The most common question one faces in the field of urban planning and design is, “Wait. What is urban planning?” To start with, there is no single answer to this question. The field is one that inculcates knowledge from various fields and requires experiences from people coming from different walks of life. Unlike architecture, that deals with the art and science of designing and constructing buildings, that essentially affects at the individual level, urban design, and planning build on architecture. It builds on the idea that buildings cannot function as an isolated identity and identifies it as the basic element for cities, develops regulatory frameworks, and addresses concerns ranging from the ecological to the aesthetic. However, it is important to note that degrees in urban design and urban planning are separate even though they may be partially related.

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Scope in Urban Design after Graduation
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Design is a collaboration of visual and verbal thinking, and requires a more hands-on approach as compared to the standard lecture-based education. After graduation with an architecture degree or any other equivalent degree, one may pursue a postgraduate program in urban design. The program may be a one-year or a two-year program depending on the university’s structure. The Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design is credited to be the first to have introduced the urban design program and offers the Master of Architecture in Urban Design (MAUD) degree. Other institutions of prominence around the world are Columbia University, University of California Berkeley, University College London – Bartlett School, etc. Few renowned institutions in India are Center for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad, School of Planning and Architecture (Delhi, Bhopal, and Vijayawada), etc.

For pursuing an urban planning/design degree from institutions outside India, one must acquire scores in the TOEFL/IELTS and/or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). For pursuing a post-graduation from India, one must sit for the GATE examination, although few institutes have their separate entrance examination. Every university has a separate application procedure and one must be versed with the degree curriculum. The degree curriculum and specializations vary from university to university and therefore, it is essential to understand the courses before application or admission. Moreover, several degrees in urban planning deal with specializations or core concentrations such as transportation planning, housing, real estate, and development, environmental planning, etc. It is also astonishing to know that the discipline of urban planning does not require one to have previous degrees in urban planning or architecture or even design! Several universities across the United States and Europe enable students from journalism, sociology, engineering, etc. to pursue post-graduation in urban planning. However, it is necessary to remember that practicing urban planning or architecture needs a license that is specific to a particular country one wishes to practice in.

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A degree in urban design enables one to pursue various career possibilities. The public sector offers opportunities to explore policymaking, infrastructure development, public housing, real estate development, etc. Large private firms often hire professionals in the field of urban design given the need for access to real estate, capital, and the scale of certain projects. The most valuable reward is the freedom to conceive new ideas that shall go ahead in building better cities. However, the job market in the field of architecture and urban design is largely affected by real estate fluctuations. Few concerns related to jobs in this field are long working hours, challenging working conditions, lack of remuneration, and the large responsibility of maintaining coordination. Despite these concerns, this field presents the unique opportunity to leave a lifelong impression on the lives of the people, for whom the project was taken up.

Certain jobs that are directly related to the degree in urban design/planning are conservation officers, housing managers, local government officers, town planners, transport planners, urban designers, etc.

Other departments or fields related to policy making, sustainability, planning and development, community development, sociology, and economics also provide opportunities for urban design/planning graduates. More than the degree quoted in the job listings, what matters is the work experience that reflects one’s understanding of the ever-changing idea of urban planning. Field visits, practical skills, and professional practice as a part of the course play a crucial role in building a better understanding. It also helps in building skills and networks which is crucial to establish yourself in the domain. Not just the public sector and private sector directly involved in urban design/planning, but several business consultancies, non-governmental organizations, mapping services, legal firms, environmental agencies, etc. provide opportunities to urban design/planning graduates. Globally, more than seventy percent of urban design/planning graduates are employed while about only four percent remain unemployed.

These are great numbers especially that urban design/planning is not regarded as one of the mainstream career options.

This field takes us on a rollercoaster ride – one where we scream, with joy and panic, all at the same time, a journey with endless possibilities of destination and yet each destination enabling us to explore more. Lastly, the haphazard development that has caused us to question our future in cities may be solved by our tiny effort to serve the field of urban planning/design.

Author

Currently pursuing her major in urban planning, she believes that design and literature are two paradigms which can alter the overall outlook of the world when backed by practical data.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022