MS Urban Planning Curriculum, Concentrations & Courses

The Master of Science in Urban Planning is an accredited professional degree program with an emphasis on sustainable urban and regional planning.

Our flexible and interdisciplinary curriculum provides students with an opportunity to specialize in one of three concentrations while obtaining a foundational background in planning theory and practice.

MS Urban Planning students choose nine credits of major concentration courses and six credits of minor concentration courses from two of three focus areas. Selecting areas of concentration allows for greater student engagement with specialized faculty while providing an in-depth exploration of content, methods and applications specific to a desired professional focus.

Full-time planning students typically complete the program in two years.

#8

Top Urban Planning Program without a PhD
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#10

Top Small Urban Planning Program
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#11

Most Selective Urban Planning Program
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Curriculum

To earn the degree, students must complete:

  • 46 units of core, concentration and elective courses
  • Master’s report
  • Internship under the direct supervision of a professional planner

Review Master of Science in Urban Planning curriculum by semester and year or view or download the MS Urban Planning program overview and curriculum:

FALL 1

Course # Course Title Units
PLG 501A Planning Theory and Practice 3
PLG 514 Methods in Planning 4
LAR 570 Introduction to GIS for Planning and Landscape Architecture 4
PLG 597Q Public Participation and Dispute Resolution 3
PLG 597D Graphic Skills 1
  TOTAL 15

SPRING 1

Course # Course Title Units
PLG 512 Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Controls 4
PLG 560 Land Use Planning Law 3
PLG 696B Career Development Seminar 1
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  TOTAL 11

SUMMER 1

Internship under the direct supervision of a professional planner.

FALL 2

Course # Course Title Units
PLG 909 Master's Report 1-3
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  TOTAL 10-12

SPRING 2

Course # Course Title Units
PLG 909 Master's Report 1-3
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  Elective or Major/Minor Concentration Course* 3
  TOTAL 10-12

* Students are required to select a major (3 courses/9 units) and a minor (2 courses/6 units) concentration from one of three concentration areas or may choose to develop and Independent Concentration with the approval of an advisor.

* Students are required to take 6 elective units. Elective courses must be approved by advisor.


Concentration Areas

Environmental Planning

This concentration allows students to study the interactions between human and natural systems. Fundamentally, this concentration investigates how urban planning can reduce or increase the impacts cities have on natural resources and the environment through concepts such as sustainability, conservation and resilience.

Students pursuing this concentration will develop expertise in current patterns of natural resource consumption, methodological approaches in geographic information systems (GIS), conflict resolution in natural resources and planning and design for climate resilience.

Course # Course Title Offered Units
PLG 597S Sustainable Urban Development and Design Fall 3
PLG 508 Planning for Urban Resilience Spring 3
PLG 572 Environmental Land Use Planning Spring 3

Urban Transportation Planning

Students in this concentration explore issues and develop skills for building and maintaining sustainable urban transportation systems. We emphasize connections between transportation planning and safety, environmental and climate resilience, social equity, health and wellbeing, resource limitations, accessibility and community impact. Through our emphasis on multi-modal planning (e.g., cars, public transit, pedestrians, bicyclists) and providing inclusive facilities and public spaces that are safe and comfortable for all users, this concentration teaches students to consider transportation planning in holistic, analytical and innovative ways. This program of study will give students hands-on experience with practical transportation planning applications, including opportunities for original data collection, analysis and plan-making.

Students will become familiar with the transportation planning profession at various urban scales and at the local, regional, state and national levels. This concentration also provides students with opportunities to explore national and international best practices and to critically consider the implications of transformative/disruptive technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and transportation network companies, on existing planning, design and urban growth considerations.

The University of Arizona is now part of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), one of five U.S. Department of Transportation-funded national university transportation centers. 

Course # Course Title Offered Units
PLG 568 Urban Transportation Planning Fall 3
PLG 569 Transportation and Land Use Spring 3
PLG 573 Transportation and Society Spring 3

Real Estate and Urban Development

Students in this concentration will prepare for professional positions in public sector, nonprofit and private-sector organizations focused on planning and executing land development and redevelopment projects.

Graduates will be prepared for careers in a variety of planning and development organizations, such as:

  • Public redevelopment authority promoting urban revitalization and reinvestment
  • Nonprofit community development organization promoting affordable housing
  • Private development company building new or refurbishing housing or commercial projects

Students will deepen their knowledge and skills related to the development process and how to effectively manage the regulatory, social and market forces that shape it.

Course # Course Title Offered Units
PLG 597S Sustainable Urban Development and Design Fall 3
PLG 576 Land Development Process Spring 3
PLG 569 Transportation and Land Use Spring 3

MS Urban Planning Dual Degrees

Students who are interested in earning a Master of Science in Urban Planning degree from the University of Arizona have the opportunity to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) concurrently with the MS Urban Planning, in less time than it would take to earn each degree separately. 


Accelerated Master’s Program

Qualified students have the opportunity to earn the MS Urban Planning degree in a shorter period of time through the university’s Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP). Qualified students in CAPLA’s Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, BS Sustainable Built Environments and Bachelor of Architecture programs have the opportunity to earn the MS Urban Planning with one additional year of study.

Subsequent to being admitted to the AMP, architecture or SBE students in their fourth and/or fifth years begin to take graduate courses in their preferred planning curriculum. Twelve of the graduate units earned may be used to count toward both degrees; i.e., these units will meet the BLA, SBE or B Arch upper-division open elective requirement.

For additional information, please contact your advisor.


Courses

The master's courses listed here align with the degree curriculum above, and are subject to change. For more information, contact an academic advisor or view all master's courses offered by the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning.

The two emphases of this course are on 1) landscape planning theory and 2) the use of computer-aided spatial analysis techniques within a GIS to solve landscape resource-based problems and develop alternative planning and design solutions. Students will learn techniques in planning and regional landscape resources: visual simulation, computer map overlay, resource modeling, application of research into automated decision-support systems, solving problems through the use of automated spatial modeling and analysis.

Typically Offered: Fall 

Units: 4

This course is designed for advanced undergraduate students seeking careers in urban/regional planning, architecture, real estate development, and related fields.

Typically Offered: Fall 

Units: 3

There is an interest in assuring that real estate development of the future is more socially, environmentally, and economically responsible than in the past. Emerging research shows that responsible real estate development can produce competitive short-term and superior long-term financial returns. This introductory course will review sweeping changes occurring in real estate development.

Fully Online

Typically offered: Fall
Units: 6

Cities are on the front-lines of climate change as the built environment is impacted by increasing sea level rise, floods, drought, wildfires and urban heat. This course explores the challenges and opportunities of planning and designing the built environment for climate adaptation and resilience. Urban resilience is the capacity of cities and their interconnected systems to survive, adapt, and thrive no matter what chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience. Students will learn a range of climate impacts on the built environment, examine different planning and design strategies to increase urban resilience, and explore real world case studies of cities planning for urban resilience. Urban resilience will be considered through a variety of planning and design scales - buildings, landscapes, neighborhoods, cities, and regions. This course emphasizes inclusive planning processes that engage the most vulnerable populations to climate impacts. Guest lectures from researchers and practitioners will also be featured to share their professional experiences in connecting climate science to planning and design efforts.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

This course provides students a review of the legal principles that inform and regulate the due diligence and entitlement process that is the basis of every successful real estate transaction.

Typically offered: Fall
Units: 3

Course examines the theory and practice of comprehensive and strategic planning for urban and regional development. The tradition of strategic planning in corporations and other public and no-for-profit organizations, leading to the "situation change" criterion, is studied. In a parallel manner, the even older traditions of comprehensive planning, leading to the appropriately comprehensive criterion will be studied. When possible, students will be able to do hands-on planning at either the comprehensive or strategic planning levels.

Typically offered: Fall
Units: 3

Methods and models for program planning and policy analysis; forecasting, service demand, facility location in capital investment programming, task sequencing, program analysis and evaluation.

Typically Offered: Fall 

Units: 4

Studies relating to design determinants for development of outdoor space. Lectures and exercises dealing with individual design criticism, including topography, hydrology, climate, and vegetation. Final project summarizing and applying all criteria to a realistic development project is required.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 2

The goal of this course is the advancement of students’ knowledge and capabilities regarding Green Infrastructure concepts and the issues and techniques involved in implementation of Green Infrastructure. The course provides an overview as well as more in-depth coverage of the science, practical context, and creation of Green Infrastructure. The built environment of arid regions is emphasized, with Tucson Case Studies providing practical focus to content and learning objectives. The term Green Infrastructure, as used in this course, aligns with the following EPA description: “Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments... at the scale of a neighborhood or site, green infrastructure refers to stormwater management systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water.” The course features lectures, interactive discussions and presentations, and guest presentations and tours led by experts in their fields. Students take a series of quizzes, a mid-term and a final exam, along with a number of homework assignments / exercises. A special research report is required of Graduate Students.

Typically offered: Fall
Units: 3

Review of the principal legal devices available to implement planning decisions on community design (official map, subdivision control), the use of land (nuisance, covenants and zoning) and housing needs (including urban renewal). Special attention will be paid to the significance and legal effect of a comprehensive plan and to the social and economic effects of planning decisions.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

Course reviews preservation policy and jurisdictional issues within community development context, addresses complex social equity considerations associated with historic designation, examines economic incentives, and explores preservation philosophy, cross cultural values and emerging trends.  Gain skills to connect technical and policy requirements of historic preservation with pragmatic social and economic concerns of community development.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

Transportation planning in relation to urban development; techniques and procedures for developing long-range regional plans.

Typically offered: Fall
Units: 3

Transportation and Land Use (T&LU) is an elective course to satisfy the Transportation Concentration requirements for the Masters in Planning program within the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA). The objective of this course is to introduce planning students, and those from other majors and programs, to concepts and methods used in the arena where transportation planning and land use development intersect. This course will discuss various theories related to linking transportation investments, land use, and travel behavior, and will consider policy approaches used to address urban planning issues such as congestion, automobile dependence, and planning for infrastructure investments.

Typically Offered: Spring

Units: 3

This course focuses on the complex linkages between human and natural systems. Environmental planning utilizes methodologies which are systematic, iterative, and transparent and relies on integrating a wide spectrum of contemporary environmental issues in order to achieve more sustainable land use outcomes. As an interdisciplinary course, it draws from the fields of planning, geography, design, land use law, public policy, economics, natural science, and engineering among others.

This course aims to equip students with a broad knowledgebase which focuses on landscape components and processes. Further, students will develop the necessary land use analysis and management skills in order to help guide land use decision making, engage stakeholders, and minimize/mitigate conflict between natural and built systems in an effort to produce more sustainable land use patterns and plans.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

This course facilitates student exploration of key concepts and issues related to how transportation systems impact cities and communities. Students will explore ways that transportation systems--both in the United States and around the world--effect urban growth and development, economic performance, public health outcomes, social equity and social justice, and the natural environment. Students will have the opportunity to explore topics of interest in more depth through an individual research paper.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

A case-oriented approach to site selection, rezoning, financing, architectural design, economic feasibility, and other facets of the land development process.

Offered Online

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

Geodesign is a rapidly evolving approach which integrates geographic science into the planning and design process. The burgeoning development of Geodesign is resultant from the ongoing innovations in geographic information and geospatial technologies, and to explore their applications in landscape planning and design.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

Public participation is both ethically and legally a fundamental component of planning decision making processes. This course explores a wide variety of public participation methods and tools, what to expect from working with the public, and how to handle disputes that arise.  Students will be given a variety of public participation tools and then utilize them as a team in a real life public participation project over the semester. This course is designed for undergraduate and graduate students with no prior background or experience in the fields of public participation, negotiation, or dispute resolution.

Typically Offered: Fall 

Units: 3

Examines contemporary competition between environment, resources (water, energy), social equity, and economic viability in the community development and revitalization arena. Public policy, planning initiatives, design strategies and technical solutions that bridge the conflicting agendas are analyzed. Field investigation of contemporary cases. Appropriate for students specializing in planning, architecture and landscape architecture.

Typically Offered: Fall

Units: 3

Students in this course will participate in the The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Low Income Housing Challenge. The BAML LIHC is a team "business plan" competition for undergraduate and graduate students to provide a proposal for the development of housing for low to moderate income residents. The challenge seeks projects that will exemplify affordable housing development in the current economic and fiscal climate while demonstrating excellence in design and sustainability.

Typically offered: Spring
Units: 3

This course serves as a primer for the analysis techniques and data sources used to segment real estate markets, quantify demand, and evaluate competing supply. This course considers the balance of demand and supply as a key component to responsible real estate development.

Fully Online

Typically Offered: Fall

Units: 3

Individual study or special project or formal report thereof submitted in lieu of thesis for certain master's degrees, or research for the master's thesis (whether library research, laboratory or field observation or research, artistic creation, or thesis writing).

Typically Offered: Fall/Spring 

Units: 1-3


Accreditation

The Master of Science in Urban Planning is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB), which accredits university programs in North America leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in planning.<

Public Information on Program Performance for the Master of Science in Urban Planning program is available. View our program's strategic plan.

Ready to shape a more resilient future?

Learn more about the Master of Science in Urban Planning by contacting Emilio Romero, graduate services coordinator, or review the admissions process and begin your application now:

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