Playing a key role in cities and societies across the world, urban planning is a design and organization process that takes into consideration the political, environmental, economic, cultural, and social facets of a city, as well as physical aspects such air quality, water supply and infrastructure including buildings, roads and facilities. It tries to anticipate the future uses of space, areas or zones and the possible problems and solutions to issues that might arise in the urban environment.
With the growth of the worldwide population, pressing issues of climate change and the questions on sustainable development, there is much focus on the growing importance of urban planning.
Highlighted courses and degrees in urban planning
In addition to courses on planning and design, the curriculum of urban planning degree programs will generally include modules in economics, research and analytical methods, ecology, policy or law and history. More subject areas may be covered depending on the focus of the institution and program.
The majority of courses comprise of lectures and seminars. As such, assessment may be in the form of exams, projects and written work.
In the latter years of the program, a major project or research may be required and usually involves the specialization of specific urban planning aspect that the student has chosen to pursue. Most institutions also give the option for internships or placements in local, national or international organizations.
Most universities provide specialization options for their students, either through optional electives or as a mandatory part of the degree program. Availability of specializations would also depend on the offerings of each university. More specializations in the field of urban planning are available at the postgraduate level.
Below is a short list of some specializations offered as part of a urban planning undergraduate degree:
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates.
Graduates of urban planning degree programs can end up in different professional positions. For those considering working directly in the field as urban planners, there is no universally recognized certificate or license that must be obtained. In short, a license or certificate is not normally required if one chooses to work in urban planning.
A degree in urban planning typically takes around four years of full-time study. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located.
There are also various degrees available for urban planning graduates at the master’s and doctorate level, involving intensive research, coursework and experience for candidates looking to deepen their knowledge of urban planning. Further studies are taken by individuals looking to specialize on a specific aspect of urban planning.
Entrance into a urban planning degree program varies from institution to institution. Some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams. A number of universities also take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students or applicants.
Since urban planning is a multidisciplinary field, a solid background in different subjects and high marks in standard exams would serve as a good boost to your application. Various leadership experiences are also often taken into consideration. Some institutions also require a letter of intent or an application essay.
For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
If you do not meet the entry requirements you may want to consider a pathway course.
Visit our scholarships and funding section to read more about funding your studies.
Graduates of urban planning degree programs can take on different career paths directly in urban planning. Positions are available in different sectors. Many graduates of urban planning degree programs work for the public sector. This means working in the official organizations or departments of cities, regions, states or countries. Positions are also available in international organizations as well as firms, developers and other private companies. Some examples of positions are city or town planner, transportation planner, community worker, estate developer and research officer.
Because of its multidisciplinary nature, urban planning degree programs give its graduates highly transferrable skills such as research and analytical skills, teamwork, resource management skills and decision-making skills. These can be used across multiple fields, sectors and positions that graduates may want to pursue.
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