Directory   |   Workday   |   Access+   |   CyBox   |   Privacy Policy

Department of

Community And Regional Planning


Online Master of Community Development

Create and contribute to community betterment with Iowa State’s 30-credit online Master of Community Development (MCD) program.

Global conditions, socioeconomic inequities and environmental changes are creating challenges for rural and urban communities. The practice of community development has become integral to the livability, resilience and sustainability of communities as our lives have become more complex and unpredictable.

Community developers:

  • Identify and address local issues and opportunities
  • Activate residents in community decision-making
  • Build economically and socially diverse communities
  • Advance and expand local leadership

Degree Requirements

Designed for the nontraditional student, the professional Master of Community Development can be completed at your own pace or as quickly as one year. Unlike many online programs, the MCD promotes student engagement, collaboration and ties to a brick-and-mortar university.

The 30-credit program consists of 15 required course credits and 15 credits of elective courses. This is a non-thesis degree with a capstone practicum experience.

The curriculum offers latitude in selection of electives to allow you to design your plan of study to fit your career goals. Students learn history, theory and methods of community development, but have access to electives to explore avenues of learning in fields such as economic development, sustainable development, housing and local leadership development. The capstone experience allows you put into practice what you learned and make contacts and references to further your career upon graduation. View the schedule of courses.


Community development is an applied field that complements multiple professions. Graduates have used their degrees to obtain employment in a variety of professions and organizations. Many have used their degree to improve the quality of work in their existing position and better serve communities in which they work and reside.

Graduates of Iowa State’s Master of Community Development program hold positions in:

  • City management and planning
  • Regional planning
  • Economic development
  • Community foundations
  • State government
  • Housing development
  • Development consulting firms

Research and Outreach

The online Master of Community Development program is delivered by the Department of Community and Regional Planning in the Iowa State University College of Design. The College of Design has played a key role in Iowa State’s Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development (CED) program since its inception in 1979. The past two directors of ISU Extension and Outreach CED, Professor Gary Taylor and Associate Professor Tim Borich, are on the community and regional planning faculty and teach courses in the MCD program.

Several additional faculty members have past or current community development extension appointments, and other faculty facilitate ongoing community development outreach programs in both urban and rural settings. View the Community Matters Now newsletter for more information.

Extension Community and Economic Development programming topics include:

  • Housing
  • Community leadership development
  • Organizational development
  • Latinx entrepreneurship
  • Community resiliency
  • Neighborhood development
  • Refugee support
  • Economic development
  • Arts-based community development
  • Community engagement in planning
  • Environmental planning

Faculty expertise in community development extends beyond ISU Extension and Outreach networks and programming. Iowa State faculty have received recent grants from the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as well as numerous national, state and local awards for work advancing community and economic development initiatives.

Current externally funded research projects include:

Graduate students enrolled in the MCD program have the opportunity to participate in faculty research and outreach activities and connect with the broader extension network during their studies.

Student Profiles

Matthew Wells

Admission Requirements

Open to students of all backgrounds, applications to the Master of Community Development are reviewed on a rolling basis with no deadline to apply. Basic requirements for the program include:

  • Admission application
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in any field
  • 3.0/4.0 minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA)
  • Official university transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Proof of English Proficiency (international applicants only)

Departmental financial assistance is not available for this program. Please view the cost of attendance before applying.

Ready to take the next step?

Please review the frequently asked questions page, then contact Melissa Stenstrom, graduate student recruiter, for more information.


Melissa Stenstrom, Graduate Student Recruiter

Tim Borich, Director of Graduate Education, Community Development, and Associate Professor of Community and Regional Planning (for program information)