What is Urban Studies?

Your life is affected by urbanization, and this is true whether you live in a city, a suburb, or a rural area. The power of innovation, the threat of climate change, the disruption of global health crises like COVID-19, the challenge of housing affordability, and the way different people express their identities: all of these processes are amplified in metropolitan areas, and their influence is felt across the world. As an urbanist you learn to use a rigorous set of concepts and methods to understand how urbanization (the growth and/or decline of 'urban' areas) and urbanism (the way that people live and societies function in urban areas) are influencing significant global challenges, and how we can meet those challenges head-on.

In such a rapidly changing world, Pitt's Urban Studies major enables students to explore the fascinating complexities of urban environments, in the U.S. and internationally, to understand the complex problems associated with urban growth, urban sustainability, and to appreciate the experiences of urban residents. The program enrolls more than 100 majors annually, large enough to expose majors to a variety of fellow students and their perspectives, but small enough to allow students to develop a sense of community.

The Urban Studies major is:

  • Interdisciplinary, encouraging students to learn about how urban areas are the consequence of historical, social, cultural, economic, and political processes. Many Urban Studies majors are double majors in other departments, where your understanding of urbanization and urbanism enriches the content of departments including Economics, Environmental Science, History, Political Science, and History of Art & Architecture.
  • Applied, as students and faculty work together to engage in research and classwork that can positively impact our communities of concern. All Urban Studies majors take courses that include significant interaction with communities in Pittsburgh and beyond.
  • Career-oriented, as students attempt to find a role for themselves in shaping the future of the urban environment.  All Urban Studies majors participate in experiences that reflect their career interests and abilities. 

What do you do with an Urban Studies degree?

Urban Studies provides students with sought-after skills including Geographic Information Science, critical thinking, regional expertise, and a foregrounding for many professional degrees. Our majors have gone onto many different careers, including:

  • City & Regional Planning
  • Urban Design
  • Transportation Logistics
  • Public Health Management
  • Business Administration
  • Real Estate Development
  • Community Organizing
  • Workforce Development
  • Research Analyst
  • Graduate Schools, including
    • University of Southern California
    • University of Cambridge
    • University of Glasgow
    • Duke University
    • London School of Economics
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • University of North Carolina
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Temple University
    • Howard University