8 Best Online Master’s of City Planning Graduate Schools

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Updated: March 13, 2024, Reading time: 20 minutes

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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 aesthetics 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!

Quick audio summary:

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 and water infrastructures must save energy.

As well as, 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 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:

Best Online Master’s of City Planning Grad Schools

Auburn University

city planning

Auburn, AL

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.

Standout Features:

Auburn University answers students’ call to have 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.

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

city planning

Seattle WA

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.

Standout Features:

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.

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

city planning

Unity, Maine

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.

Standout Features:

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.

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

city planning

Gainesville, FL

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.

Standout Features:

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. 

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.

University of Southern California

city planning

Los Angeles, CA

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.

Standout Features:

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.

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

The University of New Orleans

city planning

New Orleans, LA

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.

Standout Features:

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.

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.

University of Connecticut

Storrs, Connecticut

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.

Standout Features:

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.

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 has received 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

city planning

Birmingham, AL

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.

Standout Features:

The online Master’s degree in Sustainable Smart Cities program offered at UAB is made possible through the global partnership between UK 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.

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.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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

The sole difference between a Master of City Planning and a 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 a 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. 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 2022 to 2032 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 $79,540 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

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