MS URPL Degree Requirements


Upon admission, each student is assigned a faculty advisor based on the student's area of interest. In consultation with the advisor, each student can shape an individualized course sequence (see also common course sequence). The Masters of Science program consists of 45 credits, and typically takes 2 full years of study to complete. An internship with a planning organization is normally undertaken in the summer between the first and second years of study. In addition to satisfactory completion of 45 credits, students must successfully demonstrate competence in planning through completion of either a thesis or a professional project, as detailed below.

The coursework for the Master of Science degree consists of core required courses, an area of concentration, and electives. Use the Plan of Study form (.pdf to fill out in Adobe Acrobat) with your advisor. It is recommended a first draft of this form be completed in the first semester to have a general idea of your course of study.


All students must satisfactorily complete 7 core courses:

  • URPL 590(1) Pre-Workshop Module (1 cr.) 
  • URPL 721 Methods of Planning Analysis. (3 cr.) 
  • URPL 741 Introduction to Planning. (3 cr.) 
  • URPL 781 Planning Thought and Practice. (3 cr.) 
  • URPL 833 Planning and the Legal System. (3 cr.) 
  • URPL 912 Planning Workshop. (3 cr. + 1 cr. module)
  • Structure and functions of cities and regions (3 cr.) Students, in consultation with their advisor, can select one 3 credit course from the following list of relevant courses:
    • URPL 601 – Site Planning
    • URPL 611 – Urban Design: Theory & Practice
    • URPL 731 – Introduction to Regional Planning
    • URPL 734 – Regional Economic Problem Analysis
    • URPL 751 – Introduction to Financial Planning
    • URPL 761 – Central City Planning: Issues and Approaches
    • URPL 839 – Transportation and Infrastructure Systems Planning
    • URPL 841 – Planning the Ecological City
    • URPL 844 – Housing and Public Policy

A complete list of URPL course descriptions can be found here.


Students complete the 45 total credits needs by taking elective courses on topics of interest to the student, in consultation with the advisor. These courses can be used to deepen the student's knowledge in their area of concentration or can be used to expand knowledge in other fields.

For students electing to write a Master's thesis, up to 6 credits of URPL 990 (Research and Thesis) may be taken as part of their elective courses. Students electing to develop a Professional Project (rather than a thesis) may take up to 2 credits of URPL 999 (Independent Work) as part of their elective credits.

Students may also use their elective credits to complete an interdisciplinary certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy or Transportation Management and Policy.


To obtain a Master's 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. In addition to required coursework and an internship, students demonstrate competency through completion of the "competency requirement." Students have two options to fulfill the competency requirement: (A) preparation and defense of a Master's Thesis or (B) preparation and presentation of a major Professional Planning project.

A. Master's Thesis – a thesis is a significant applied or scholarly research effort, prepared and defended before a committee of 3 faculty members and governed by rules established by the Graduate School.

B. Professional Project

The Master's degree is primarily intended as a professional degree and most students pursue careers as practicing planners in a variety of situations. Students preparing for a career as a professional planner normally take the professional project option, while students preparing for future research-oriented careers or the PhD might take the thesis option.

Under the supervision of their advisor, students will prepare and defend a Professional Project Report before a faculty examination committee. Students may prepare the Professional Project Report in their area of concentration or may prepare Case-oriented projects of specific cases or places. The Report has a maximum length of 10 double-spaced pages, and students will prepare a professional quality presentation on their report.

Students may take up to 2 credits of URPL 999 (Independent Work) in support of the development and presentation of their Professional Project. These 2 credits of URPL 999 must be taken for a grade, and may count towards the elective coursework requirement.

Professional Project Resources

Professional Project Style Guide

Professional Project Assessment Form

Professional Project Archive

UW Design Lab – You can make an individual appointment to get help visualizing your project as a poster!

Find Graduation Requirements for Master's Students here