Wandering into a liberal arts college, I really had no clue what I wanted to major in; I was one of those kids who was interested in almost everything. Whether it be economics or computer science, I wanted to study it. But to specialize myself to one or two majors that might guide my career path/options? That seemed a bit too scary. But then at the end of freshmen year, I decided to major in something that my college did not actually offer: Urban Studies. Why would I go out of my way to go through all the paperwork and create a special major? Well, when I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life or what I was interested in, I realized that above everything, I’ve always been drawn to cities and the urban environment.

What is Urban Studies?

Urban Studies is a wide range of disciplines that cover everything from architecture to housing policy. The University of Pennsylvania, which offers one of the leading urban studies programs in the country, defines their major as the following:

Urban Studies is a flexible and intimate program. You can shape your experience through courses that reflect your particular interests and that cover the range of topics in the field – the history of cities, theory and global concerns, the built environment, urban economics, and urban politics and policy.

Urban studies isn’t just asking, “What is a city?”; it’s about the components that make up an urban environment and how they fit together. My particular major is designed to understand three aspects of urban studies: the social interactions with space (sociology, anthropology, history), the public policy and urban economics (political science, economics), and the design of the built environment itself (architecture, art history). Again, not really solving my problem of being interested in everything, but at the same time, I have narrowed it down the subject matter that I’m interested in the most. And while I may be focusing on those three elements, there are many other parts of urban studies that I have not even gotten to yet.

What can I do with Urban Studies?

Valid question. I’m still in the process of figuring that out myself, however I will say this: the job options are just as versatile as the major. Some careers to think about (and this is just a smattering of what you can do with an urban studies degree!):

  • City planning
  • Policy analysis
  • Program development
  • Human services
  • Law enforcement
  • Politics
  • Social statistics
  • Housing
  • Urban design
  • Urban renewal
  • Architecture
  • Counseling

What Colleges or Universities Should I Look at That Offer Urban Studies?

While I don’t know every program in detail, here are some schools I’ve found through my own searches as well as recommendations by friends (and also just some random Googling!), in no particular order:

What Study Abroad Programs are Available in Urban Studies?

Although my college does not offer an official urban studies program, I will be attending a university in London this fall that has a planning department. There are many ways to incorporate urban studies into your curriculum, and many colleges that allow you to do so:

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