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.

Students who complete the master’s degree in City Planning will be able to demonstrate:

  • Mastery of knowledge in the history and theory of urban and regional development, the structure and functions of cities and urban systems, local and national policy making processes, and the role of planning.
  • Proficiency in quantitative and qualitative research skills and their application to theory-building, data-gathering and analysis, and policy making processes.
  • Mastery of communication and mediation skills for public (community) and policy settings.
  • Awareness of the political, social, and ethical issues inherent in policy work and the planning practice, as related to minority or disadvantaged urban communities.

For more information about the City Planning and Urban Affairs programs at Boston University, including faculty bios, student resources, events, and more, please visit the program website.

Admissions Information

Candidates to the degree program are selected on the basis of academic transcripts, academic and personal references, and a statement of intent. The statement of intent should clearly outline the applicant’s interest and aspirations in the field. Applicants with an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) lower than 3.0 are encouraged to submit additional information to demonstrate their capacity to succeed in graduate school.

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 generally required for admission, though the minimum score may be lower for some admission cycles, depending on the average score of the applicant pool. Suggested scores in each section are as follows: Reading—25; Listening—25; Speaking—25; and Writing—25. 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.

Sample of City Planning Elective Courses

  • MET UA 503 Housing Policy in the US
  • MET UA 505 Urban Management
  • MET UA 508 Real Estate Development
  • MET US 510 Special Topics*
  • MET UA 580 Boston Experience: The Role of Architecture in Creating a Sense of Place
  • MET UA 610 Urban Environmental Issues
  • MET UA 613 Urban Design
  • MET UA 617 Actionable Sustainability in the Face of Climate Change
  • MET UA 629 Urbanization and the Environment
  • MET UA 654 Geographic Information Systems for Planners
  • MET UA 664 Planning and Development Process
  • MET UA 715 Planning Law
  • MET UA 801 Graduate Directed Study in Urban Affairs and Planning
  • MET UA 802 Graduate Directed Study in Urban Affairs and Planning
  • MET UA 804 Supervised Fieldwork

*Sample of Special Topics Courses

  • Master Planning: Theory and Application
  • Urban Land-Use Policy and Planning
  • Affordable Housing Financing
  • History of Metropolitan Boston


Master of City Planning students may pursue studies in Commercial Real Estate and Real Estate Finance at Boston University’s Center for Professional Education (CPE). Effective Spring 2016, MCP students who earn a CPE certificate in Commercial Real Estate or Real Estate Finance will be granted a waiver of two graduate-level elective courses (8 credits) toward their degree.

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 UA course will count toward both the MCP degree and the graduate certificate requirements. In addition, with the corresponding department approval, students pursuing or planning to pursue master’s degrees in computer science or administrative studies may apply certificate credits toward their degree.

The six core requirements for the Master of City Planning and Master of Urban Affairs programs are identical. Therefore, City Planning graduate students who want to pursue an additional master’s degree in Urban Affairs, or vice versa, may receive a full waiver for all six core courses, provided they received a grade of C (2.0 or higher).

Additional Information

A maximum of one course (up to 4 credits) in an urban discipline, with a grade of C (2.0) or higher, may be transferred from another accredited institution for credit toward the MET city planning degree after completion of two graduate level courses in the program. No credit is allowed for courses used to fulfill another degree. Prior approval of the program coordinator is required.

A maximum of two Urban Affairs or City Planning courses (up to 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 C (2.0) or higher.

With departmental approval, up to three courses (12 credits), with a grade of C (2.0) or higher, taken outside the City Planning program may be applied as electives to the degree. Prior approval of the program coordinator is required if students wish to take more than three courses outside the department to fulfill their elective requirements, and will be considered only under special circumstances.

An average grade of B (3.0) must be maintained during the course of the study to remain in good academic standing and satisfy the degree requirements. Students who earn a grade lower than C in a core requirement must retake that class and earn a grade of C or higher for it to count toward their 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.