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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Urban Planning

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Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Urban Planning

The best online master's degree in urban planning for value is the University of Florida, a renowned public research university which offers an online Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning. This university ranked among's top ROI Rankings, with an annual return on investment (ROI) of 10.3%, and an annual ROI of 11.8% for students receiving financial aid. The University of Florida boasts many additional distinctions as well: UF is ranked 58th on U.S. News & World Report's list of National University Rankings, came in second on Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges list, and the Princeton Review ranked UF seventh on its list of Best Value Public Colleges.

Featured Online Programs

The University of Florida online master's degree in urban planning wins the award for best flexibility. UF features its own innovative online course program, formerly known as University of Florida Correspondence Study, called Flexible Learning. Students participating in this online program have the benefit of enrolling anytime and anywhere they choose, and they can also enjoy the advantages of self-paced learning. In addition to the extensive list of master's degrees and specialized disciplines offered online at UF, the Flexible Learning program is intended as a helpful resource for those wanting to take general courses online in order to satisfy basic course requirements, the credits for which can be easily applied to their degree course work, or even transferred to another program or school.

Career Support
Graduate students obtaining an online master's degree in urban planning at the University of Florida have many resources available to them to help guide their career after completing their degree. In fact, there is an entire department dedicated to career guidance and resources at the university. According to the comprehensive UF Career Resource Center, students can research potential employers, search for jobs on-the-spot, keep up with a live Twitter feed, and browse a special section just for distance learners. For all this, the University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for career support.

Financial Support

The University of Florida wins the award for best financial support for its online master's degree in urban planning. For all UF students, the thorough and comprehensive financial aid support system is one of the university's key strengths. Among the many resources available to help guide students through the financial aid process and maximize their financial support opportunities are services exclusive to UF, like travel funding, and assistantships and scholarships.

Technology Support
The award for best online master's degree in urban planning for technology support goes to the University of Florida. Since UF offers such a comprehensive selection of degrees that are available completely online, the IT department must be capable and ready to help quickly resolve technical issues for all online students. Through the UF Computing Help Desk page, students can easily navigate a well-organized sub-site of many helpful resources, including up-to-date announcements about UF Wi-Fi connections, up-to-date system alert notices, a full list of ways to contact live IT staff whenever necessary, and even an exclusive ticketing system for tech issues to be tracked and resolved.

Student Engagement
The University of Florida is committed to facilitating opportunities for students to grow and learn through involvement, leadership, and community development, whether they are pursuing their degrees on-campus or online. The UF website's Student Activities and Involvement section is the ultimate resource for students looking to engage with their college community. Here, students can find activities and student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, as well as a multitude of ways to get involved. For its many outstanding efforts, the University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for student engagement.

Disability Support
The University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for disability support. The Disability Resource Center at University of Florida maintains a comprehensive sub-site on, outlining its many resources for students with disabilities. Here, students can learn about, and link directly to, the services available, including conflict resolution and the silent witness program, guidance for how to help a student in distress, and even directions for the best routes to and from Gainesville, where the campus is located.

Library and Research Support
The University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for library and research support, for the many exceptional services offered to all students at UF. According to the libraries section of the university website, the libraries of the University of Florida form the largest information resource system in the state. As emphasized on the University of Florida Libraries page, one of the many unique characteristics of this university's massive library and research resources is that distance learners are given the same privileges to the institutions libraries and archived collections as on-campus students. Students can perform all necessary library functions within an online environment, including searching for books in the digital database, requesting a library loan, and even watching a "library how-to" video on YouTube.

Learning Support
The award for best online master's degree in urban planning for learning support goes to the University of Florida. UF was given a score of 79%, and the university ranked 34th, on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of the best Student Services and Technology among top online degree programs. On's Human Services page, students can find not only academic resources, but also information about the Office of Student Financial Affairs, the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs department, and the "Baby Gator" program, which offers high-quality care for children of UF students, faculty, and staff.

Faculty Credentials
At the University of Florida, the esteemed faculty enhance the learning experience with their expertise and enthusiasm. According to, of the 4,215 faculty members at UF, many hold distinguished records in teaching, research, and service, including 40 Eminent Scholar chairs, and 27 faculty elections to the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, or the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Honors awarded to various faculty at UF include a Fields Medal, two Pulitzer Prizes, NASA's top award for research, and the Smithsonian Institution's conservation award. For all this, the University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for faculty credentials.

Faculty Accessibility
The University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for faculty accessibility. The university created a unique system to encourage sustainable faculty involvement, called the Faculty Senate, the university-wide institution through which shared governance is practiced at the University of Florida. In pursuing the goals of the Faculty Senate, UF hopes to that sharing ideas and carefully surveying faculty and staff input will increase and improve multidisciplinary teaching and research. According to the university website, cited above, among the goals of the Faculty Senate over the next year are improved communication, improved shared governance, and ways to develop strategies to off-set the current economic situation and rebuild public attitude toward the importance of post-secondary education.

Alumni Engagement
The University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for alumni engagement because of its community-minded Alumni, Donors, and Friends department. The University of Florida's large and distinguished alumni community, now totaling nearly 350,000 members worldwide, maintains a highly informational website, with easy access and direct links to join the official UF Alumni Association, along with a multitude of other ways to stay connected, via "Gator Club" activities, outreach programs, alumni reunions, and athletic events .

Prior Learning Options
The University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for prior learning options. At UF, there is an entire department devoted to helping students who have prior credits or degrees apply and enroll. The Admissions Division of Enrollment Management page of offers information for prospective students, including information on the application process, qualifying for admission, transferring credits, and re-admission, and students can consult with admissions counselors and advisors for additional guidance. UF also pioneered the Innovation Academy, the university's own enrollment model that focuses on spring-summer semesters on-campus so that students have their fall semester flexible and open for online courses, internships, research, community service, employment, or to study abroad.

New Online Student Orientation
The University of Florida wins the award for best online master's degree in urban planning for its new online student orientation resources. The Division of Student Affairs department of UF maintains a section of the website called New Student and Family Programs, a unique sub-site dedicated to providing new students and their families with a preview of what life at UF will be like. Here, among the many resources listed all in one place for easy access, students can learn about the university's signature programs for new students — "Preview"(also known as Orientation), First Year Experience, New Student Convocation, and Gator Families.

Explore a Master's Degree in Urban Planning

Urban planning is the practice of developing plans for the use of land to accommodate for growth of a community, revitalize an area within a city, or create new urban development. An online master's degree program in urban development can give students the perspective they need to apply short and long-term thinking to their development plans. They will also learn to use ethical principles, as well as new technology, to tackle development issues in a way that reduces the impact on the natural environment. An urban planning master's degree program may take as many as 52 credit hours to complete, although the length of the program may differ by institution.

Class Curriculum

Students of an online master's degree program in urban planning may take foundational and core courses in planning theory and history, quantitative data analysis, urban land economics, and planning research design, as well as courses specific to a concentration. For example, some schools may offer a concentration in Geographic Information Systems, in which case students would enroll in spatial analysis for urban planners, customizing planning information systems, and geospatial urban modeling and visualization. Read on for a closer look at three core urban planning courses:

  • Quantitative Data Analysis for Planners. This course covers the use of quantitative data, or data expressed numerically, in urban research design. Students learn about methods of measurement, statistical research tools and computer processing, and how to apply these concepts to real-world scenarios.
  • Planning and Environmental Law. A course in Planning and Environmental Law examines the role of public law in addressing urban growth and environmental change. This class examines real estate property law and how it relates to the planning process and the legal aspects of preparing planning controls and incentives.
  • Transportation Planning. Transportation planning covers the city, state, and federal transportation institutions and policies, and how they relate to addressing existing planning issues. Typically, this course offers insight into how planners work with these institutions to improve or modify transportation systems.

Course work in an online urban planning master's degree program includes reading assignments from academic or scientific text books, homework assignments, quizzes, class discussions, research papers, and exams. Students will be assessed by their understanding of the course materials, their ability to think analytically and conceptually, and their ability to communicate their ideas effectively.

Building a Career

Urban planners do a lot more than just plan projects. They meet with public officials, developers, and the public about development plans, analyze economic and environmental studies, review site plans, present projects to planning officials, and conduct field investigations. Essentially, they are responsible for meeting the needs of a changing or growing population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), five types of specializations exist within urban planning: land use and code enforcement, transportation, environmental and natural resources, economic development, and urban design planning. Each specialization has a different perspective on development. For example, economic development planners work to expand or diversify commercial activity or attract businesses, while the environmental planner works to prevent the destruction of ecosystems.

According to the BLS, urban planners earned a median annual salary of $63,040, and professionals within the field needed at least a master's degree to qualify for entry-level positions. Employment within the field is expected to grow 16% between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. The BLS states that population growth and an increasing concern for the environment will help drive employment growth.