Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills in an Online Graduate Degree in Youth Development Leadership

William H. Quinn, Edmond P. Bowers, Parisa Hadiandehkordi, Barry A. Garst


As the youth development field has grown, there has been an increased focus on building academic preparation programs in youth development that prepare leaders and staff in youth-serving organizations. Very few degree programs exist in preparing youth leaders. Even fewer, if any, evaluations have been conducted on the potential outcomes and benefits of graduate degree programs on alumni who serve in leadership positions in youth organizations. This study presents findings from a survey of graduates of a master’s level youth development leadership (YDL) degree program. The findings focus on graduates’ perceptions of the outcomes linked to attaining a degree from such a program and associated competencies and opportunities in the field of youth development. Questionnaires were distributed to YDL alumni (2007-2018) requesting their perspectives on professional benefits and opportunities associated with degree completion. Respondents reported a statistically significant increase (reaching medium to large effect sizes) in relevant competencies targeted in each course. Additionally, respondents noted opportunities in salary increases, promotions, and more challenging responsibilities because of completion of the YDL program; rated their level of application of learning to new professional skills applied to their professional positions highly; and identified products created in their professional positions directly related to their academic preparation. A discussion of the value of youth development degree programs is provided.


online graduate education; youth professional; youth leader; workforce; higher education

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