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Bachelor's Programs in Planning & Design

The field of planning and design melds the topics of architecture, community planning and environmental sustainability. Read about the bachelor's programs that are available, common course topics, career prospects and certification choices.

What Types of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Planning and Design Are Offered?

Degree programs in planning and design are much more common at the graduate level, but at least a few schools offer bachelor's degrees in this field. Bachelor's degrees in planning and design are generally offered through a university's school or college of architecture and planning, often within a department devoted to urban planning and development. You might pursue a Bachelor of Urban Planning and Development or a Bachelor of Arts in Community, Environment and Planning. Additionally, some schools offer a joint bachelor's degree with a Master of Urban and Regional Planning. Bachelor's degrees in planning and design are generally available only on campus.

Program Names Urban planning and development; community, environment and planning; urban and regional planning
Common Courses Site planning, urban planning law, planning ethics, presentation techniques
Career Opportunities Urban and regional planner
Continuing Education Master's and doctoral programs are available
Certifications Available American Institute of Certified Planners
Median Salary (2018)$73,050 (Urban and Regional Planners)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)13% growth (Urban and Regional Planners)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Will I Study?

A bachelor's degree program in planning and design combines topics in urban planning, architecture and landscape architecture. The curriculum focuses on environmental issues, like sustainability and managing natural resources, as well as other ethical issues. You'll take courses in planning and design history and theory, as well as classes in land use and development policies. The following are examples of some of the core courses you might take in a bachelor's degree program in planning and design:

  • Site planning
  • Presentation techniques
  • Urban planning law
  • Environment and community
  • History of planning
  • Economic development
  • Planning ethics
  • State and local politics

In order to earn your bachelor's degree, you'll also need to complete general education requirements. Additionally, some programs require several studio courses and an internship with a community development department, planning agency, or other planning or development firm.

What Careers Might I Pursue?

With a bachelor's degree in planning and design, you are on your way toward a career in urban and regional planning, sometimes referred to as community or city planning. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree from an accredited program will offer you the most employment options, but a bachelor's degree in urban or community planning could qualify you for some entry-level planning positions. Even with your foot in the door, the BLS notes that advancement in this field could be difficult without a graduate degree. Fortunately, your undergraduate education should prepare you for one of the 72 accredited master's programs offered throughout the U.S.

The BLS notes that employment for urban and regional planners is expected to grow at an average rate of 13% between 2016 and 2026, with master's degree holders seeing the best job prospects. As of 2018, the mean annual salary for urban and regional planners was $76,240, per the BLS.

What About Advancement and Certification?

If you are interested in advancing in the field of community or city planning, a master's degree is recommended. As a master's degree student, you will likely be asked to select a specialization, which might include community development, land-use enforcement, environmental planning or transportation planning. Doctoral degree programs in urban planning and development are also available that could prepare you for independent research or post-secondary teaching.

As of 2018, only New Jersey had any sort of regulation over the field of planning. However, some planners may wish to pursue professional credentials, which can help with advancement. You might seek certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), which requires passing an exam and meeting education and professional education criteria.