Master of City Planning

What is city planning? Some assert that it is “social control over the use of land,” while others have suggested that it is perhaps everything and, therefore, nothing. Whether or not one agrees, these almost polar views of the planning profession capture the allure and tensions inherent in an academic and professional field that is couched in a complex of socio-political, economic, and spatial processes and institutions.

The strength and appeal of city planning can also be its major weaknesses. The planner’s domain is the city and its region, which are at once concrete and abstract forms of social relationships of production and reproduction. In this context, how can any single profession or discipline stake a claim on the city—or over a physical and psychological space that is called “urban”? Why plan and for whom? What is it that gets planned and how does one actually plan in a dynamic environment composed of multiple actors, interests, elements, and finite resources? What are the broader social and economic implications of a practice that controls the use of land? What sets planners apart from other professions that also claim the city as their domain (e.g., architects or economists)? Do city planners simply provide a vision for the city or do they actually effect changes in our environment?

The Master of City Planning (MCP) at Boston University’s Metropolitan College helps address these questions and, more importantly, prepares students for a wide variety of professional roles in planning for urban and regional development. City planners specialize in an array of complex sub-topics that include: land-use regulation; community and local economic development; infrastructure planning and budgeting; transportation planning; sustainable development; and urban design. The planning field is intensely political, dealing with core issues of resource distribution and the co-habitation of diverse communities. In this context, city planners are also called upon to be savvy mediators or advocates for an array of social, economic, and cultural issues. In addition, an acute sense of the public policy process is a hallmark trait of most city planners. The professional city planner frequently functions as a member of a multidisciplinary team and may be involved in such tasks as the analysis of policy alternatives, formulation of public investment programs, forecasting and monitoring urban and regional systems performance, development of joint programs among various public and private sector institutions, and plan design and implementation.

The Metropolitan College MCP emphasizes a theoretical and methodological core common to the numerous roles and specializations within the urban and regional planning field, as well as coursework specialized for several career options. The core of required courses provides training in analytical and evaluative skills, application of those skills to urban and regional public policy problems, and preparation of proposals for action.

The program accommodates students on both a part- and a full-time basis. The 64 credits required for the degree may be earned within two years of full-time study and must be earned within a maximum of seven years. Students are encouraged to participate in selected fieldwork internships for course credit.

Master of City Planning students may pursue studies in commercial real estate and real estate finance at the Boston University Center for Professional Education (CPE). MCP students who earn a CPE certificate in commercial real estate or real estate finance will be granted a waiver of 12 graduate-level course credits (equivalent to three elective courses) toward their degree.

MCP students may also pursue the Graduate Certificate in Applied Sustainability as part of their degree. The applied sustainability certificate consists of four courses distributed across three Metropolitan College departments: applied social sciences (urban affairs and city planning), administrative sciences, and computer science. Each course will count toward both the MCP degree and the graduate certificate requirements.

Admissions Information

Candidates to the degree program are selected on the basis of academic transcripts, academic and personal references, and a statement of intent.

International students are required to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet-Based Test (iBT). A minimum score of 100 is required, with scores of 25 in each section: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. International applicants are also urged to submit their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, although these are not formally required.

There are no fixed application deadlines. The program allows for students to submit applications on a rolling basis, although all students are encouraged to submit a complete application no less than one month prior to the start of the semester in which they desire to commence studies. Admission decisions are announced promptly, pending receipt of all application materials.

The Application for Graduate Admission can be found on the Metropolitan College website.

Degree Requirements

A total of 16 courses (64 credits) is required, distributed as follows:

Theoretical and Methodological Core Requirements (six courses/24 credits)

  • MET UA 515 History and Theory of Urban Planning
  • MET UA 701 Urban Problems and Policy Process
  • MET UA 702 Urban Analytical Methods
  • MET UA 703 Urban Research Methods
  • MET UA 704 Urban Economic Issues and Analysis
  • MET UA 805 Boston Urban Symposium or MET UA 761 Planning Thesis

Electives (ten courses/40 credits)

Elective courses are selected with the advice of the department coordinator or faculty advisor. The following is a sample list of city planning elective courses (see course descriptions for more information):

Sample City Planning Elective Courses

  • MET UA 505 Urban Management
  • MET UA 508 Real Estate Development
  • MET UA 509 Urban and Public Finance Budgeting
  • MET UA 521 Environmental Law
  • MET UA 550 Bike Advocacy Planning
  • MET UA 560 City in the Media
  • MET UA 590 International Comparative Urbanization and Planning
  • MET UA 604 Urban Political Decision Making: Citizen Participation in the Planning Process
  • MET UA 611 Community Development
  • MET UA 613 Designing Urban Space
  • MET UA 619 Urban Transportation Policy and Planning
  • MET UA 620 Urban and Regional Land Use Policy and Planning
  • MET UA 623 Regional and Metropolitan Development Planning
  • MET UA 629 Urbanization and the Environment
  • MET UA 654 Geographic Information Systems for Planners
  • MET UA 655 Connected City
  • MET UA 657 Housing From an International Perspective
  • MET UA 662 Nonprofits and Land Use Development
  • MET UA 664 Planning and Development Process
  • MET UA 668 Post-Disaster Planning
  • MET UA 672 Regionalism
  • MET UA 675 Urban Sustainability
  • MET UA 715 Planning Law
  • MET UA 801 Graduate Directed Studies in Urban Affairs/City Planning: Internship for Credit
  • MET UA 804 Supervised Fieldwork

Additional Information

A maximum of one graduate course (4 credits) in an urban discipline may be transferred from another accredited institution for credit toward the degree. No credit is allowed for courses used to fulfill another degree.

A maximum of two city planning or urban affairs (UA) courses (8 credits) taken at Metropolitan College before acceptance into the degree program may be applied toward the degree. The courses must be of graduate level, with a grade of B− (2.7) or higher

Up to three courses (12 credits) taken at Boston University outside the City Planning program may be applied to the degree as electives, with prior approval of the department coordinator.

The minimum passing grade for a course in the graduate program is B− (2.7), but a grade average of B (3.0) must be maintained to satisfy MCP degree requirements. Students who earn a grade of C+ or lower in a core requirement must retake that class and earn a grade of B− or higher in order for it to count toward the degree.

Preservation Studies

Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences offers a Master of Arts in Preservation Studies (historic preservation). Master of City Planning and Master of Urban Affairs students interested in this subfield of city planning and urban affairs are encouraged to take courses from the Preservation Studies graduate program. These courses can count as electives toward the master’s degrees in City Planning or Urban Affairs. To learn more about the Master of Arts in Preservation Studies, contact the Preservation Studies program at or 617-353-2948.