For students interested in understanding, developing, and enacting economic development while also keeping the interests and well-being of people and communities in mind, economic development graduate programs prove an enticing option. Economic development degree programs—whether at the graduate certificate, master’s, or doctorate level—help students develop knowledge in economics, public policy, community development, and other fascinating subjects as they pertain to economic development and helping communities thrive.
As a discipline and practice, economic development essentially comprises the processes and policies by which a government and other entities improve the economic, social, and political well-being of people. It is a “policy intervention endeavor” that utilizes public policy initiatives (locally, nationally, and globally) to affect change.[i] Economic development has been around for centuries with titles such as modernization, westernization, and industrialization.[ii]
In economic development graduate programs, students engage in an exploration of economic development’s historical contexts, present-day applications, and future goals. They may also learn how to apply theory to practice through workshops, case-studies, and internships. Through their programs, students pursue the knowledge and skillset they need to contribute to the social, economic, and political health of communities.
Who Pursues a Graduate-Level Economic Development Degree?
Because it is a broad field, people across all types of disciplines and occupations may pursue a graduate degree in economic development. Many prospective economic development graduate students have bachelor’s degrees in disciplines such as political science, international affairs, economics, sociology, anthropology, business, or mathematics. With concern for the environmental health of our planet on the rise, they might even have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, engineering, or architecture and use their advanced degree in economic development to develop communities sustainably. Students in economic development programs might have established careers in their disciplines, or they might just be getting started. These and many other types of programs and experience may prepare students for an economic development graduate degree program.