4 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Urban Planning and Development Online for 2020

urban planning degree onlineIn this ranking of the most affordable online Bachelor’s in Urban Planning and Development for 2020, we will explore the following degrees:

  • Online BS in Urban Planning
  • Online BA/BS in Urban and Public Affairs
  • Online BS in Urban and Regional Planning
  • Online BA in Urban Policy and Planning

Are you undecided as to what major to pursue? Check out our article 5 of the Easiest Online Bachelor’s Degrees. If you are looking for a way to find high-quality, online degree programs for the best price, check out our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees.

If you’re interested in what makes the world go round, how transportation can affect societies, or how cities actually work, you could be interested in getting your affordable online Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and Development. In this degree, you won’t just study theory, you’ll use a hands-on approach to analyze the historical and social aspects of modern cities. You’ll also address complex urban issues and use your skills to discover and design innovative solutions. In this ranking, we share the best and most affordable options for a low-cost undergraduate degree in urban planning online.

Rating and Ranking Methodology

Because there are so few online programs for this discipline, we have ranked the programs based on their net-price tuition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. They are ranked from the highest tuition to the lowest tuition.

#4 Arizona State University

Scottsdale, Arizona

Online Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning

Student-Faculty Ratio: 23 to 1
Undergraduate Enrollment: 29,780
Standardized Test Score Requirements: ACT: 22 (24 nonresidents) | SAT: 1120 (1180 nonresidents)

Arizona State University offers an affordable online BS in Urban Planning that consists of 40 total classes. In this program, you will analyze the social, physical, economic, and political factors that can affect modern urban environments. Topics of study include land use, transportation, GIS, landscape design, housing, and economics. Specific coursework includes:

  • Statistics for Geography and Planning
  • Sustainable Cities
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Cultural Diversity in the US
  • Introduction to Urban Planning

You won’t have to wait around to get started; ASU offers start dates every 7.5 weeks! And even though you’ll be an online student, you’ll still get the benefits of a large university. You can rest in knowing that you’ll have top-notch faculty teaching your classes and be a part of a school that has many accolades to its name. Some of those include a top 20 spot in the National Science Foundation’s ranking on humanities research and the #1 spot for innovation, according to the US News and World Report. ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Net Price Tuition: $14,166

#3 Portland State University

Portland, Oregon

Online BA/BS in Urban and Public Affairs

Student-Faculty Ratio: 21 to 1
Undergraduate Enrollment: 20,357
Standardized Test Score Requirements: Scores must be reported, but no minimum is discussed

Top 10 Colleges for an Online Degree in Portland, OR

Portland State University’s low-cost online degree in urban planning and development will take an interdisciplinary approach, offering a customizable curriculum through the College of Urban and Public Affairs and the School of Public Health.  You’ll get a foundation in urban affairs, but you’ll also take a look at subjects like criminal justice and politics. Required courses include:

  • Introduction to Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • Policing in America
  • Introduction to Urban Planning
  • Community Health Principles and Practices
  • Introduction to Community Development

Other required elements include a research component, a senior seminar course, and an internship. Graduates will be ready to continue their education in grad school or law school, as well as pursue entry-level careers in the planning field. If you’re worried about being an online student, you’ll be in good hands at PSU. They’ve designed this program with students like you in mind, working/busy adults. Through their interactive online platform, you’ll still get individual attention and interaction with your peers. Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Net Price Tuition: $13,758

#2 Texas State University

San Marcos, Texas

Online BS in Geography with a concentration Urban and Regional Planning

Student-Faculty Ratio: 22 to 1
Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,187
Standardized Test Score Requirements: You must report scores, but no minimum is required
Top 10 Online Schools in Texas: San Antonio, TexasTexas State University’s cheap urban planning and development online offering is a BS in Geography with a concentration in Urban and Regional Planning. It is important to note that this is a hybrid program where up to 50% of the content can be pursued via distance learning. The major curriculum is broken down into the following sections:

  • Required geography courses (i.e. Physical Geography, GIS, and Cultural Geography)
  • Urban Planning Core Classes (i.e. Cities and Urban Design, Community and Regional Planning, and Urban Geography)
  • Technique Classes (i.e. Maps and Mapmaking, Principles of Remote Sensing, and Advanced GIS)
  • Electives courses like (i.e. Environmental Management, Transportation Systems, and Location Analysis)

While you can choose any minor at TSU to accompany your major, the recommended ones are Public Administration, Business Administration, or Construction Technology. In addition, you can pursue even more credentials by adding on one of 4 certificates: GIS ‐ Geographic Information Science, Location Analysis, Environmental Interpretation, or Water Resources Policy. Texas State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges (COC) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Net Price Tuition: $13,729

#1 University of North Texas

Denton, Texas

Hybrid BA in Urban Policy and Planning

Student-Faculty Ratio: 25 to 1
Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,375
Standardized Test Score Requirements: SAT (1500 for tests prior to March 2016 or 1090 for tests March 2016 to present) & ACT (18 English, 22 Reading, 22 Mathematics and 23 Science)

Top 10 Colleges for an Online Degree in Dallas, TX

The University of North Texas offers a low-cost BA in Urban Policy and Planning in an online blended format. With some courses available online and some on site, the program accommodates freshmen, as well as students who have already attended a community school. In this program, you’ll get to work closely with city governments and planning firms in the Dallas area to create a real-world experience within your schooling. You’ll even get a hands-on education through the university’s Urban Planning Studio. Students will take required courses like Population Demographics & Urban Planning, Land Use & Transportation Planning, and, Financial Aspects of Government. Next, students will choose from a list of electives, including options like Applied Retail Geography, Cultural Competency in Urban Governance, and Leadership Theory & Practice for Volunteer Managers. Graduates of the program can go on to earn a highly ranked MPA or a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Management. The University of North Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, master’s and doctorate degrees.

Net Price Tuition: $12,600

Affordable Bachelor’s in Urban and Regional Planning Overview

What is an Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning and Development?

Typically a four-year degree, an online Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and Development curriculum will address the following aspects of modern urban development: planning, design, revitalization, and management. The core of these programs offers a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving because you’ll need a solid foundation in various academic disciplines to fully grasp urban planning. For example, you might need geography courses to understand your physical environment, just as much as you would need an understanding of architecture as you design new spaces. In short, as you evaluate the development of new cities or revitalization of old ones, you will face challenges. Getting your degree in urban planning and development will help you fix those issues and create better lives for citizens in your area.

What concentration options are available in the cheap urban planning and development degree?

The Urban Planning and development field is vast, so getting a specific concentration in a sub-field that interests you could be wise. We’ve noticed, however, that in the online programs we’ve listed, there are no specific concentrations given. So, in this case, getting an accompanying minor or pursing a certificate could help serve as an area of focus for you. Plus, any extra credentials will make you more marketable as you search for jobs post-graduation.
What kind of classes will I take in my low-cost urban planning degree?
In the online Urban Planning and Development major, you’ll have required coursework that addresses subjects like:
  • Land Use: In these courses, you will study natural resources like water and soil. You’ll also address solutions for natural resource management issues (including areas like sanitation and water quality).
  • Urban Economics: These courses will dive deep into the economy of urban areas, addressing topics like crime, housing, government finance, public transportation, and more.
  • History and Theory of Cities and Development: These courses will take a look at the historical aspect of city development and how that affects the cities of today.
  • Social Aspects of the Urban Environment: Classes in this subject matter will address negotiations, conflict management, human rights, crime, and sustainable development.
  • Planning Practice: These classes will discuss the physical layout of urban cities
  • GIS: A more technical, scientific class, GIS–or Geographic Information Systems, is essentially a way to gather, manage, and store data about the earth.
  • Urban Design: Stemming from architectural roots, this class will address the design elements that play into a city’s structure
You’ll then get to choose electives that interest you and pertain to your career goals. Most of the programs also include one or more of the following elements: a senior seminar, a research project, and/or a hands-on internship.
How will I get admitted to my low-cost urban planning program?
It’s important to understand that all online college admission requirements will vary. However, you’ll typically need the following:
  • a high school diploma or equivalent
  • a good high school (or transfer) GPA
  • standardized tests scores from either the SAT or ACT
Some schools recognize that students applying to online schools probably aren’t traditional students. Thus, they could waive the standardized test scores for students who have been out of high school for a length of time (typically 3 years or more). You may even be asked to write an entrance essay and provide letters of recommendation. Since all schools have different requirements, make sure to check with the office of admissions before you apply.


Q: Is getting my online degree in urban planning worth it?

Yes, absolutely. Getting your degree will not only help you get the job you’ve always wanted in the urban planning industry, but it will also help you earn your degree on your own time. Not every student is able to attend college on-campus, so by pursuing your degree online, you can still fulfill your life obligations, all while getting a solid education. It’s a win-win!

Q: Are online degrees respected by employers?

We know this might be a question on your mind–because you don’t want to invest time and money into a degree that won’t be respected. However, most programs don’t indicate that you completed your coursework online. So your potential employer won’t know that you received your degree from an online program. Even if they did, the perception of online degrees is changing. Employers understand that school is different now–and not everyone has the opportunity to attend school on-campus. In fact, juggling a job, family obligations, and your schooling could benefit you. It could showcase your dedication, perseverance, and time management skills–all important qualities that could help you land the job of your dreams.

Q: What resources are available for online students?

Resources could include:

  • online advising
  • online tutoring
  • online technical support
  • online libraries
  • video conferencing with faculty
  • discussion boards
  • enrollment advisors
  • online health services (like counseling)
  • career services

Q: Can I enroll as a part-time online student?

In most cases, yes you can. Note that pursuing your degree on a part-time basis will lengthen the time it takes for you to earn your degree.

Q: How long will it take to earn my online Bachelor’s in urban planning and development?

Most full-time students can complete their Bachelor’s degree in 4 years.

Q: Will I need any subsequent degrees to get a job in urban planning?

You don’t have to hold a Master’s degree to get a good job in urban planning. However, if you desire senior-level positions in city or government, you might want to consider getting a Master’s degree, or even a Ph.D. If you decide to take that path, there are far more online Master’s degree options in urban planning than Bachelor’s. *It’s also important to note that if you decide to teach at the university level, you will need subsequent degrees.

Q: Is it required to send my SAT/ACT scores to the university for admission?

Requirements for standardized testing varies by school. In addition, some schools don’t require you to submit scores if you’ve been out of high school for some time. You’ll want to check the admission requirements of the specific schools you are considering.

Q: How important is it that my school is accredited?

An accrediting institution holds the school’s academics to a high quality. It’s possible your future employer will require your degree to come from an accredited school, so it makes sense to choose a program that is accredited. Plus, you’ll know that the education you are getting is rigorous and held to a high standard.

Q: Is an internship required with my low-cost urban planning and development degree?

We can’t say that all programs require an internship, but what we’ve found is that a lot of them do. To really understand cities, you’ve got to be out in them. Internships will give you the opportunity to engage in a hands-on experience while working with people already in the field. It’s a great way to merge theory and real-world application of urban planning. But, with online learning, we know this can be tricky. Most schools will allow you to choose an internship in your geographic location with a business or organization that fits your career goals.

Q: When can I start my degree in urban planning and development?

This will depend on your program specifically. Some online schools have start times monthly, or like Arizona State University every 7.5 weeks. On the other hand, some programs follow a traditional semester path. Make sure to check with the details to make sure it will work with your timeline.

Career Opportunities for Urban Planning Degree Graduates:

Q: Are professionals in urban planning in high demand?

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that jobs in urban planning are projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026. Urban areas will continue to grow, change, and evolve, so the need for professionals in the field to address problem areas and future plans will always be in need.

Q: What jobs can I get with an affordable urban planning and development degree?

The opportunities in this field are vast! Some possible careers could include:

  • City Planner
  • Transportation Planner
  • Environmental Manager
  • Sustainability Consultant
  • Land Use Planning Advisor
  • Real Estate Developer
  • Zoning Inspector

*Some careers listed could require a graduate-level degree or other specific certifications.

Q: What kind of salary can I expect?

The average salary in the Urban Planning industry is $54,000 per year (Payscale.com). This figure will range a little higher or a little lower depending on your specific job and city. Here are a few sample salaries from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

  • Environmental Specialist: $71,130 per year
  • Cartographers and Photogrammetrists: $64,430 per year
  • Landscape Architect: $68,230 per year
  • Urban and Regional Planners (*require a Master’s degree): $73,050 per year

Q: Are there any professional organizations available for urban planning?

Joining a professional organization is so important because you’ll be surrounded by people in your own field. You’ll stay up to date on current research and get the professional support you need. A few options to look into are:

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