What do you study for a degree in Urban and Regional Planning?

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DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What is urban planning?

Urban planners are involved in the development of cities and towns concerning the use of land, public welfare, environmental concerns, as well as the infrastructure. The latter encompasses transportation systems (road and highways), communications, housing, and business locations.

Urban planners, for example, examine the need for bike lanes to reduce vehicle traffic or determine if a rapid transit rail system is feasible. Also, their duties may address housing affordability that suits the workforce in a particular neighborhood.

What is regional planning?

This subject goes beyond the confines of a city or town. However, it deals with some of the same areas of planning, such as pollution, residential planning, shop placement, infrastructure, and economic issues. By stretching the planning zone, regional planners look at land-use for agriculture, wilderness, parkland, and industrial space. The objective of these planners is to provide optimal development for agriculture production, maintain the environment, and enhance the local economy.

The following are examples of coursework one can expect at different degree levels.

Associate Degree

You may find an associate degree in urban planning or urban studies at a local community college. This degree introduces students to the social, economic, political, and cultural influences that affect America’s metropolitan communities. In this endeavor, some of the courses include sociology, cultural anthropology, a condensed version of western civilization from the 1700s, social issues of race, political science, and human geography.

Graduates with an associate degree may find entry-level jobs; however, the employment opportunities might be scant. You could use the degree as a stepping-stone to a bachelor’s program in urban and regional planning. The next level of education will broaden the job prospects. To confirm this proposition, check out urban planner jobs at online employment sites, such as Indeed. Many of these state the minimum educational qualifications as a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

Undergraduate programs use various names to describe a bachelor’s degree in the field of urban planning. Different terms for the program, in turn, affect the coursework. Here are examples:

  • Community and Environmental Planning
  • Urban Studies and Planning
  • Community Development
  • Urban Planning and Design
  • City and Regional Planning
  • Human Geography and Planning
  • Sustainable Community Development
  • Environmental Planning and Policy

Of course, some schools adhere to urban planning, urban and regional planning, and regional planning.

The last example comes from the University of Southern Maine in Portland. This program concentrates on environmental science topics, including a science lab, ecology, atmospheric conditions (climate change), environmental regulations, and environmental risk assessment and policy.

Programs under the banner of urban and regional planning offer courses in community development, transportation planning, environmental policy, planning law, and public policy, public budgeting, visual planning technology, for example.

The Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University provides a generous selection of electives. Students can choose from a variety of departments to explore areas associated with their major. Some of the course options are from the departments of finance, architecture, civil engineering, criminal justice, public administration, political science, sociology, and more.

The Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning offers a Bachelor of Arts or Science in Community Development. The coursework covers a range of subjects, including the theory and philosophy of community development, urban housing, real estate development, cultural and religious effects on communities, land use, transportation, workforce development, economics, and many others.

Master’s Degree

At this level, you have the option of continuing straight into a graduate program or take the degree online while employed. Ideally, if your employer contributes to the tuition, you reduce the financial burden and earn a salary. Individuals interested in a combination bachelor and master’s degree should check out the five-year (4+1) path at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. You can take a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Community Development, followed by a year of a Master of Regional Planning. The undergrad program has a concentration in Landscape Studies or Urban Studies.

Another example is the Master of City and Regional Planning at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One of the courses is Planning Theory examines the theories behind successful practices, political involvement, rights and regulations, and ethical influences in city/urban planning. A class in spatial structure involves population and employment, land use, and demographic trends from a historical perspective.

Many graduate programs have the choice of specializations. Depending on your career aspirations, students can tailor the coursework to a particular area of interest and ambition. For example, the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy offers these concentrations:

  • Arts and Culture
  • Design of the Built Environment
  • Economic Development
  • Environmental Planning and Analysis
  • Housing and Real Estate Development
  • Mobility and Transportation Planning


Students enthused about entering the professions surrounding urban and regional planning have numerous college programs from which to choose. Whether you start with an associate degree or bachelor’s, in all likelihood, the employment possibilities will increase with higher education.

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