Urban Planning Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an urban planning associate and bachelor's degree program? Read about urban planning degree program requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree program and potential careers.
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Urban Planning Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

Urban planners develop strategies to determine how to best use or develop land in a community. They work to grow neighborhoods, protect the environment, develop plans for residential or commercial structures and oversee traffic patterns.

Most urban planning positions require a master's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Associate and bachelor's degree programs in urban planning do exist, and can prepare students to either enroll in graduate programs or obtain some entry-level positions in the field. Urban planners work for non-profit organizations, consulting firms and local and state governmental agencies. Employment for urban and regional planners is projected to grow 16% from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for?Students who want to transfer to a bachelor's degree in urban planning or find an entry-level assistant position People who want to work as professional urban planners
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Planning technician (salary unavailable)
- Site planning assistant (salary unavailable)
- Assistant planner (salary unavailable)
- Urban planner ($43,000)*
- Environmental planner ($51,000)*
Time to Completion2 years 4-5 years
Common Graduation Requirements - General education courses
- Courses in subjects like codes and zoning and geographic information science
- Possible internship
- Core courses in subjects like land use planning and community development
- Professional practice in the field
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability No, but coursework is available No, but coursework is available

Source: *Salary.com (July 2010 figures)

Associate Degree in Urban Planning

Although these associate degree programs exist, they are rare. They will typically require you to complete general education courses and classes in urban planning. You may also have the opportunity to work in an internship and get real world experience. As a student in an associate degree program in urban planning, your coursework should enable you to transition to a bachelor's degree program in the field.

Pros and Cons of an Associate Degree in Urban Planning


  • Having an associate degree in urban planning will make it easier to enter a bachelor's degree program.
  • You can learn some skills in urban planning and complete your degree in only two years.
  • Urban planners work in a wide variety of areas such as non-profits, planning consulting firms, and state and federal government.


  • It is challenging to find urban planning positions with only an associate degree.
  • Urban planners often have to work evenings or weekends to attend meetings.
  • Urban planners face pressure from politicians and the public.

Courses and Requirements

In an associate degree program in urban planning, students focus on coursework that will lead to a bachelor's degree program. Some courses you might take include:

  • Codes, zoning and inspections
  • Geographic information sciences
  • Environmental issues
  • Computer graphics

Online Course Info

Online associate degree programs are not available, but students can find a variety of courses in urban planning online. These courses enable students with family and work obligations to have more flexibility in their schedules.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

You can stand out by honing your analytical skills. Urban planners spend a lot of time analyzing data from sources such as market research and environmental impact studies, as well as censuses. You can also get ahead by developing your collaboration skills, since urban planners collaborate with many different kinds of people such as public officials and engineers. Urban planners also may need to act as mediators when groups are in conflict.

Bachelor's Degree in Urban Planning

As a student in an undergraduate program in urban planning, you will learn how to improve communities by studying the relationships among building, infrastructural, cultural and ecological systems. You will study a variety of areas in urban planning such as urban design, growth management, ethics and race and ethnicity. You may also have the opportunity to focus on topics of interest and to do field work. Your coursework will help prepare you for careers working for non-profit agencies, consulting firms, land development companies and law firms.

Pros and Cons of a Bachelor's Degree in Urban Planning


  • A bachelor's degree program in urban planning will prepare you for graduate work in the field.
  • You will learn about a wide range of areas in urban planning.
  • Urban planning is a growing and emerging field.


  • You will need a master's degree for most professional urban planning jobs.
  • As an urban planner, you may need to deal with conflict when working with community members, public officials and interest groups.
  • Urban planners sometimes need to work against tight deadlines.

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in urban planning can have an interdisciplinary approach and allow students to take courses in other departments. Students will have the opportunity to attend lectures, professional seminars and studio/lab sessions. Common core courses include:

  • Urban ecology
  • Land use planning
  • Housing and community development
  • Sustainability planning
  • Site planning

Online Course Info

Online bachelor's degree programs in urban planning are not very common, but students can take courses over the Internet in different areas of urban planning. These online courses help accommodate students who have work and family commitments.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

You can have a competitive advantage if you develop strong public speaking skills, since urban planners give many presentations to audiences, including community members and public officials. You can also stand out if you hone your management skills, because, as an urban planner, you will need to manage projects, oversee tasks, and plan assignments. You might also gain certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), which can prove to potential employers that you have a certain level of professionalism and knowledge in the field.