Urban planning degree: why study urban planning?

Students stood outside the Diamond Building

There are two big questions to consider when deciding to study a degree in urban planning:

1. Why study urban planning?

Urban planning is a forward-thinking, innovative field, where the end result of your work can impact millions of people. 

2. Why do you want to study urban planning? 

If you have an interest in making our urban environments better for everyone, this exciting subject may be for you. 

What is urban planning?

So, what is urban planning? Put simply urban planning is a field of work that concerns itself with the design of our physical environment, such as cities, towns, and villages.

Urban planners will work with politicians, residential communities, commercial groups, and developers to design an urban environment that functions for the highest number of people.

They will ask, and attempt to answer, key questions around how people will live, work, play and travel in a specific area.

Why study urban planning?

By studying to become an urban planner, you can be sure that your work will have a real impact on people’s lives now, and in many years to come.

The importance of urban planning

An urban planner’s work is all around us. From the way traffic flows to new housing developments, and from green spaces to a new shopping district, an urban planner will have been consulted to ensure that the work is done effectively.

Not only do urban planners have a wide scope of work, but their work also affects an incredible number of people. According to UNdata, over four billion people lived in urban areas in 2019, and it is estimated that by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in an urban area.

When urban planning is done well, it can increase people’s wellbeing, reduce carbon emissions, and boost the economic output of an area.

Building sustainable cities of the future

Sustainable cities are being looked at with increased importance as the world continues to fight climate change. Urban planners will play a key role in making sure that land is developed with an eco-friendly focus, and that we adapt our current environments to be greener. This can be done by:

  • Increasing bicycle lanes
  • Reforesting
  • Larger green spaces
  • Developing renewable energy sources within the city.

By studying urban planning at a university that has a real focus on sustainability and is ranked among the UK’s top five for town and country planning* like the University of Sheffield, you will learn from a modern curriculum, designed to create the forward-thinking graduates of the future.

Career opportunities with urban planning

When it comes to job roles, urban planning graduates have a great deal of choice. There are opportunities in housing, transport planning, conservation, and of course, urban design. These jobs can be found in local authorities, such as councils, national governments, or in the private sector. So, depending on where your interests are, there’s a career for you.

At the University of Sheffield, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning has close links with businesses and Sheffield’s local government to ensure the students on their degree courses graduate with the employability skills they need.

Desirable transferable skills

While you will gain an in-depth knowledge of urban planning by studying the subject, you’ll also improve on a range of skills that are useful in other career fields, such as:

  • Advanced IT abilities
  • Written and spoken communication
  • Conducting thorough analysis
  • Research skills
  • Debating
  • Project management and teamwork skills.

Why you should study urban planning in Sheffield

If you are wondering where to study urban planning, the University of Sheffield is a great option for ambitious students. The University is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and is ranked among the world top 100 universities (QS World University Rankings 2022).

A sustainable city, a sustainable campus

Alongside these fantastic accolades, Sheffield and the University are proud of their sustainability efforts.

Green spaces

It is estimated that the city of Sheffield has over 4.5 million trees, which means it has more trees per person than any other city in Europe. That, coupled with its numerous beautiful public parks and the surrounding national park, Sheffield is one of the greenest cities in the UK.

Energy sources

Reducing our reliance on energy sourced from fossil fuels is a key part in reducing the world’s carbon emissions and combatting climate change. Since May 2020, the University of Sheffield sources all of their energy from renewable means (solar, hydro and wind).

Food and drink

Across the campus’s cafés and restaurants, meat and milk are both sourced locally to reduce transportation emissions. The Students’ Union has a range of initiatives to reduce single use plastic, and there is a zero-waste shop on campus.


The University’s campus is largely pedestrianised, with dedicated cycle routes available. This makes the campus safer, promotes wellness and healthy lifestyles, and encourages staff and students to use more eco-friendly modes of transport.


As a member of the Russell Group, the University is famed for its research and is putting that skill into actively researching renewable energy and more sustainable food sources.

Learn more

Read more about the University’s sustainability work on their website.

Study urban planning in the UK

Every year, thousands of international students choose the UK for their studies, and the multicultural city of Sheffield is a top destination.

Based in the north of England, the historic city has plenty to see and do. Discover more about life in Sheffield here.

How to study urban planning in the UK

Many international students start their journey at the University of Sheffield International College. Here, we offer pathway programmes to a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, including the BA (Hons) Urban Studies and MA Urban Design. Our programmes are designed for international students who don’t yet meet the requirements for direct entry to the University, as well as those who want to adjust to the UK education system before starting their studies at the University.

While at the International College, your programme will comprise of a range of modules designed to boost your subject knowledge and your English language abilities. You will also be a member of an international community from day one and have a great student experience. Read our blog about Tiba’s student experience here.

Once you successfully complete the programme, you can progress to your chosen degree at the University of Sheffield.

Which pathway programme is right for me?

If you are thinking of studying urban planning and would like to progress to an undergraduate degree, the International Foundation Year in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities is your best option.

For students that have already completed their undergraduate degree and would like to complete their Masters in the UK, the Pre-Masters in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities offers progression to various Masters degrees in the field of urban planning.

Apply now

If you are ready to apply, use our simple form to start your application process.


What do we study in urban planning?

During your urban planning degree you will learn about the theories, techniques and data planners use to understand and create better urban living. You will also learn about the history behind urban planning and sustainable development goals used to transition towards more sustainable urban development. 

Is urban planning a good career?

Yes. As the urban planning sector is still growing and evolving it means that jobs are plentiful and there is a high demand for skilled experts. As an urban planner you can also expect a high earning salary in a field that makes positive changes to every day life. 

How to become an urban planner?

The lowest level of education required for an urban planning career is a bachelor's, you can also study a master's on the subject. Once you have graduated it is not uncommon to apply for entry level roles before gaining the experience needed for higher earning roles. 

*The University of Sheffield is ranked in the UK’s top 5 for town and country planning and landscape in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.