Community, Environment, and Development Major

The science of doing good.

The Community, Environment, and Development (CED) Major is a hands-on, physical and social science–based education. We develop and implement strategies to overcome challenges faced by communities abroad and at home. We focus on areas like land development, local food supplies, local governance, and more with the goal of balancing environmental stewardship with improved quality of life. Grads take leadership roles in local government, non-profits, and other community organizations, as corporate sustainability officers, or continue academic work in law, business, and science.

Tools to put your vision in motion.

Community, Environment, and Development takes a deep look at communities and develops assessments of what’s working—and what needs work. CED leverages fundamental social science disciplines and infuses pragmatic critical thinking, community leadership, research, and communication skills to successfully engage governments, businesses, other organizations, and residents.

This is a major for dreamers who are doers. You bring the passion, and your faculty will help you develop the discipline, tools, and mindset to make real, impactful change.

Community, Environment, and Development is the right major if you’re: 

  • passionate about creating change for the good
  • good at seeing both the big picture and detail
  • seeking to start and sustain change at the local level
  • interested in a problem-oriented, customizable major that blends together economics, sociology, and other disciplines to give you a wide skill set

One major. Four options. Infinite destinations.

This option is focused on sustainable community and economic development.

Community and Economic Development option

This path emphasizes the skill sets involved in improving quality of life and creating sustainable communities in the United States.

Example courses

  • Power, Conflict, and Community Decision Making
  • Population and Policy Issues
  • Land Use Planning and Procedure
If you see yourself working in environmental economics and environmental policy in the future, this option may be for you.

Environmental Economics and Policy option

This path focuses on using economic tools to balance environmental conditions and economic growth.

Example courses

  • Environmental and Resource Economics
  • Land Use Dynamics
  • Legal Aspects of Resource Management
Enhancing the well-being of people in Costa Rica, while maintaining the natural environment.

International Development option

This path focuses on skill sets to improve social, economic, and environmental conditions in developing country communities.

Example courses

  • Development Issues in the Global Context
  • International Community and Economic Development
  • International Development, Renewable Resources, and the Environment

Social and Environmental Responsibility option

Gain the skills necessary to evaluate and influence business practices impacting our planet.

Example courses

  • The Corporation and Social Responsibility
  • Strategic Decision Making in Agribusiness
  • Policy and Perspectives about Social and Environmental Responsibility


Your vision for change is not one-size-fits-all, and neither is CED. Each student works closely with faculty and advisers to create a unique, 12-credit specialization tailored to individual learning and career objectives.

Example specializations

  • Environmental policy
  • Finance
  • Language study
  • Political science
  • Small business

Ag Journeys

“You supply the passion, CED provides the tools.”

– Amelia Wyckoff

Learning outside the classroom walls.

The CED curriculum is just the start. Students take advantage of endless opportunities to network, learn, and have fun in clubs and other organizations. The same goes with internship, research, study abroad opportunities, and for experience, résumé building, expanded horizons, and academic credit.

Craft your experience.

Related clubs and teams

  • Community, Environment, and Development Club
  • Alternative Breaks
  • EcoReps - Student Educators for Sustainability
  • Eco Action
  • Student Farm Club
  • Outing Club
  • See all clubs and teams

Recent internships

  • Marketing intern for community farmers market
  • Community service associate at city food bank
  • Photojournalism intern at global nonprofit
  • Communications intern for social impact agency
  • Climate and energy program intern at nonprofit consumer advocacy organization
  • Congressional, press, and legislative interns in state and federal government
  • Museums studies intern at European museum
  • Community engagement summer intern with university extension

Popular study abroad

  • CIEE Global Institute (six weeks each in London, Madrid, Berlin)
  • Business, language, and culture in China
  • Politics, social justice, and language in Chile
  • Sustainable development studies in Costa Rica
  • Gender and development in Honduras
  • Economic, community, and agricultural development in Kenya
  • Global studies: Moroccan culture in Morocco
  • Studies in international development in Senegal
  • Development and globalization in Thailand
Enjoy various study abroad opportunities offered for Community, Environment, and Development (CED) students.
Assist people and communities and shape economic and social change.
Internships and independent studies are great ways to gain experience in the Community, Environment, and Development program.

A practical, workforce-ready degree—and a college experience you’ll love.

Penn State CED grads are transforming lives on main street, in the boardroom, out in the field, and all over the world, right now.

Our alumni out in the world

  • Corporate and social responsibility
  • Sustainability analysis
  • Charitable trusts
  • GIS analysis
  • Land development consulting firms
  • Community development
  • Corporate partnerships
  • Energy and other nonprofits
  • Program management at regional development agencies
  • County planning

Community, Environment, and Development Career Options

Harness the power of a truly unique education at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Here are just a few examples.

Corporate sustainability officer

A corporate sustainability officer works within a business whose responsibility is to help manage that organization’s sustainability footprint.

What will I do?

  • Monitor the company’s sustainability efforts, such as product stewardship, conflict minerals, and anti-human trafficking
  • Develop and implement strategies to reduce a company’s environmental impact
  • Assess the impact of emerging sustainability regulations
  • Develop site risk matrices regarding negative environmental impacts

Economic development coordinator

An economic development coordinator supports and connects government, nonprofit, and business sectors to facilitate healthy economic growth.

What will I do?

  • Assess strengths and weaknesses in the local economy (infrastructure, workforce, etc.)
  • Develop and sustain partnerships to nurture economic development and growth, working closely with government, nonprofits, the business sector, and others
  • Work closely with local businesses to help them be successful, and help grow new businesses in the community

Urban planner

CED graduates may continue on to a master’s degree to become an urban planner. These professionals work closely with community members to create plans to improve quality of life through infrastructure, transportation systems, parks and other recreational facilities, and appropriate land use.

What will I do?

  • Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting community development and decline, including land use
  • Meet with local officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use
  • Review development plans
  • Recommend project approval or denial
  • Present projects to local government organizations
  • Stay current on codes, regulations, and other legal issues

Environmental lawyer

CED graduates may earn an advanced degree to become an environmental lawyer. These professionals use their knowledge of the law, policy-making, and the environment to protect natural resources from being exploited and to advocate for new policies related to clean air, clean water, global warming, and other environmental issues.

What will I do?

  • Help businesses, landowners, and others understand and follow environmental regulations
  • Monitor compliance with environmental regulations
  • Research problems and litigate to force compliance
  • Represent clients who have been injured by environmental damage or who have been accused of violating environmental laws

Community developer

A community developer strengthens communities and improves local quality of life by building partnerships, developing local leadership skills, and bringing community members together to effectively address issues of local concern.

What will I do?

  • Conduct needs assessments and other research to identify major economic, social, and environmental needs within the community
  • Establish and nurture active partnerships between your organization and others working on similar goals within the community
  • Create, implement, and manage community assistance and outreach programs that address local needs
  • Advocate for broad engagement and participation of community members in public decisions that affect their lives

Community, Environment, and Development Students in the News

April 11, 2024

Ag Science alumna uses her experiences at Penn State to open equine business

After graduating from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in community, environment and development, and minors in international agriculture and anthropology, Gillian Warner opened Warner Equine out of Tadpole Lane Farm in Pennsylvania Furnace in 2022.

Read More

October 18, 2022

Penn State grad makes footsteps around the globe to benefit Bangladesh

Penn State grad Shah Rafayat Chowdhury is making a difference across the globe with his organization dedicated to empowering communities by helping them build the right skills and technologies to overcome social challenges.

Read More

April 28, 2022

Community, Environment and Development Club helps break world record

As part of a nationwide Earth Day celebration, members of the Community, Environment and Development Club in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences helped break a Guinness World Record on NBC’s “Today” show.

Read More

November 9, 2021

Internships earn awards for College of Agricultural Sciences students

Ten Penn State students have been selected as College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society 2021 Internship Award winners. The award, which includes a $1,200 stipend, was established to encourage students to participate in a credit or noncredit educational internship program that relates to their field of study.

Read More