The 5 Best Online Master of Science in Development Administration Graduate Schools in 2022

Online Master of Science in Development Administration - featured image

A country’s culture is closely linked to its administration, and administrative operations are governed by culture.

If you have the heart to help the general public and have taken an undergraduate study related to the administration fields, enrolling in an online master’s in Development Administration, Development Studies, or Development Management should be right up your alley.

With a master’s degree in this field, you become better equipped for this job. Completing this academic program qualifies you for numerous positions, including as a development planner, evaluation specialist, researcher, professor, development consultant, program coordinator, program officer, and development manager.


In Development Administration, “development” is a core concept. This discipline aims to develop strategies to help alleviate poverty and focus on social policy. It requires the most skilled, committed, and actively involved citizens in carrying out the tasks for effective development administration work.

Prospective students must learn about application deadlines and must complete prerequisite courses. Current students enrolled in this program must also learn about funding opportunities for their graduate studies.

Here are our best picks! Use these Quick Jumps:


An online MSc equips students for research-focused career tracks, which Master of Science in Development Administration graduates are expected to be adept at! If this career path is in your plans, be mindful of the program and graduate school that you choose.

Our list consists of outstanding master’s and MS programs in Development Administration, Development Management, and Development Studies that are in a league of their own, owing to these program features:

  • Delivered in an online or hybrid learning format to provide adult learners the convenience and flexibility they need to avoid disrupting their employment and other schedules while earning their MS in Development Administration degree,
  • Emphasizes the important attributes of effective communication, strong leadership, project evaluation skills, and other practical expertise needed to excel in the field,
  • Comprehensive coursework that covers advanced topics in human resource development, political science, business administration, public policy, public administration, research and funding, project management, sustainability, and international economics,
  • Curricula that prepare students for a postgraduate degree or Ph.D. studies or research-intensive work, students are exposed to influential organizations that utilize the principles of Development Administration,
  • Excellent faculty staff who hold terminal degrees in this discipline, take on leadership roles in the organizations they work in, or positively contribute to the discipline through research and published work,
  • Transfer Credit and accelerated graduate degree completion options are offered depending on the program,
  • Offers financial support to graduate students in the form of federal aid, grants, and scholarship programs, 
  • Properly accredited by academic organizations that set and uphold the governing standards of academic excellence,
  • Affiliation with Development Administration societies and similar groups that promote the discipline

Visit our Methodology page to know more about our graduate program or graduate school ranking process.

The Best Online Master of Science in Development Administration Graduate Schools and Programs

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University
Online Master of Science in Development Administration

Designed for public administrators from developing countries who want to enter careers in international development, the Master of Development Administration (MDA) program prepares candidates for jobs in development fields.

As part of this master’s program, students will study the political dimensions of development and democratization and perform research in areas including public administration, economics, computer science, business and management, social work, human resource management, and health systems.

Students in the program include public officials and administrators from developing countries who require additional training to meet new or increased responsibilities, as well as recent graduates from both developed and developing nations who want to pursue careers in government and international organizations.

  • To be considered for this program, applicants must satisfy the admission requirements.
  • It is preferred that applicants hold an undergraduate degree in the social sciences.
  • Having knowledge of economics and statistics is preferred.
  • There are some circumstances in which applicants with experience in public administration can substitute professional attainments for undergraduate education.
  • Students must maintain a GPA of 3.
  • The program can be completed in 20 months.
Standout Features of Western Michigan University – Online Ms in Development Administration: 
  • This online program includes theory and practice of development administration, exposure to development strategies, and development skills training.
  • Research scholars who reside and work in developing countries guide MDA students in their work as they become established and experienced members of the academic community. 
  • Faculty members are involved in development projects for national, international, and local governments.

American University

American University - Washington, DC
Online Master of Science in Development Management

The School of International Service under American University offers one master of science degree, the MSDM in Development Management. It also provides a unique opportunity to gain innovative management skills in the context of international development.

Students with at least two years of experience in the field are particularly well suited for the program. 

As part of building their own concentration, students will choose a topic that interests them, including environmental issues, global health, gender issues, and social entrepreneurship, to develop skills appropriate to working directly with the poor and disenfranchised.

  • When students apply for admission, scholarships and fellowships are available based on merit.
  • In order to apply, you’ll need a resume, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a bachelor’s degree, and official transcripts.
  • There are 39 to 42 credit hours required to complete the program.
  • It also requires a 6-credit individual capstone, the Management Practicum.
  • Flexible arrangements and timing options are available for MSDM students to complete their capstone in the US or abroad.
  • The program can be finished in 2 to 6 years.
Standout Features of American University – Online MS in Development Management:
  • A large concentration of the faculty teach International Development as part of the MS in Development Management program at SIS. 
  • Distinguished faculty members are known for their scholarly reputations, diversity, and combination of theory and practical experience.

Columbia University

Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs
Online Master’s in Development Studies

Columbia University offers an online master’s in development studies, a 21-month, STEM-designated degree program that combines practice-based learning with skills development, experience, and networking to make the world a better place.

  • Through the program, students develop the skills they need to advance their careers and work in public, private, and nonprofit organizations.
  • The program combines core courses with electives, skills development, and real-world practice through 3-month professional placement programs, a capstone project, and internships.
  • International applicants and international students are eligible for 24 months of additional Optional Practical Training (OPT) if they wish to, as part of international student services.
Standout Features of Columbia University- Online Master’s in Development Studies:

This online graduate program prepares you for a career in traditional development institutions. Upon graduation, you will gain numerous offers from diverse sectors and industries. These include giant private companies. 

Some Columbia University graduates have been hired by local and state authorities in the United States to assist in urban development. Graduates have also founded social enterprises and joined tech start-ups. 

William Carey International University

William Carey International University
Online Master of Arts in Development Studies

Students who complete the online master’s program in Development Studies understand how social, cultural, and religious factors have shaped global development throughout history. As a result, students are equipped to conduct research and develop programs that address modern challenges regarding development. 

Several general program paths are available, as well as options for specializations in China Studies or Global Women’s Empowerment.

  • The program can be completed in 2 to 4 years.
  • The program requires 36 credit hours for completion.
  • A total of 12 classes is required to complete this program. You can craft a program specifically for your community by choosing electives from various core classes.
Standout Features of Columbia University – Online MA in Development Studies:
  • Students are taught how to solve problems by taking a systems approach to development. As a result, people and communities can develop in a truly sustainable way and be beneficial to them.
  • To bring about transformational change, students are guided by their knowledge and learning to become informed scholar-activists.

Harvard Extension School

Harvard Extension School - Harvard Division of Continuing Education
Online Master’s Degree in Global Development Practice

Harvard Extension School offers an online master’s degree in global development practice. Through this program under the worldwide development department, students will learn to tackle different subjects such as financial models for sustainable development, human health risks, and ecological system dynamics.

By identifying and challenging assumptions, seeking alternatives, and determining solutions, students learn to engage organizations in innovative thinking and change their mindset. Global practice can also be used to leverage local knowledge. 

  • When you enroll in this program, you’ll also have the option to earn a certificate in studies like environmental policy and international development, international relations, health and society, social justice, sustainable food systems, and sustainable cities and communities.
  • Harvard Extension School admissions are primarily based on the performance you demonstrate in two specific courses you complete before applying to this online master’s program.
  • Federal financial aid is available to eligible students in addition to grant funds for covering a portion of tuition costs.
Standout Features of Harvard Extension School – Online Master’s in Global Development Practice:
  • The program utilizes a learner-centered teaching approach, which includes defining problems, interacting with stakeholders, evaluating evidence, setting priorities, and delivering action plans.
  • Students learn from and with a global network of development professionals.

Skills Needed for Development Administration Occupations

A Thorough Understanding Of Development Practice, Development Policy, and International Development Concepts

It is crucial for students to understand current practice and policy that is central to the idea of development. By presenting arguments and accurate evidence, you become better trained to analyze problems and interventions critically and constructively.

In the end, students should thoroughly understand fundamental theories, concepts, debates, and practices in the Development Administration field.

Soft skills: Research, Leadership, Project Management, Problem-Solving, Strong Verbal and Written Communication

Development Studies graduates take on a variety of roles. It is equally important that, besides possessing academic expertise, students acquire and nurture the soft skills that employers believe are crucial to a professional’s performance.

They can work as a community liaison officer, volunteer coordinator, development officer, refugee support coordinator, immigration adviser, project monitoring and evaluation adviser, environmental specialist, advocate, or program coordinator.

In a policy team, undergraduate degree holders may begin their careers as administrators or coordinators before progressing to advisers or senior advisers.

However, if you are interested in specialized, in-depth analysis in policy or research roles, postgraduate study in Development Studies, such as a Master’s degree, is recommended.

Online Master of Science in Development Administration - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Development Administration, Development Management, or Development Studies all about?

Development Administration, Management, and Studies emphasize “development” as its central concern. 

There are two broad sets of problems associated with the idea of development:

  • Firstly, it relates to social, cultural, economic, or political changes, with emphasis on the uneven and potentially negative consequences of such changes.
  • The second set is concerned with the architectural flaws of meeting specific goals that often focus on improving the well-being of people and preserving our natural resources. 

To resolve these issues, Development Administration allows for the collaboration of groups and individuals to uncover other underlying problems and provide solutions.

What characterizes Development Studies?

Development Administration utilizes tools, practices, policies, and a broader development process to enact change. It also entails critical reflection on development goals and how they are implemented to improve policy, approaches, and outcomes. 

The concept of development is interdisciplinary and occurs on a range of geographic scales, across small, local community initiatives and more extensive, national-scale projects.

Students are expected to have a thorough understanding of its broad concepts encompassing the social and natural sciences. 

Is an Online Master of Science in Development Administration a popular choice of study?

More and more young, wide-eyed people are choosing to study Development Administration or Development Studies to inspire and enact long-term, sustainable change. That’s good news, considering that the demand for skilled training and development management experts is projected to grow by up to 11% in the next decade. 

Why study an Online MS in Development Administration?

Development Studies aims to provide every individual, family, community, country, and the world with the opportunities and capabilities they need to pursue their values and live life to the fullest. As you study poverty and the ways to alleviate it, you need to have an in-depth understanding of how markets, states, and civil society work.

While deeply rooted in the Social Sciences, the concepts of Development Administration and Development Studies are utilized in the technical fields. These include Agriculture, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), Water Management, Engineering, Medicine, Business, Forestry, Climate Change and Management, and Mining.

As such, graduates of an online Master of Development Administration program will find themselves immersed in public service, private practice, and non-profit work. 

What are the career outcomes for studying an online MS in Development Studies?

Diverse industries, ranging from private companies, non-profit organizations, government agencies, the public sector, and everything in between, are constantly on the hunt for key people who have the capacity to aid in alleviating developmental issues and finding solutions.

The popular career outcomes of an MSc in Development Administration, Management, or Studies are:

  • Development Planner
  • Development Planning Officers or Manager
  • Development Consultant
  • Marketing Researcher
  • Program Manager

Because Development Administration work typically involves coordination with issues and operations on the global front, English proficiency–which points to the ability to communicate using a commonly used first language–is always a plus.

Key Takeaways

  • Academic study and practical skills are blended in MS in Development Administration programs. From a general perspective, it is about building strong and stable organizations and societies to create opportunities for their citizens.
  • With a graduate degree in this field, professionals become qualified for high-profile government work or senior positions in charities and nonprofits. Those who work in local government can contribute to tackling income disparities in their communities through educational and other programs.
  • If you have a deep interest in this type of work, finding an online program that matches your academic and professional goals is vital!

Additional Resources:

Dr. Jared Goff
Chief Editor