Last Updated on August 28, 2023
Planetizen publishes the top 25 graduate programs in planning in the Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs (Guide), currently in its 6th Edition.
For the fifth straight release of the Guide, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology occupies the top spot in the rankings. The University of California, Berkeley; Rutgers University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill round out the top five.
The 6th Edition of the Guide required a large-scale data collection effort, relying on information provided by 80 participating programs and hundreds of educators. The rankings methodology evaluates data using a quartile system, with 29 metrics organized into four criteria. More details on the methodology are available in the Guide and on the Planetizen website. Throughout the process, Planetizen consulted with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s Institutional Data Task Force to ensure that the Guide met rigorous standards of data collection and analysis.
Planetizen publishes the list of the top ten graduate planning programs online to help promote awareness about the comprehensive package of information about the academic study of planning available in the Guide.
|Top 10 Graduate Urban Planning Programs|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||1|
|University of California, Berkeley||2|
|Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||3|
|University of California, Los Angeles||4|
|University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill||5|
|University of Pennsylvania||7|
|University of Southern California||8|
|University of Michigan||9|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||10|
There’s a Program to Fit Every Student’s Interests
To ensure that more than these rankings inform choices about graduate schools, and to recognize the excellence of programs that didn’t make this list, the Guide includes interviews with current graduate students and professional planners; essays from the Planetizen staff and Ann Forsyth, planning professor at Harvard University, providing guidance on the process of applying for graduate school and planning a career; and 97 profiles of U.S. master’s programs.
The 6th Edition of the Guide also includes an expanded list of additional rankings to highlight the many diverse criteria students can consider beyond the “Top 25” list when choosing a program. Additional rankings include categories that highlight the size and characteristics of the city and region of the program’s location, program size, programs offering part-time study and online courses, diversity of the students attending the program, and many more.
The profile pages of 97 planning master’s programs in the United States included in the Guide reveal additional, helpful distinctions between graduate planning programs in the United States. Potential differences range from the ability to tailor credits for graduation to specific interests, take classes in related fields of study, work at internships in locally-specific and regionally-specific workplaces, and to take classes in the evening to continue working throughout the process of earning a master’s degree. Each of these programs reveal distinctions in ambition and approach, as well—some established by the pedagogical tradition of the institution, but also by the specific challenges and opportunities facing the regions, cities, and towns each program calls home. One of the reasons planners pursue graduate study in the field is the ability to apply the lessons from their studies to the work they’re doing in the cities and communities where graduate programs in urban planning are found.
There is a master’s program to match any of the numerous unique interests and passions that attract students and professionals to the planning field.
The Evolution of Planning
Another theme that emerges with every new edition of the Guide is the ongoing evolution of the field of planning, a professional field with tremendous influence over the quality of life in communities all over the world. In a series of interviews with students attending graduate programs published in the Guide, students repeatedly reference environmental concerns and equity in housing and transportation. Similar ambitions for the field are also frequently mentioned in the introductory text for program profiles.
The numerous participants in the Guide celebrate all varieties of communities—from small towns to suburbs to big cities. Planners and future planners who care deeply about their communities are looking for new ways to help residents of these communities live healthy, prosperous lives. The vision for the future expressed in the Guide clearly responds to the ongoing challenges of the world produced by the 20th century history of planning, and intends to innovate beyond the status quo in the United States.
University of California-Irvine
- Irvine, California
The Department of Planning, Policy and Design at UC Irvine blends the fields of public policy, design and planning to creatively look for ways to solve problems in the natural and built environment. The department offers an undergraduate major in Urban Studies and offers a Master of Urban and Regional Planning and a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy and Design. A dual degree program, resulting in an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Master’s in Planning, is available; students in the engineering section of that program specialize in transportation systems or water resources. Many local governments and agencies provide paid or unpaid internships for students in the master’s program.
CAG Score 97.2
Texas A & M University-College Station
- College Station, Texas
Seven research centers support ongoing work in urban planning at the Texas A&M University-College Station. Students in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning utilize these centers for internships, field work, and service-learning opportunities. The school offers a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Land and Property Development, and Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Science. The MLPD program is a unique curriculum that combines business with physical planning. The MUD program requires a thesis or research project. Numerous graduate certificates are offered as well. Urban planning students may qualify for the Center for Heritage Conservation Fellowship, History Maker Homes Endowed Scholarship, or the King Endowed Memorial Student Research Scholarship
CAG Score 97.0
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, which brings a social science approach to the study of urban planning. The school offers a Master and Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning. Master’s students have the option to study interdisciplinary tracks that connect four areas of specialization. These are design, real estate, hazards, international development, and Geographic Information Systems. Students take part in community engagement class projects, helping identify sustainable, practical solutions to real-world problems. Six research centers offer internship and research opportunities. The school offers the Stipe Assistantship in Historic Preservation ($10,000), Master’s teaching and research assistantships ($11,100), and Doctoral assistantships ($18,000).
CAG Score 96.9
University of California-Los Angeles
- Los Angeles, California
Students earning a Master of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of California Los Angeles are expected to select an area of concentration by the end of their first term, selecting from these options: Community Economic Development and Housing; Design and Development; Environmental Analysis and Policy; Regional and International Development; or Transportation Policy and Planning. Students who do not have a background in planning must complete 300 hours of fieldwork. The program requires students to complete 18 courses and write a thesis or pass comprehensive exams. The department offers international study programs and internships. The Ph.D. program is designed to be flexible, with students allowed to select the classes and research projects that best suit their interests and goals.
CAG Score 96.8
University of Illinois at Chicago
- Chicago, Illinois
The University of Illinois-Chicago College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs offers advanced study in urban planning and community development through its Master in Urban Planning and Policy. The degree is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. Students complete an area of specialization in one of the following: globalization and international planning, economic development, community development, spatial planning and design, urban transportation, or environmental planning and policy. All master’s candidates are required to complete an internship and choose a master’s project in applied research or a traditional thesis. Eight research centers in the specialization areas support faculty and student research. A foreign exchange program with University College Dublin is also available. Master’s students are eligible for the Anna B. Memorial Scholarship ($3,000).
CAG Score 96.8
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Resilient Communities Project at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities provides students in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program an opportunity to work with municipalities on a collaborative, sustainable solution to a community problem. The school also offers research opportunities at the State and Local Policy Program and Project on Regional and Industrial Economics. The program requires students to complete a 400-hour professional internship and a capstone project. Students may choose a degree concentration in areas of environmental planning, housing and community development, land use and urban design, or transportation planning, or design an interdisciplinary program. Graduate certificates complement the degree. Graduate student support is available through the Berrie Fellowship, Howard Award, and Humphrey Fellowship programs.
CAG Score 96.6
University of California-Berkeley
- Berkeley, California
The urban planning program at the University of California, Berkeley, is built around a mission to improve the ethics, environment and economy of cities and communities by creating spaces that are accessible, enjoyable and sustainable. The Department of City and Regional Planning offers a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies, a Master of City Planning and a Ph.D. of City Planning. The MCP program takes two years and allows students to concentrate in Environmental Planning and Healthy Cities; Housing, Community and Economic Development; Transportation Policy and Planning; and Urban Design. The university offers several concurrent graduate degree programs. The Ph.D. program encourages students to develop a specialty and to seek training in related fields such as architecture or civil engineering.
CAG Score 96.4
University of California-Davis
- Davis, California
The University of California-Davis offers an Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning major that allows students to take a track in City and Regional Planning. In this track, undergrads gain an understanding of how cities develop and the planning that is necessary to solve problems. Courses required for this program include urban planning and public lands management, transportation planning, and urban politics and community development. The department offers a summer abroad program led by department faculty that investigates the sustainable cities of Northern Europe. Another departmental study abroad program takes students to examine ecological and social issues at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
CAG Score 96.4
Westfield State University
- Westfield, Massachusetts
The Geography and Regional Planning Department at Westfield State University offers a foundation in geographic theory and hands-on learning in its Bachelor of Science in Regional Planning degree. Students may choose a degree concentration in environmental planning or urban and social justice. A certificate in Geographic Information Systems is also offered. Students take part in internships, independent study, and capstone research projects. They also engage the campus and wider community in collaborative projects, such as helping to create community revitalization plans. The school’s Environmental Planning Club organizes a sustainability event on campus each year and a geocaching club offers extracurricular activities. Each year, the department presents the Kelly Award in Regional Planning ($1,000) and awards the Regional Planning Scholarship.
CAG Score 96.4
Appalachian State University
- Boone, North Carolina
Appalachian State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Planning through its Department of Geography and Planning. Students are required to perform an internship in a professional office to earn their degree. The department also grants a non-thesis Master of Geography with a concentration in Planning that requires students to perform an internship or undertake a directed research project. Grad students can also opt for a Certificate in Planning, which requires 18 credit hours of coursework and emphasizes skills in the geospatial applications of planning. Scholarships available for planning majors include the Robert E. Reiman Planning Scholarship and the ASU Local Government Alumni Association Planning Scholarship.
CAG Score 96.4
University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Amherst, Massachusetts
The two-year Masters in Regional Planning program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst offers service learning opportunities through a variety of on-campus research centers and interdisciplinary programs, such as the Springfield Design Center, Center for Economic Development, or the Center for Resilient Metro-Region. All of the centers work with communities throughout the region on issues of social planning and economic development. The Master’s program is offered through the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. This allows the program to offer graduate students a certificate in landscape management. Studio courses are a requirement of the Planning Accreditation Board-accredited program. These may be completed on campus or through international courses, such as a climate change field study in Brazil or a tour of urban development in Amsterdam.
CAG Score 96.3
SUNY at Albany
- Albany, New York
SUNY Albany offers a Master of Regional Planning, a two-year program designed to prepare students for a professional planning practice. Students can choose to specialize in one of three areas: Environmental and Land-Use Planning; Housing, Local Economic Development and Community Planning; or Transportation Planning. The interdisciplinary program emphasizes sustainability, public involvement and creativity. Students gain technical skills and have the opportunity to intern and practice their skills in a real-world setting. The program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. Planning students can also enter a joint master’s program that allows them to earn an MRP and a law degree. The Department of Geography and Planning also offers an undergraduate major in Urban Studies and Planning.
CAG Score 96.1
Iowa State University
- Ames, Iowa
Iowa State’s Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Planning is a professional program covering the theory, methods and applications of planning practice. When possible, studios and other classes work with local communities on real world problems. Students in the program can choose from five focus areas: community development and social policy, ecological and environmental planning, regional and international planning, physical planning and urban design, or transportation and land use. The program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. While not required, students are urged to participate in an internship. Iowa State also offers a Master of Community and Regional Planning that allows students to concentrate in land use and transportation, community design and development, or rural and environmental planning.
CAG Score 96.0
University of Florida
- Gainesville, Florida
The University of Florida’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program provides students with traditional lecture/seminar classes, studio work in a team environment as students apply their knowledge to real-world situations, professional experience through an internship, and research work for a capstone project. The program, accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board, is known for its emphasis on environmental planning, growth management and transportation, housing, community and economic development, information technologies for planning, and urban design. The university also offers an online program designed for professional planners, a combined degree program that allows undergrads to work on their MURP during their junior and senior years, and a Ph.D. in Design, Construction and Planning with a concentration in Urban and Regional Planning.
CAG Score 95.9
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Champaign, Illinois
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recognizes that issues of international planning are a vital part of training for urban planning professionals. That is why it offers an integrated transnational planning courses within other areas of specialization. The school offers a Bachelor of Arts, Master, and Ph.D. of Urban Planning, with the BAUP and MUP degrees accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. Research opportunities and service learning are available through the Land Use Evolution and Impact Assessment Model and Regional Economic Applications Laboratory research centers. Master’s students have the option to pursue an area of emphasis in community development for social justice, land use and transportation planning, local and regional economic development, or sustainable design and development.
CAG Score 95.9
University of Iowa
- Iowa City, Iowa
University of Iowa’s BSE in Civil Engineering has an Urban and Regional Planning track. In addition to maintaining several hundred scholarships, the College of Engineering distributes grants to undergrads who pursue unpaid internships, either domestically or abroad. The college also hands out scholarships for study abroad through its Global Engineering program, and underclassmen receive free tutoring in STEM courses. Students angling toward an MS in Civil Engineering can join the fast-track degree program, which lets them count some courses toward both degrees and graduate in five years. Alternatively, as undergrads they can enroll in the joint master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, which has five areas of concentration to choose from.
CAG Score 95.9
Michigan State University
- East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State offers a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning, a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, and a Ph.D. in Planning, Design and Construction with a concentration in Urban and Regional Planning. The undergraduate program focuses on practical skills to prepare students for the workplace, including a capstone practicum course where students work with a local community on a planning project. Master’s students gain the research and analytical skills needed to be innovative leaders in the field. MURP students can concentrate in areas such as golf course planning, community development, environmental and resource economics, economic development, or urban transportation planning. Students interested in planning law can choose the dual degree option for a MURP and a J.D.
CAG Score 95.7
Minnesota State University-Mankato
- Mankato, Minnesota
The Urban and Regional Studies program at Minnesota State University takes an interdisciplinary approach to regional and urban issues by combining class work, research and field work for undergrads who are interested in community development or other planning jobs. Students are also encouraged to take internships, take part in community service projects, undertake independent study and participate in field projects. The major requires students to complete 33 semester hours, including taking four courses in the focus area they choose. Minnesota State also offers an M.A. in Urban Planning, a two-year professional program. The Urban and Regional Studies Institute typically hires three or four graduate assistants a year. The institute also offers tuition scholarships for full-time graduate urban planning students.
CAG Score 95.7
CUNY City College
- New York, New York
City College offers a Master of Urban Design program that is delivered as a two-semester, full-time course of study. The main focus of the program is a design studio. In the first semester, students work on a design project for a large New York City site. During the semester break, students visit another city that is facing unique stresses, which have ranged from New Orleans to Hanoi. Students work on a design for the site in the second semester. The program is open to applicants who hold a professional degree in architecture or landscape architecture. Students must take two required courses and two electives each semester.
CAG Score 95.5
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- Charlotte, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s Master of Urban Design is a 36-credit graduate program that can be completed in as little as three semesters. The degree is designed for students with a background in architecture, planning, landscape design, or related fields. The curriculum is balanced between studio and seminar classes. Faculty coordinate a five-week travel immersion program that in recent years has included study of high-density urbanism, historic regeneration, and new town movements in multiple cities in China. Research opportunities are provided through the Center for Integrated Building Design Research, the City Building Lab, daylighting and Energy Performance Lab, d-Arts, and Lab for Innovative Housing. Graduate students may qualify for research assistantships ($1,000-$3,000) or teaching assistantships ($1,000-$1,500).
CAG Score 95.4
University of Georgia
The Master of Environmental Planning and Design at the University of Georgia emphasizes a studio-based integrative planning process focused on environmental principles. The program creates professionals who can make long-range goals for a region that incorporate community input as well as important cultural, historical and design elements. In each of their four semesters in the program, students take planning classes and participate in a design studio looking at a real world problem that reflects that semester’s concentration, such as city, neighborhood or region. The program requires 58 credit hours. Students in the program can work an optional internship. The university’s Center for Community Design & Preservation allows students to work on conceptual design projects and historic resource surveys.
CAG Score 95.3
University of Idaho
The Master of Science in Bioregional Planning and Community Design at the University of Idaho is an interdisciplinary program to prepare community leaders who can plan for sustainable development, efficient management of natural resources and sustainable quality of life for residents. The program is unique in North America because of its interdisciplinary nature, which involves nine different colleges within the University of Idaho. Students choose a specialty such as regional planning and multi-jurisdictional governance, community design, community and economic development, or transportation and sustainable infrastructure. Students take part in bioregional planning studios, where they work with a regional client, such as a city, on a planning need, putting their skills to work and gaining real-world experience.
CAG Score 95.3
University at Buffalo
The School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Buffalo offers a 52-credit Master of Urban Planning. The program is open to students who have completed an undergraduate degree in any discipline and offers thesis or professional project options. An interdisciplinary graduate certificate in historic preservation studies and dual degree programs with the Master of Architecture and Law degrees. Students may seek specialization in economic and international development, environmental and land use planning, GIS and spatial analysis, neighborhood planning and community development, or urban design and physical planning, with several research centers on campus to support field work and service learning projects. Financial aid is offered through the Smith Scholarship ($1,000), and the IDeA Center Fellowship.
CAG Score 95.1
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona
At Cal Poly Pomona, the Department of Urban and Regional Planning is part of the College of Environmental Design. The department offers baccalaureate as well as master’s degrees in urban and regional planning. The Bachelor of Science program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board and provides students with broad-based classroom instruction as well as substantial field work opportunities. The master’s program is accredited by the American Planning Association and offers the following areas of specialization: transportation policy, environmental policy, housing and community development, or land use and design. The department’s alumni organization provides several merit- and need-based scholarships (with variable amounts) to urban and regional planning students. The URP Graduate Fellowship Fund provides support for master’s thesis projects as funds allow.
CAG Score 95.0
The University of Texas at Austin
Students seeking a Master’s or Ph.D. in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas-Austin will enter a small program of about 100 students. The school has a student-faculty ratio of 9 to 1, allowing for a great deal of mentorship and guidance. The program’s focus is sustainable development processes and practices that help to balance growth with environmental and population equity. The Center for Sustainable Development supports these efforts through ongoing research, and provides employment opportunities for graduate research assistants. The curriculum requires students complete an intensive planning practicum and coursework in an area of specialization, such as social and economic equity or historic preservation. Graduate students may apply for posts as teaching or research assistants.
CAG Score 95.0
University of Southern Maine
The University of Southern Maine offers a Master of Policy, Planning and Management with a concentration in sustainable development and geospatial technologies. The 36-credit degree program requires 18 credits of core courses in subjects such as sustainable development, public finance, public service management and quantitative methods. Specialization course requirements include three core courses: a sustainable development workshop, a course in remote sensing and an introductory GIS or ArcGIS course. Students are also required to complete 18 credits of electives, with course options in urban geography, global planning issues, town design, food planning and natural resource conservation. Students can also complete a one to three-credit internship as an elective. The University also offers a graduate certificate in community planning and development and a minor in planning and GIS.
CAG Score 94.9
CAG Score 94.9
The University of Texas at Arlington
With its location in the heart of the fourth largest metropolitan region in the United States, the University of Texas-Arlington offers a unique opportunity to study issues of urban sprawl, pollution, economic development, equity, and aging infrastructure. The school offers a Master of Community and Regional Planning accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. Students gain hands-on experience in planning development and design through the Institute of Urban Studies, which helps develop skills in data gathering and analysis, small group facilitation, and report preparation. In addition, the school offers certification in development review, Geographic Information Systems, public budgeting and financial management, and urban non-profit management. Scholarships include the Geisel Endowed Scholarship and the Mebus Public Service Graduate Fellowship.
CAG Score 94.9
San Diego State University
The Master of Urban and Regional Planning at San Diego State University is designed for flexibility so that students can adapt the program to their personal aspirations and interests by taking courses in other departments. The required internship also allows students to match an intern position with their interests and career goals. Students in the program gain skills in design, economic analysis and quantitative techniques. They also learn about fiscal affairs and intergovernmental relationships, preparing them for a job in any section of the economy. To earn the degree, students must complete at least 48 credit hours and write a thesis or pass a comprehensive exam.
CAG Score 94.7
San Jose State University
The Department of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University’s College of Social Sciences offers a minor in urban studies, as well as the following certificate programs: applications of technology in planning, community design and development, environmental planning, real estate development, and transportation and land use planning. On the graduate level, the department offers a Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program. To accommodate the schedules of students who are also working full time, classes meet in the evenings (after 4 pm) once a week. MUP students can apply for a number of scholarship opportunities including the California Planning Foundation (CPF) Scholarships and the Don and Ann Rothblatt Scholarship. Award amounts for these scholarship programs vary from year to year.
CAG Score 94.7
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The Master of Community and Regional Planning program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln does not require a specific undergraduate degree but welcomes those who have a background in social sciences, statistics, and economics. The program offers the option of completing a thesis, a professional project, or a comprehensive written and oral exam. Students can specialize in environmental studies, Great Plains studies, or water resources planning and management, and a graduate certificate in public management is available. Established study abroad programs are offered in seven countries, though students may also propose a unique international experience. The school offers the Clark K. Independent Grocer Community Planning and Design Fund for a research project and the Mutunayagam Memorial Fellowship Fund.
CAG Score 94.6
The University of Texas at San Antonio
The University of Texas at San Antonio offers a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning. The goal of this program is to prepare students for careers and leadership roles in public and private sectors with the intent to plan and design communities as well as regions. This program is a collaboration of the Department of Public Administration in the College of Public Policy and the College of Architecture, Construction, and Planning. Students in this program will take courses such as Community Planning and Design, History and Theory of Urban and Regional Planning, and Land Use Policy.
CAG Score 94.6
University of Central Florida
The urban planning programs at the University of Central Florida emphasize sustainability and socially responsible planning. The university offers a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning that allows students to concentrate in environmental planning, health and human services planning, or transportation planning. The program takes an interdisciplinary approach, as faculty with expertise in areas such as engineering, sociology and health administration lead classes. Students can enroll in the 48-credit-hour program on a part-time basis, taking two classes a semester for eight semesters. UCF also offers a Graduate Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning, a 15-credit-hour program. Undergraduates may minor in Urban and Regional Planning by completing seven core classes.
CAG Score 94.5
Kansas State University
Through its College of Architecture, Planning and Design, Kansas State University offers a Master of Regional and Community Planning, a Master of Science in Community Development and an undergraduate minor in community planning. The Master of Regional and Community Planning is available in two tracks of study. The five-year track is designed for recent high school graduates or those who have not earned a bachelor’s degree, and the two-year track is designed for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Both programs are accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). The 36-credit M.S. in Community Development is an online, collaborative degree offered through a partnership between KSU’s Department of Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning and the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance.
CAG Score 94.4
East Carolina University
The Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at East Carolina University requires 33 credit hours of classes covering theory, methods, law, design, geographic information systems and environmental planning. Students take nine credit hours of electives in an area of emphasis, either coastal planning or community planning. During their senior year, planning majors take part in an applied planning studio and write a capstone professional paper. Internships are encouraged and academic credit may be available. For graduate students who want to study planning, the university offers a Master of Arts in Geography with a Planning Concentration and a Master in Public Administration with a Planning Concentration, as well as a four-course certificate in development and environmental planning.