Planning Degrees and Schools

The field of planning awards degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels. Planning degrees provide professional training in the knowledge, skills, and values of the field. Different career goals require different levels of education.

Accredited Degree Programs

Degrees from Planning Accreditation Board accredited programs must meet agreed-upon standards for planning education. PAB accredits undergraduate and master's degree programs. Degrees from these schools generally cover the following areas:

  • structure and functions of urban settlements
  • history and theory of planning processes and practices
  • administrative, legal, and political aspects of plan-making and policy implementation
  • quantitative analysis
  • problem formulation and solving
  • plan-making and program design
  • planning in a democratic society
  • ethics

Undergraduate Degrees

Planners with undergraduate degrees often work in entry-level planning positions. Many planners with undergraduate degrees will go on to receive a master's degree in planning. A degree from a Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) accredited university in Urban Planning or City and Regional Planning is the most thorough educational preparation for the planning field.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) is a membership organization composed of the schools that have planning degree programs, and ACSP maintains an online inventory of the schools with undergraduate programs.

In addition to PAB, most colleges and universities are also accredited by other, more broad-based review bodies. In the United States there are six regional bodies that accredit. One example is the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Some colleges and universities choose to be certified only by these more broad-based organizations.

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Planning Schools and Accreditation

Master's Degrees

A master's-level graduate degree is considered the standard for planning practitioners. Planning graduate students may have an undergraduate degree in planning, but others may have studied geography, urban studies, architecture, or sociology. PAB accredits master's degree programs in planning.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) is a membership organization composed of the schools that have planning degree programs, and ACSP maintains an online inventory of the schools with master's programs.

When hiring for professional planning positions, many organizations require or give strong preference to candidates holding graduate degrees. In 2004, 43 percent of all APA members (note: approximately one-sixth of the APA members are planning commissioners, officials, or students, who do not have a degree in planning) had earned a master's degree in planning. Many employers also give preference to those who are certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Doctoral Degrees

Planners who obtain a Ph.D. in planning often pursue a career in academia or with research or policy institutions. Ph.D. programs in planning are not certified by PAB. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) maintains an online list of schools with Ph.D. programs.

International Planning Degrees

Many planners are educated outside of the United States. Holding a planning degree from a non-U.S. university should not hinder a planner's career prospects in the United States. Employers in the U.S. most often look for relevant education and/or work experience. Non-U.S. citizens should consult with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization department for details on work permits and other employment and citizenship requirements if circumstances warrant it: www.usimmigrationsupport.org.