Urban Planning Program Requirements


Course Sequence Term 1 (Fall) Term 2 (Spring) Term 3 (Fall) Term 4 (Spring)
Core Courses Planning Techniques, 3pts. Planning Studio, 6pts. Thesis I, 3pts. Thesis II, 3pts.
Planning Law, 3pts. (take Fall or spring) Planning Law, 3pts. (take Fall or Spring) Four electives or sector Specializations, 12pts. Four Electives or Sector Specializations, 12pts.
Economics for Planners, 3pts. One Elective or Sector Specialization, 3pts.
Planning History and Theory, 3pts. One Elective or Sector Specialization, 3pts.
Intro to GIS, 3pts. (take Fall or Spring)
Total 15pts. 15pts. 15pts. 15pts.

Students are required to complete 60 points for the M.S. in Urban Planning: 27 points in required courses and 33 points between courses in a concentration and electives of their own choosing. Students may take courses offered in the Urban Planning Program, the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in general, or from classes in other departments and schools at Columbia to fulfill some or all of their elective requirements.Students are required to take at least one Methods course in their time here. Methods courses include: Advanced GIS, Fundamentals of Urban Digital Design, Presentations as Strategic Planning Tools, Negotiations for Planners, and Techniques of Project Evaluation. Each student is required to write a Master’s thesis during his or her second year of study.

The faculty shares a core pedagogic belief that the best professional education takes place in an environment of learning by doing, reinforced by classroom work and group projects. Planners must have a thorough understanding of the economic, social, political, and physical forces that shape the built environment. These beliefs are implemented through program offerings that include familiarity with the range of analytic and research techniques used by planners, a semester-long studio project, and courses in planning history and theory.

Concentrations within the Planning Degree

Planning education is designed to produce individuals who have a general knowledge of urban and regional development (and planning interventions to shape that development) and specialized knowledge in a sub‐discipline of planning. The four concentration options include: Housing and Community Development; International Planning; Land Use, Transportation, and the Environment; and Urban and Economic Development. Students take a minimum of four courses in a Concentration.

Land Use, Transportation, and the Environment

Instructors: Elliot Sclar and David King

Transportation, land use and the environment are the physical essence of urban life. The policy and planning challenges that confront these subjects are largely the responsibilities of regional and local governments. Traffic congestion, infrastructure investment, transit service and climate change are now debated and addressed at these levels. These three concerns (transportation, land use and the environment), are increasingly quality of life issues as communities pursue meaningful policies to improve sustainability, walkability, cycling, public health, clean air and economic competitiveness. The courses offered through GSAPP Urban Planning are tailored to train future local leaders to think critically about solutions to these complex challenges. We seek to educate our students so that they better understand the costs, benefits and trade-offs associated with the economic, environmental and equity aspects of transportation, land use and environmental policies. Our courses are designed to approach these problems specifically from an urban planning perspective rather than one of engineering or economics.

Housing and Community Development

Instructors: Lance Freeman and Stacey Sutton
This concentration prepares students for community and neighborhood planning and decision-making. While the skill set of this concentration is widely applicable, there is an emphasis placed on disadvantaged communities in the United States, as they are often marginalized or overlooked in conventional planning processes. Students choosing this concentration will learn: 1) How to gather and analyze neighborhood and “small-area” data 2) How to foster community involvement in planning processes 3) How to understand and contextualize housing markets, labor markets, property markets, economic development decisions, and other critical planning spheres and 4) Planning techniques and public policies that directly impact distressed communities.

Urban and Economic Development

Instructors: Bob Beauregard, Stacey Sutton, and Smita Srinivas

Two of the most important functions of cities are generating jobs and creating wealth. With jobs, people have income and using that income can strive to live well. With wealth, people are able to fund governments, cultural institutions, and civic organizations. The purpose of this concentration is to provide students with foundational knowledge in how cities perform these functions. It involves an understanding of local and city-level economic development, urban economies, global relationships, redevelopment activities, and real estate investment among other concerns. In selecting courses for this concentration, students should attend to economic and urban development at various spatial scales from the neighborhood to the global and consider various approaches to economic development from microfinance and small businesses to infrastructure investment.

International Development

Instructors: Smita Srinivas and Clara Irazabal
The International Development concentration prepares planners to work on development issues overseas, with governments, community based, or membership based organizations, private consulting firms, and international development agencies. The concentration provides multidisciplinary training in theories, analytic methods, and practical skills required for working effectively in developing nations, regions, and cities. Contexts of “development” politics, cultures, and economics relevant to the transformations are presented and studied in different courses to identify special challenges they face. Since International Development processes and projects may refer to any planning subfield, this concentration cuts across the others offered by our program. Students can develop an international development concentration for example, in transportation and land use, housing and community development, or economic development.

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