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One-Year Urban Planning Master's Degree Programs

Learn about one-year urban planning and design master's programs, including common coursework topics. Then, explore careers related to urban and regional planning.

Overview of Urban Planning Master's Degree Programs

There are a few master's programs in the field of urban planning that are designed to be completed in only one to one and a half years of study, typically requiring anywhere from 32 to 45 academic units. Urban planning master's programs usually also include studios, which allow students to hone their practical design skills through various projects.

Some, but not all, urban planning master's programs require that students applying to the program have a bachelor's degree in architecture, city and regional planning, or landscape architecture, and students must also submit a resume, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and possibly a design portfolio.

Planning History and Theory

In an urban planning master's program, students usually take a core course on the history of planning where they study the major theories of the field from pedestrian-centered urbanism to environmental planning. These courses also examine political, gender, and governmental factors that have affected and influenced urban design. Some courses also use the history of urban planning to discuss where 21st-century urbanism is and should be going.

Urban Economic/Demographic Analysis

One of the most important aspects of urban planning is understanding the population that lives in the city or environment that is being designed. A course on urban economic analysis teaches students how to analyze the demographics of a city, including labor markets, transportation, households, and businesses. Some courses also focus on the analysis of demographic information and techniques for population projection, population extrapolation, and demographic indicators.

Planning Methods

As urban planning and design requires strong applied research skills, a core course in these programs covers quantitative and qualitative research. Students learn how to define a research question related to urban planning, how to collect and analyze data, and how to understand case studies. Some courses also cover project management skills and grant writing.

Statistics for Planning

As urban planners must be able to make financial, policy, and management decisions based on sets of data, a course that covers basic statistical methods is usually included in the curriculum. These types of courses cover a range of statistics theories, including descriptive statistics, simple/multiple regression analysis, multivariate analysis, and more. These courses usually also cover statistical methods related to research design and sampling as well as hypothesis testing.

Urban Spatial Dynamics

A course on urban spatial dynamics helps students understand how cities function and how they are structured. One main concept that this course covers is positive behavioral theories, which helps to explain internal spatial arrangements and the ways residents move around in a space. Students also study theories of urban change, or how cities change over time, theories of land use and land rent, and models of urban form.

Land Use Law and Planning

As urban development, construction, and building projects must always follow local, state, and federal laws and regulations, most programs include a course that covers the legal aspects of urban planning. These courses include the study of important legal topics, such as eminent domain, zoning laws, environmental laws, and impact fees. Some courses also center on the biggest US court cases and decisions that have affected land use laws as well as navigating the US legal system as it relates to urban planning.

Urban Planning Careers Paths

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners use their skills to address land use, growth, and social and economic developmental issues that affect cities or smaller towns. Urban planners often work with public officials or developers to come up with plans for specific projects, such as the creation of parks or business revitalization efforts. They must collect data about an area, analyze it, conduct site visits, and develop their plan and proposal. Urban and regional planners also have to adhere to regulations, building codes, and other legal guidelines.

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects focus on designing and planning different types of outdoor spaces, such as parks, and gardens, and outdoor areas for private homes, businesses, and college campuses. Within these outdoor spaces, landscape architects account for the arrangement of buildings, pathways, roads, trees, and other greenery. To do so, they use advanced computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create models for their designs. They must also select materials, prepare cost estimates, and analyze landscapes.

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers are experts at designing and constructing infrastructure systems, such as bridges, roads, buildings, and tunnels. To do this, civil engineers analyze data, maps, and survey reports, utilize design software to plan projects, come up with budgets, and present their plans. They must also ensure that projects meet state and federal guidelines and laws and obtain permits. Civil engineers usually specialize as well, such as in construction or transportation.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2019) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Urban and Regional Planners $74,350 11%
Landscape Architects $69,360 4%
Civil Engineers $87,060 6%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

One-year urban planning master's programs include coursework, studios, and usually a final project. A master's degree in this field opens up the door for careers in urban design and engineering.