Urban Planning Masters Degrees: MPA vs MBA vs MPH
Are you interested in a career in urban planning? If so, earning a master’s degree in the field is your fast track to finding a job as an urban planning director or in related position. But what type of degree should you get? Some schools offer a master of urban planning, but if you’re more interested in the policy-making aspect than the design aspect, a different type of degree with a specialization in the field of urban planning might be better suited to your needs. The three main options for masters degrees in urban planning that focus on policy and administration are the Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Public Health (MPH). Let’s take a look at how these three types of degrees differ and which one is right for you.
Master of Public Administration in Urban Planning
An MPA is perfect for those interested in policy implementation and how that relates to urban planning. Your education will focus on the relationship between the people planning out new buildings, parks, and other environments and the government, local non-profits, and other public-sector entities. For example, after earning a degree in this field you might work with a city’s government on a downtown restoration project or you might help architects meet environmental requirements when building new structures.
Your education will reflect your unique role in the urban planning field. Some topics you could cover in your classes include law, safety, public finance, policy analysis, policy process, emergency management, public health, performance management, and ethics. Because you’re earning an advanced degree, you may also take general leadership and administration classes. MPA programs typically focus less on topics like architecture, aesthetics, and engineering than you’d find with a Master of Urban Planning. Most students take two years to complete an MPA in urban planning program.
Master of Business Administration in Urban Planning
Like MPA degrees, MBA in urban planning programs focus less on the aesthetics aspect and more on the administration aspect of the field. In this case, your classes will be more geared toward the management side of an urban planning project, rather than the public policy side. Your classes will cover topics such as finance and accounting, human resources, marketing, and other general business topics. With this type of degree, you’ll be prepared to work on urban planning products to ensure that everything runs smoothly on time and on budget. There’s inarguably some overlap with MPA programs in areas like law, ethics, and general leadership/management classes, but a master’s degree covers a broader spectrum of topics.
This broader spectrum is the main advantage to consider an MBA rather and a slightly more specialized degree. You may not want to work in urban planning forever, and with an MBA, you can transition into working into other fields as well, especially if you go to a top MBA program.
Typically, it takes about two years to earn your MBA, but it depends on the college you attend – some take as little as one year while others offer part-time programs that take three or four years to complete. The top MBA programs also often have requirements that you must meet in terms of work experience before you apply, though some accept students directly from undergraduate degree programs.
Master of Public Health in Urban Planning
MPH in urban planning programs offer students a unique education in the field, as they focus specifically on how urban planning projects affect public health. With green building becoming more and more popular across the United States (and really, around the world), this is becoming an increasingly popular area for urban planners.
Your classes will cover cover topics such as environmental planning and sustainability, public policy, land use, microeconomics, health economics, and health advocacy. Again, there’s some overlap in content with MBA and MPA programs in urban planning, but this degree is slightly more focused toward those interested in a working with urban planning committees to meet the health needs of a community. Like MBA and MPA programs, most MPH programs take about two years to complete, depending on your college and whether you go to school full-time or part-time.
Choosing the Best Urban Planning Program
So are you ready to start looking at urban planning schools? In summary…
- Look for an MPA program if you want to work with policy and law
- Look for an MBA program if you want to work in project management and administration
- Look for an MPH program if you want to work with public health in relation to urban planning
All three types of programs are great for those who want to be leaders in the urban planning field!