Master in Urban & Regional Planning Degree Specifics - 2019

Program Overview

The Master in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) is part of the School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC) at Michigan State University. It is committed to preparing students for professional planning careers in both the private and public sectors. The graduate program is supported by faculty members with strong professional and academic backgrounds and a curriculum which seeks to develop both general knowledge and specific planning and skills. Current faculty research and teaching expertise covers a range of planning subjects including:

  • Urban Design;
  • Land Use Planning;
  • Land Use Law;
  • Housing;
  • Community;
  • Economic and Real Estate Development;
  • Research Methods;
  • International Development;
  • Transportation;
  • Environmental Planning;
  • Public Policy.

The MURP degree is a nationally Accredited Degree and the program admits students with a variety of academic backgrounds. Ideal students have strong intellectual ability; good written and verbal communication skills; basic statistical methods and ones who have demonstrated a potential for leadership in the field of Urban and Regional Planning. The goal of the graduate program in Urban and Regional Planning is to prepare graduates to assume the responsibilities of citizens of a democratic society and to participate in professional planning practice. The curriculum prepares students to develop the following:

  • Basic knowledge of the history and theory of planning;
  • Presentation techniques;
  • Legal and administrative procedures and their applications;
  • Technical skills in survey, research, and analysis of the structure and growth of communities.

The primary goal of the MURP degree program is to facilitate the development of technical skills and intellectual qualities necessary for students to meet the broad and varied range of problems associated with Urban and Regional Development. It is intended that, upon completion of graduate study, the student should be able to enter the profession as a competent practitioner and be able to learn and improve throughout his or her career and respond to the changing needs of the society and the profession.

A student entering the graduate program in Urban and Regional Planning is expected to concentrate, under faculty guidance, on studies that provide an optimum learning experience in applying the various principles, theories, techniques, and design skills of planning to specific field problems. Unlike undergraduates, whose studies are divided between liberal education and technical studies, the graduate student is immersed in significant planning studies. The MURP Program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB).

Program Components/Plan Options

Both Thesis and Non-Thesis options are available. Regardless of the option selected most students complete the MURP degree in two years and should be capable of assuming responsibilities on an intermediate level of a profession planning operation.

Plan A – Thesis Option

Students who choose this option will develop an academic program of study with their Major Professor. The student will then present a Thesis proposal to their Major Professor and Guidance Committee. They will complete all required course work and research then write and orally defend the Thesis. To graduate, students are required to pass an oral defense covering their Thesis topic. A passing evaluation must be given by 2/3 of committee members in order for student to pass. Students who fail the initial evaluation may be re-evaluated the next semester after recommended changes are made. The student must meet the minimum enrollment requirement for the University during this additional semester. Students who fail a second attempt will be dismissed from the program.

Plan A students must complete a minimum of 6 Master’s Thesis Research credits of UP 899.

Plan B Exam Option

Students who choose this option will develop an academic program of study with their Major Professor. The student will complete all required course work, including 6 additional credits of an approved elective. This examination is written by the MURP faculty and administered by the School of Planning, Design and Construction. Students may take the exam during any semester they choose but, due to the cumulative nature of the test, it is strongly suggested that students wait until the fourth semester of study to do so. Students who fail the exam may opt to retake the exam the next available semester. Students who fail a second attempt will be dismissed from the program.

Students must be enrolled in at least one 1 credit during the semester in which they take the exam. The exam is not given during summer semester so students who plan to graduate in the summer should take the exam in advance.

The Plan B Report option is not available for Masters of Urban and Regional Planning students.

Joint Study

Because planners must synthesize and apply a large body of knowledge from many other disciplines, a joint study degree option is available to MURP students. The Urban Planning program maintains close relationships with many other departments/colleges on campus so that students wishing to specialize in a particular area of planning may take advantage of resources in other academic units.

Students have found that the diverse academic background provided by joint study has enabled them to pursue unusual and rewarding opportunities. The master’s program Director should be consulted for specifics on how to set up joint study programs and what career paths might be pursued with each.

Samples of subject areas of informal joint study within URP include:

  • Geography (cartography, remote sensing, geographic information systems, etc.);
  • Landscape Architecture (Urban Design);
  • Community Sustainability (Environmental).

Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning/Juris Doctoral Degree

The dual master degree in Urban and Regional Planning and Juris Doctoral allow students with career interests in Planning and Law to complete both degrees in a four year period. Students must apply separately for the Urban and Regional Planning program and the MSU College of Law. The student must be accepted to both degree programs. Admission decisions for each degree are reached independently. It is assumed that dual degree students will be enrolled full-time in order to complete both degrees in four years.

Bachelor’s/Master’s Dual Degree

A senior at Michigan State University who is within 12 credits of graduation and who is admitted to a graduate program may be dually enrolled to graduate Study while completing the requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree. To be considered for dual enrollment, the student must complete the request for dual enrollment status form. An application for admission to graduate study must also be submitted.

Students dually enrolled as Bachelor’s/Master’s students are not eligible for Graduate Assistantships, graduate student financial aid, or those services and prerogatives normally reserved for graduate students. Such students will maintain undergraduate status until the Baccalaureate Degree has been awarded.

Degree Requirements

The student must complete a total of 43 course credits. This includes a core series of URP courses totaling 28 credits. Students undertake studies of actual urban situations, involving the basic processes of research, analysis, and implementation. These applied studies are complemented and reinforced by seminars in planning theory and principles, planning law and legal instruments, research methodology, planning process, and program implementation. The student’s academic program of study must be approved by the student’s Major Professor, Guidance Committee, Associate Director and the Dean of the College. It’s in the student’s best interest to have a completed academic program of study submitted to the Graduate Secretary by the end of their first semester.

Elective Requirements

The second part of the MURP degree program requires students to choose an area in which they wish to focus their studies. This requirement provides flexibility within what is primarily a “generalist” planning program. It allows students an opportunity to develop expertise and competency within a certain area of planning and to pursue an area of interest. Students satisfy this requirement by consulting with their Major Professor and completing 9 credits of approved electives.

Requirements for Plan A – Thesis Option

All of the following courses:

  • UP 801: Concepts and Issues in Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 814: Applied Research Methods for Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 823: Urban Land Management and the Environment (3 credits);
  • UP 824: Geographic Information Systems and Design Tools for Planning (3 credits);
  • UP 844: Planning Theory & Ethics (3 credits);
  • UP 854: Economics of Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 865: Planning & Development Law (3 credits);
  • UP 894: Planning Practicum (4 credits);
  • Approved Elective (9 credits);
  • UP 899: Master’s Thesis Research (6 credits);
  • Complete and defend a Master’s Thesis acceptable to the student’s Major Professor and Guidance Committee.

Requirements for Plan B Exam Option

  • A minimum of 3 credits in Special Topics (UP 400-800);
  • 6 additional credits approved by the students Major Professor.

All of the following courses:

  • UP 801: Concepts and Issues in Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 814: Applied Research Methods for Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 823: Urban Land Management and the Environment (3 credits);
  • UP 824: Geographic Information Systems and Design Tools for Planning (3 credits);
  • UP 844: Planning Theory & Ethics (3 credits);
  • UP 854: Economics of Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 865: Planning & Development Law (3 credits);
  • UP 894: Planning Practicum (4 credits);
  • Approved (by Major Professor) Elective (15 credits);
  • Complete a comprehensive exam administered by the School of Planning, Design and Construction.

Additional Requirements for MURP/Juris Doctoral Degree

Core and elective requirements for each degree must be met. The Urban and Regional Planning program will accept 9 credits for transfer from the MSU College of Law as elective courses. The College of Law will accept 9 credits for transfer from the MURP degree. Transfer credits from the College of Law to the MURP degree must be approved by URP and by the Major Professor. Credits taken prior to admission at Michigan State University College of Law will not be accepted for transfer. Transfer credits from MURP to the JD degree program are approved by the College of Law.

Additional Requirements for Bachelor’s/Master’s Dual Degree

Admission to graduate study must be approved before work in a graduate program is undertaken. The maximum time limit for dual enrollment is three consecutive terms. The student may earn no more than 12 credits of graduate level course work applicable to the student’s graduate degree program and should carry no more than 16 credits per semester.

Transfer Credits

Students may transfer no more than 10 approved semester credits of course work, excluding research and Thesis credits. To do so, access the “Transfer Credit Administrative Forms” online at the Office of the Registrar Online Forms Menu. Credits transferred are established through the Program of Study as agreed upon by the student’s committee. Credits must be verified through official transcripts. Transferred credits must have been earned at a 3.0 or above to be included.

Sample Academic Program of Study

Fall Semester, Year I

Plan A and Plan B Students
  • UP 801: Urban Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 823: Urban Land Management and the Environment (3 credits);
  • UP 824: GIS & Design Took for Planning (3 credits).

Spring Semester, Year I

Plan A and Plan B Students
  • UP 814: Applied Research Methods for Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • UP 865: Planning & Development Law (3 credits);
  • Approved Elective (6 credits).

Fall Semester, Year II

Plan A Students
  • UP 844: Planning Theory & Ethics (3 credits);
  • UP 854: Economics of Planning & Development (4 credits);
  • Approved Elective (3 credits).
Plan B Students
  • UP 844: Planning Theory & Ethics (3 credits);
  • UP 854: Economics of Planning & Development (3 credits);
  • Approved (by Major Professor) Elective (6 credits).

Spring Semester, Year II

Plan A Students
  • UP 894: Planning Practicum (4 credits);
  • UP 899: Master’s Thesis Research (6 credits).
Plan B Students
  • UP 894: Planning Practicum (4 credits);
  • Approved (by Major Professor) Elective (3 credits).

Summer Study Abroad Program

The Urban and Regional Planning program highly recommends all students take part in the 4 week long study abroad program that can account for 4-6 approved elective credits. The study abroad program focuses on Europe in the odd years and Asia or Central/South America in even years. The European program has a 30 year track record. MSU and the program provide a number of scholarships for partial support of the approved study abroad program so when developing your program with your advisor, contact the study abroad faculty to learn more about this opportunity.

Required Academic Program of Study

All students are required to complete and submit a formal plan called the academic program of study. For Plan A students, The academic program of study with approving signatures from the Major Professor and all Guidance Committee must be submitted to the Graduate Secretary, preferably by the end of their first semester. For Plan B Exam students, the academic program is developed with their assigned Major Professor and also signed by the Associate Director. It is strongly suggested and in the students best interest to develop their program of study as early as possible. Once submitted, any and all changes to the program must be approved by the student’s Major Professor, Guidance Committee, and Associate Director of SPDC and the Associate Dean of the College of Social Science.

Advising and Guidance Committee

Plan A and Plan B students will be assigned a Major Professor. With consent, Plan A students may select a new faculty member to serve as their Major Professor in addition to forming a Guidance Committee. The committee will act as consultants, advisors and evaluators for the student’s program and research. They’ll approve the academic program of study, the Thesis proposal and oral defense. The Guidance Committee for Plan A students should consist of the Major Professor (URP faculty member), one committee member within URP in addition to one committee member outside the school. Plan B exam students will consist of only the Major Professor (URP faculty member).

It is in the student’s best interest to compose a Guidance Committee by the end of their first semester of classes so that the committee may give advice concerning course work. In forming the committee, the student is encouraged to meet with their Major Professor and develop a list of potential committee members. Students should then set up a time to meet the potential committee members. The process involves the consensus of both the student and potential committee members. The composition of the Guidance Committee will be submitted to the Graduate Secretary for approval no later than the end of the second semester of study.

The composition of the Guidance Committee (excluding the Major Professor) can change providing a member is willing to step down and a new member is found. This should be accomplished with the approval of the student’s Major Professor. A Request to change the academic program of study must be submitted to the Graduate Secretary for approval from the Associate Director and the College’s Dean’s Office.

If a student’s Major Professor leaves the University or is unable to continue advising the graduate student, the student must search for a new Major Professor. If another faculty member in URP accepts the student, the student may continue their existing program of study. However, if a new Major Professor cannot be found, the student will be advised to complete their degree under the supervision of an URP faculty member assigned by the Associate Director.

Academic Performance

Students will receive a written evaluation of their academic progress, performance, and professional potential at least once per academic year. This evaluation will assist students to define their strengths and weaknesses so that the student can work on improvement of weaker performance areas (refer to Graduate Students’ Rights and Responsibilities).

College of Social Science guidelines state that the accumulation of grades below 3.0 in more than two semester courses of 3 or more credits each removes the student from candidacy for the degree. It is imperative that a student contact the Associate Director if a grade less than 3.0 is earned for a course.

In addition, the MSU Academic Programs Catalog states “Michigan State University is committed to high academic standards and expects all graduate students to excel in their particular majors. A 3.0 cumulative grade point average for all courses counting toward the master’s degree is the minimum University standard.” The College of Social Science and the Urban and Regional Planning major adhere to the University’s minimum standard. A student in danger of falling below the overall GPA of 3.0 may be removed from degree candidacy.

Code of Ethics and Student Regulations

The Urban and Regional Planning program expects undergraduate majors and graduate students to adhere to the codes of responsibility as covered in the MSU Spartan Life Student Handbook, and the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Thesis Defense & Final Oral Examination

Plan A Thesis

Requires completion of a research-based Thesis (6 credits of UP 899). Graduate students enrolled in the Plan A option are required to pass an oral examination in defense of the Thesis and coursework. The Graduate Secretary will schedule the defense with approval from the student’s Thesis Committee Chair. A minimum of three regular faculty members will be present at the Thesis defense. A passing evaluation must be given by 2/3 of committee members in order for student to pass. Students who fail the initial evaluation may be re-evaluated the next semester after recommended changes are made. The student must meet the minimum enrollment requirement for the University during this additional semester. Students who fail a second attempt will be dismissed from the program.

Graduate students pursuing the Plan A Thesis option must follow all guidelines defined by the Graduate School. Refer to The Graduate School EDT website for specifics on Plan A Thesis requirements and formatting.

Plan B Exam

The exam is administered by the school and guidelines stated in this handbook. The Plan B is NOT within governance of the Graduate School. Plan B requires that the student take and successfully pass a comprehensive examination. This examination consists of five questions that are designed by the faculty who taught each student. The Exam questions are evaluated by the faculty members who designed each question. Students pass the exam when all of their answers meet faculty expectations for thorough knowledge of the subject area. Students whose answers do not meet expectations have the opportunity to revise their answers. If a student fails, they will have the opportunity to retake the exam the following semester. If they fail a second time, they will be dismissed from the program.

The exam is given during both fall and winter semesters. Students may take the exam during any semester they choose but, due to the cumulative nature of the test, it is strongly suggested that students wait until the fourth semester of study to do so. The student must be enrolled in a minimum of 1 credit during the semester in which they take the comprehensive examination. Since the examination is not given in summer semester, students who plan to graduate during the summer should take the exam in advance.

Degree Calendar & Progress Checklist

Prior to Attending the First Semester of Classes

  • Activate your NetID and MSU E-mail account. MSU E-mail will be the official mode of communication. Students are advised against forwarding their MSU E-mail to other outside accounts. MSU uses e-mail for a variety of official communications related to employment, student, and safety concerns. For instance, notices regarding a tuition bill are sent to a student's MSU e-mail account. It is important to activate your NetID because your MSU account is the only e-mail account to which official notices are sent. Students use their PID and PAN for activation.
  • Attend the required SPDC new graduate orientation. Students are encouraged to participate in orientation activities offered by the Graduate School (and for international students, by the Office of International Students and Scholars).
  • Contact the Associate Director or assigned Major Professor when you arrive on campus to discuss degree requirements, plan your courses (especially those for the first semester), and to discuss other student-related concerns.
  • Register for classes. Master’s students must be registered for a minimum of 9 credits per semester 6 if hired as a Graduate Assistant) to be considered "full time". International students must register for a minimum of 9 hours to fulfill Visa requirements.

First Semester

  • Select Guidance Committee members with your Major Professor.
  • Schedule and hold a meeting with your Guidance Committee to discuss your academic and professional goals and the courses you intend to take. You may wish to discuss preliminary ideas for a Plan A Thesis.
  • Collateral Courses: complete all collateral courses as specified in admissions letter (and plan of study developed with your Major Professor).

Second Semester

  • Finalize your academic program of study and circulate for approval. Once you have signatures from your Major Professor and Guidance Committee the Program should be submitted to the Graduate Secretary. It will then be reviewed by the Associate Director and sent to the Dean of the College for approval. The original form will be placed in your permanent academic file.
  • Prepare a written draft of your Plan A Thesis and discuss with your Major Professor then secure his or her approval prior to submitting it to your Guidance Committee.

Second or Third Semester

  • Revise your proposal based on the feedback from your Major Professor and schedule a meeting with your Guidance Committee to discuss your proposal. Provide each member of your Guidance Committee with a copy of your proposal at least two weeks prior to the committee meeting.
  • Schedule and hold a meeting with your Guidance Committee to discuss and approve your proposal and review progress on your academic program.
  • Secure approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB), as appropriate to your research by submitting the application form found at Human Research Protection Program website.

Last Semester

  • Prepare for Thesis defense or Final Exam.
  • Check deadline dates for the semester as they pertain to completing the master’s degree at The Graduate School website.
  • Enroll for a minimum of 1 credit for the semester in which you plan to defend your Thesis or take your Exam.
  • Check STUINFO to be sure all DFs (deferred grades) have been converted to numerical grades and that your GPA is 3.0 or above.
  • Complete and submit the on-line application for graduation at the beginning of the semester. You must apply for graduation even if you do not plan to attend the ceremony. This will circulate the appropriate paperwork to the Graduate Secretary that is needed to approve and confer your degree.
  • Obtain a copy of the Thesis/Dissertation submission packets from The Graduate School website. Although it is not required that the Plan B Report be submitted to the Graduate School, it should be formatted in the same manner as the Plan A Thesis.
  • Plan B Exam students should register to take Exam.
  • Prepare for commencements; see guidelines and checklist provided by the University.

Completion of Thesis/Report

  • Complete all required forms in the Thesis formatting guide found at The Graduate School website (Plan A students).
  • Submit a draft of your Thesis or Report to your Major Professor and Guidance Committee at least two weeks before your defense.
  • Edit your draft, as needed.
  • Schedule a time with your Major Professor and Guidance Committee for defending or presenting your work. This will be an open session to which students and faculty in the School of Planning, Design and Construction may attend.
  • Once student has confirmed a date and time that will work for their Major Professor and Guidance Committee they should contact the Graduate Secretary to reserve a conference room. At this time the student will also provide the title of their Thesis or Report so the appropriate announcements may be sent out to SPDC faculty and students.
  • Provide your Major Professor and each member of your Guidance Committee a copy of your Thesis or Report at least two weeks prior to the defense or presentation.
  • Orally defend Thesis/Report.
  • Modify Thesis/Report as instructed by your Guidance Committee.
  • If Plan A, prepare an abstract of your Thesis to be filled with “Dissertation/Thesis Abstracts;”
    • If Plan A, submit a copy of your Thesis to the Graduate School via the process described at Theses and Dissertation Submissions. If Plan B Report students do not need to send a copy to the Graduate School.
    • Distribute copies of the Thesis/Report to your Major Professor, and Guidance Committee. Individual committee members may request an alternative format, such as softbound, unbound, or digital.

Final Logistics

  • Read and comply with the MSU’s Thesis/Dissertation electronic submissions to ensure that you have met all requirements and submitted all forms necessary, paperwork can be found at Theses and Dissertation Submissions.
  • Pay all final fees and complete questionnaires required by the Graduate School.

Faculty Available to Act as a Major Professor