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MS in Development Management

The MSDM combines the fields of development and public administration to provide state of the art education, training, and practice in development management. The program is designed both for practitioners and students with prior field experience who plan to work on development programs and projects either within the United States or in developing countries. It provides an opportunity to focus on innovative approaches to development management that are presently being developed both in the United States and in the Third World, with particular attention to the issues of self-reliance, sustainability, and poverty alleviation. The approach emphasizes social learning, action research, institutional development, and social development management, with the objective of increasing the responsiveness of organizations to the publics they are designed to serve and enhance the capacity of these communities to further their own development.

The program also is concerned with such issues as improving management effectiveness in donor and locally funded projects and programs, public service reform, the role of non-governmental organizations, and management of both national level and decentralized institutions.

The M.S. in Development Management offers a unique opportunity for combining development and public administration to provide state of the art training and practice in development management, as presently being developed both in the United States and at important centers in the Third World. American University’s Washington, D.C. location provides a special opportunity to become familiar with major international development organizations and to meet with noted scholars and practitioners active in the field. 


Applicants must have at least two years work experience in, or relevant to, international development in third world countries, or with disadvantaged communities in the U.S. or other developed countries.

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree with a cumulative grade point average of at least a B+ (3.30 or higher on a 4.00 scale) and should have had at least 24 credit hours of social science course work relevant to international studies.

The application deadline for fall admission is January 15; for spring admission October 1 (September 15 for international students). Admitted students may defer matriculation for no longer than two semesters provided that a written request for deferment is submitted to and approved by the SIS Graduate Admissions Office. 

All applicants whose native language is English or those whose degrees are from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English are required to submit results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Non-native English speakers are required to submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) unless they hold a degree from a US-accredited institution (before enrollment at SIS). The minimum TOEFL score for full admissions consideration is 100 on the Internet-based test (IBT), 250 on the computer-based test, or 600 on the paper-based test. (250 on the computer version). The minimum IELTS score is 7.0. Applicants should plan to take the appropriate test no later than December to ensure full admissions consideration of the application by the January deadline.

All applicants must submit two letters of reference evaluating undergraduate academic performance and suitability for graduate study in international affairs, at least one of which should be from an academic source. A resume should be included in the application. Applicants must submit transcripts from all institutions attended. Cultural factors are considered in evaluating transcripts and examination results. Work experience must be clearly explained in the applicant’s letter of application.

Requests for the transfer of a maximum of 6 graduate credit hours from other accredited institutions to be applied to a master’s degree are considered after successful completion of 9 graduate credit hours at American University. A minimum grade of B in each course is required for transfer. Transfer courses must have been completed within seven years of admission and must fulfill stated requirements of the degree.

Degree Requirements

  • 39–42 credit hours of approved graduate course work with a cumulative grade point average of 3.00, including a minimum of 15 credit hours in the core, 12 credit hours in a concentration selected from offerings in SIS or other teaching units of the university, 6 credit hours in social science methodology, and 6 credit hours of research. 

A mid-level professional who has performed successfully in a technical or managerial role before admission to the program may apply through the director of the M.S. in Development Management degree to the dean of SIS to have the total degree requirements reduced by up to 6 credit hours. This application may be made after completion of 9 credit hours and must make reference to a number of areas in which the student has acquired basic competence. Credit earned as part of an internship program does not count in this provision. 

  • Research requirement: 6 credit hours of practicum research with grades of B or better 
  • Proficiency in a modern foreign language: Research competence in English and another language relevant to the student’s career objectives must be certified.

Course Requirements

Core (15–18 credit hours)

  • ECON-603 Introduction to Economic Theory (3) Note: may be waived by program director, which reduces the total credit hours required for the program to 39 and total core course credit hours to 15. 
  • ECON-661 Survey of Economic Development (3) 
  • SIS-636 Micropolitics of Development (3) 
  • SIS-637 International Development (3) 
  • PUAD-614 Development Management (3) 
  • One of the following:
    • MGMT-609 Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management (3)
    • PUAD-612 Public Administration in the Policy Process (3)

Concentration (12 credit hours)

Four courses approved by the student’s faculty advisor selected from one concentration. A maximum of 6 credit hours from SIS-633 Selected Topics in International Communication, SIS-638 Selected Topics in International Development Skills, and SIS-639 Selected Topics in International Conflict Resolution Skills may be included. Students may design their own concentration with the approval of the faculty advisor and the MSDM director. Examples of concentrations include: 

  • Development Management and Information Systems 
  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business 
  • Program and Project Management 

Research and Professional Methods (6 credit hours)

  • SIS-600 Statistics, Research Design, and Research Methods for International Affairs (3)
  • or
  • SIS-619 Special Studies in International Politics: Advanced Statistics, Research Design, and Research Methods for International Affairs
  • approved methodology course appropriate to the student’s research interests (3) 

Capstone (6 credit hours)

  • SIS-693 Practicum: Action Research in Development Management (6) (with a grade of B or better)