Youth Development

Youth DevelopmentMaster of Science (M.S.)

The Great Plains IDEA Youth Development master’s degree is designed to provide you with research-based skills and knowledge you can use with youth across multiple settings. 

The Great Plains IDEA Youth Development Program has its roots in Positive Youth Development. Rather than focusing solely on corrective measures, a Positive Youth Development approach equips young people in the second decade of life with the skills and opportunities necessary for successful transition into adulthood. This approach promotes positive outcomes for all youth by recognizing their strengths, fostering positive relationships, and providing youth with opportunities to learn, lead, connect and serve.

Students in this program will:

  • Understand, integrate, and be able to apply conceptual approaches to youth development
  • Understand normative pathways to development
  • Understand youth and family cultural issues/contexts and their micro- and macro-influences on positive youth outcomes
  • Understand and apply basic research and evaluation skills to youth development programming through an applied project that serves as a capstone experience under the direction of the candidate's home institution
  • Develop skills in problem-solving with "stakeholders" including funding sources, boards, other agencies, families and other professionals
  • Demonstrate understanding of the development and impact of local, regional, state, federal, and global policies on youth and be able to advocate through policy development for optimal youth outcomes
  • Be able to develop and apply resources (e.g., agency budgeting, grant writing and processing, fundraising) for successful implementation and management of youth-serving organizations
  • Understand the history of the youth development area and advocate for the continued professionalization of the field

There are three people who help you with your program. There are two campus coordinators at UNL: Dr. Yan Ruth Xia is the academic coordinator and Lisa King is the campus logistics coordinator. Your campus advisor is the individual faculty member at UNL that gives you advice, monitors your progress, signs your MOC (your list of approved classes), and works with you on the additional 8 hours needed for the program. View the Youth Development Graduate Student Handbook here.


  • Non-Profit Youth Organizations
  • Faith-Based Groups
  • Community Recreation Leaders
  • Juvenile Corrections Professionals
  • Elementary, Middle or High School Educators
  • Extension Educators

Application to this program

Required materials:

1. Graduate Studies Application
2. Unofficial Transcripts
3. Resume
4. Statement of Professional Goals
In your Statement of Professional Goals, address the following: 
-What personal and/or professional experiences have led you to want to pursue a degree in Youth Development?
-What are your professional goals and how will this degree help you achieve those? 
-This is an on-line program.  Please describe your academic strengths and weaknesses related to successfully managing on-line coursework.  If you do not have prior academic experience in on-line courses, please indicate so.  
5. Three Letters of Reference
Ensure that at least one reference letter is academic (e.g., instructor, advisor) and any non-academic letters are professional (e.g., relevant employer)

Other Application Materials


Degree Requirements

The Master of Science degree in Child, Youth and Family Studies with a specialization in Youth Development includes 36 semester hours of course work. Twenty-seven (27) hours come from required courses and nine (9) come from electvie courses.

Courses (*Denotes electives):

Block 1:

  • CYAF 861 Foundations of Youth Development (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 863 Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 872 Youth Development (3 credit hours)

Block 2:

  • CYAF 868 Adolescents and Their Families (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 862 Youth-Adult Relationships (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 875 Youth in Cultural Contexts* (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 847 Youth, Sports & Society* (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 860 Adolescent Health & Sexuality* (3 credit hours)

Block 3:

  • CYAF 878 Youth Policy (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 864 Youth Development in Community Settings (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 866 Youth Mental Health* (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 837 Systems of Care for Youth at Risk (3 credit hours)

Block 4:

  • CYAF 877 Design & Evaluation of Youth Programs (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 879 Youth Development Personnel and Program Management (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 842 Grants & Administration* (3 credit hours)
  • CYAF 843 Youth, Families & Technology* (3 credit hours)

Additional Electives:

Addititional information about the Four Blocks and specific courses can be found on the GPIDEA Youth Development page.

It is important that you work closely with your campus advisor to choose an option and get approval for your courses before each semester begins.

Faculty advising students in this program area include: