43 Best Urban Planning Schools (2022)

Associate’s Degree in Planning

An associate’s degree in planning is a 2-year undergraduate program that provides students with a grounding in basic planning subjects. In addition to general education, your courses might cover areas such as computer graphics, codes/zoning/inspections, geographic information science, and environment/sustainability. Associate degrees are often offered at a reasonable price from community colleges. A high school diploma or GED is required to apply.

Associate degree programs in urban planning are rare, and are usually intended to help you earn credits for a bachelor’s degree. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find work as a planning technician or site planning assistant, but to get anywhere in the profession you will need a higher degree. If you’re aiming for a bachelor’s, make sure your credits will be transferable to the BA or BS of your choice.

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Bachelor’s Degree in Planning

A bachelor’s degree in planning is a 4-year program that grounds students in both the theory and practice of urban/city planning. You’ll find planning programs in architecture schools, design schools, public policy schools, and even geography departments. A high school diploma or GED is required to apply.

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Although there are a few entry-level positions open to baccalaureate graduates, most students earn a bachelor’s in order to advance to graduate work. A master’s degree is the standard requirement for jobs in the field of planning. For quality assurance, you can also check if the program has PAB accreditation.

Degree Options

Since urban planning is a multidisciplinary field, you have a lot of options when it comes to your degree. The standard choices are the:

  • Bachelor of Planning (BPlan)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Urban Planning
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Urban Planning

However, you may also wish to consider related degree titles such as:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geography with an Emphasis on Urban Planning
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geography and Sociology
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Architectural Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Environmental Design

Different degrees have different emphases. For example, a planning degree from an architecture school may concentrate on physical planning and design. A degree from a public policy school may be concerned with sociology, public policy, and administration. For advice on which area is right for you, check out the APA’s breakdown of 20 planning divisions.

Sample Coursework

Since planning students typically go on to graduate work, most universities aim for a broad, interdisciplinary approach in the bachelor’s. The standard curriculum for the BPlan includes general education prerequisites and core courses related to planning. For example, you could be taking classes in the history and theory of urban planning, engineering, urban design, ethics, statistics, land use, urban ecology, sustainability planning, growth management, community development, and/or site planning.

In your third and fourth years, you will often be allowed to concentrate in a specific area of interest (e.g. geographic information systems (GIS), international development, historic preservation, etc.). Look for programs that incorporate studio/lab sessions, internships, and fieldwork experiences. These will help prepare you for your future career.

Career Options

It can be tough to find a job with a bachelor’s degree in planning. Most positions require a master’s degree, although you may be able to work as an assistant or junior planner while you earn money for graduate school.

Master’s Degree in Planning

A master’s degree in planning is a 2-year graduate program that is intended to prepare students for a career in planning. Although a bachelor’s degree is necessary, you don’t need to have a BPlan in order to apply for a master’s program. Many schools will consider students who have degrees in related fields such as geography, architecture, political science, public policy, sociology, and environmental design.

A master’s degree and ~1 year of professional experience (e.g. internships) are the standard requirements for planning practitioners.
For quality assurance, you can also check if the program has PAB accreditation.

Degree Options

When it comes to choosing a master’s degree, you’re going to be overwhelmed with choice. Common titles include:

  • Master of Urban Planning (MUP)
  • Master of City Planning (MCP)
  • Master of Community Planning (MCP)
  • Master of Regional Planning (MRP)
  • Master of Town Planning (MTP)
  • Master of Planning (MPlan)
  • Master of Environmental Planning (MEP)
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Planning
  • Master of Science (MS) in Planning

All of these are generally considered to be professional master’s degree programs – i.e. the highest qualification you need to apply for professional planning positions.

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You also have the option to consider a related degree with a planning focus. For example, if you’re interested in government work, you may wish to consider the:

  • Master of Public Policy Administration (MPPA)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)

There are also joint degree programs where you can combine a master’s in planning with a degree in law, engineering, public policy, health management, or a related field. As always, we recommend you talk to your graduate adviser and your professional mentors about which degree is right for your career goals.

Sample Coursework

Coursework will depend on your choice of degree and concentration. For example, in an urban planning program, you may be studying urban revitalization, urban economics, sustainability issues, transportation policy, and housing and real estate. In a rural planning program, you may investigating issues related to agriculture and the environment. Having said that, most programs will include foundation classes in areas such as the history and theory of planning, statistics, planning law, and data analysis.

You won’t be spending all of your time in class. A good chunk will be spent in lab work, internships, and fieldwork. Internships and experience with real-world planning projects are particularly valuable when it comes to applying for jobs after graduation. You will also be expected to conduct independent research and present your findings in a thesis or capstone project in your final year.

Career Options

With a master’s degree and strong work experience, you’re in a good position for careers. In addition to local and state government agencies, you may wish to consider working for non-profit organizations, architecture practices, law firms, consulting firms, or real estate developers. The majority of urban and regional planners end up in local government.

Sample job titles for master’s graduates include:

  • Transportation Planner
  • Natural Resource Manager
  • Tribal Planner
  • Land Use & Code Enforcement Planner
  • Urban Design Planner
  • Economic Development Planner
  • Housing Policy & Projects Planner
  • Economic Development Specialist
  • Historic Preservation Officer

Doctoral Degree in Planning

A PhD in Planning is a 4-7 year graduate program intended for planners who wish to teach at the university level or pursue a career in high-level research and/or public policy. Unlike the master’s degree, which is aimed at professional training, the PhD is focused on research and scholarly investigation. You do not need a PhD in order to qualify for planning jobs.

PhD programs are not accredited by PAB. However, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) maintains a list of schools that offer PhD planning programs.

Certificate in Planning

A certificate in planning is a non-degree, academic program that takes approximately 6 months-1 year to complete. Most certificates in planning are offered at the graduate level, to students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. You may wish to earn a certificate in order to fulfill continuing education requirements, amass course credits for a master’s, specialize in a particular area (e.g. real estate development, landscape development, etc.), or hone your skills.

Regional Accreditation

Overall, we recommend you attend a regionally accredited college or university. Regional accreditation is a “seal of approval” granted to institutions by one of 6 regional accrediting bodies (e.g. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).

You can learn more about the difference between national accreditation and regional accreditation in: Accreditation: Understanding the Difference Between Real Schools and Diploma Mills.

Benefits of Regional Accreditation

By attending a regionally accredited school, you will find it easier to:

  • Transfer credits (many regionally accredited schools don’t accept credits from nationally accredited institutions)
  • Qualify for scholarships, funding, student loan, and tuition reimbursement
  • Apply for respected graduate schools
  • Look good in the eyes of headhunters and recruiters

Remember that regional accreditation is given to an overall institution. To see if the planning program is accredited, you should look for PAB accreditation as well.

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Planning Accreditation Board

The Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) is the sole body that accredits university programs in North America that offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in planning. Every year, the PAB reviews new programs and decides whether they meet certain standards for the profession. These standards have been created with input from the public and the American Planning Association (APA), the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

Do you need to go to a PAB-accredited program in order to get a job? No. However, it tells prospective employers that you have:

  • Knowledge in areas such as the structure and functions of urban settlements; the history and theory of planning processes and practices; the administrative, legal, and political aspects of plan-making and policy implementation; and a specialization of your choice
  • Skills inquantitative analysis and computers, problem formulation and solving, plan-making and program design, ethics, communication, and application of knowledge to practice

In addition, graduates of a PAB-accredited program can take the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification exam earlier in their careers than students from non-accredited programs.

Find a PAB-accredited professional program.

State Licensure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

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“As of 2012, New Jersey was the only state that required planners to be licensed, although Michigan required registration to use the title ‘community planner.’”

You can learn more about these licensing processes from New Jersey’s State Board of Professional Planners and Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

AICP Certification

Once you have your degree in hand, you might consider becoming board certified through the APA’s professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). You’ll often see these initials after the job titles of professional planners. Some employers like to see AICP certification, since it tells them that you have met certain schooling/experience requirements and have mastered a set of planning skills.

How to Become AICP-Certified

In order to earn AICP certification, you must:

  • Be a current member of the American Planning Association (APA)
  • Be engaged in professional planning, either currently or in the past, as defined by AICP
  • Have completed one of the combinations of education and corresponding years of professional planning experience (listed on the AICP site)
  • Pass the AICP Comprehensive Planning Examination
  • Pay AICP dues
  • Maintain your certification every 2 years through continuing education

AICP also offers Advanced Specialty Certification in transportation planning, environmental planning, and urban design.

AICP certification is a great planning credential, but you may not need it for a job. For instance, if you’re interested in running a large planning agency, you may wish to focus your attention on law, public policy, and business management. Talk to your mentors about your options. Regardless of your choice, you should still consider becoming a member of the American Planning Association (APA). This is a major networking hub for planners.

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Helpful Planning Organizations

FAQs

What major is best for urban planning? ›

Urban Planner Undergraduate Degrees

Most urban planners complete a bachelor's degree program in economics, geography, environmental studies, or political science.

Is urban planning a good career choice? ›

When it comes to job roles, urban planning graduates have a great deal of choice. There are opportunities in housing, transport planning, conservation, and of course, urban design. These jobs can be found in local authorities, such as councils, national governments, or in the private sector.

What are the problems of urban planning? ›

3 Main Problems Faced in Urban Planning
  • Individual Control or Small Parcels of Land: ...
  • Arbitrary Political Boundaries: ...
  • Irregularity of Environmental Site: ...
  • Heritage of Past Construction: ...
  • Anticipation of Future Change:

Which is better urban planning or urban design? ›

“Urban design focuses more on the shape and form of spaces, as well as people's experiences of a place. Urban planning focuses on how these spaces function in an effective way to make people's lives better.

Is urban planning stressful? ›

Not only is the job challenging, but being an urban planner can be stressful. As Glenn puts it, “you always have to worry about politics. If the mayor gets voted out, you don't know if you're staying.

Why do people study urban planning? ›

Who should consider majoring in Urban and Regional Planning? Students that: want to learn about methods to deal effectively with growth and development of all kinds. are interested in positive social, economic, environmental, and physical change.

Are urban planners happy? ›

Urban planners are about average in terms of happiness. At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, urban planners rate their career happiness 3.1 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 43% of careers.

Where do urban planners get paid the most? ›

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the District of Columbia, where planners earn a median salary of just over $109,370, as the top-paying region in the United States followed by California, where the median income is $95,060, and New York, where average mean income is $87,520.

Is urban planning in high demand? ›

Employment of urban and regional planners is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

What is the future of urban planning? ›

URBAN PLANNING WILL BE HUMAN-CENTRIC

To create flourishing cities of the future, designers will address issues like public health and community building. Creating vibrant downtown districts, mixed-use spaces, human-powered and intermodal transit systems, and green spaces are all critical to this goal.

What are three important factors in urban planning? ›

Despite some differences state to state, these are the general key factors involved in urban planning.
  • The Environment and Climate. ...
  • The Residents. ...
  • Areas in Need of Regeneration. ...
  • Resources Available. ...
  • The Future.
Jul 31, 2018

What are three examples of urban planning? ›

Early examples of efforts toward planned urban development include orderly street systems that are rectilinear and sometimes radial; division of a city into specialized functional quarters; development of commanding central sites for palaces, temples, and civic buildings; and advanced systems of fortification, water ...

What can you do with a masters in urban planning? ›

After graduating Urbam Planning, students find work as urban planners, conservation officers, housing officers, transport planners, local government officers, etc. Check out our list of Master's degrees in Urban Planning. Keep in mind you can also study an online Masters in Urban Planning.

What are 5 factors that urban planners should consider when developing a city? ›

Here are five key factors all urban planners must consider when developing a region:
  • Planners must pay attention to the area's environment. ...
  • City planners need to consider city residents. ...
  • Plans should be forward-thinking. ...
  • Areas in need of renewal need special consideration.
Aug 9, 2016

What is the difference between urban planning and city planning? ›

Urban planning is more focused on modern public infrastructure. City planning aims for state-of-the-art developments, too. However, a city plan must simultaneously prioritize the local population's interaction with such infrastructure or facilities.

What do urban planners do every day? ›

What does being an urban planner entail? I plan and design transportation infrastructure and policy. That's the most literal way of explaining it. Sometimes I do strategic planning where we're figuring out what problem we're trying to solve with transportation or a planning solution.

What do city planners wear? ›

When we met with planners for one city government, they always were dressed in business formal wear; full suits with ties and button-down dress shirts. I found that dress codes for larger municipalities tend to be more formal than for smaller municipalities, and less formal for counties than for cities.

What is being an urban planner like? ›

An urban planner is a professional who helps to design and execute plans for sustainable and beneficial land use within a city. Urban planners should have competencies in a series of fields, including public policy, economic analysis, engineering, city planning, and community engagement.

Is an urban planning masters worth it? ›

If you are looking for a career that combines analytical and organizational skills while helping communities, urban planning is worth considering. Visiting local master's programs and shadowing urban planners in your community are both great ways to find out if this career is right for you.

How do I get experience in urban planning? ›

Some employers require urban planners to have up to two years of experience in related positions. This can include architecture, public policy or transportation planning. Temporary jobs or internships are the most common way prospective urban planners gain experience.

How do I start a career in urban planning? ›

Most urban and regional planners have a master's degree from an accredited urban or regional planning program. Candidates with a bachelor's degree typically need work experience in planning, public policy, or a related field. Master's degree programs accept students with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds.

Should urban planners be good at math? ›

Urban designers use math as they design the arrangement, appearance, and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular, the shaping and uses of safe public space. Also, urban designers use mathematical models to forecast the future needs of a group of people.

What is quality of life in urban design? ›

Urban quality of life is a concept that has the challenge to solve the problems of urban areas, to control urban sprawl and to prevent environmental deterioration. It has the objective to restore existing urban areas and control the development of new communities.

How does urban planning improve the quality of life? ›

It boosts quality of life through enhancing an area's livability and increasing its competitiveness. It also can contribute to better health and wellness within that space. Some urban planners are creating planned Health and Wellness Districts within urban spaces.

What city has the best urban planning? ›

The world's best-planned cities
  • Brasilia, Brazil.
  • Singapore City, Singapore.
  • Chandigarh, India.
  • Seoul, South Korea.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark.
Mar 8, 2018

What is the best planned city in America? ›

Pronounced “the best planned city in America” by Frederick Law Olmsted, and often billed as the “20-minute city” for its easy accessibility, Buffalo's world-class design makes getting around a snap.

Is urban planning similar to civil engineering? ›

Urban planners work with civil engineers to envision the future of cities, regions and the state. While most urban planners are not civil engineers, it's important that they understand their interconnected issues. Students trained in both fields are in high demand.

Which state employs the most urban planners? ›

1. District of Columbia
Total Urban Planner Jobs:43
Average Annual Salary:$86,757
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$61,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$123,000
1 more row
Apr 6, 2021

Where can I work as an urban planner? ›

Most urban planners work for local or regional government offices. Cities, counties, and some townships, depending on size and population, will have at least one planner on staff.

What are three similar occupations to an urban planner? ›

Careers for Urban and Regional Planners
  • City planners.
  • Code enforcement planners.
  • Community activism and empowerment planners.
  • Community development planners.
  • Community planners.
  • Economic development planners.
  • Environmental and natural resources planners.
  • Historic preservation planners.

What will cities look like in 2050? ›

Cities will continue to expand, with more skyscrapers being built as millions head to large cities for employment and career prospects. Climate change will also have a huge impact, as many will be forced out of coastal towns due to flooding. It's possible that one billion people could be displaced by 2050.

What will smart cities look like? ›

In the future, cities may see flying vehicles, mega bridges, super-connected street experiences, and underground spaces. Those futuristic cities will be powered by big data, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence – so they may live, breathe, and even think with us.

Who designs a city? ›

Urban designers work with architects, landscape architects, transportation engineers, urban planners, and industrial designers to reshape the city.

What is the biggest problem with the current urban development? ›

At present, the most serious issue due to urbanization is degraded environmental conditions containing poor air and water quality, including land, noise, and other pollution, causing damages to the health of city dwellers.

What urban design is most like? ›

Urban design is concerned with the arrangement, appearance and function of our suburbs, towns and cities. It is both a process and an outcome of creating localities in which people live, engage with each other, and engage with the physical place around them.

What technology does an urban planner use? ›

GIS technology empowers urban planners with enhanced visibility into data. They monitor fluctuations over time, evaluate the feasibility of proposed projects and predict their effects on the environment.

What is urban planning in simple words? ›

Urban planning encompasses the preparation of plans for and the regulation and management of towns, cities, and metropolitan regions. It attempts to organize sociospatial relations across different scales of government and governance.

What is urban planning degree? ›

This Urban Planning degree focuses on the built environment and how it's developed. You'll develop a thorough understanding of planning processes, design awareness and housing policy so you're equipped to pursue a career in town planning.

What is theory in urban planning? ›

Theories are scientific ideas based on multiple assumptions and principles, while urban planning is a strategy given to plan a city/area/space keeping environmental and political context in mind, it helps in defining the land use, building a better transportation connection, and developing water bodies.

Is urban planning a hard major? ›

It takes a lot of hard work and skill to be a successful urban planner. Becoming a city planner requires several years of undergraduate and postgraduate education in an urban planning major.

What major is best for urban planning? ›

Urban planning programs are typically oriented towards engineering. Many urban planning programs allow students to specialize, so that they can be awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Geography with an emphasis in urban planning, a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Planning, or a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning.

What should I do after urban planning? ›

What types of jobs do UPD grads pursue?
  1. Development Manager, real estate.
  2. Project Manager, economic development.
  3. Planner, city government.
  4. Planner, consulting.
  5. Associate Planner, urban consulting.
  6. Research Associate, international urban development nonprofit Founder, international NGO.
  7. Project Planner and Analyst, nonprofit.

What are the problems of urban planning? ›

3 Main Problems Faced in Urban Planning
  • Individual Control or Small Parcels of Land: ...
  • Arbitrary Political Boundaries: ...
  • Irregularity of Environmental Site: ...
  • Heritage of Past Construction: ...
  • Anticipation of Future Change:

What is poor urban planning? ›

Poor urban planning is claimed to be the primary cause of unaffordable housing. It is said to be linked to higher house prices and lower economic performance. Evidence to support these claims shows a correlation – but not a causal link – between the restrictiveness of planning regulations and housing affordability.

What is the best shape for a city? ›

Harari's research has made some interesting linkages between the shape of the city and average local wages and housing rents. More compact cities tend to have higher wages and rent, with circular cities being the most ideal for reducing commute times and improving efficiencies.

What should I major in for urban planning Reddit? ›

A sampling of some of the majors, in no particular order: geography, anthropology, political science, english, urban studies, art history, art, architecture, philosophy... If you are passionate on the topic already then you will have a much better time studying urban planning than another bachelor degree.

What degree do you need for urban development? ›

Earn a bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree in urban and regional planning, geography, architecture, or engineering is typically the minimum qualification for urban planners, but you can also consider environmental studies, economics, or political science.

What is urban planning degree? ›

This Urban Planning degree focuses on the built environment and how it's developed. You'll develop a thorough understanding of planning processes, design awareness and housing policy so you're equipped to pursue a career in town planning.

What degree do you need to be a town planner? ›

You'll need a degree or a postgraduate qualification accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Subjects include: planning, environment and development.

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