Land use education and training to locally appointed and elected planning officials throughout Michigan. Teaches the fundamentals on roles, responsibilities and best practices for planning and zoning in Michigan.

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The Michigan State University Extension Citizen Planner Program offers land use education for locally appointed and elected planning officials and interested residents throughout Michigan. This non-credit course leads to a certificate of completion awarded by MSU Extension. Advanced training through the Master Citizen Planner (MCP) credential is also available. The Citizen Planner Program is offered in a classroom or via video conference setting, or through a convenient self-paced opportunity called Citizen Planner Online.


Citizen Planner Classroom Program

The Citizen Planner Classroom Program is a six-week course offered in a classroom setting or through video conferencing. Participants earn the certificate by successfully completing all six sessions. Courses are held during consecutive weeks at a local facility or via computer-based video conference at your home or office. Each three-hour session includes lectures and hands-on learning exercises. The six sessions provide the fundamentals on roles, responsibilities and best practices for planning and zoning in Michigan, including:

  1. Understanding the Planning and Zoning Context: Learn the legal sources and limitations of planning and zoning authority and explore your understanding of ethical decision-making.
  2. Planning for the Future of Your Community: Recognize the function and importance of a master plan, know the process for developing one and its relationship to zoning.
  3. Implementing the Plan with Zoning: Discover the importance of zoning, learn how zoning is administered and gain confidence in your zoning reviews, including site plans. 
  4. Making Zoning Decisions: Learn how to adopt and amend a zoning ordinance, understand the role of the zoning board of appeals and obtain skills in basic property development methods.
  5. Using Innovative Planning and Zoning: Strategize with placemaking and design-based solutions for local and regional success in the New Economy.
  6. Successfully Fulfilling Your Role: Strengthen your ethical decision-making skills, apply standards to your decision-making and know when to ask for help.

Citizen Planner instructors include MSU Extension educators, MSU faculty, and practicing planners and attorneys in Michigan. The registration fee for the Citizen Planner Classroom Program is $250 and includes a comprehensive training manual. Review the listing of planned Events linked at the top of this page or contact the Citizen Planner office for information on upcoming events.

Citizen Planner Online

Citizen Planner Online is a completely online, self-paced version of the program designed for individuals who can’t fit a six-week course into their schedule or who prefer this style of learning. It takes approximately 15 hours or so to complete, and can be accessed 24/7 so that individuals can do as much or as little at one time as fits their schedule. Citizen Planner Online is completely redesigned and now more engaging than ever. To participate, you will need a broadband internet connection and a desktop computer, laptop or tablet (iPad or Android). Larger screens will provide a better experience for you. The cost of the course is $250 per person. This program also leads to an MSU Extension certificate of completion. Watch the video below to learn more.

Select one of the options below to register for Citizen Planner Online:


To register for this course you will need to create an account, sign in with your email/password, and complete the registration process. Step-by-step instructions are below.

  1. STEP #1: Create your MSU Guest Account/Community ID and Password: Create Your Account
  2. STEP #2: Login to the registration system with your Community ID and Password: Citizen Planner Online Course Registration.
  3. STEP #3: Follow the instructions to register for the course. Upon registration, you will receive a receipt and instructions for accessing the course.


To register an individual or group of individuals on behalf of your organization, follow the step-by-step instructions in this printable document: Citizen Planner Online Bulk Registration Instructions.


For technical assistance please contact Michigan State University Discovery Services at 517-353-8700 or email They are available from 7am-Midnight Monday through Friday and 10am-Midnight on Saturday/Sunday.


Once you have registered,  you will receive an email with instructions on how to login to the course at You will use the same login credentials that you set during registration (your NetID is your email address used during registration and use the same password set during registration). If you need to reset your password at any time go to: and select the option for Forgot Password.  

Master Citizen Planner Credential

Participants who complete the Citizen Planner Classroom Program or Citizen Planner Online are eligible to earn the Master Citizen Planner (MCP) credential. In addition to completing the course, the MCP credential requires passage of an online exam, capstone presentation and meeting annual continuing education requirements.

Master Citizen Planners may receive incentives, such as course discounts, exclusive training opportunities and scholarships for annual conferences and regional training offered by partnering organizations. The MCP designation is an achievement recognized as the standard of excellence among planning officials and community leaders in Michigan.

Learn more about Master Citizen Planner.

Citizen Planner Advanced Academy

The Citizen Planner Advanced Academy is an annual training opportunity developed for Master Citizen Planners. Offered each year in early June, the Advanced Academy includes instruction on the latest developments within the discipline of planning and zoning, plus emerging land use hot topics statewide. While the program is tailored to MCPs, it is open to all. 

Citizen Planner Impacts

Read about the history of the Citizen Planner Program, including stories about program impacts and details on a long-term evaluation in the December 2014 and December 2015 issues of Planning & Zoning News, an Extension bulletin - Measuring Impacts Using Ripple Effect Mapping and Survey Evaluation Techniques and in the Journal of Extension - Transforming the Knowledge Gap for Local Planning Officials: Impacts of Continuing Education in a Master Citizen Planner Program.


To learn more about the Citizen Planner Program, contact:

Citizen Planner Program
Michigan State University Extension
Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture (NEW ADDRESS)
446 West Circle Drive, Room 11
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: 517-353-6472
Fax: 517-432-1048

Or contact the MSU Extension Land Use Educator close to you.

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