Urban design and urban planning

Develop a fulfilling career designing and planning our community spaces, cities and built environments.

Creating spaces

Urban planners are focused on the natural, social, economic and cultural dimensions of life and the future of our towns and cities, whether it’s land use, spatial design, physical and social infrastructure, natural and cultural resources, resilience or the promotion of human equity and happiness.

Diversity in career opportunities is regularly highlighted by our graduates. Some have been involved in projects spanning 20 years, while some have been involved in event-specific consents. Others move into urban design and create public spaces through the interactions between buildings and their surrounding areas. 

While there is some location-specific policy and legislation to learn prior to practising overseas, graduates of our programmes have been sought after internationally. Alumni are currently employed throughout Asia, the Pacific, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and North America. 

The University of Auckland offers the only accredited (NZPI) urban planning and design programmes in New Zealand. Our School of Architecture and Planning has close links to the New Zealand Planning Institute and its Council, with some academics holding memberships.

Sector outlook

There are three main career paths for professional urban designers and planners:

  • Local councils and council-controlled organisations
  • Governments
  • Private consulting firms

About half of our graduates go into the public sector, while the other half head into private firms or start their own companies. This is a significant change from the recent past, when most graduates went into the public sector.

It’s possible for urban planners to move between organisations and disciplines, heading into related areas such as social policy, housing, public health, transport, community development and heritage conservation.

Many of our graduates have also progressed into significant leadership and management roles, including mayors, councillors, CEOs and company and board directors.

Megan’s story

The Master of Urban Planning* provided Megan Couture with the solid foundation she needed to prosper as a planner for a global engineering firm.
* As of 2016, the programme is now known as Master of Urban Planning (Professional). 

Job options

University of Auckland graduates are employed as planners, designers and consultants in public and private organisations such as:

  • Auckland Council
  • Hamilton City Council
  • Ministry of Culture and Heritage
  • Moa Design
  • MWH Global

Other potential careers include:

  • Professional urban planner/designer (city or regional)
  • Resource consent planner
  • Transport planner
  • Policy analyst