Program Spotlight: Career Opportunities in Community Development - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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November 1, 2019

Program Spotlight: Career Opportunities in Community Development

From economic inequality to societal health issues, a variety of concerns threaten the vitality of communities across America. Community development professionals play a valuable role in restoring these vulnerable neighborhoods. This field can be highly rewarding, but it's also demanding. Success hinges on thorough training, compassion and an optimistic outlook.

Top Qualities Desired in Community Development Professionals

Community development may be a fulfilling field, but it's not ideal for everybody. The following qualities are essential:

  •     Empathy.

Success in community development relies greatly on empathy. Workers must understand the unique struggles experienced by the communities they serve. This empathy must be on clear display as professionals work closely with community members to deliver positive outcomes.

  •     Adaptability

Those employed in community development may serve in a variety of settings and capacities. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities. Those with the ability to adapt quickly to evolving circumstances are most likely to succeed in this demanding field.

  •     Communication Skills.

Exceptional communication is critical in community development. Professionals spend much of their time interacting directly with community members and organizational stakeholders. Additionally, they may be responsible for developing project proposals or drafting reports highlighting progress within specific initiatives.

  •     Self-motivation.

Community development professionals should be strong self-starters who can provide personal direction—even when the appropriate path forward isn't immediately evident. It can be discouraging to see community members struggling, but professionals understand that they have the power to make necessary changes.

Coursework and Field Experience

As you pursue your Bachelor of Arts in Community Development, you will gain valuable skills and knowledge both in and out of the classroom. Courses such as American Government and Introduction to Community Development provide a strong foundation. Upper-level classes such as Restoring Place and Public Administration provide necessary in-depth knowledge.

In addition to taking the valuable courses highlighted above, students regularly find themselves in the field, serving the community directly. Not only are such projects and renovations highly rewarding, they grant students a taste of what's to come when they take their place in the field as qualified community development professionals.

While empathy, communication, and the other qualities can be natural gifts, they can also be cultivated through regular exposure in realistic work settings. Depending on the nature of the project, students of Geneva College’s program may find themselves serving the communities of Beaver Falls, Aliquippa, and Pittsburgh. Many will work directly with top professionals to gain a greater understanding of the field. Along the way, they can take advantage of powerful networking opportunities.

Although not necessarily required, internships form a valuable component of the B.A. in Community Development experience. They provide in-depth exposure to local initiatives. Likewise, many students participate in public scholarships involving the Beaver Falls Community Development Corporation. Public scholarships provide a valuable capstone experience, allowing students to apply classroom insights in real-world settings and situations.

Top Career Options for Community Development Graduates

Community development is a broad field that integrates the efforts of government entities, non-profit organizations, small businesses, and large corporations. Together, these entities can achieve ambitious outcomes that might not be possible alone. These various organizations pool their resources to benefit the communities they serve.

Because a vast range of organizations and individuals are so intimately involved in the field, professional opportunities abound for those with proper academic credentials. A few such opportunities are highlighted below:

Community Program Director

Community program directors are responsible for developing and implementing specific initiatives designed to address key areas of concern. These initiatives may be targeted at youth, seniors, low-income families or other vulnerable populations. Program director duties can vary dramatically based on the scope of the initiative, but many directors work closely with both the community members they serve and the stakeholders capable of funding or influencing such projects. Salaries can also vary; PayScale highlights average annual wages of $54,809 for program directors employed by non-profit organizations.

Community Organizer

Community organizers work closely with a variety of individuals in hopes of promoting unity and supporting important local causes. Working primarily at the grassroots level, they play a powerful role in restoring broken or damaged social programs one step at a time. Often, this involves rallying local residents around a specific concern of interest to the community.

Organizers in Flint, Michigan, for example, may focus on water quality and lead contamination, while top community organization programs in Philadelphia allow professionals to make progress towards closing the persistent education gap. President Obama famously launched his career as a community organizer, as have many other influential individuals.

Data from PayScale suggests that the average community organizer earns annual wages of $39,618. Work-life balance can be tough to achieve within this demanding field, but employees are often so consumed by their mission that they are happy to put in extra hours.

Community Development Banking Coordinator

Financial institutions play a key role in powering community initiatives. Without their support, such programs would be virtually impossible to sustain. Those interested in benefiting the field from a financial perspective may be well-suited to work within banks or other institutions. Their role may encompass identifying promising programs that require financing—and helping such programs thrive on a long-term basis. JPMorgan Chase, for example, maintains a strong community development banking program involving teams in over a dozen locations that support initiatives in over ninety communities across the nation. 

No matter the capacity in which you ultimately serve, you have the power to make a real difference. It all begins with a Bachelor of Arts in Community Development, which will grant you the targeted skills and understanding needed to deliver positive outcomes in the communities you will ultimately serve.

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically-based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.