A Guide to Urban Planning Courses

Urban planning is the development and design of land use and the built environment. This can include airspace, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas. Good urban planners take into consideration the political, environmental, economic, cultural and social facets of a city, as well as understanding the physical aspects like air quality, water supply and infrastructure including buildings, roads and facilities.

The rapid growth of the worldwide population, as well as pressing climate change issues and questions around sustainable development, urban planners are having to be increasingly resourceful. This is making the training of urban planners more important, ensuring that graduates are well rounded and capable.


A degree in urban planning will include modules about the specific design and planning of spaces. You may also be required to study modules that are business based, such as economics, policy, law and history, among others.

Your degree will likely be delivered mostly in a lecture or seminar format. There may be some practical based lessons and assessments, but this will depend on your institution. Some institutions may encourage you to undertake a placement, as this gives you relevant work experience.


Depending on where you choose to study, your institution may offer you the opportunity to specialise towards the end of your degree. Some common specialisations include:

  • Urban Regeneration
  • Spatial Planning
  • Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Urban Design
  • Urban Health
  • Urban Economic Development

If your course requires you to write a dissertation, this will be a chance to research a chosen area to a greater extent.

Accreditation and Certification

The accreditation and certification of your degree will depend on the country in which you study, and your institution of choice. At a UK university, urban planning graduates will most likely be awarded a Bachelor of Science. Some courses in the UK may be accredited by the royal town planning institute (RTPI), or may run a degree in partnership with them. Another body that may accredit or contribute to degree courses in the UK is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

For information about the accreditation and certification of your course, check with your institution.

Studying Urban Planning at University

You can study Urban Planning at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level at University.

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Timeframe and Further Studies

Generally an undergraduate degree will last three to four years. Foundation degrees, diplomas and certificates usually last up to two years when studied full-time.

On completion of your urban planning degree, you will either be able to look for a job in your chosen field, or continue your studies. Continuation of your studies could be in the form of a postgraduate degree, such as a masters, a PhD, or a graduate diploma or certificate. If you do choose to further your studies, you will be given the opportunity to focus on a more specific area of Urban Planning.

Entry Requirements

The entry requirements for an urban planning degree will vary from institution to institution. Some universities may require you to sit an entrance exam, where others may rely on your previous exam results. Some institutions might prefer you to have studied certain subjects, and some may take into consideration previous relevant experience.

You should check each institution to see what entry requirements they have for their urban planning programmes.

  • UK – 6.5 IELTS
  • US – 2.5 GPA

Funding Your Studies

Fees for international students are not fixed, so are set by the individual institutions. This means that tuition fees can vary greatly at each university. You should make sure that you are aware of how much each course will cost you.

You may be eligible for a scholarship or funding. This could be awarded by your institution, or another separate funding body. For more information, visit our scholarships and funding section.

Career Options

Graduates of an urban planning degree will have been provided many transferable skills. This means that there will be a wide range of career paths open to you. You may choose to work directly in urban planning, in either the public or private sector. Jobs could include town planner, transportation planner, community worker, estate developer or research officer. Transferable skills gained might be research and analytical skills, teamwork, resource management skills and decision-making skills. These are all very useful in many different fields and sectors.

Top Courses in Urban Planning

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