Requirements for the Major

Declaring a Major or Minor

Students wishing to declare a major or minor in Urban Studies must first meet with someone in the Urban Studies office to discuss their planned course of study. Prior to the meeting, please familiarize yourself with the information provided below. Students may schedule a meeting by writing to or use Calendly to make an in-person or Zoom appointment with Elaine Simon, URBS Co-Director:

After the meeting, students will then fill out the “Declare/Update Field of Study Form,” which can be accessed through either Path@Penn, or Path Forms.



Here is the Major Proposal Form, for your review, which will be used in your meeting: Major Proposal Form

Urban Studies majors take 14 course units (cu's). Courses include:

Introduction to Urban Research, URBS 2000 (1 cu)

Majors learn how to ask research questions about urban issues, what kinds of information and methods are available to address these questions, and gain experience with statistical analysis. In some cases, research methods courses in other departments can be considered as a substitute for Urban Studies 200, with the approval of the major advisor. This course is offered in fall and spring, and is intended to prepare the student for URBS 400, Senior Seminar. Students should take this course during their junior year. Students planning to study abroad during the junior year may elect to take URBS 2000 in the second semester of their sophomore year.

Fieldwork Seminar, URBS 3000 (2 cu, 1 semester)

The Urban Studies Program maintains a strong commitment to the application of theory to practice. Every student who decides to major or minor in Urban Studies is required to take complete an unpaid internship, for which they receive 2 cu’s, through a course entitled Fieldwork (URBS300). Fieldwork provides students with the opportunity to work closely with a community group, public agency, non-profit or private organization. Students are expected to spend 15 hours per week working at the internship site. At the same time, students participate in a seminar which furnishes opportunities to discuss their experiences in the internship with instructors and other interns. Assignments are designed to structure learning and to link theory and practice. Students develop a learning plan and write essays from the perspectives of organizational culture, organizational management, and academic theory. Based on the goals they set for themselves in the learning plan, students produce a portfolio of their work to demonstrate what they have learned.

Students typically enroll in spring of their junior year. Urban Studies students who wish to take a semester abroad should plan to do so in the fall term. Meet with Elaine Simon as soon as possible if you anticipate any special problems with taking fieldwork in the spring term, or of being able to commit 15 hours per week to an internship in your junior spring semester of study. 

Note: Students should consider Fieldwork as two of their courses that semester, and, ideally, enroll for only two other cus. 

A special arrangement with Student Financial Services allows students who have financial aid/work study to convert their work study to a grant during that semester that they take URBS3000: Fieldwork in order to free up their time for completing the placement hours.  You must be an Urban Studies major or minor and enrolled in URBS3000: Fieldwork in a given spring semester to be eligible.

Senior Seminar, URBS 4000 (1 cu)

In the fall semester of their senior year, Urban Studies majors undertake a research project on a topic of special interest. For the senior seminar paper, students learn how to frame and refine a research question, to design a plan for collecting and analyzing primary data, and to write and refine a research paper.

The other focus of the senior seminar is the work of the distinguished urban researchers who give the annual public lectures. After reading some of their work, seniors meet with them in a special seminar session. The lecturer serves as a model to seniors engaged in doing their own urban research.

For examples of previous student research in Senior Seminar, click here.

The Discipline Focus (3 cu)

Since Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary field, majors obtain a specialization or focus by taking a set of courses in an academic discipline, usually defined as a departmental major. The discipline focus should be developed in consultation with and approved by the major advisor.

Urban Studies Themes (7 cu)

Majors will take seven more cu's from among the other Urban Studies courses, which are organized in five thematic areas.

  1. History of Cities
  2. Comparative and Theoretical Dimensions
  3. The Built Environment
  4. Urban Economics/Finance
  5. Public Policy/Government

In choosing the seven courses, students must take at least one course representing each theme. Students can choose the other two courses from any of the themes. A complete listing of courses by theme, including some courses outside of Urban Studies, is available here.