The Best Canadian Universities for Urban Planning

Some urban planning works better than others. I took the bus to school every day during my undergrad. Admittedly, I walked twenty minutes to the stop and spent anywhere between forty minutes to an hour on the bus. My university was a notorious commuter campus. Most students lived at least half-an-hour away from the campus. Very few of those people had cars.

I knew students who had to take multiple buses or trains to get to school. I knew students who planned their courses so that they only had to come to campus two or three days a week. So, they could avoid the commute and Presto fees. 

Long-ass commutes made me wish I lived in a city like Berlin or Shanghai, which are home to some of the best public transit systems in the world. Other cities like Copenhagen are built for walking and cycling. You can get by without a car if you live in one of these cities.

But most North American cities are built for cars.

If you’re a student who’s frustrated by your daily commute to campus, you may be interested in urban planning. Therefore, why not major in it?

Urban planners do more than tell municipal and regional governments where they should put their community center. They protect public health and safety. Also, they shape economic and social issues through city designs!

urban planning, waiting at bus stop

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash


The University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is probably the co-op capital of Canada, if not the world. Even though I’m a U of T graduate, I would recommend Waterloo to anybody. Especially if you want to pursue Urban Planning. 

Not only does Waterloo’s Urban Planning program offer 16 months of paid co-op experience, but it also offers hands-on classes, field trips as well as a unique blend of urban, regional, and municipal planning. Additionally, they offer four different specializations within the field of urban planning:

  • Decision Support and Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
  • Environmental Planning and Management
  • Land Development Planning
  • Urban Design

Ryerson University

Like Waterloo, Ryerson’s Bachelor of Urban Planning (they call it BURPL. Rhymes with purple.) integrates classroom learning opportunities with professional experience. There are even opportunities to take on projects for actual clients through the planning studio, internship placements, and research opportunities. Here are some examples of student projects.

Here’s a complete list of the courses Ryerson BURPL students can take. 

Mohawk College

Mohawk gets more into the technical aspects of planning with their Urban and Regional Planning Technician-GIS program.

GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, refers to software used to build maps, spatial diagrams, legends and charts to present geographic data. This geographic data includes, but is not limited to, land use, environmental issues, resources, and demographics. 

Remember learning about the European colonizers who recruited cartographers to draw maps of the New World? GIS is the modern-day version of that. 

Mohawk grounds urban planning knowledge in the real world with classes on zoning by-laws, provincial legislation, and planning reports. Lastly, Mohawk also emphasizes real-world skills with classes in CAD, plan reading, graphics and visualization skills. 

Alison Ross

Alison Ross

Author of "Nothing Happens, Everything Happens". Creator. Persuador. Classic Rock Enthusiast.