The Top Schools For Urban Planners

The 6th Edition of the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs is now available. The new Guide includes Planetizen's updated ranking of the Top 25 graduate urban planning programs.

Read Time: 4 minutes

September 3, 2019, 8:50 AM PDT

By James Brasuell

Planetizen publishes the top 25 graduate programs in planning in the Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs (Guide), currently in its 6th Edition.

For the fifth straight release of the Guide, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology occupies the top spot in the rankings. The University of California, Berkeley; Rutgers University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill round out the top five.

The 6th Edition of the Guide required a large-scale data collection effort, relying on information provided by 80 participating programs and hundreds of educators. The rankings methodology evaluates data using a quartile system, with 29 metrics organized into four criteria. More details on the methodology are available in the Guide and on the Planetizen website. Throughout the process, Planetizen consulted with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning's Institutional Data Task Force to ensure that the Guide met rigorous standards of data collection and analysis.

Planetizen publishes the list of the top ten graduate planning programs online to help promote awareness about the comprehensive package of information about the academic study of planning available in the Guide.

Top 10 Graduate Urban Planning Programs 2019 RANK
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1
University of California, Berkeley 2
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 3
University of California, Los Angeles 4
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 5
Harvard University 6
University of Pennsylvania 7
University of Southern California 8
University of Michigan 9
Georgia Institute of Technology 10


There’s a Program to Fit Every Student’s Interests

To ensure that more than these rankings inform choices about graduate schools, and to recognize the excellence of programs that didn’t make this list, the Guide includes interviews with current graduate students and professional planners; essays from the Planetizen staff and Ann Forsyth, planning professor at Harvard University, providing guidance on the process of applying for graduate school and planning a career; and 97 profiles of U.S. master’s programs.

The 6th Edition of the Guide also includes an expanded list of additional rankings to highlight the many diverse criteria students can consider beyond the "Top 25" list when choosing a program. Additional rankings include categories that highlight the size and characteristics of the city and region of the program’s location, program size, programs offering part-time study and online courses, diversity of the students attending the program, and many more.

The profile pages of 97 planning master's programs in the United States included in the Guide reveal additional, helpful distinctions between graduate planning programs in the United States. Potential differences range from the ability to tailor credits for graduation to specific interests, take classes in related fields of study, work at internships in locally-specific and regionally-specific workplaces, and to take classes in the evening to continue working throughout the process of earning a master's degree. Each of these programs reveal distinctions in ambition and approach, as well—some established by the pedagogical tradition of the institution, but also by the specific challenges and opportunities facing the regions, cities, and towns each program calls home. One of the reasons planners pursue graduate study in the field is the ability to apply the lessons from their studies to the work they’re doing in the cities and communities where graduate programs in urban planning are found.

There is a master's program to match any of the numerous unique interests and passions that attract students and professionals to the planning field.

The Evolution of Planning

Another theme that emerges with every new edition of the Guide is the ongoing evolution of the field of planning, a professional field with tremendous influence over the quality of life in communities all over the world. In a series of interviews with students attending graduate programs published in the Guide, students repeatedly reference environmental concerns and equity in housing and transportation. Similar ambitions for the field are also frequently mentioned in the introductory text for program profiles.

The numerous participants in the Guide celebrate all varieties of communities—from small towns to suburbs to big cities. Planners and future planners who care deeply about their communities are looking for new ways to help residents of these communities live healthy, prosperous lives. The vision for the future expressed in the Guide clearly responds to the ongoing challenges of the world produced by the 20th century history of planning, and intends to innovate beyond the status quo in the United States.

This Guide is a call to action as much as it is an invitation to study.

Learn more about the 6th Edition of the Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs.

Search for graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs in urban planning and related fields from around the world in Planetizen's Online Directory of Urban Planning Programs

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