Canada Economic Development Graduate Programs & Schools

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.

No matter the students’ experience and background, many economic development graduate programs require students to have completed some coursework in areas such as economics (beginning and intermediate micro- and macro-economic theory, for example), calculus (don’t fear!), and matrix algebra with satisfactory grades. Students who don’t have classes like these under their belts may be required to take them before being official accepted into a program. The specific prerequisites of a program vary by program level (certificate, master’s, or doctorate) and school.  

What Skills Might I Develop in an Economic Development Graduate Program?

Economic development is a field that requires knowledge and practical application. As such, many programs teach students how to read and comprehend academic research in the field and use that information (along with their own research) to affect change and address practical economic development issues. Within that context, many programs may teach students how to think and act in the following areas:

  • Economic theory and practical application: having knowledge and appreciation for various theories and knowing how to apply them to real-world situations 
  • Communication: communicating effectively with diverse groups of people through skilled oral and written means
  • Research: Conducting research and using research tools to affect change; knowing how to use research to influence public policy
  • Specialization: having a specialization that enables them to understand and influence a particular component of economic development

Through their programs, students may develop skills like these and others and discover how to apply them to governmental, academic, international, business, and other contexts and settings.  

What Will I Likely Study in Economic Development Graduate Programs?

Economic development graduate programs typically draw from a range of disciplines such as political science, economics, history, sociology, business, and others. Within these disciplines, students might study subjects such:

  • Public policy
  • Political economy
  • Government (local, national, and international)
  • Development (community, regional, rural, and urban, for example)
  • Economics (essentials, principles and theories, and specific types like development and business economics)
  • City planning (land use, collective choice, and community building and organizing, for example)
  • Statistics
  • Finances (reporting and fund-raising, for example)
  • Corporate climate and culture
  • Ethics

Programs typically deliver curricula covering these and other topics through a collection of core and elective coursework. Students who pursue a certificate, master’s, or PhD in economic development may also pursue a concentration or specialization in areas such as environmental design, public policy, urban economics, tourism, or international political economy.

What Graduate-Level Degrees May I Pursue in Economic Development?

There are three primary types of graduate-level programs in economic development:

  • Certificate programs
  • Master’s degree programs
  • Doctorate degree programs

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs generally consist of three to five courses that students take over the course of one year. They typically provide a framework for thinking about economic development and give an overview of its applications and implications. Some programs cover more specific subjects such as current trends or economic development as it relates to sustainability, tourism, urban development, and other areas. To browse graduate certificate programs in economic development, you may refine your search using our search tool.

The Master’s Degree in Economic Development

The master’s in economic development degree may simply be called the Master of Art or the Master of Science in Economic Development, or it might be called something such as:

  • The Master of Art or Science in Community Development
  • The Master of Art or Science in Global Development
  • The Master of Art or Science in Political Economy
  • The Master of Art or Science in Urban Studies

These are just some of the many expressions of the master’s degree in economic development.

In many cases, students earn their master’s degree in economic development through two years of fulltime study. They complete a collection of core and elective courses and may concentrate their studies in a particular area. To conclude their programs, students typically complete a capstone project (which may be a thesis or community-based project), take a comprehensive exam, and, in some programs, participate in an internship.

Master’s degree programs in economic development often help professionals pursue or enhance their careers in public, private, and non-profit organizations of all sizes.

The Doctorate Degree in Economic Development

The Doctor of Economic Development is a research-intensive degree that students pursue over the course of five to six years. To earn their degree, students complete core and elective courses. Core coursework typically covers the essentials of economic development, and elective courses typically enable students to specialize their studies according to their research interests and career goals. Specializations at the doctorate level may include areas such as international economic development, public finance and policy, research, or others. Doctorate students in economic development typically conclude their programs by writing and defending a dissertation or completing a capstone project. They may also take a comprehensive exam, engage in an internship, or student-teach at a college or university.

The Doctorate of Economic Development degree typically gives students advanced knowledge, research skills, and, in some cases, applied training in economic development. Many students emerge from their programs ready to pursue careers in management or academia (as researchers or instructors, for example).

How May I Find an Economic Development Graduate Program?

You may begin your Economic Development Graduate Programs search right here. Browse our listings below to explore a variety of graduate-level economic development programs or use our search tool to the left to refine your options. Using our search tool, you may browse by program level (certificate, doctorate, or masters), program format (hybrid, online, or campus), or location (city, state, or country). Through our website, you may compare program intentions, costs, duration, and more. You may also request additional Economic Development Graduate Programs information. We wish you luck on your journey!


Sources: [i] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_development | [ii] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_development

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