Urban Studies Major

Urban Studies

The Urban Studies major is housed in the Urban Planning and Public Policy (UPPP) department in the School of Social Ecology.

Urban Studies majors have a practical learning experience in which they explore ways to address housing unaffordability, climate change, gentrification, segregation, and many other challenges that arise in our cities. Students will acquire the knowledge and skill sets needed to enter fields that focus on more livable, inclusive, and sustainable place-making, such as urban planning, public policy, community/economic development, and transportation. They will also have a unique opportunity to earn a specialization in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), opening up new career opportunities in a wide variety of settings across areas of government, business, nonprofit, law, education, and research.

Urban studies is a growing field, as more and more people around the world are living in cities and grappling with the opportunities and challenges of urban life. Graduates go on to work in a variety of fields, including urban planning, public policy, social work, community development, and environmental advocacy.

Resources and Opportunities

Major in Urban Studies

The Urban Studies curriculum integrates theories, analytical tools, and practical experiences that enable students to better understand the causes and consequences of urban problems and develop approaches for addressing them. Students will acquire the background for pursuing professional careers in urban planning, community development, housing, transportation, to name only a few, or entering graduate study in related fields. Additionally, Urban Studies majors can augment their training with a degree specialization in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with an award-winning course.


Interested in declaring Urban Studies as a major? Check out the Change of Major requirements

Environmental Science and Policy Major

The Environmental Science and Policy major is an interdisciplinary program that integrates theories, analytical tools, and experiences from social and natural sciences to investigate the causes, prevalence, and consequences of environmental challenges and to develop approaches for addressing them. This major is a collaboration between the School of Social Ecology and the School of Physical Science, integrating courses from both Urban Studies majors and Environmental Science majors to create it's curriculum.

Interested in declaring ENSP as a major? Check out the Change of Major requirements.


Minors in Urban Planning and Public Policy

The Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy offers the following two minors to enable you to learn more about the design and development of urban areas including the planning and design of sustainable neighborhoods, urban environmental problems, inequities in access to urban amenities, housing affordability crisis and transportation, climate change. Students could draw their own conclusions on how to address different types of urban problems from a variety of themes and perspectives including those that involve class, gender, and race.

UPPP Graduate Programs

Urban Studies is excellent preparation for graduate or professional education programs in many fields, including urban and regional planning, public policy, law, business, public administration, public health, and social services.

The Urban Studies major builds on our School’s social-ecological foundation by teaching students how to discover, engage, and transform complex urban systems. Students learn about:

  • Theoretical frameworks for assessing the social, institutional, and cultural contexts of human-environment relations within cities
  • Conceptual and analytical tools for understanding complex and interconnected urban processes and systems across multiple spatial scales
  • Critical perspectives on historic and contemporary planning and governance strategies to address challenges including social inequality, sustainability/resilience, and inclusiveness
  • Technical and communicative skills for developing and implementing solutions to urban problems which are sensitive and responsive to local conditions, needs, and aspirations

UCI's Graduate Programs in UPPP:

  • Master of Urban and Regional Planning
    • The Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) professional degree program prepares students for future success in urban and regional planning and related career fields. If you are curious, thoughtful, socially responsible, and wish to make an impact, today and in the future, join us in our mission: “developing equitable, sustainable, empowered communities.”
  • Master of Public Policy
    • The Master of Public Policy (MPP) program is a two-year, professional degree program that provides training for highly motivated and talented individuals to become leaders at the local, state, national and international level in the development and management of policies that lead to a more productive public sector, a more productive private sector, and more vibrant communities.
  • PhD in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy
    • The doctoral program trains scholars in the analysis of social problems related to the built, natural, and institutional environments, for employment in a range of activities, from university teaching and research, to administrative and research-oriented positions in governmental agencies, international organizations, nonprofit organizations, and private consulting practice. Typical time to degree is six years.