social work graduates leave the academe equipped with the skills to do community work, including direct client contact, documentation and compilation of status reports related to individuals and communities. You would have well-developed written and verbal communication skills because of your people-focused training.

5. Public Health

The study of public health may be approached through several pathways. Students may choose to complete a health care-related degree such as nursing, medicine or dentistry with public health as a corollary focus. Undergraduate students in psychology, sociology and related programs may choose to take pubic health studies as a double major. You may also look for programs that offer a bachelor's in public health, which would provide some exposure and training in the social sciences as well as the health sciences.

There are several pathways to a career in community services, and there are as many opportunity niches in this sector. Evidently, the world will always have a need for individuals willing to dedicate their careers to helping communities, advocating for impactful change and ensuring that human society thrives regardless of sociopolitical and environmental challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics affirms this, reporting that employment for community development specialists is expected to rise by 10 percent between 2014 and 2024.