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.

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.

Formal education is supplemented with varied extracurricular activities, which students are encouraged to attend. Evening guest lectures, the Planning lecture series, LiPS, the student magazine URBAN, and student government (Program Council) meetings are some of the activities that enrich the graduate school experience and create a dynamic educational setting.

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 elsewhere in the University to fulfill some or all of their elective requirements. Courses outside GSAPP cannot be pre-registered. This requires use of the paper add-drop form and the signature of the course instructor. (Paper add-drop forms are available in the registration office, 400 Avery.)

Each student is required to write a master's thesis during his or her second year of study.

Students are required to take at least one Methods course in their time here.
Methods courses include: Introduction to GIS, Advanced GIS, Fundamentals of Urban Digital Design, Presentations as Strategic Planning Tools, Negotiations for Planners, and Techniques of Project Evaluation.

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 such as Transportation and Land Use or International Development. Educationally, the general knowledge is contained in the Core Courses and the specialized knowledge in Concentrations. Students take a minimum of four courses in a Concentration: At least one Core Course and at least two Elective Courses.

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;
  • 4. Planning techniques and public policies that directly impact distressed communities
Graduates from this concentration are prepared to work in the public, non‐profit or private sectors. Popular career paths may include: working as an affordable housing developer with a local not for profit, working as a neighborhood planner for a municipal planning agency, and planning for the revitalization of a distressed commercial district with an economic development agency.

International Development

Instructors: Smita Srinivas and Clara Irazabal
The International Development concentration prepares planners to work on development issues overseas, with governments (national, sub‐national, municipal), community based, or membership based organizations (e.g NGOs, unions, social enterprises), 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. You can develop an international development concentration for example, in transportation and land use, housing and community development, or economic development. The substance of the International Development concentration may also refer to developing a further substantive focus, such as comprehensive, sectoral, or strategic planning; physical planning and urban design; environmental and climate adaptation and mitigation; and ICT industrial or innovation planning, among others.
Graduates within this concentration have pursued careers within public, private, and community organizations. These have included various types of government agencies, multilateral, international NGO, or community agencies, private consulting firms or think‐tanks, lending institutions, advocacy groups, universities, research centers, non‐profit organizations, firms, or social enterprises. International Development faculty research interests cover several regions of the world, including Latin America, Asia, Africa, and comparative research with the “developed” world. A core issue in these wider efforts is to understand comparative framing of development and the changing norms and opportunities in the profession of international development planning. Faculty members in this concentration consult and professionally engage in diverse ways overseas, thus providing current perspectives and employment guidance to students.

Land Use, Transportation, and the Environment

Instructors: Elliot Sclar and David King

The current century is the century of the city. By mid‐century between 60 and 75 percent of the global population is going to live in urban places. 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. Students who choose this concentration will be prepared for careers in local and regional planning agencies, high quality advocacy work and dynamic public policy research.

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 you 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, you 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.

Graduates are employed by local and state economic development agencies, community development corporations (CDCs) and other nonprofit community‐based organizations, quasi‐public economic development corporations and authorities, public utility corporation, private businesses engaged in development finance, and private economic and planning consulting firms. A number of our alumni have risen to high, senior positions in both public and private economic development organizations and nonprofit agencies.

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