The 10 Best Online Master’s of City Planning Graduate Schools in 2023

Best Master's of City Planning - featured image

City Planning is one of the most important aspects of urban design. For thousands of years, city planners have been crucial in human societies, and of course, are still vital today.

Their work is important in that it not only provides safety for everyone involved, but also provides comfort, ease of transportation, and efficiency. A well-planned city is a happy city.

An urban planning online degree provides training in a wide array of applications, such as city planning, urban development planning, and everything in between. City and urban planners get to see their dreams come to fruition as they dedicate themselves to the betterment of their community, whether it’s through esthetics or functionality.

A city or urban planning program will teach you the skills needed to excel in the field and get that job promotion you deserve!

As Cities Grow, the Need for City Planners Increases…

With the needs of the population constantly changing and adapting, towns and cities must adapt as well to fit through community development. Transportation must be efficient, water infrastructures must save energy, medical facilities and hospitals must always be in perfect working order, and schools must run in an orderly and methodical fashion in order for a community to function on the highest level. When a new project is designed and developed, several important factors come into play.

city planning

Whenever changes are made, within urban development, in response to an exponentially increasing population, safety is always the primary concern. In addition to the safety of every individual, maintaining the safety of the environment is also a factor that should always be carefully considered and the environmental sustainability of our surroundings is protected.

When it comes to the improvement of city life, society, and health, these two primary concerns are the most significant.

In investing in an online Master of City Planning degree program, one is looking to gain not just proficiency to work in these areas, but also the expertise needed to stand out in a competitive field. The responsibilities involved in becoming a city planner and working in that profession are significant, and this degree program will leave you well prepared.

City Planning Defined

City, urban and regional planning emphasizes the quality of life in villages, towns, suburbs, and cities. It involves the short and long-term goals regarding the utilization of lands within the cities. The study will provide city planners with in-depth knowledge about the systems of the cities where they currently work. 

Several factors must be considered by city planners when planning a city, village, or town. They include transportation, cultural, environmental, and economic needs. It will also include a comprehensive study of current facilities, roads, and establishments and their impact on the city within the foreseeable future.

Anticipating future utilization of space is crucial in city planning. It includes foreseeing the potential challenges that could arise and developing effective solutions to prevent them from happening. City Planning also envisions the city’s aesthetics.

They evaluate the way zones, neighborhoods, or cities will look as they evolve. Aesthetic plans will include requirements for green and tree spaces, parking lot entrances, and lighting on signages.

city planning

Students in the City Planning degree program will learn how to not only design cities and towns, but to do it in a realistic and implementable way. They will learn to design cities that are both environmentally attractive and sustainable. There are many different methods of bringing urban development and geographical/land resources into play, and they will all be explored in their studies.

Some students will have the opportunity to meet with city or state officials/developers to discuss projects and proposals. City Planners must also be aware of environmental policies, transportation needs, zoning guidelines, and the locations of possible historic buildings or establishments.

Because of the character and academic compass of this program of study, there are few universities and schools offering a completely online program. However, fortunately, there are a few schools offering this online degree, with specific concentration areas.

city planning

Read on to discover the 10 Best Online Master of City Planning degree programs, that will give you all the skills, knowledge, and tools that are absolutely essential to becoming a successful City Planning professional.


In compiling this best online Master’s in City Planning graduate school ranking, stringent criteria were enforced to ensure that prospective students have the most excellent options:

  • Rigorous 100% or hybrid online coursework that is at par with counterpart brick-and-mortar classes,
  • Provides high-quality instruction from an impressive panel of educators consisting of the who’s-who in the field of City Planning,
  • Master’s level curricula and education that enables graduates to pursue mid-level or executive positions of employment and ease in career shifts,
  • Emphasis on experiential and immersive learning experience for students, theoretical and practical facets of City Planning,
  • Easy to access and intuitive learning platform,
  • Notability and esteem among popular academic and journalistic resources

Best Online Master’s of City Planning Grad Schools

Auburn University

: 405 West Magnolia Avenue, Auburn, AL 36849
: 334 844 8862

city planning

Online Master’s Degree in Real Estate Development

Founded in 1856, Auburn University was formerly known as the East Alabama Male College, two decades after Auburn’s origin. Under the Morrill Act in 1872, it became the 1st land-grant college in the South and was renamed “Alabama Polytechnic Institute.” Today, Auburn caters to more than 30,000 undergraduates, graduates, and professionals. It is home to 15 schools and colleges, including the College of Architecture, Design & Construction.

  • Auburn University’s online Master’s degree in Real Estate Development utilizes a lock-step curriculum format. Distance learners can enroll as a cohort group during the fall term and complete their degree after five semesters.
  • The 39-credit hour program features a broad curriculum that builds a fulfilling career in real estate development.
  • While honing their industry-specific proficiencies, students will also learn about natural resource efficiency and sustainable development.
  • Although the courses are completed in the 100% online program, they will visit the Auburn campus six times during the program.
  • Students and faculty participate in three domestic and international field studies to meet industry leaders and real estate development projects. 
Standout Features at Auburn University:

Auburn University answers students’ call of having a graduate program related to City Planning. As an alternative, Auburn has an online Master’s degree in Real Estate Development program specializing in one of the many aspects of city planning.

It is a unique program offered through the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction and the Harbert College of Business. The Association also accredits the program To Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Applied Finance Did you know

Auburn University is consistently ranked among the best public institutions of higher learning in the country. With a Carnegie R1 Classification, the university is considered one of the elite universities in the US.

It has also received recognition by the US News & World Report as one of the Top 50 public universities in the US and #1 in Alabama.

University of Washington

: 410 Gould Hall, Box 355740, Seattle WA 98195
: 206 543 4190

city planning

Online Master Degree in Infrastructure Planning & Management

The University of Washington is one of the premier universities in the US and worldwide. With an outstanding ranking on the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the university educates 54,000+ students every year.

This multi-campus institution of higher learning in Bothell, Tacoma, and Seattle keeps an excellent track record of discoveries, state-of-the-art inventions, and academic endeavors with proactive initiatives in innovation.

  • UW’s urban planning programs offer a two-year online Master’s degree in Infrastructure Planning & Management program.
  • To earn the MIPM degree, students must accomplish 45 credit hours or equivalent to 15 courses.
  • The program features a structured, asynchronous learning format that allows students to complete their courses on their schedule.
  • A Capstone Project will serve as a culminating requirement of the MIPM degree, providing students with the option to pursue experiential learning programs or research projects.
  • For the capstone project, topics can include Water Resources Management, Transportation, Public Health, Food Systems, Finance, Energy, Emergency Management/Resiliency/Housing, and Communications/Cyber Security.
Standout Features at the University of Washington:

UW’s online MIPM program features a distinct combination of systems theory and strategic planning, offering a holistic perspective of the interdependencies that make up the modern infrastructure system.

The MIPM program has a Floodplain Management Course Series for students interested in riverine and coastal floodplain management. The specialized courses will prepare and educate students for the Certified Floodplain Manager examination.

Applied Finance Did you know

As one of America’s most innovative universities, UW advocates collaboration across the local and international communities. The university has partnered with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, providing numerous opportunities for UW students, researchers, and faculty by connecting with world-class universities within the Pacific.

UW also partnerships with the Global Innovation Exchange which connects non-profits, corporations, and schools worldwide to develop new learning and teaching methods.

Unity College

: 90 Quaker Hill Road, Unity, Maine 04988
: 207 509 7100

city planning

Online Master’s in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning

Unity College has redefined America’s Environmental College, making its degree offerings more flexible, accessible, and affordable to the US and around the globe. With Unity’s Enterprise Education Model, the school has accelerated real-world experience through professional and academic opportunities at Unity College’s business initiatives.

The school is New England Commission of Higher Education accredited.

  • Students pursuing an online program at Unity College will participate in exclusive and engaging learning, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1.
  • The online programs consists of two major categories, such as the Program Core and the Professional Skills Core.
  • Thirty academic credits are required for completion of the graduate program in Urban Ecology.
  • Five start dates are available every year, allowing students to start the program anytime.
  • Enrollment in its urban planning programs will not require students to submit their GRE scores. Application is also free.
Standout Features at Unity College:

Unity College offers an online Master’s degree in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning program and is one of the only urban planning programs of its kind available in Maine. It emphasizes sustainability and environmental issues, providing an in-depth understanding of the interactions between humans and wildlife in an urban setting.

The program primarily discusses the rapidly changing environmental issues related to city planning and ecology.

Applied Finance Did you know

With Unity College’s Enterprise Model, the school has its eco-tourism resort and farm. The two establishments are open to the public and its student community as learning grounds and sustainable businesses for implementing classroom theories. It is also the 1st college in the nation to switch from fossil fuels.

University of Florida

: Architecture Building, Room 431, 1480 Inner Road, Gainesville, FL 32611
: 352 294 1486

city planning

Online Master of Urban and Regional Planning

With a commitment to providing high-quality and affordable distance learning programs, the University of Florida established UF online to accommodate non-traditional students. It is one of the most respected universities in Florida, offering 200+ fully online certificate and degree programs.

UFL received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • UFL’s online Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning program consists of 52 credit hours spanning various formats and subjects.
  • To apply, students must have a baccalaureate degree, CV/resume, personal statement, statement of intent, and three letters of recommendation.
  • GRE is no longer required for enrollment for online programs.
  • Although optional, students can choose a set of specialized courses to hone specific proficiencies, such as Sustainability and Geographic Information Systems courses.
  • As a culminating requirement, students must accomplish a 6-credit hour Master’s Research Project.
Standout Features at the University of Florida:

UFL’s online Master of Urban and Regional Planning program is consistently ranked as one of the Top 15 Urban/City, and Regional Planning programs in the US Students can complete their online program at their own pace, providing them with the option to take as many or as few credits per semester. 

Applied Finance Did you know

The University of Florida became a proud member of the AAU or the Association of American Universities in 1985, a prestigious organization consisting of the US’s Top 62 private and public research universities or institutions of higher learning.

UFL remains steadfast in its dedication to using research to revolutionize the world of education for both traditional and non-traditional learners. The University of Florida’s Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art houses the biggest university art museum in the South, with 8,000+ works in diverse traveling exhibitions and permanent collections.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

: 223 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3140
: 919 962 3983

city planning

Online Masters Degree in City and Regional Planning

The University of North Carolina is considered the country’s first public university. In 1795, the first students arrived in the first building at Old East. The university was the only public university back then to grant degrees in the 18th century. In 1972, the North Carolina State College, Woman’s College at Greensboro, and the Consolidated University at the Chapel Hill campus became a unified UNC system, consisting of 16 universities and state colleges.

Today, UNC caters to more than 30,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students across 200+ degree programs and will prepare students for employment.

  • UNC’s Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning program can be accomplished in 24 months, depending on the students’ commitment and pace.
  • Students must complete 51 credit hours, consisting of four core courses, four specialization courses, one law course, and six electives.
  • This urban planning online program includes a capstone workshop and master’s project as part of the graduation requirements.
  • Distance learners must choose one area of specialization in the curriculum, such as Transportation Planning, Land Use & Environmental Planning, Housing & Community Development, or Economic Development.
  • The Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC also provides specific track options in the graduate program. It includes Real Estate, Design, and Natural Hazards tracks. Unlike specializations, tracks are not required in the curriculum.
Standout Features at the University of North Carolina:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers an online Masters of City and Regional Planning program that provides students with a holistic perspective on all aspects of city planning. UNC also offers students dual-degree options to provide them with the option to shorten the time it’ll take to accomplish two degrees. It is also a rare program offered in North Carolina.

Applied Finance Did you know

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranked 1st among the 100 US Best US public universities and colleges that offer students top-quality academic programs at more affordable tuition rates, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine for 18 times.

UNC also lands in the Top 10 on other school listings from prestigious publications, such as The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, the US News & World Report, Forbes, and Reuters.

University of Southern California

: 3551 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, CA 90089
: 213 740 6842

city planning

Online Executive Master of Urban Planning

The University of Southern California, a privately operated research university in Los Angeles, is one of the state’s most popular. The city formerly lacked reliable fire systems, telephones, electric lights, and paved streets. Today, it is at the epicenter of international business, technology, and arts, making it a prime location for research and education.

USC houses 21 outstanding units and schools, including the Arts and Sciences and the College of Letters. Located in one of the largest metropolises in the US, USC caters to 48,000+ students and more than 4,400 full-time faculty.

  • USC’s online Executive Master of Urban Planning program is primarily designed for working professionals and can be earned in as little as 16 months of full-time learning.
  • The executive program requires 24 units for completion of the degree.
  • Students will explore advanced knowledge and principles in four major components: Urban Design & The Built Environment, Data Analysis, Visualization & Communication, Political, Legal, Regulatory Process & Stakeholder Outreach, and Project & Land Economics.
  • The 24-unit curriculum consists of eight core courses and two in-person intensives.
  • Each intensive features 4-day periods that will be completed in person. The 1st Required Intensive component consists of Designing Livable Environments I and Planning and Development Case Study, while the 2nd Required Intensive includes Communicating Data for Planning and Development and Designing Livable Environments II.
Standout Features at the University of Southern California:

The University of Southern California’s online Executive Master of Urban Planning program is offered through USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, receiving the 3rd place for Urban Policy by the US News & World Report.

The 100% online executive program is suitable for mid-career and experienced professionals in real estate development or urban planning. It bridges the gap between urban planning objectives and the goals of efficient real estate developments.

Applied Finance Did you know

The University of Southern California is inevitably one of the most recognized universities in the US. For the past decades, USC has received recognitions and accolades from well-known publications, such as Time magazine and The Princeton Review.

The University of New Orleans

: 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70148
: 888  514 4275

city planning

Online Master of Science in Urban Studies

The University of New Orleans opened as the 1st fully integrated public institution of higher learning in the South in 1958. It is one of the major business drivers in downtown New Orleans, yielding an overall economic impact of $470M.

UNO offers a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research initiatives. It has educated learners from 130+ countries, 50 states in the US, and 64 Louisiana parishes.

  • The Department of Planning & Urban Studies at UNO offers an online Master’s degree in Urban Studies that integrate subfields related to city planning.
  • To enroll, students must first complete a set of prerequisites, including Undergraduate Statistics and Economics courses.
  • The online MSUS program features four subfields: Urban Planning, Historic Prevention, Cultural Resource Management, and Urban Anthropology.
  • The MSUS program offers two track options – a 33 to 34-credit Thesis option and a 36 to 37-credit Non-Thesis option.
  • For the Non-Thesis option, students must pass a comprehensive exam.
Standout Features at the University of New Orleans:

UNO’s online Master’s degree in Urban Studies program offers a holistic approach to the concepts involved in studying urban/city planning concepts. It is one of the few city planning-related programs available in New Orleans.

The university has its own UNO Transportation Institute that provides comprehensive educational support, professional outreach, and research for students interested in transportation studies.

With UNO Transportation Institute, students can learn from leading contributors in international, national, regional, and local sponsored projects. They can also gain knowledge and skills from staff and faculty from numerous boards and associations, including the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.

Applied Finance Did you know

77% of the student population at The University of New Orleans has received financial aid options. For several years, the US News & World Report has ranked the university among the best national universities whose students complete their degrees with the lightest student loans.

Overall, UNO has spent more than $41M on scholarships and financial aid programs for non-traditional and traditional learners.

The University of Texas at Arlington

: 701 S. Nedderman Drive, Arlington, TX 76019
: 817 272 2011

city planning

Online Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning

The University of Texas at Arlington is one of the biggest universities in North Texas and is also considered the 2nd largest in the UTA system. The university offers state-of-the-art facilities that support students’ learning and research initiatives.

UTA is a comprehensive public service, teaching, and research institution catering to 60,000+ online and on-campus students across over 180 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

  • UTA’s online Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning degree is a 48-credit hour program that will teach students the concepts of city planning, including transportation planning, urban and housing policies, environmental planning, and smart and resilient cities.
  • The program consists of a generalist core, elective courses, and a culminating requirement.
  • The 33-credit generalist core is categorized into three main sections: Theory, Analysis and Techniques, and Implementation and Plan Making.
  • Students can either pursue a 6-credit hour Thesis or a 3-credit hour Professional Report for the culminating requirement.
  • Financial aid options are available to students pursuing the Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning online program.
Standout Features at the University of Texas:

The University of Texas at Arlington’s online Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning program is the only program in the Dallas-Forth region accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. The College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs is offered, whereas the Institute of Urban Studies offers comprehensive practical experience and student research to graduate students.

Applied Finance Did you know

The University of Texas at Arlington has several accomplishments, recognitions, and accolades under its reputation. It ranks #1 on the Best for Vets: Colleges school listing by Military Times. It garnered R-1: Doctoral Universities-Very High Research Activity status by the Carnegie Classification of Higher Education Institutions.

With the R1 classification, UTA became one of the elite group of 131 universities, including John Hopkins, MIT, and Harvard.

University of Connecticut

: Storrs, Connecticut 06269
: 860 486 2000

city planning

Online Master’s Degree in Energy and Environmental Management

The University of Connecticut has a culture of innovation that serves as a driving pursuit of knowledge across the university’s campuses. Founded in 1881, UConn is a national leader among public institutions of higher learning. The university advocates a vibrant and diverse culture that meets the needs of a diverse range of students.

  • The Master’s of Energy and Environmental Management web-based degree at UConn is another specialized program with a city planning perspective.
  • Students will accomplish 100% online courses and internship/practicum requirements.
  • A total of 30 credits will be required for the successful completion of the MEEM degree.
  • To fulfill 9-credit electives, students can either choose Geographic Information System, Environmental Law, or Planning & Management as a specialization area.
  • Once students complete the required courses for a certificate, they can receive a graduate certificate in Geographic Information System and Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management along with the MEEM degree. 
Standout Features of the University of Connecticut:

UConn’s online Master’s Degree in Energy and Environmental Management program is a multidisciplinary program that integrates environmental policies, science, urban land economics, and bridge management into one comprehensive degree.

Given the practical nature of city planning and urban planning, UConn’s MEEM program is a few programs of its kind, focusing on environmental management and community development.

Applied Finance Did you know

In 2018, the biggest freshman enrollment in University history arrived at the University of Connecticut, totaling more than 5,500 students.

For the past decade until recently, UConn receives consistent rankings from the US News & World Report as one of the Top 20 Public Universities in the US.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

: 1075 13th St. S. Birmingham, AL 35233
: 205 934 8430

city planning

Online Master’s Degree in Sustainable Smart Cities

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a world-renowned medical center and research university in Alabama. It offers a broad curriculum across the business, engineering, medicine and health, sciences, and the arts and humanities.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges grants accreditation to The University of Alabama at Birmingham for its reliable, quality, and affordable undergraduate and graduate programs.

  • UAB’s online Master’s Degree in Sustainable Smart Cities program is a part-time program that can be accomplished in two full calendar years.
  • Given it is a program offered through a global partnership with a UK-based university, all graduate students are required to enroll at both Staffordshire University and UAB.
  • Matriculation requirements include three references, a personal essay, and official transcripts.
  • The 100% online programs are only open to graduate students with relevant professional experience.
  • Students will have the opportunity to receive a UAB diploma within five semesters and a Staffordshire diploma within six semesters through these urban planning programs.
Standout Features at the University of Alabama:

The online Master’s degree in Sustainable Smart Cities program offered at UAB is made possible through the global partnership between UK’s Staffordshire University and UAB itself. The 100% online program is designed for experienced professionals who want to collaborate with their international colleagues and full-time US and UK faculty through state-of-the-art online learning management platforms in urban planning.

Students will have access to online library resources from Staffordshire University and The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Applied Finance Did you know

In 1969, The University of Alabama at Birmingham became an autonomous campus within The UAB System. It brings expertise in mobility and transport, public and social healthcare, and civil and environmental engineering.

UAB also has a successful and long track record of providing 100% distance learning programs to working adults.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between an online Master of City Planning vs. an online Master of Urban Planning?

The sole difference between an online Master of City Planning degree vs. an online Master’s in Urban Planning degree is that one involves geography and the other is in terms of a smaller scale.

City Planning is predominantly involved with challenges and factors at the municipal level, such as retail development, real estate, and public transportation. On the contrary, Urban Planning deals with issues at larger geography or regional level.

What is the standard curriculum of an online Master of City Planning program?

Like urban design, environmental planning, and geography, online Master of City Planning programs will help prepare students for professions as city planners upon graduation. Specific baccalaureate majors aren’t necessarily required for enrollment; however, some common majors include urban planning, political science, geography, environmental design, and economics.

Although rare, students with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning or city planning can find employment even without a graduate degree. But, if you already have your bachelor’s degree, why not earn an online master’s in urban planning or city planning degree to get a job in management or leadership?

Although students mostly learn online, additional workshops, seminars, and laboratory courses can be integrated into the curriculum to evaluate and address planning problems.

Students are encouraged to complete courses in a related discipline, such as land-use planning, health administration, law, earth sciences, urban development policy, management, spatial analysis, economic development, geographic information systems, economic and environmental studies, and architecture.

Since city planners must be proficient in statistical methods and computer systems, they may be required to accomplish various courses related to geographic information systems, statistics, and computer science.

In many states, registration or licensure isn’t mandatory for city planners. However, some states will require the registration of city planners like in Michigan and being licensed as city planners like in New Jersey. Regardless, every aspiring city planner must pass an exam.

Is certification or license required after graduating with an online Master of City Planning degree?

Certification and licensure requirements are uncommon. As part of the American Planning Association, the AICP or the American Institute of Certified Planners will offer optional certifications for interested graduates who have met the required professional and academic planning credentials in urban development policy.

Individuals with less academic credentials may be required to have more professional experience and vice versa. Continuing education is mandatory for maintaining their designation while passing an exam is mandatory for certification.

Continuing studies are also essential to update the latest environmental policies, zoning codes, building codes, real estate development, and technologies.

How much is the earning potential for graduates with an online Master of City Planning degree?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics sees a jump in the employment outlook between 2020 to 2030 for Urban and Regional Planners at 4%, indicating an average pace compared to other occupations in the nation. To qualify for a diverse range of career opportunities, city planners must have a graduate degree from an accredited planning curriculum or program.

Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the latest median pay for these professionals is $78,500 per year.

Analytical skills are important for city planners since they must evaluate geographical data to identify the most efficient land use within a specific city. These professionals write grant proposals and accomplish research work; therefore, excellent written communication skills are equally important.

As mentioned, a career as a city planner will require a Master of City Planning degree or a related study. In strengthening their credentials, obtaining optional certifications can help.

Best Master's of City Planning fact 5

Key Takeaways

  • Earning an online master’s degree in urban planning or city planning is a great way to gain your educational requirements while still maintaining your current employment.
  • The above-listed online programs offer many options depending on your end goal and aspirations.
  • Attend an accredited university that is completely online…and, on your own schedule!
  • What’s next? A doctoral degree!

Related Articles:

Dr. Jared Goff
Chief Editor