Urban studies majors find promising career prospects

Career prospects are increasing for urban studies and urban planning graduates.

Kayla Song

A majority of urban studies majors at the University of Minnesota graduate with a job in their desired field.

According to Paula Pentel, University undergraduate advisor for the urban studies program, around 80 percent of students graduate from the urban studies program with a job.

“One of the things that’s happening in the Twin Cities is that all cities right now are required to complete comprehensive plans and a lot of cities do not have enough staff to do that themselves,” Pentel said, adding that cities are looking to student interns — many from urban studies programs — to help them out.

The program currently has about 100 urban studies majors, up from just 40 urban studies majors when Pentel first started working at the University in 1995.

A growing awareness of racial and economic inequities raises the need for urban redevelopment, said Sarah Allen, an urban studies alumna who now works as an urban planner for Washington County.

Undergraduate students with a B.A. in urban studies can get jobs in real estate, economic development and city planning organizations, Pentel said.

“Cities are the future, whether you like it or not,” said Erik Lundborg, University of Minnesota urban studies alumna who now works for the Metropolitan Council in St. Paul as a business systems analyst.

“The world is rapidly urbanizing… We need smart thinkers who are able to think broadly about how systems interact and connect, whether it’s government, non-profits, or any number of other forces that shape city life.”

Students in the program can go into one of four concentrated areas, all taught by local, practicing urban developers. The program has a path for students interested in social-cultural issues and nonprofits, planning and political economy, infrastructure and the environment, and international urban issues.

Students are taught a variety of skills in the program, but Geographic Information System computer mapping and grant writing are two emphases Pentel particularly encourages students to learn for the real world. 

“To paraphrase the great yet fictional Leslie Knope, people are increasingly “caring loudly” at their elected officials and policy makers,” Allen said. “Those who seek an urban studies degree often care the loudest.”