Cover image for Urban Institute
Logo

Urban Institute

Engaged Employer

Urban Institute

Add a Review

Urban Institute Reviews

Updated Nov 9, 2022

Verify your email to use filters. Having problems? Resend email
Found 127 of over 158 reviews
3.8
71% Recommend to a Friend
63% Approve of CEO

Found 126 of over 158 reviews

3.8
71%
Recommend to a Friend
63%
Approve of CEO
Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell (no image)
Sarah Rosen Wartell
47 Ratings

Top Review Highlights by Sentiment

Pros
Cons
Pros & Cons are excerpts from user reviews. They are not authored by Glassdoor.

Ratings by Demographics

This rating reflects the overall rating of Urban Institute and is not affected by filters.

Want more demographic options?
  1. 5.0
    Current Employee

    Excellent

    Sep 9, 2022 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Excellent leadership and staff, lots of opportunities for growth

    Cons

    The need to have funding coverage can be stressful

    Be the first to find this review helpful
  2. 4.0
    Current Employee

    Decent, interesting, successful, but disorganized

    Oct 31, 2022 - Policy Associate 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Pays better than other comparable nonprofit think tanks, such as the abominable CAP, and employs really lovely and knowledgable people who care about the work.

    Cons

    HR and general systems/organizational procedures are nonexistent/bad. Pay is not standard across centers, etc.

    1 person found this review helpful
  3. Join the Urban Institute team
    See Our Latest Jobs
  4. 4.0
    Former Employee, more than 3 years

    Above Average Career Development for Mid-size Organization

    Jul 22, 2022 - Senior Contracts Administrator 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Interesting, challenging work and talented staff. You will be given lots of opportunities to have an impact, innovate, collaborate, learn through the work and--most importantly and valuably--build a resume which is objectively more impressive for entry-to-mid level staff.

    Cons

    Career advancement opportunities are very limited, regardless of how well you perform. Work hard, and take what the organization can give you, but focus your work on what can help you grow your career as much as possible -- internal promotions are rare and generally only under duress.

    Continue reading
    3 people found this review helpful
  5. 2.0
    Former Employee, more than 3 years

    Good people, but systemically flawed

    Jun 22, 2022 - Research Analyst in Washington, DC
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Met some really wonderful people here. Lots of training opportunities. Work/life balance is decent; overtime generally isn't expected, though it varies by project. Urban has a wide variety of topic areas; it's a good place to figure out what kind of policy research you're interested in. Covid policies are good-- as of June 2022, Urban is fully remote with return to office completely optional.

    Cons

    Urban claims to be an independent research organization, but nearly all research is determined by funders. Funders don't influence findings, but they do determine what kind of research we do. If you have an original research idea, you have to find a funder to pay for it, which is very difficult. Otherwise, you submit proposals to in response to funders looking to contract researchers to study very specific topics in very specific ways. Generally, most project are the latter. Urban also has a history of working with questionable funders, including major banks and venture capitalists. Turnover is incredibly high-- everyone good leaves within a year or two. Black staff in particular tend to have short tenures. Leadership is almost entirely white, as is senior staff. Most of the institute's diversity comes from its junior staff, who are overworked and underpaid. Members of minority groups are often treated as "sounding boards" by clueless senior researchers and relied on to speak for entire populations. Urban also claims to be committed to racial equity, but that commitment feels superficial; an afterthought rather than a principle. Staff complaints, about issues or race or otherwise, aren't listened to by management; the same issues come up again and again with no resolution. DEI efforts are all talk and no action. Junior staff generally are treated as interchangeable, and do very little actual research. Very few opportunities for growth. The bulk of my job was to download and clean data for more senior folks to analyze. I also formatted things, compiled documents, took notes, acted as pseudo-project manager in trying to organize my very disorganized team and wrote the occasional draft. I was rarely allowed to assist with anything more advanced. Seems to be little respect for researchers who don't have a PhD. It's sort of expected that junior staff leave after a few years to go get their PhD; interestingly, almost no one who leaves to go to grad school comes back afterwards. Urban is chronically understaffed. Business model is funder-based, so management has to guess at how much money we'll bring in in a given year. This creates an incentive to have fewer staff than we have coverage for to reduce the risk of having staff to pay with no funds to do it with. However, every year Urban reports higher and higher funding levels, but hiring levels remain the same. This business model also causes more senior research to constantly push work down the pipeline to more junior staff who have cheaper rates-- senior staff's time is more respected because it's costly. Junior staff, though, get assigned mass numbers of hours, and often do the bulk of the work. It's also on each individual person to ensure they have enough projects to cover their time, and projects with tight budgets often caution against charging time while still expecting things to get done. I was told I'd be on 3-6 projects at the time; it ended up being more like 8-10. Very difficult to focus on any one subject area as a junior researcher as you're spread incredibly thin over many projects with a wide variety of topics. Some opportunities are available for junior staff to seek funding for their own work, but most don't have time to properly pursue them. The only somewhat-original work junior staff can do is write blogs, and even those have to be tied to some project. Urban seems to have very little respect for staff. HR is notoriously tight-lipped and the pay structure is very complicated and pay bands for each position are quite wide-- some people are paid much more and it's not clear why. Promotions are also done oddly-- you have to write up a "promotion packet" and submit it to HR for people who've never met you to determine if you're ready. Expectations for promotion are inconsistent; junior staff who have done similar work may be granted or denied the chance to apply for promotion based only supervisor opinion. There aren't clear standards for supervisors to use to determine promotion readiness. Almost all the good people I've met at Urban have either left or are trying to leave. If you're a junior researcher looking to gain experience and do policy research that has real, tangible impact, look elsewhere. To be fair, my impression is that most major DC think tanks have similar issues; Urban isn't unique in the way it treats staff. That doesn't change the fact that they could be doing a lot better, though.

    Continue reading
    20 people found this review helpful
  6. 4.0
    Current Employee, less than 1 year

    Overall great environment

    May 10, 2022 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    The people are brilliant and extremely knowledgable about their fields. Great place to learn a lot about policy.

    Cons

    I started in the pandemic so it was hard to feel like I was part of the firm. Also not an idea place to work if you don't want to get a PhD in the future, but working as an RA is a good way to figure out if that's something you want.

    Be the first to find this review helpful
  7. 4.0
    Current Employee

    Urban

    Jun 29, 2022 - Communications Manager in Washington, DC
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Flexibility is a valued pro.

    Cons

    Workplace culture can be improved.

    Be the first to find this review helpful
  8. 4.0
    Current Employee, more than 3 years

    Colleagues are amazing, executive management is disconnected

    Nov 1, 2021 - Principal Research Associate in Washington, DC
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Love the people I work with, that's why I have stayed as long as I have. They are wonderful. Lots of autonomy as well, interesting and constantly changing work.

    Cons

    Bill-able hours, stress around covering your time. There is a disconnect between Exec and even senior research staff. Multi-million dollar projects will come in that Exec hires externally to staff, rather than promoting or developing from within. Exec and these staff sometimes talk about research staff in pejorative or dismissive ways even in front of funders, and are often unaware of the scale, scope, and substance of the work being done at Urban, as well as the hands-on relationships many long-time researchers have with nonprofit, government, and business leaders.

    Continue reading
    4 people found this review helpful
  9. 4.0
    Current Employee, less than 1 year

    Exceptional camraderie and meaningful work

    May 8, 2022 - Communications Project Manager 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    - people are incredible - talent is paramount - work has direct impact on the public opinion and public policy

    Cons

    - non-profit mindset when it comes to organization-wide improvements - salary compensation is not commensurate with market rates

    1 person found this review helpful
  10. 2.0
    Former Employee, more than 3 years

    Yikes

    May 13, 2022 - Senior HRIS Specialist in Washington, DC
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Continued education & development benefits are really good Work feels impactful You’ll never be bored

    Cons

    Horrible cross-team collaboration. Upper management in Ops holds high-school-level vendettas against different teams. Extremely lacking or non-existent support for HRIS role or Workday development for the organization. High turnover on teams results in stalled or frequently interrupted projects. Lack of upper management decision making impedes progress.

    Continue reading
    4 people found this review helpful
  11. 4.0
    Current Employee

    Great work, not great benefits

    Apr 25, 2022 - Designer in Washington, DC
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Lots of autonomy, work with really great people

    Cons

    Terrible benefits, basically impossible to move up

    1 person found this review helpful
Viewing 1 - 10 of 126 Reviews
</>Embed

Urban Institute Reviews FAQs

Urban Institute has an overall rating of 3.8 out of 5, based on over 158 reviews left anonymously by employees. 71% of employees would recommend working at Urban Institute to a friend and 56% have a positive outlook for the business. This rating has improved by 5% over the last 12 months.

According to anonymously submitted Glassdoor reviews, Urban Institute employees rate their compensation and benefits as 3.3 out of 5. Find out more about salaries and benefits at Urban Institute. This rating has improved by 3% over the last 12 months.

71% of Urban Institute employees would recommend working there to a friend based on Glassdoor reviews. Employees also rated Urban Institute 3.8 out of 5 for work life balance, 3.6 for culture and values and 3.7 for career opportunities.

According to reviews on Glassdoor, employees commonly mention the pros of working at Urban Institute to be benefits, career development, coworkers and the cons to be senior leadership, management, culture.

Popular Careers with Urban Institute Job Seekers

JobsSalariesInterviews

Work at Urban Institute? Share Your Experiences

Urban Institute logo
or

Reviews by Job Title

Urban Institute Photos

+ Add Photo
Urban Institute photo of: Lobby
Urban Institute photo of: lobby

Have you worked here?

See All Photos

Expert Career Advice

Guide to Getting Your First Job

Find a Great First Job to Jumpstart Your Career

How to Get a Job

Getting a Job Is Tough; This Guide Makes it Easier

How to Get a Promotion

Climb the Ladder With These Proven Promotion Tips

How to Negotiate Your Salary

A Guide to Negotiating the Salary You Deserve

How to Write a Resume

Write a Resume Recruiters Can't Resist

Urban Institute Job Seekers Also Viewed

Brookings Institution Logo
Brookings Institution

4.2

317 Reviews
Compare

Glassdoor has 158 Urban Institute reviews submitted anonymously by Urban Institute employees. Read employee reviews and ratings on Glassdoor to decide if Urban Institute is right for you.