Youth development

This youth development program prepares you for a career in helping today's youth transition into adulthood. It uses a strengths-based curriculum to provide human and family service workers with research and professional skills that support youth to make them socially, emotionally, and cognitively competent adults.

  • Master's degree. The Master of Family and Consumer Sciences - Youth Development is the only online degree of its kind that focuses solely on the skills to serve today's young people. 36 credits.
  • Youth Development Specialist Graduate Certificate. 13 credits.
  • Youth Program Management and Evaluation Graduate Certificate. 13 credits.

Check out the Youth Development handbook for more information.

Why study youth development?

An MFCS with Youth Development specialization or graduate certificate in youth development will benefit:

  • Elementary, middle, and high school educators
  • Extension educators
  • Military youth specialists
  • Any service providers or practitioners working directly with youth

Increasing demand

There is an increasing demand for employees of youth-serving organizations to obtain graduate degrees, certificates, and/or licensure. The Youth Development program offered as part of the Great Plains IDEA is a recognized leader in professional development and advanced degrees in youth development.

Diverse career opportunities

Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Faith-based groups
Community recreation
Juvenile justice facilities
Extension services
Military youth programs
Middle and high school programs

Financial and professional benefits

Generally, professionals with a master's degree can request a higher wage than those holding a graduate certificate. The graduate certificate can be used for continuing education credits or a career ladder opportunity. A graduate certificate can also be used to supplement a master's degree in another field.

About the program

University partnerships

Iowa State is a member of Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP-IDEA), a consortium of universities that have come together to offer fully online degree programs. Youth Development through Iowa State University and the partnership of Great Plains IDEA means you interact with leading faculty nationwide.

Download the Youth Development flyer.


Master's program

The Master of Family and Consumer Sciences with Youth Development specialization consists of 36 credits:

  • 9 required courses, 25 credits (8 three-credit courses and 1 one-credit course)
  • 5 or more credits of either the research project or internship
  • Remaining credits as electives

The following are the courses offered:

  • YTH 501: Foundations of Youth Development (professional development seminar)
  • YTH 510: Adolescents and Their Families
  • YTH 520: Community Youth Development
  • YTH 530: Youth in Cultural Contexts
  • YTH 540: Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research
  • YTH 550: Youth Policy
  • YTH 580: Administration and Program Management
  • YTH 585: Program Design, Evaluation, and Implementation
  • YTH 634: Youth Development
Research Project or Internship

5 or more credits of either the research project or internship; coordinated with major professor.


The 8 elective hours consist of:

  • Topics in Contemporary Youth Issues (various topics)
  • Other relevant classes offered by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University
  • In rare cases, other relevant adviser-approved graduate classes

Youth Development Great Plains IDEA Course Planner

Youth Development Specialist Graduate Certificate

This certificate provides graduate students the ability to systematically acquire knowledge, skills, and training in best practices related to youth development. This certificate focuses on developmental issues of youth from a positive developmental framework. It is meant to provide service providers with an understanding of the developmental tasks and contemporary issues of youth.

Requirements (13 credits total):

  • One required course – YOUTH 501: Foundations of Youth Development (One credit)
  • 12 credits taken from the list of three-credit courses below:
    • YTH 510: Adolescents and Their Families
    • YTH 520: Community Youth Development
    • YTH 530: Youth in Cultural Contexts
    • YTH 550: Youth Policy
    • YTH 570: Topics in Contemporary Youth Issues (various courses)
    • YTH 634: Youth Development

Youth Development Great Plains IDEA Course Planner

Management and Evaluation Graduate Certificate

This certificate  provides graduate students the ability to systematically acquire knowledge and skills needed to competently evaluate programs for youth from a positive development framework. It provides service providers with the ability to scientifically evaluate programs they provide to youth and their families.

Requirements (13 credits total):

  • One required course – YTH 501: Foundations of Youth Development (One credit)
  • 12 credits taken from the list of three-credit courses below:
    • YTH 540: Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research
    • YTH 550: Youth Policy
    • YTH 570: Contemporary Youth Issues (various courses)
    • YTH 580: Administration and Program Management
    • YTH 585: Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation

Youth Development Great Plains IDEA Course Planner

Non-degree credits

You may take up to nine graduate credit hours as a non-degree seeking student before being formally admitted to the program. If you are interested in taking courses as a non-degree student, please start with the Admissions Office and contact

What do students have to say?

Check out some of the comments from a 2012 survey of graduates of the GP-IDEA MFCS programs.

"I have the same position, but an increased salary as a result of my degree."

"I was able to enter a tenure-track position on completion of my masters, changing my academic rank from Adjunct Instructor to Assistant Professor."

"This program has allowed several doors to open for me. I am a professor at the local junior college, and I have my own youth development summer program for 100 children in the local area involving agriculture and where their food comes from."

"This degree program played a significant role in my ability to make a case to be promoted to senior staff status within my organization. My promotion was approved and I will receive an additional $2,500 raise this fall and new title. "

"I fully support this program and what it does for working professionals."

"I have taken many skills from this program and developed my own YD program in my area. My program has been very successful and have a wait list every summer. This summer will be five years I have been directing my own summer program."

"This was an excellent program. Thank you!"

"I have repeatedly recommended this program to colleagues. I appreciate the rigor, flexibility and general course quality."

"Thanks to all the professors that have worked so hard to put this program together. My education is still on the forefront of where youth development programs are in our society. I was one of the first 6 students to graduate from this program."