"My SIT experience gave me the tools that I needed for a successful career in development. Both through my time on campus and during my practicum I worked on actual proposals and strategic plans, and learned a tremendous amount about intercultural communication and teamwork."

- Meg Audette, MA in Sustainable Development, Field Programme Support Officer, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

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Acquire the skills, knowledge, and experience to make significant contributions in the field of development.

SIT’s Master of Arts in Sustainable Development: Advocacy, Leadership, and Social Change program prepares graduates for positions in organizations working toward a more equitable and sustainable use of the world’s wealth and natural resources.

The program emphasizes the importance of NGOs, community programs, social movements, coalitions, and faith-based organizations. Vermont is at the forefront of sustainable development initiatives in the US, and students in the program connect with local communities and relevant organizations, including those led by SIT alumni.

Students in the program can expect to:

  • Develop the analytical and hands-on skills of highly effective development practitioners.
  • Examine competing theories and approaches to development.
  • Build competencies in key areas such as community empowerment, monitoring and evaluation, policy analysis, advocacy and training, economic development, program planning, and proposal writing.
  • Customize learning. Students can focus on one of two concentrations: Community Development and Social Action, or Development Management. 
  • Gain access and exposure to development professionals through the connections of SIT faculty, alumni, and program partners in Vermont and worldwide.
  • Learn through experience. with a six-month practicum and optional field courses—and through the experience of SIT peers and faculty.

Students can specialize in:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Social Innovation and Management
  • Policy Analysis and Advocacy 

Degree Sequence

On-Campus Coursework, Two Terms, 9 months (28 credits)

  • Fall Term: September–December
  • Field Courses (optional): January
  • Language Intensives (optional): January
  • Spring Term: January–May

Practicum, Two–Three Terms, 6–12 months (12 credits)

  • Two or three terms working with an organization

Capstone Paper and Presentation

  • Final paper and presentation on campus

Review past Sustainable Development capstone papers.


With SIT’s experiential curriculum, you’ll learn how to put theory into practice. In addition to core courses, a broad range of elective choices let you focus on courses that will help you meet your career goals.

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Program Duration:
It is possible to complete this degree in as little as 16 months, provided students work with their advisor to ensure they complete a summer practicum and capstone in December. To get the most out of the program, students typically choose to lengthen their practicum and complete the program in 20 to 24 months.

  • On-Campus Coursework (29 credits)
    During students’ nine months on campus, they examine competing theories and alternative approaches to development practice. The program focuses on participatory, rights-based interventions in local, national, and international contexts. Coursework provides a comprehensive education in development praxis, combining theoretical and applied knowledge.

    The following 17 credits are required:
    • Learning and Professional Development Advising – 1 credit
    • Foundations in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management – 4 credits
    • Practitioner Inquiry – 3 credits
    • Economics – 3 credits
    • Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development – 3 credits
    • Issues in Sustainable Development – 3 credits

    Students take an additional 12 credits of relevant coursework, which includes one or more of the following degree courses:
    • Program Planning and Management – 3 credits
    • Monitoring and Evaluation – 3 credits
    • Leading and Managing Social Sector Organizations – 3 credits
    • Policy Advocacy – 3 credits
    • Popular and Nonformal Education – 2 credits

    Other course options include:
    • Training Design for Experiential Learning – 3 credits
    • Social Identity: Exclusion and Inclusion – 3 credits
    • Dismantling Disability – 2 credits
    • Post-War Development and Peacebuilding – 3 credits
    • Initiatives in Peacebuilding – 3 credits
    • Skills and Practices in Inter-Group Dialogue – 1 credit
    • Conflict and Identity – 3 credits
    • Education for Social Justice – 3 credits
    • Advanced Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning – 3 credits
    • Budgeting and Financial Management – 3 credits
    • Fundraising and Grant Writing – 2 credits
    • Human Resources Management – 3 credits
    • Strategic Planning and Implementation – 3 credits
    • Social Entrepreneurship – 3 credits
    • Leadership and Change – 3 credits
    • Nonprofit, NGO, and Social Business Management – 3 credits
    • Statistics for Practitioners – 1 credit
    • Youth Program Leadership – 3 credits
    • Training for Social Action – 3 credits
    • Policy Analysis and Advocacy Methods – 3 credits
    • International Policy and Citizen Advocacy – 1 credit
    • Leadership, Community, and Coalition Building – 3 credits
    • Special Topics in Sustainable Development – 1–3 credits

  • Optional Concentrations
    Interested students are able to focus their studies in sustainable development by choosing a concentration. Two concentrations are currently being offered:

    Community Development and Social Action. The focus of this concentration is on knowledge and skills related to community outreach, education, and social mobilization with community-based organizations in both the Global South and North.
    Development Management. The focus of this concentration is on knowledge and skills related to the program planning and evaluation cycle (from needs assessment to impact assessment) and on the larger organizational and management context in which programs are created.
  • Area Specializations
    Students may also choose a six-credit sequence of courses that constitute a specialization in one of the following areas:
    • Monitoring and Evaluation
    • Social Innovation and Management
    • Policy Analysis and Advocacy
  • Reflective Practice (11 credits)
    This portion of the program is a structured approach for students to apply coursework learning to a related professional activity. During this phase, students receive course credit for documenting the integration of their knowledge and skills while working in a professional context, for a minimum of six months, and remaining engaged with faculty and other students on the program. Students can complete the practicum in the US or abroad.
  • Capstone Paper and Seminar (1 credit)
    Students demonstrate, assess, and synthesize their learning through preparation of a capstone project and participation in a one-week capstone seminar held multiple times each year on SIT’s campus in Vermont. Researching and writing the capstone paper takes students deeply into the experiential learning cycle, where they explore the meaning of the practicum experience, integrate theory and practice in written and oral presentations, and make a contribution to the field of sustainable development. Review past Sustainable Development capstone papers.

Degree Requirements
Students have five years from the time they enter the program to complete all degree requirements. (For any student who, because of special circum­stances, studies part-time during two consecutive on-campus academic years, the program entry date is calculated from the beginning of their second on-campus year.) A student who does not complete all degree requirements (including the language and culture proficiency requirement) within five years of the entry date will be withdrawn from the program. A student with extenuating circumstances must apply to the dean of the program for an extension.

All students must fulfill a Language and Culture Proficiency Requirement before they are eligible to graduate.

View the current academic calendar.

Field Courses


Each year, SIT Graduate Institute offers a number of graduate study abroad programs and field courses at sites in the United States and around the world. Learn in depth about an important issue on the ground.

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Study abroad as part of your master’s degree program.

International and US-Based Intensive Courses
Students have the option of completing a short-term intensive course at sites in the US or abroad. Typically ranging in duration from one to four weeks, recent intensives have been offered in Washington, DC; Bangladesh; Mexico; and Turkey.

Intensive field courses offer students pursuing an MA in sustainable development the chance to interact with practitioners in the field, learn on-site, and expand professional networking. Short-term intensives are typically offered in January. Learn more about the intensive field courses.

Professional Practicum

A cornerstone of SIT degree programs is the practicum. This allows you to apply learning from the classroom in real-world settings while getting hands-on, professional experience.

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Apply the knowledge and skills you acquire in the classroom while engaging in the field of sustainable development in real-world settings.

Professional Practicum
Following the on-campus coursework phase, each student completes a professional practicum with an organization of his/her choosing.* The practicum must be related to the student’s coursework and career goals and be for a minimum of six months. Practicums may be paid professional positions or unpaid internships.

SIT Graduate Institute student in Thailand for practicum
Working at an elephant rehabilitation camp in Thailand

During this period — referred to as Reflective Practice — students remain engaged with faculty and other students and receive course credit for documenting the integration of their knowledge and skills while working in a professional context.
Practicum placements provide in-depth, hands-on learning; enhance résumés; and expand professional contacts.
Recent practicum placements held by students in the sustainable development program include:
United States

  • Program Director, Africa Projects, NextAid (Los Angeles, California)
  • Program Coordinator, Foundation for Sustainable Development (San Francisco, California)
  • Economics Intern, United Nations Development Programme (New York, New York)
  • Food Access and Urban Agriculture Intern, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Micro Credit Projects Coordinator, American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Short-term Consultant, World Bank (Washington, DC)
  • Kiva Fellow, Kiva Microfunds (San Francisco, California)
  • Legislative Intern, Bluegreen Alliance (Washington, DC)
  • Policy Research Analyst/Intern, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (Burlington, Vermont)
  • Program Coordinator, Fair Trade Resource Network (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Economic Justice Intern, Oxfam America (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Micro Business Loan Developer, Holy Rosary Credit Union (Kansas City, Missouri)
  • Program Advocate, FAIR Fund (Washington, DC)


  • Proposal Writer and Project Manager, FORMATEL (Haiti)
  • Commissioner, National Elections Commission (Liberia)
  • Program Officer, Embassy of Sweden Nairobi (Kenya)
  • Program Assistant/Intern, ProAct Network (Switzerland)
  • Project Manager, CARE International (Switzerland)
  • Research Intern, Tibetan Women's Association (India)
  • Monitoring/Evaluation Coordinator, The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (Cameroon)
  • Assistant Research Team Leader, Norwegian People's Aid (Norway)
  • Coordinator, Migrants Rights International (Switzerland)

* Students find positions on their own with support from SIT's Career and Practicum Services Center.

Alumni Careers

meg audette, SIT Graduate Institute alum

Students in this program go on to work in the field in a variety of areas including study abroad offices, NGOs, nonprofits, and government agencies. Find out some of the career paths that may be open to you.

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The program prepares professionals to:

  • Design and lead sustainable development programs
  • Coordinate funding for development initiatives, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses
  • Develop and manage projects that address economic inequities and/or encourage responsible use of natural resources

Acquire skills and training to work in a wide range of development-related fields.
Students develop skills to work in community development, economic development, and many other areas of need across the globe, through coursework and field study. Students gain professional experience through an extended practicum with an organization of their choice that is relevant to their professional goals.
Graduates are equipped to work in a wide range of fields, including community capacity building, economic development, human rights, education, food security, health, gender equity, nonprofit and NGO management, international relations, and social entrepreneurship.

Admissions Criteria

We strive to create a diverse and experienced student body to enhance the learning experience both inside and outside the classroom. To be considered for admission to this program, you must meet the following criteria:

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To be considered for admission to the MA in Sustainable Development program, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • US bachelor's degree or an equivalent that demonstrates academic ability
  • Demonstrated English language ability (see details below)
  • Intercultural and professional experience
  • Demonstrated ability to use experience as a source of learning

English Language Ability
Applicants whose first language is not English and who did not graduate from an English-speaking institution in a country whose official language is English submit test scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), or the PTE (Pearson Test of English). (Applicants can access free TOEFL and IELTS  practice tests online.)

  • Applicants taking the TOEFL must receive a minimum score of
    • 600 on the paper-based test (PBT)
    • 250 on the computer-based test (CBT), or
    • 100 on the internet-based iBT.
  • Applicants taking the IELTS must receive a score of Band 7.0 or higher.
  • Applicants taking the PTE must receive a minimum score of 68.

These scores are considered the minimum proficiency needed to undertake graduate-level work. Scores must be dated within two years of the start date of your academic program at SIT.

SIT Graduate Institute’s Selection Process
Our admissions staff work one-on-one with every applicant to facilitate a highly informed and multidimensional admissions experience: applicants are encouraged to attend an open house, talk with SIT faculty and staff, and hear from current students and alumni. As applicants become familiar with the attributes of an SIT education — grounded in the experiential learning model and focused on social justice and leadership skills in intercultural environments — they determine for themselves in what ways SIT can help them meet their educational and career objectives.


See a breakdown of the costs for this program.

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Full-time Degree Costs

Direct Costs

Tuition and Fees

Year 1 Tuition: $33,850
Year 1 Fees: $1,980

Year 2 Tuition: $6,705

MA degree total tuition and fees (all terms combined): $42,535

Year 1 On-Campus Room and Board: $10,040 (Estimated off campus housing is $11,750)

Indirect Costs

SIT estimates the costs to students for books, personal expenses, transportation, and off-campus housing/food. Individual expenses may vary. Off-campus living expenses and transportation costs are based on student survey data; individual costs vary depending on a variety of factors such as the type of housing and location of practicum.

Year 1 Books: $800
Year 1 Personal Expenses: $2,700
Year 1 Transportation Costs: $1,200-$2,250

Year 2 Books: $1,200
Year 2 Personal Expenses: $3,600
Year 2: Travel, housing, and other costs associated with the reflective practice phase vary depending on location and duration of position.

Additional Costs

Field Study Courses in year 1:

Costs range from $2,200 to $5,450. See details on the locations, schedule, and costs of individual field courses.

Estimated Student Loan Fees:

Year 1: $800
Year 2: $225

Estimated fees are based on the average amount borrowed by SIT Graduate Institute students. See details on student loan options.


Direct costs and on-campus room and board are billed by SIT Graduate Institute. Indirect, off-campus housing costs, transportation expenses, and additional costs are not billed by SIT, but represent educational expenses associated with being an enrolled student.