Admissions to PhD in Planning, Design and Construction

April 14, 2022

Admission Requirements

Admission to the Doctorate of Philosophy in Planning, Design, and Construction requires the following:

  • Master’s degree in a related field.
  • A cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale in the Master's program.
  • GRE scores of 301 in combined verbal and quantitative, and 4.0 in analytical.
  • Proof of English language proficiency for all international applicants whose first language is not English
  • Agreement from a faculty member to serve as Major Professor (see below for more details).
  • Funding commitment (see below for more details).
  • Additionally, students are encourage to submit a sample of scholarly work or a portfolio of design work.

Major Professor

Applicants should communicate with the doctoral faculty in their desired concentration to identify a good match for them based on their and faculty’s research interests. If no Major Professor is identified in advance, the application will be circulated among the doctoral faculty in the desired concentration to identify a Major Professor.

No applicant will be admitted unless an approved faculty member is willing to serve as Major Professor. A list of approved faculty can be found in the PhD student handbook or on the Advisory Faculty for PhD Concentrations directory. (This information is important in reading this document.)

Funding Requirements

A funding commitment is a requirement of admission to the PhD Program. No applicant will be admitted without a funding commitment stated below. Preference will be given to candidates with funding in the following order:

  • Funding commitment from their Major Professor at the Graduate Assistant level for a minimum of one year (renewal subject to satisfactory progress).
  • Funding by an organization, including but not limited to Government, a domestic or an International agency (e.g., National Science Foundation, Fulbright, Home Country Government Fellowship or Foundations, other Fellowships, etc.), and Michigan State University.
  • A minimum commitment of 10 hours per week for three years by their Major Professor (renewal subject to satisfactory progress) and additional proof of self-funding.
  • Self-support with proof of financial documents.

English Language Proficiency

All international applicants and applicants whose first language is not English must be able to be proficient in English as a condition for regular admission to MSU.  Such applicants will be required to demonstrate their proficiency by meeting certain minimum standards on any one of the following tests: 

  • TOEFL
    • Minimum average score of 80
    • no sub-score below 19 for reading, listening and speaking
    • no sub-score below 22 for writing;
  • IELTS
    • Minimum average score of 6.5
    • No sub-score below 6.0

A bachelor’s degree earned in the US generally allows for an automatic waiver of the language proficiency requirement.  A bachelor’s program conducted in English but outside the US generally does not waive the English Language Proficiency requirement.  Applicants may still be required to demonstrate their proficiency via one of the above tests.  There are a very small number of exceptions for citizens from certain approved English-speaking countries.

For more information, please visit the Graduate School's information on English Language Competency.

Provisional Admission

SPDC, with approval of the Dean, may grant admission with provisional status to an applicant qualified for regular admission, but lacking English language proficiency.  Students admitted provisionally will be tested at the English Language Center upon arrival at MSU and will begin studying in the English level determined by that test.  Once a student meets the language proficiency requirements for regular admission, they will be issued a degree-seeking I-20.  If the student has not met the language proficiency requirement at the end of two years, they cannot continue to enroll in courses. Provisional admission may increase program duration.

Minimum Acceptable Scores for Provisional Admission

  • TOEFL: Overall score of at least 70
  • IELTS: Minimum average score of 6.0
  • MSU ELT : Average score of at least 72

Dual Doctoral Degrees

All dual major doctoral degrees must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. A request for the dual major degree must be submitted within one semester following its development and within the first two years of the student’s enrollment at MSU.

A copy of the Guidance Committee report must be attached, see academic programs at the Office of the Registrar. In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the College of Social Science, the student must meet the application requirements specified below.

Completing Application

Please note, once you have submitted your application, you will not be able to go back and make changes.  Ensure that your application is complete and accurate before submitting.

Steps to Complete Application

  • Complete your online profile starting at MSU Application and submit along with the application fee.
  • Indicate your Major Preference.  We offer seven graduate programs through two colleges.
    • College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
      • Construction Management (Masters)
      • Environmental Design (Masters)
      • Planning, Design, and Construction (Doctoral)
      • Real Estate Development and Construction (Graduate Certificate)
      • Urban Resilient Redevelopment (Graduate Certificate)
    • College of Social Science
      • Urban & Regional Planning (Masters)
      • International Planning Studies (Masters)
  • Follow the application steps to complete your personal background, academic history, employment, activities, etc., and submit the application along with the application fee.  See the application checklist later in this document for details on application requirements.
  • Indicate if you are interested in working with any specific faculty.
  • Have GRE scores electronically reported to MSU by ETS testing service; this is optional for Urban Planning:
    • For reporting purposes use School Code 1465 (MSU);
    • GRE scores must be taken within the last three years.
  • International applicants must report TOEFL scores (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS scores (International English Language Testing System).
    • For reporting purposes use School Code 1465 (MSU);
    • TOEFL or IELTS must be taken within the last eighteen months, scores must be no more than two years old at the time of matriculation or entry to MSU.
    • For more information, please see the section in this guide for English Language Proficiency.

All application documents sent by mail should be addressed to the following:

SPDC Graduate Secretary

Jill Selke

Human Ecology Building room 102

552 W. Circle Drive

East Lansing, MI 48824

Please see the section regarding specific programs for additional details on the admissions process. 

SPDC Application Checklist

  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
    • Recommenders can be personal, academic, or professional but should include at least
    • Recommendations should include a letter of support
  • Resume or CV
  • Official transcripts in original language and official English Translations
    • Request the registrar of each college of university attended to mail all records of any previous schooling (mark sheets, transcripts, diplomas, certificates) directly to the MSU SPDC Graduate Secretary. Records must show courses taken and grades earned and must be translated into English if the original records are in another language.
    • Documents must arrive in an envelope sealed by the issuing university. If your university does not issue duplicate transcripts, best practice is to take your official transcripts to your university registrar, have photocopies made and stamped with the university stamp, seal the transcripts in an envelope while at the registrar, and have a university stamp placed on the seal of the envelope. 
    • Documents issued to students are not acceptable. Scanned/uploaded transcripts are not accepted.
    • If your transcripts do not state the degree received, a copy of the diploma/degree certificate is also required.
    • MSU Office of Admissions is unable to return documents provided during the admissions process. Please do not send your only original documents. 
  • Academic statement
    • A concise academic statement of your plans for graduate study, your research interests, your career goals, and how MSU’s graduate program will help you meet your career and educational objectives. This may be completed online in the application or submitted to SPDC directly with other application documents.
  • Personal statement
    • A statement about how your background and life experiences, including social, economic, cultural, familial, education or other opportunities or challenges motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree. This may be completed online in the application or submitted to SPDC directly with other application documents.
  • Official GRE scores
    • Must be sent electronically from the testing center using code 1465.
    • GRE scores should be from a test taken within the last 3 years.
    • Not required for MURP applicants.
  • Design Portfolio
    • Required for MED applicants. Optional for other applicants.

Required for International Applicants:

  • Official English-Language scores
    • Must be sent electronically from the testing center using code 1465.
    • TOEFL/IELTS scores should be from test taken within the last 18 months; scores must be less than 2 years old by time of matriculation to MSU.
  • Financial information
    • Affidavit of support & supporting documentation (typically bank statement or loan document).
    • NOTE: You may submit financial documents after the review process however if you are admissible, pending to send these documents until after the review does stop the processing of the admission application and can affect the admission acceptance for the semester of your choice.
  • Official hardcopies of Degree Certificates/Diploma
    • If your official transcripts do not indicate the degree conferred and record the date of conferral, you must submit official hardcopies of your academic records.

Note:  Applications will only be reviewed if they are complete with all required documents (with the exception of financial documentation)

Program Specific Admission Requirements

Construction Management

  • All applicants must possess a four-year bachelors degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a master’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Preferred backgrounds: Bachelors and/or Master’s degree in Construction Management or Construction Engineering and Management.
  • Other backgrounds that will be considered: Civil Engineering, Architectural Engineering, other Engineering, Architecture, Business, Management, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning
  • To be considered for regular admission, applicants must have background equivalent to the core MS-CM degree requirements (with either Plan A Thesis or Plan B Report) at MSU. All applicants will be evaluated based on the MS-CM degree requirements (with at least Plan B Report) at MSU. Applicants will be required to take additional collateral/perquisite courses to fill any gaps determined by the PhD Major Professor, Admissions Committee, Guidance Committee and the PhD Program Director.

Generally, one or more of the following courses will be considered as prerequisite/collateral courses:

  • All undergraduate courses considered as prerequisites and collateral requirements for admission to MS-CM.
  • One or more of following CM graduate courses:
    • CMP 801;
    • CMP 811;
    • CMP 815;
    • CMP 817;
    • CMP 822; and/or
    • CMP 898.
Research Areas
  • Building Deconstruction and Salvaged Materials Management (Domicology);
  • Building Energy Efficiency;
  • Construction Materials and Methods;
  • Construction Organizations and Communications;
  • Construction Project Management;
  • Housing;
  • Mass Timber Construction;
  • Sustainable/Green Construction;
  • Technological Innovations and Their Application to Construction Management (BIM, AR,VR and machine learning); and
  • International aspects related to these areas.

Environmental Design

  • Preferred backgrounds: Bachelors and/or Master’s degree in a design field, such as Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, Environmental Design and Architecture.
  • Students from other backgrounds should contact the PhD Environmental Design advisor faculty.
  • Regular admission: To be considered for regular admission, applicants must have background equivalent to the core Master of Environmental Design degree requirements (with either Plan A Thesis or Plan B Report) at MSU or a master’s degree in related fields. Additional course work to fill gaps will be determined by the PhD Major Professor and MED Faculty or PhD ED Admissions Committee.
  • Collateral/prerequisite courses:
    • Collateral courses will be determined by the PhD Major Professor, Admissions Committee and the PhD Program Director.
    • Students without sufficient or related background or experience may be required to take additional coursework. Additional course work to fill these gaps will be determined by the PhD Major Professor and MED Faculty, or the Admissions Committee.

Urban and Regional Planning

  • Preferred backgrounds: Bachelors and/or Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.
  • Other backgrounds that will be considered: Related fields.
  • Regular admission: To be considered for regular admission, applicants must have background equivalent to the core Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree requirements (with either Plan A Thesis or Plan B Report) at MSU or a master’s degree in related fields. Additional course work to fill gaps will be determined by the PhD Major Professor and URP Faculty or URP Admissions Committee.
  • Collateral Courses:
    • Students without sufficient planning or related background or experience may be required to take additional coursework. Additional course work to fill these gaps will be determined by the PhD Major Professor and the URP Faculty or URP Admissions Committee.

Advisory Faculty for PhD Concentrations

The list of faculty that are designated as advisory faculty for PhD concentrations is available at Planning, Design and Construction Doctorate Program.

Tags: construction management, environmental design, phd, school of planning design and construction, urban & regional planning

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