What is Urban Planning?

What is Urban Planning?

December 20, 2023

Living in a modern city has its share of perks—and pitfalls. Urbanization, rapid growth, congestion, housing shortages, public health concerns, and environmental degradation are just some of the issues that city dwellers encounter. And these topics are what urban and regional planners study and find ways to influence and change. Their work can craft the future of our cities. And, at CU Denver, you can earn a degree to become an urban planner and create positive change.  

As an interdisciplinary field, urban and regional planning focuses on creating sustainable, efficient, and inclusive communities that meet the needs of citizens while preserving natural resources. It delves into the orchestration of land use, infrastructure design, social systems, and environmental considerations. This encompasses air and water quality, and the intricate networks facilitating transportation, communication, and distribution within and beyond urban landscapes.

Urban planning today has a big role to play in repairing the damage that has been caused by faulty urban planning in the past and training the next generation of planners to do better.

—Priyanka DeSouza, PhD, MSc, MBA, MTech, Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning Department 

CU Denver’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program is designed for learners who want to shape the future of cities and regions. This dynamic and forward-thinking program incorporates principles of urban development, sustainability, and community empowerment. If you want to help envision and build vibrant, sustainable cities, resilient regions, and equitable, healthy communities, this degree provides the knowledge and tools to turn your aspirations into reality.  

Learn More About CU Denver’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning

CU Denver’s program, which is housed in the College of Architecture and Planning, focuses on three pillars: healthy communities, equitable urbanism, and regional sustainability.  

This program is unique because it is based in the heart of Denver, which allows students to apply what they learn in classes to the city where they live and work. This proximity, Priyanka said, sets MURP apart because “it’s very easy to liaise with city and state agencies.” Through MURP, Denver and Colorado become a living classroom. Students engage directly with top planning and design professionals, as well as the local community.  

The MURP program at CU Denver follows the principle that successful urban planning requires a range of specialties, creativity, and interdisciplinary knowledge. Because of this, CU Denver offers nine dual degree options and one overlapping degree path. This allows students to create a flexible degree that works for them.  

MURP also provides opportunities to study abroad and supports several student organizations, including the American Planning Association Student Chapter (APAS), Women Transportation Study (WTS), and Planners Network (PN). “The program has wonderful connections with city agencies, a great alumni network, and a great group of professionals who continue to teach,” Priyanka said. 

Are you ready to help improve quality of life, environmental sustainability, social equity, and resilience in urban areas? Then MURP program is an ideal platform to create change in your community and beyond. 

Career Opportunities for Urban and Regional Planners 

Program data shows that 94% of CU Denver’s urban and regional planning 2021 graduates have found professional planning, planning-related, or other positions within 12 months of graduation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists median salary for urban and regional planners at $79,540 per year.

CU Denver MURP graduates are strongly represented across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Students find urban planning jobs in a number of cities and agencies within the Denver Metro region and throughout Colorado, including Denver’s Department of Community Planning & Development, City of Vail, Boulder Housing Partners, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and more. They also work for cities and states throughout the U.S.

Recent grads have also secured roles at organizations that include HDR, MIG, Economic Planning Systems, Toole Design Group, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Bikes Together, Sonoran Institute, WSP USA, AECOM, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Prospective Roles

Graduates of CU Denver’s MURP program enter the workforce prepared for modern urban planning challenges. Career prospects for those holding a master’s in urban and regional planning are promising, with a wide array of opportunities. Here are some of the exciting career paths available:  

  • Economic Development Specialist
  • Hazard Mitigation Planner
  • Multimodal Transportation Planner
  • Sustainability Manager
  • Affordable Housing Analyst
Professor and researcher Priyanka DeSouza, PhD.

Priyanka deSouza, PhD, MSc, MBA, MTech, is an urban and regional planning researcher and assistant professor within the MURP program at CU Denver. Her work focuses on enhancing the resiliency of cities against the adverse effects of air pollution and climate fluctuations. Her research looks at developing new methods to use low-cost sensors and satellite data to generate estimates of air pollution concentrations in under characterized places, researching the health impacts of air pollution and climate change on vulnerable populations, and studying the political economy of air pollution in the Global South to better understand barriers to effective air pollution governance. She holds a PhD in Urban Studies and Planning from MIT (where she was a presidential fellow), a MSc in Environmental Change and Management, and an MBA from the University of Oxford.


Contact us to learn about program costs, how to apply, and when you can start the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program.