Youth Development

Graduate Certificate

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

  • Course Delivery
    Fully Online
  • Total Credits
    13
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit
    $565.00
  • Out of State Tuition Per Credit
    $565.00

Earn your degree from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Get the same diploma as on campus students

There is increasing demand for employees of youth-serving organizations to obtain graduate degrees, certificates and/or licensure.  The Youth Development certificate uses an approach in both theory and practice that examines people, places, supports, opportunities and services young people need to be healthy and successful. 

This graduate certificate in youth development is a unique online certificate program that focuses solely on youth development. Students may complete the certificate in one of two focus areas:

  • Youth Development Specialist
  • Youth Program Management and Evaluation

The graduate certificate can be used for continuing education credits or a career ladder opportunity. Credits earned in a graduate certificate may also be used as a step to getting a master’s degree in youth development (another program that can be found on this site) or to supplement a master's degree in another field.

The youth development certificate focus areas are aimed at professionals working with youth, including:

  • 4-H and Boys and Girls Clubs leaders
  • Non-profit youth organizations staff
  • Faith-based groups' members
  • Community recreation leaders
  • Juvenile corrections professionals
  • Elementary, middle and high school educators
  • Extension educators

This certificate is taught through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance for the Human Sciences (Great PlainsIDEA). The Great Plains IDEA Youth Development program is a recognized leader in professional development and advanced degrees in youth development. As a student in the graduate certificate program, you will enroll for all your coursework through UNL and you will graduate from UNL, but your online courses will be taught by faculty at each of the participating universities.


Yan Xia, PhD
Associate Professor

Yan Xia believes engaged students and meaningful research help strengthen families and the community. Her research, outreach and teaching have led to many honors and recognition. Her research interests include: research on immigrant youth behavioral and mental health, parent-adolescent communication and relationship, strengths and stress among Asian immigrant families, adolescent substance abuse, program evaluation and Chinese adolescent social competence.

To be accepted to this program, you must have:

  1. A bachelor's degree

  2. 2.50 GPA or above on a 4.0 scale

  3. Taken the TOEFL or IELTS

    (Only required if English is not your native language)

  4. A written personal statement

    Please state your professional goals.

  5. 3 letters of recommendation

  6. Official transcripts from all previous schools

  7. A resume is required

  8. Intent form

NOTE: If you reside in state(s) KY, please contact a program adviser before applying.

To apply to this program:

  • Apply and be admitted to Graduate Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Pay the non-refundable $50 application processing fee
  • Submit one set of official transcripts from each college or university you have attended to Office of Graduate Studies
  • Apply and be admitted to the department
Apply Now

Application Deadlines

Rolling admissions. Application review will begin upon receipt of all required application materials.

This certificate requires 12 semester credit hours plus a one-hour foundations course for a total of 13 credit hours.

Program of Study

  • Foundations of Youth Development - 1 credit hour
  • Youth Development Specialist focus
    - CYAF 864 Community Youth Development
    - CYAF 868 Adolescents and Their Families
    - CYAF 872 Youth Development
    - CYAF 875 Youth in Cultural Contexts
  • Youth Management & Evaluation focus
    - CYAF 873 Program Design, Evaluation & Implementation
    - CYAF 863 Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research
    - CYAF 869 Administration & Program Management
  • Electives (as needed)
    - CYAF 878 Youth Policy
    - CYAF 880 Contemporary Youth Issues

Core Courses

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
CYAF 861Foundation of Youth Development Seminar1

Course Number: CYAF 861

Fundamentals of youth development and the youth development profession. Ethical, professional and historical elements of youth development as it has evolved toward professionalization.

CYAF 863Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research (Youth Program Management & Evaluation focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 863

Research report evaluation skills for youth development professionals. Fundamental quantitative and qualitative research principles guiding disciplined inquiry. Application of research results and theories to practice. (Distance education course delivered by UNL and North Dakota State University.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program

CYAF 864Community Youth Development (Youth Development Specialist focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 864

National emphasis of strength-based or asset approach to community youth development, encompassing individual development and adolescent relationships with environments. Research, theory and practice applied in communities. Existing models, theoretical and applied literature, and current community efforts. (May be offered via distance education by Michigan State University.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program

CYAF 868Adolescents & Their Families (Youth Development Specialist focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 868

Adolescent development as related to and intertwined with family development. Reciprocal influences between adolescents and their families. Working with youth vis a vis the family system. (Distance education course delivered by UNL or Kansas State University.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program

CYAF 869Administration & Program Management (Youth Program Management & Evaluation focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 869

Introduction to the development, administration and management of youth-serving organizations. (Distance education course delivered by Kansas State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program

CYAF 872Youth Development (Youth Development Specialist focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 872

Scientific literature concerning the interrelationship of the physiological, psychological and sociological aspects of the adolescent and young adulthood years. Understanding of individuals and their continuous adjustment within the family life cycle as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. (May be offered via distance education by UNL or North Dakota State University.) Prereq: 12 hours CYAF or social sciences

CYAF 873Program Design, Evaluation & Implementation (Youth Program Management & Evaluation focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 873

Overview of program development process and outcome evaluation of community children and family programs. Theoretical, methodological and programmatic issues in conducting programs and scholarship. (Distance education course delivered by UNL.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program

CYAF 875Youth in Cultural Contexts (Youth Development Specialist focus)3

Course Number: CYAF 875

Cultural context factors that affect youth from a holistic perspective within and outside the family unit. The cultural heritage of differing family types. Social and educational processes. (Distance education course delivered by Michigan State University.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program.

Elective Courses

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
CYAF 878Youth Policy3

Course Number: CYAF 878

Various federal and state policies designed specifically for youth. Existing state and national policies as to whether they contribute to, or act as barriers to, desired developmental outcomes. (Distance education course delivered by Michigan State University.) Prereq: Admission to CYAF graduate program.

CYAF 880Contemporary Youth Issues3

Course Number: CYAF 880

Issues faced by youth such as life skills, violence, and appearance. Topics vary.

Cost for Nebraska Residents

  • Per Credit Hour

  • Tuition: $565.00
  • 3 Credit Hours

  • Tuition: $1695.00

Cost for Out of State Residents

  • Per Credit Hour

  • Tuition: $565.00
  • 3 Credit Hours

  • Tuition: $1695.00

Questions about tuition? We can help.

What's it like to take a program online?

  • Quality learning experience

    The University of Nebraska has offered distance education courses for more than 100 years so you can expect a quality, rigorous experience. Online courses are often highly interactive with faculty and students communicating through e-mail, discussion forums and chat groups. You’ll have direct access to world-class faculty – researchers who are experts in their fields or practitioners with real-world experience. Also, you’ll be part of a community of learners and can benefit from the perspectives of students from across the globe.

  • Flexibility

    Online learning gives you the flexibility and freedom to attend your classes wherever is convenient to you. You can save time and money by being able to continue to work and by avoiding relocation or travel costs. You will be required to complete assignments in a certain timeframe, but in most instances, you can log in and complete coursework during the time of day that works best for you. You aren’t tied to a specific class time.

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