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Urban Ecology Graduate Programs

Degree programs devoted exclusively to urban ecology are uncommon, but programs at the graduate level are available (usually in the form of a master's degree.) Another option would be to concentrate on this field through a related program such as natural resources or urban planning. Read on to learn about graduate programs and coursework in urban ecology, the availability of online learning resources within this field, and career options.

What Is Urban Ecology?

Urban ecology is the study of how urban communities and other high-population developments affect the natural resources and ecosystems around them. Professionals in this field often work with community leaders and government officials to help them plan and take civic action in ways that will minimize degradation of the local environment.

Definition of Urban Ecology The study of how cities and natural ecosystems affect each other locally
Degree Programs A master's degree in this field is most common; other degree levels exist but are rare
Online Availability Degrees can sometimes be earned exclusively through online coursework, but this is not standard
Common Coursework and Topics Growth management, environmental sustainability, environmental law, community development
Career Prospects Design firms, non-profits and government agencies all commonly require urban planners with knowledge of ecology
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 13% (for urban and regional planners)
Median Salary (2018)* $73,050 (for urban and regional planners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Degree Programs Can I Find in This Field?

Graduate programs in urban ecology are available, though they may be very rare depending on your intended location of study. While doctoral degrees and fellowship programs do exist, master's degree programs are the most common option for those seeking graduate-level certification within this field. These programs are often coupled with studies in natural resources, environmental science, urban planning or design.

Are Online Programs Available?

Some programs are available entirely online. Others may require you to meet with your fellow students periodically (usually on weekends) to conduct fieldwork or participate in seminars. Some students begin their studies by taking introductory courses at a campus location, but then complete their remaining coursework online.

What Might I Study in an Urban Ecology Program?

The curriculum for an urban ecology degree program is often a combination of urban planning course topics and field research methods in biology. You may find yourself taking water or soil samples to determine the toxicity of a river or previously-industrialized ground site, for example. You can also study how policy decisions about land use, transportation and resources planning affect the health of an urban environment.

Many programs also include course topics on grassroots activism. Through these, you can learn how local organizations work to create sustainable communities by lobbying for access to green space, public services and affordable housing. Some additional common course offerings are listed below.

  • Environmental assessment measures
  • Growth management
  • Environmental law
  • Community development
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Conflict resolution

What Are Some Career Options for Urban Ecology Degree Holders?

Graduates of urban ecology programs usually find roles working within non-profit organizations, design firms and/or city government offices. More specifically, they often serve as researchers, urban planners, community organizers or outreach liaisons within these organizations.