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.

Core Required Planning Courses (21 Credits)

All students must complete these six (6) courses, plus one (1) course that satisfies the ‘Structures and Functions’ requirement (see below):

Fall Semester

Year 1

URPL 721 (3 cr)
Methods of Planning Analysis
URPL 741 (3 cr)
Introduction to Planning

Year 2

URPL 912 (3 cr)
Planning Workshop

Spring Semester

Year 1

URPL 590 (3 cr)
Professional Practice/Visual Communications
URPL 781 (3 cr)
Planning Thought and Practice
URPL 833 (3 cr)
Planning and the Legal System

Structure and Function of Cities and Regions (3 credits)

Students, in consultation with their advisor, select one (1) of the courses below to satisfy the Structures and Functions of Cities and Regions requirement:

Fall Semester

URPL 512 (3 cr)
Gentrification and Urban Restructuring
URPL 550 (3 cr)
Transportation and the Built Environment
URPL 611 (3 cr)
Urban Design and Theory
URPL 731 (3 cr) *offered every other year, last offered in 2019*
Introduction to Regional Planning
URPL 751 (3 cr)
Introduction to Financial Planning
URPL 761 (3 cr) *generally offered every other year, last offered in 2019*
Central City Planning: Issues and Approaches

Spring Semester

URPL 601 (3 cr)
Site Planning
URPL 734 (3 cr)
Regional Economic Problem Analysis
URPL 844 (3 cr)
Housing and Public Policy

Note: The MS URPL Program Committee may approve additional courses that satisfy the Structure and Function of Cities and Regions requirement, including URPL 590 special topics courses.


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.

See UW-Madison Guide for other Graduate Level Courses:


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. Students need to demonstrate competency over the broad field of
planning in general, as well as within an Area of Concentration as defined by the student, in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Competency Requirement Options: Students may exercise two options in fulfillment of the competency requirement: (a) preparation and defense of a Master’s thesis; or (b) preparation and presentation of a major Professional Planning Project.

Option A: Master’s Thesis

A Master’s thesis is a significant applied or scholarly research effort, resulting in development and defense of a thesis document. General guidelines for a thesis in the MS URPL Program include:

• identify and address an important planning-related question;
• develop a reasonable conceptual or theoretical framework for examination of the research question based
on a comprehensive review of existing literature;
• apply appropriate research methods and collect information or data appropriate for the research
• identify defensible conclusions for the research question and awareness of research limitations;
• present and defend thesis;
• file one copy of the approved thesis with the Memorial Library and one copy with the Department.

A thesis is developed through the collaboration and supervision of a Master’s Thesis Committee, chaired by the student’s advisor and is governed by rules established by the Graduate School. The Master’s Thesis Committee determines when the requirement is met based on an agreed upon research plan and performance standard established with the student. There are no opportunities to appeal decisions made by the MS Thesis Committee beyond the committee itself. A thesis is presented and defended before a committee of three faculty members and is governed by rules established by the Graduate School. Students may take up to 6 credits of URPL 990 Research and Thesis for purposes of developing a thesis. Students may take up to 6 credits of URPL 990 Research and Thesis for purposes of developing a thesis. The thesis option may be of special interest to students wanting to pursue a Ph.D. or wanting to further develop their research skills.

Option B: Professional Planning Project

Preparation and presentation of a major Professional Planning 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. The purpose of the Professional Project Option is to both establish competency of each student and to provide the student with materials that may be useful in interacting with future employers. 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. The faculty examination committee is composed of the student’s advisor and one additional faculty member. The additional faculty member will be determined by the Department Chair. 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 3,500 words (excluding bibliography, tables, graphs, maps, etc.), 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.

Find Graduation Requirements for Master’s Students here.

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