Master of Professional Studies in Urban and Regional Planning

Master of Professional Studies in Urban and Regional Planning

Degree Requirements

To master the art and science of urban planning requires a dedication to learning and refining skills, an understanding of practical theories and a commitment to gaining practical planning experiences. The Georgetown University Master of Professional Studies in Urban and Regional Planning curriculum provides students with a well-rounded balance of classroom instruction and field work, combined to make students highly marketable contributors in the urban planning profession.

The degree requires a total of 42 credits to complete, including:

  • Six core courses (18 credits)
  • Four concentration courses (12 credits)
  • Three elective courses (9 credits)
  • One Capstone course (3 credits)

Typically, students can complete the program in two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study.

The core is composed of six courses (three credits each) considered essential in the development of practicing urban planners. Core courses introduce students to the history and theory of urban and regional planning, research methods, the planning process, legal issues and ethical practices.

Course Descriptions

Fall 2013 Course Offerings

Urban Planning History and Theory
The core course examines the history of the planning profession and how the planner’s role has evolved over time. An overview of major planning theories and rationales such as equity, sustainability, community and community inclusion are discussed. The physical design of cities, the impact of urbanization and city’s response to technological advances are examined. Students analyze several present day scenarios facing urban communities and gain perspective through knowledge of planning theories and strategies taught throughout the course.

Methods in Urban Planning Research and Analysis
The core course prepares students to analyze quantitative data and mapping used in the practice of urban and regional planning. Students become familiar with the sources of data and their relevance to making urban planning decisions. Students use publicly available data sets and data obtained from communities in the Washington region as a basis of course inquiry. Several data sources are examined, including GIS (Geographic Information Systems), census data, community data, and prior plans. Through readings, lectures and lab sessions, students gain knowledge of the skills and tools that accompany the practice of urban planning. Students are introduced to graphic delineation and mapping and the presentation methods used in planning studies. Note: this course is not an in-depth GIS course, which is offered as a specialization course.

Economics for Planners
The core course introduces concepts and techniques of economics that pertain to urban planners. The government’s role in the economics of cities and in development, national welfare and housing policies, public and private finance, and the cost-benefits associated with development are addressed. The course addresses state and regional economic policies that affect cities and regional economies, as well as finance, investment, fiscal resources and redevelopment initiatives. Real estate development case studies from a variety of innovative local projects in the Washington region are included in the course content.

Ethics and Planning Practice
The core course explores the values and decisions related to the ethical practice of urban planning in a democratic society. Students investigate the ethical decisions as well as the professional issues they may encounter as a planner. The course reviews the theories of urban planning and community and the environmental and social issues involved in planning. The planner’s role in regard to the ethical treatment of all members of a community, as well as issues of social justice, diversity, economic equity, resource allocation, environmental health, environmental sustainability and public process are also included in course content.

Spring 2014 Course Offerings

  • Legal Foundations of Planning 
  • Ethics and Practice of Planning (see above for description)
  • Planning the Sustainable Future 
  • Environmental and Natural Resource Planning 

Legal Foundations of Planning
Students in this core course study landmark land use law cases that built the legal foundations of the urban planning profession. Students examine land use law, and the law as a method by which the form and quality of neighborhoods and communities is changed. They also evaluate the various legal issues that arise in the course of the planning, policy making, and regulation process impacting development and resource utilization. The powers and constraints of zoning law are examined, as well as environmental and housing policies and regulations that govern architecture and neighborhood form.

Planning the Sustainable Future 
As population increases and natural resources become scarcer, the principles of sustainable communities have become integral to shaping livable urban environments. The course examines the facets of sustainability that affect the health and future of the 21st century city, including transportation, natural resource preservation, green infrastructure and building, and smart growth policies adapted to minimize resource depletion. Theories of sustainability, sustainability policy, as well as obstacles to sustainable development are reviewed and case studies of sustainable communities are studied.

Environmental and Natural Resource Planning 
This introductory course focuses on planning that seeks to maintain environmental quality in a range of scales and settings. Legal requirements of the environmental planner, such as environmental impact statements, environmental regulations at federal and local levels, natural resource inventory, and risk analysis are examined. The course will also examine methods to protect cultural and historic resources and rural planning issues. Case studies at a range of scales introduce students to the breadth and impact of environmental planning and the opportunities that are presented to enhance the quality of the environment as communities expand and redevelop in urban and suburban areas.

Summer 2014/Fall 2014 Course Offerings

  • Urban Planning History and Theory (see description above)
  • Community Planning and Design 
  • Geographic Information Systems for Planners 
  • Capstone Project Research Investigation 1 credit
  • Urban/City Vision Workshops 2 credits

Community Planning and Design 
This course investigates the process of community planning and design and covers theories and practice of community design. It examines inclusive methods in the planning process, model community design projects, environmental justice, affordable housing, quality of life issues, transportation planning, and economic development, particularly in underserved communities. Case studies of successful community design and planning initiatives are examined and students participate in community design forums over the semester to gain experience in the political process.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) _for Planners 
This lab format course offers an overview and hands-on application of the geographic data used by planners when using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The course involves the practical application of spatial analysis and methods by which spatial data is represented to advance understanding of a community’s resources and existing condition. The course balances the practical skills of planner-specific software with the reasoning required to integrate GIS into the work of urban planners. A community near Washington serves as the basis for the course’s spatial inquiry in GIS.

Capstone Project Research Investigation 1 credit
This course allows a student an opportunity to begin research in preparation for the capstone project, a core requirement. Students will research primary and secondary sources for the capstone work and research case studies and precedents related to the subject of the capstone project. These investigations facilitate a capstone project at the start of the following semester. Students create an annotated bibliography and research mapping on the subject of the capstone investigation.

Urban Vision Workshop 2 credits
The short course is a series of field reconnaissance exercises in which students examine urban communities and their attributes. Students record and document noted regional communities and create an illustrated analytical document to establish a physical record of the community, as well as past practices. Student findings are included in a compendium of case studies integrated into the program’s digital library.

Program Options

Students in the program work closely with professors and program advisors to structure electives, concentrations, internships, City Lab experiences and Capstone projects to meet specific learning goals, career objectives and specialty interests. Students can choose to focus their studies from one of two program concentrations, Land Use and Urban Design or Sustainability.

Application Deadlines

Visit the admissions page for more information about application deadlines and applying online.


Educational expenses each semester are based on the number of credits for which you are registered. See tuition rates, based on cost per credit, for the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.

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Video Highlight

Interview with Uwe Brandes, Executive Director, MPS Urban and Regional Planning Program #2

Interview with Uwe Brandes, Executive Director, MPS Urban and Regional Planning Program #2

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