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Graduate Certificate inCommunity and Economic Development

Program summary

Learn to identify and understand the interconnections between community entities, local governments, and businesses in this online graduate certificate program. Students can use their experience to think critically about community development and change.

100% Online

Complete your Penn State course work at your own pace and 100% online.

Application deadline

Apply by November 1 to start January 13

Credits and costs

15 Credits$1,017 per credit

Gain Skills to Change Communities and Lives

  • Think critically about development and change and how it impacts community health and functions at the macro level.

  • Identify interconnections that exist within a community and measure the impact of external factors on these connections.

  • Address and create solutions for quality-of-life and development issues in neighborhoods, towns, small cities, and rural regions.

  • Evaluate the causes and consequences of economic and population change.

Your Online Graduate Certificate Course List

This 15-credit online community development certificate program introduces key concepts and practical strategies useful to those who are new to the field and those who have experience working with communities or development-related institutions and businesses.

The curriculum for the community and economic development graduate certificate consists of five 3-credit courses. The certificate program can deliver the knowledge and skills you need to address important issues in community and economic development.

The five core courses introduce the field and cover the following topics:

  • principles of community and economic development
  • community organization and decision-making
  • economic development and planning
  • population, land use, and municipal finance
  • techniques and methods of community and economic development

Required Courses (15 credits)

  • 3

    Concepts, strategies, and techniques of local economic analysis, planning, and development; decision-making exercises.

    • Prerequisite

      an introductory course in economics

  • 3

    Social organization and change in communities; use of sociological principles in analysis of community problems and development.

    • Prerequisite

      6 credits in rural sociology, sociology, or psychology

  • 3

    Understanding theories, concepts, and frameworks of community and economic development and community decision-making models in application to community development practice and issues.

  • 3

    Understanding the interaction of population characteristics, land use, municipal funds, and taxation in a locality and how they impact the operation and management of government jurisdictions.

  • 3

    Understanding and applying methods and hands-on experience with techniques used in community and economic development.

If you are interested in entering the graduate degree program, visit the Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development program page.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Start or Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Learn more about this program

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by November 1 to start January 13. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,017 per credit
12 or more$12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,027 per credit
12 or more$12,325 per semester

Paying for Your Certificate

Students pursuing a certificate are considered "nondegree," a status that is not eligible for federal student aid, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan program. A private alternative loan may be an option to consider.

Additionally, Penn State offers many ways to pay for your education, including an installment plan and third-party payments. Penn State World Campus also offers an Employer Reimbursement and Tuition Deferment Plan. Learn more about the options for paying for your education.

Students pursuing a degree and meeting all other eligibility requirements may qualify for financial aid.

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

To view the detailed list of cost of attendance elements, select “World Campus” as the location on the tuition site.

A Head Start toward a Master’s Degree

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Not only can this program help create opportunities in your career, it can also give you a solid head start toward a full master’s degree.

Degree Program Related to This Certificate

Penn State offers two online programs in community and economic development for professionals seeking to enhance their knowledge and skills, and for those interested in a new career in community and economic development.

This program explores theoretical concepts and their practical application in the real world, and is targeted to those who work and/or volunteer in neighborhoods, towns, small cities, and rural regions. Students interested in the master's degree program should contact [email protected].

Some or all credits earned for this certificate can be applied to the following Penn State World Campus degree program:

Gain the skills needed to navigate the connections between community entities, local governments, and businesses. Incorporating theory, research, and personal experiences, this community development program can help you advance in your career and improve the lives of those around you.

Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development

Who Should Apply?

If you currently work with, or are interested in working with, communities and community organizations and stakeholders or on a range of community and economic development issues at the local, regional, or national levels, this program is for you.

Set Your Own Pace

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Whether you are looking to finish your program as quickly as possible or balance your studies with your busy life, Penn State World Campus can help you achieve your education goals. Many students take one or two courses per semester.

Our online courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). If you plan to take a heavy course load, you should expect your course work to be your primary focus and discuss your schedule with your academic adviser. 

To Finish Your Certificate in One Year

  • Take 2 courses each semester 

To Finish Your Certificate in Two Years

  • Take 1 course each semester


Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

Information for Military and Veterans

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Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, and application instructions.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by November 1 to start January 13

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by November 1 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by April 1, 2025, to start May 19, 2025
  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by June 30, 2025, to start August 25, 2025

If summer courses are not offered, admission will be deferred to a future semester.

Steps to Apply

  1. For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

    You are expected to have completed 6 credits in social sciences — preferably 3 in economics and 3 in sociology — in your undergraduate program.

  2. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

    Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

    One set of unofficial transcripts for all graduate and undergraduate course work completed at an accredited institution, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. Mail transcripts to:

    CEDEV Graduate Program
    The Pennsylvania State University
    305 Armsby Building
    University Park, PA 16802
    Email to [email protected]

    English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

    Program-Specific Questions/Materials

    Current résumé

    Statement of Interest — The online application contains an area to write this statement, which may address your reasons for pursuing the certificate program, why you feel you are a good candidate for the program, and any information you would like the admissions committee to know about you personally/professionally.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

    • Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
    • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

    Checking Your Status 
    You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

    Technical Requirements  
    Review the technical requirements for this program.

  5. 5. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

Contact Us

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Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

To learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Community and Economic Development, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
[email protected]

Administrative Coordinator
Community and Economic Development Graduate Program
305 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-865-6223
[email protected]

Learn from the Best

The graduate certificate is part of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Through its Cooperative Extension services and Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, Penn State contributes to theory development, research, and practice of community and economic development.

Penn State is recognized around the globe as a distinguished university because of the sterling caliber of its faculty. As a World Campus student in the community and economic development program, you can learn from the same faculty who teach traditional, face-to-face classes on the Penn State University Park campus.

Faculty involved in the CEDEV graduate program have active research projects such as:

  • entrepreneurship success
  • implications of Marcellus shale development for families and communities
  • land-use change and implications for communities
  • rural youth out-migration and youth educational, occupational, and residential aspirations
  • sustainable farming in rural-urban transition areas
  • sustainable forests and forestry
  • telecommunications and rural development
  • the role of social capital in successful economic development
  • the role of the informal economy in rural livelihoods
  • energy conservation and low-income assistance programs

Graduate Faculty and Instructors

John Shingler, Ph.D. (Penn State) Research Associate, Co-Director of State Weatherization program Evaluation Project, CEDEV Graduate Program Coordinator and CEDEV Instructor

Charles W. Abdalla, Ph.D. (Michigan State) Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Economics

Theodore R. Alter; Ph.D. (Michigan State) Professor of Agricultural, Environmental, and Regional Economics

Daniel Azzara, Ph.D.(Penn State) Professor of Agribusiness

David Blandford, Ph.D. (Manchester) Professor of Agricultural Economics

Kathryn Brasier, Ph.D. (Wisconsin-Madison) Associate Professor of Rural Sociology

Mark Brennan, Ph.D. (Penn State) Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education and Rural Sociology

Jeffrey Bridger, Ph.D. (Penn State) Senior Scientist and CEDEV Instructor

Judy Chambers (Penn State) Extension Educator and CEDEV Instructor

Michael Fortunato, Ph.D. (Penn State) CEDEV Instructor

Leland l. Glenna, Ph.D. (Missouri) Associate Professor of Rural Sociology and Science, Technology, and Society

Stephan J. Goetz, Ph.D. (Michigan State) Professor of Agricultural and Regional Economics

Clare Hinrichs, Ph.D. (Cornell) Associate Professor of Rural Sociology

Amanda Hope, Ph.D. (West Virginia University) CEDEV Instructor

Jeffrey Hyde, Ph.D. (Purdue) Professor of Agricultural Economics

Leif Jensen, Ph.D. (Wisconsin) Professor of Rural Sociology, Demography, and Sociology

Timothy W. Kelsey, Ph.D. (Michigan) Professor of Agricultural Economics

Diane K. McLaughlin, Ph.D. (Penn State) Retired Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography

Terence Milstead, Ph.D. (Florida State University) CEDEV Instructor

Frans Padt, Ph.D. (Radboud) Senior Lecturer and CEDEV Instructor

Carolyn Sachs, Ph.D. (Kentucky) Professor of Rural Sociology

Ann R. Tickamyer, Ph.D. (North Carolina-Chapel Hill) Professor of Rural Sociology

Bradley R. Woods, Ph.D. (Penn State) CEDEV Instructor and Education Specialist

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by November 1 to start January 13. How to Apply