The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Urban and Regional Planning. This program normally requires two academic years of full-time work plus an internship. In addition to the M.S. program, the department offers a Ph.D. program.

Some double-degree master’s programs are offered, and provisions have been made, in all of the department’s basic programs, to serve the specific needs of students from developing countries. The M.S. URPL degree is intended primarily to prepare graduates for professional positions in government, nonprofit and community organizations, and the private sector. We seek to train students with the knowledge, theories, skills, and abilities to be leaders in shaping communities.

Master's degree coursework consists of 45 credits distributed among core planning skills and knowledge, an area of specialization, and elective courses. Students also gain practical experience in planning and problem solving through required internships.

The objectives of the professional M.S. degree are to:

  1. Prepare students to engage in planning processes that recognize a complex, pluralistic democratic society. Students develop the capacity to work with diverse publics, across government agencies, and in private and nonprofit sectors. Planning processes include the identification of objectives, design of possible courses of action, and evaluation of alternatives.
  2. Convey a set of planning literacies to enable students to perform effectively as planners in public, private or nonprofit sectors. These literacies include knowledge in the following areas:
    • Structure and function of cities and regions
    • History and theory of planning processes and practices
    • Administrative, legal, and political aspects of plan-making
    • Public involvement and dispute resolution techniques
    • Research design and data analysis techniques
    • Written, oral, and graphic communication skills
    • Ethics of professional practice
    • Collaborative approaches to problem solving
  3. Prepare students with the substantive knowledge foundation and tools, methods, and techniques of planning associated with an area of specialization.

Details on administrative requirements for the degree are available in the MS URPL Handbook.

The M.S. program equips students with sufficient understanding of and training in the principal tools, methods, and techniques of planning to enable them to perform effectively as junior members of planning staffs from the start of their careers. In addition, UW–Madison's program in planning emphasizes concepts, perspectives, and practices that promise to be useful not only upon graduation, but even more so in later years for graduates who reach positions of major influence and responsibility.

Although the department stresses the development of general skills and mental attitudes that are common to all planning endeavors, students are required to specialize in an area of planning that is of interest to the student.

The department seeks students with high academic qualifications and the potential to become qualified professional planners, and is especially interested in women and minority applicants. Since there are relatively few undergraduate planning programs in the country, students come into the field from a wide range of disciplines. In recent years, planning students have generally come from the social sciences with geography, economics, political science, and sociology among the most common undergraduate backgrounds. The range, however, runs from the arts to the sciences.

Fall Deadline February 1
Spring Deadline October 15
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applications submitted past the deadline will be considered on a rolling admissions basis as space allows. Application for admission to the department consists of the following materials: the online application, PDF of all undergraduate and graduate transcripts, statement of purpose (applicants should submit a thoughtful, reflective one- or two-page statement discussing reasons for going into planning; applicants with an interest in a particular concentration should discuss this; applicants with planning or planning-related experience should include this), and three references from people familiar with the applicant's academic and/or professional work. 

The success of international students enrolled in the program depends heavily on a good working knowledge of English. Prospective applicants who do not feel comfortable using the English language are strongly urged to consider further language study before applying for admission.

All applicants are required to have an introductory-level course in statistics. This requirement may be met by taking an introductory course, for no graduate credit, during the student's first semester of study.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

MODE OF INSTRUCTION

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

CURRICULAR REQUIREMENTS

Minimum Credit Requirement 45 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (23 credits out of 45 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (https://registrar.wisc.edu/course-guide/).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements In addition to Graduate School requirements, the Department of Urban and Regional Planning requires that all core courses and all courses in a student’s area of specialization (other than research credits) be taken on a graded (i.e., not satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.)

In all core courses and all courses in a student’s area of specialization, a minimum grade of BC is considered satisfactory. Grades of C or below in core and specialization courses may not be counted toward degree requirements, but are still counted in the cumulative GPA. If a student receives a grade of C or below in a department required core course, the student must retake the course and achieve a satisfactory grade.

In elective courses, a grade of C or above is considered satisfactory.

Any course in which a student receives a grade of D or F may not be used to satisfy any department graduation requirements. However, these courses will still be counted in the cumulative GPA.
Assessments and Examinations To obtain a master of science degree in urban and regional planning, a student must be able to demonstrate a high level of competency in the theories, methods, applications, and ethics of planning. Students must demonstrate competency over the broad field of planning in general, as well as within an area of specialization as defined by the student, in consultation with a faculty advisor. For information on competency requirement options, including details regarding a master’s thesis or a professional project, see the program’s handbook.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required COURSES

Planning Core
URB R PL 741 Introduction to Planning3
URB R PL/​SOC WORK  721 Methods of Planning Analysis3
URB R PL 781 Planning Thought and Practice3
URB R PL 833 Planning and the Legal System3
URB R PL 590 Contemporary Topics in Urban and Regional Planning (Digital Visualization and Communication for Planners)3
URB R PL 912 Planning Workshop3
Select one of the following to satisfy the Structure and Functions of Cities and Regions requirement:3
Transportation and the Built Environment
Site Planning
Urban Design: Theory and Practice
Introduction to Regional Planning
Regional Economic Problem Analysis
Introduction to Financial Planning
Central City Planning: Issues and Approaches
Urban Functions, Spatial Organization and Environmental Form
Housing and Public Policy
Planning Concentration12
Electives12
Professional Practice Internship
Total Credits45

Urban and Regional Planning and Public Affairs or International Public Affairs (M.S. IN URPL/MPA or MIPA) 

The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture and the La Follette School of Public Affairs offer a double degree Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning and either a Master of Public Affairs or Master of International Public Affairs. Students completing the double degree must follow the double degree plan. The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture requires 45 credits for the Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning. The La Follette School requires 36 credits for the Master of Public Affairs or Master of International Public Affairs. Per UW-Madison Graduate School policy, an overlap of 25% of credits is permitted (9 credits can count toward both degrees). Students can graduate with both degrees by completing 72 credits in three years. 

Graduate coordinators for both programs have sample curricular plans that they will share with prospective or current students to assist with successful completion of all degree requirements. 

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

A maximum of 21 credits are allowed from Planning Accreditation Board–accredited coursework taken at other institutions. In all other fields, 25% of credits completed up to a maximum of 11 transfer credits are allowed. Special conditions for applying prior coursework may be found in the program’s Policies and Procedures.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

Any course taken as part of an undergraduate degree (whether required or optional) may not be applied.

UW–Madison University Special

The MS URPL Program Committee will not accept more than 12 credits of prior coursework taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. The Committee does not necessarily guarantee that all credits (up to 12) taken as a Special student will be applied. All accepted courses must have a grade of B or better. The decision as to what prior coursework may be applied will be made by the Committee on the recommendation of the student’s advisor, and must be based on information indicating that the courses for which credit is given fit logically into the student’s overall program.

ProbatioN

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status). To the extent possible, students admitted on probation are encouraged to take core courses as a part of their first semester schedule. In all other matters, students admitted on probation are subject to the same standards and requirements as students admitted in full standing (e.g. residency requirements, satisfactory student performance, minimum grades in core courses [BC], and so forth.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

ADVISOR / COMMITTEE

Student should meet regularly with the advisor to plan academic career. The advisor is required to approve and sign the plan of study form, which is then submitted to the graduate coordinator prior to the student being allowed to graduate.

CREDITS PER TERM ALLOWED

15 credits

Time Constraints

The master’s program takes two full years of study.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances.

Other

Financial support is not guaranteed for the M.S. program, but Urban and Regional Planning works with students to identify funding options.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. (General Planning Knowledge) Comprehension, representation, and use of ideas and information in the planning field, including appropriate perspectives from history, social science, and the design professions.
  2. (Purpose and Meaning of Planning) Appreciation of why planning is undertaken by communities, cities, regions, and nations, and the impact planning is expected to have.
  3. (Planning Theory) Appreciation of the behaviors and structures available to bring about sound planning outcomes.
  4. (Planning Law) Appreciation of the legal and institutional contexts within which planning occurs.
  5. (Human Settlements and History of Planning) Understanding of the growth and development of places over time and across space.
  6. (The Future) Understanding of the relationships between past, present, and future in planning domains, as well as the potential for methods of design, analysis, and intervention to influence the future.
  7. (Global Dimensions of Planning) Appreciation of interactions, flows of people and materials, cultures, and differing approaches to planning across world regions.
  8. (Planning Skills) Use and application of knowledge to perform specific tasks required in the practice of planning.
  9. (Research) Tools for assembling and analyzing ideas and information from prior practice and scholarship, and from primary and secondary sources.
  10. (Written, Oral, and Graphic Communication) Ability to prepare clear, accurate and compelling text, graphics and maps for use in documents and presentations.
  11. (Quantitative and Qualitative Methods) Data collection, analysis and modeling tools for forecasting, policy analysis, and design of projects and plans.
  12. (Plan Creation and Implementation) Integrative tools useful for sound plan formulation, adoption, and implementation and enforcement.
  13. (Planning Process Methods) Tools for stakeholder involvement, community engagement, and working with diverse communities.
  14. (Leadership) Tools for attention, formation, strategic decision-making, team building, and organizational/community motivation.
  15. (Values and Ethics) Values inform ethical and normative principles used to guide planning in a democratic society. The program shall appropriately incorporate issues of diversity and social justice into all required courses of the curriculum, including:
  16. (Professional Ethics and Responsibility) Appreciation of key issues of planning ethics and related questions of the ethics of public decision-making, research, and client representation (including principles of the AICP Code of Ethics and other related principles, as appropriate).
  17. (Governance and Participation) Appreciation of the roles of officials, stakeholders, and community members in planned change.
  18. (Sustainability and Environmental Quality) Appreciation of natural resource and pollution control factors in planning, and understanding of how to create sustainable futures.
  19. (Growth and Development) Appreciation of economic, social, and cultural factors in urban and regional growth and change.
  20. (Values and Ethics) Values inform ethical and normative principles used to guide planning in a democratic society. The program shall appropriately incorporate issues of diversity and social justice into all required courses of the curriculum, including:
  21. (Professional Ethics and Responsibility) Appreciation of key issues of planning ethics and related questions of the ethics of public decision-making, research, and client representation (including principles of the AICP Code of Ethics and other related principles, as appropriate).
  22. (Governance and Participation) Appreciation of the roles of officials, stakeholders, and community members in planned change.
  23. (Sustainability and Environmental Quality) Appreciation of natural resource and pollution control factors in planning, and understanding of how to create sustainable futures.
  24. (Growth and Development) Appreciation of economic, social, and cultural factors in urban and regional growth and change.

Accreditation

Planning Accreditation Board

Accreditation status: Accredited through December 31, 2022.

Certification/Licensure

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

Professional Certification/Licensure Disclosure (NC-SARA)

The United States Department of Education requires institutions that provide distance education to disclose information for programs leading to professional certification or licensure about whether each program meets state educational requirements for initial licensure or certification. Following is this disclosure information for this program:

The requirements of this program meet Certification/Licensure in the following states:

Wisconsin

The requirements of this program do not meet Certification/Licensure in the following states:

The requirements of this program have not been determined if they meet Certification/Licensure in the following states:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming; District of Columbia; American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands