Urban Studies and Affairs

The field of urban studies and affairs is concerned with what makes cities work and how they can be improved in the future. Explore undergraduate and graduate degree options related to this field. Read about some positions you could pursue with an urban studies and affairs degree, like those in urban planning.

Are Studies in Urban Affairs for Me?

Career Overview

Urban studies and affairs is an interdisciplinary field focused on understanding cities and their social, political and economic constructs. Drawing from several other disciplines, such as history, sociology, political science and geography, urban studies addresses some of the most basic yet important questions regarding urban living. For instance, professionals in urban studies may work to understand the factors that influence a person's choice to live in a city or factors that make a city function properly. An interest in understanding urban issues and a desire to help improve urban communities are essential criteria for working in this field.

Careers in urban studies and affairs are often found within the areas of urban public policy, urban planning, community development and public administration. You could work in the public sector for federal, state or local governments, or in the private sector for a planning firm or nonprofit community service organization focused on urban issues. Job opportunities include working as a consultant, city planner, real estate agent or market analyst, for example. Some policy, planning and other service sector jobs may require graduate degrees. Careers in academia and research, as well as positions that emphasize community advocacy, often require doctoral degrees.

Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects average job growth for urban and regional planners at a rate of 10% from 2012-2022, as well as above-average growth for sociologists at 15% and political scientists at 21%, during that same decade (www.bls.gov). As of 2012, urban and regional planners earned a median annual salary of $65,230, sociologists had a median annual salary of $74,960, and political scientists earned a yearly median of $102,000, per the BLS.

How Can I Work in Urban Studies and Affairs?

Education

Degree programs in urban studies are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Bachelor's degree programs may be offered in urban studies or urban affairs, though degree programs in urban and public affairs exist as well. Urban studies graduate programs include the Master of Urban Studies, Master of Urban Affairs and Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Studies. Degrees in urban planning are also available at all degree levels.

If you're considering a career in policy and public service, you might consider a joint degree in urban studies and public administration. Some schools offer a combined Bachelor of Urban Studies and Master of Public Administration program that can be completed in just five years.

Specializations within urban studies programs often include community development, policy, social demography and planning. Many programs incorporate coursework from a variety of departments, such as law, architecture and sociology. As an undergraduate in urban studies, you can expect to study history, urban planning, sustainability and political science. At the graduate level, you'll further explore historical, social and political topics, with courses in urban theory, urban politics, research design and urban economics. Some schools may also require fieldwork experience through approved internships.

Certification

Beyond formal education, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), which is part of the American Planning Association, offers certification to professional planners (www.planning.org). Certification through the AICP requires a certain level of education and planning-related work experience, as well as passing an examination. Professional development opportunities are also available through the Urban Affairs Association, with conferences, job postings and other membership benefits (www.urbanaffairsassociation.org).

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