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Urban Planning

The Breakdown

How do cities grow and progress?  For example, who decides where a new housing development should be constructed?  And who determines where bike lanes should be (if at all)?  In short, how does a city work to ensure a high quality of life for its residents?  These questions are all the provenance of urban planners.  If you’re fascinated by issues of urban growth and renewal, then urban planning just might be the path for you!      

Urban planning is often an interdisciplinary major.  Through courses ranging from architecture and engineering to economics and political science, you’ll learn all about how to deal with the challenges of maintaining ever-evolving cities.  You will cover issues central to the growth and stability of urban areas such as combating pollution, developing affordable housing and protecting resources.  Depending on the program, you might be asked to choose a concentration or track.  Possible options could include urban studies, urban design, environmental sustainability or housing.  Additionally, most urban planning majors have a practical aspect to their studies, often interning with local municipal boards, policy makers, urban development coalitions, etc. 

Success in urban planning requires an interesting and unique combination of skill-sets.  To begin with, the field is most definitely people-oriented so solid communication skills are essential, as is an appreciation for collaboration.  You’ll also need to rely on a certain degree of visual and aesthetic acuity.  Further, you’ll discover that patience for bureaucracy is also necessary (or at least very useful).  And, of course, you should be good with quantitative analysis.  Finally, you should be someone who enjoys the hubbub of city life. 


Nuts and Bolts

As an urban planning major, your diverse course-load is likely to include classes such as: The City and Social Theory, American Cities in the Twentieth Century, Real Estate Law and Regulation, Land Use Planning, Social Inequality and Public Policy, Environmental and Preventative Health Issues, Urban Design for Redevelopment, Public Transportation, Urban World System, Ethnic Diversity and the City, and Introduction to Policy Analysis.

Decisions, Decisions

Urban planning majors are fascinated (and concerned) by all aspects that affect a city’s health, development and growth.  Therefore, they are also likely to enjoy studying architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, political science, economics, American studies, business administration, archeology, public administration, environmental science, sociology and urban studies.

What's Next

Though a degree in urban planning will give you wide berth as you embark on your professional life, it’s quite common for majors to attend graduate school.  Indeed a large number of grads pursue advanced degrees in urban planning, public policy, architecture, sociology and even anthropology.  Additionally, attending business or law school is also quite common.  Of course, since urban planning is a rather diverse field, you could find yourself working in a variety of settings – from government offices to non-profits and private firms.  Indeed, grads can be found working in architecture or engineering firms, transportation agencies, utility companies, law enforcement, politics and real estate development.  They also gravitate to positions in historical restoration and preservation and urban renewal and revitalization.  Possible work can include policy analysis, public administration, city planning, human services, demography and social statistics.  Wherever you ultimately land, you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll be helping your community thrive. 



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Don Munce