Public Administration and Urban Studies: Make a Difference as a Civic Professional

Have you ever visited a city and been frustrated by the lack of infrastructure, like public transportation or bike lanes? Or wondered at the ineffectiveness of municipal programs or the availability of affordable housing? Or wished that your own city were more cohesive, and had a stronger sense of community?

If any of those scenarios sounded relatable to you, then you understand the importance of public administration and urban studies.

Put simply, urban studies (which includes majors such as urban administration, urban planning, and urban management) is the field associated with understanding the factors and needs that shape urban environments and learning how to create and maintain safe, functional, and sustainable cities. Public administration, on the other hand, is the study of the design and implementation of public policies and programs. While government officials are the ones who pass laws and allocate funding for programs, public administrators are the ones who make them happen.

While these disciplines are technically distinct from one another, in reality, there’s a lot of overlap and interconnection between them. Both public administration and urban studies study how the various components (such as policies, infrastructure, physical environment, and people) of a city interact, and how to optimize city environments to make them more livable.

As a public administration or urban studies major, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about various aspects of urban development and administration. Your coursework might cover topics such as public policy analysis, emergency management, public financial management, urban governance and planning, community development, social and economic inequities in urban spaces, and more.

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Careers in Public Administration and Urban Studies

A degree in public administration or urban studies can prepare you for a worthwhile professional life in public service or other sectors. Below are some of the careers that you might consider:

  • Civic professional (including housing development, public administration, transportation administration, public health, and more)
  • Politician or government official
  • Policy analyst
  • Political scientist
  • Teacher
  • Program administrator
  • Lobbyist
  • Urban or regional planner
  • Nonprofit professional
  • Consultant

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How to Prepare for Success

Urban studies and public administration is a diverse field, and as such, individuals who are interested in pursuing either as a major will benefit from a well-rounded education. In particular, the following courses and subjects will likely prove helpful:

  • Government
  • History
  • Social studies
  • Economics and math
  • Communications (English and writing)

UNCF Schools to Consider

Three UNCF-member schools offer degrees in urban studies and affairs, urban planning, urban administration, and urban management:

Additionally, six UNCF-member schools offer degrees in public administration:

Professional Organizations

If you’re thinking about majoring in urban studies or public administration, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the programs, membership options, and resources offered by professional organizations. Exploring these will also give you a good idea of the scope and professional opportunities the field has to offer.

Scholarships Available

There’s no better way to start on your path toward a successful career in public administration and urban studies than with a solid financial foundation. Fortunately, many scholarships are available through UNCF, including some specifically for public administration and urban studies majors. Keep an eye on the UNCF website for current scholarship opportunities and announcements.

Search for specific scholarships and view those that are currently accepting applications here! Students should also check with each college or university to see if there are additional scholarships available to study public administration and urban studies.

As you explore your options, be sure to use our guide to applying for scholarships and grants. You can also receive guidance by submitting a major interest form if you are interested in a career in public administration and urban studies. Submit the form on our website to get started, and follow us on UNCF social media channels to receive notifications about our scholarships and member HBCUs. Reach out today!