Master of Urban & Environmental Planning
The Master of Urban and Environmental Planning program prepares students to become responsible practitioners in a variety of public, private, and non-profit settings. Graduates are eligible for certification by the American Institute of Certified Planners after two years of professional practice.
The degree requires 50 credits: 23 in the core generalist courses, 15 in a special concentration, 6 in planning application courses (one of these courses must be in the area of concentration), and 6 in open electives. Courses are selected from those in the department and in other departments in the School and University. Students earning dual degrees or who have transferred from other planning programs may warrant advanced standing and be able to complete the planning program in less than two years. Students may take more than the minimum 50 credits if their schedules allow it.
A distinctive feature of our program is our commitment to community sustainability. Sustainability is addressed in specific courses with that title, but sustainability also provides the underlying framework for virtually all of the department’s courses. The title of our department is Urban and Environmental Planning. We believe it is necessary to consider both the urban and environmental aspects of a setting to address its issues, problems, and opportunities. We are as much concerned with the economy and issues of equity as we are with the environment and find it more useful to emphasize linkages than distinctions. We hope to inspire our students to share our enthusiasm for addressing the planning needs of sustainable communities.
The Master of Planning Program emphasizes theories of planning, methods of analysis, effective means of communication, planning processes, and creative strategies for implementation. The concept of sustainability is incorporated throughout the curriculum. Planning Concentrations (PCs) include:
- Housing and Community Development
- Environmental Management and Conservation
- Land Use and Growth Management
- Historic Preservation Planning
- Public Policy and Planning
See the 2012-13 Graduate Record.
Core Courses Required of All Students
- SARC 6000 The Common Course
- PLAN 6010 Planning Process and Practice
- PLAN 6040 Legal Aspects of Planning
- PLAN 6050 Methods of Planning Analysis
- PLAN 6070 Urban Theory and Public Policy
- PLAN 6090 Planning Theory and Practice
- *PLAN 5810 Sustainable Communities OR
- *PLAN 5830 Environmental Policy and Planning OR
- *PLAN 5840 Environmental Ethics
*Only ONE of these three courses is required.
Planning Application Courses
In addition to the above courses, all students must take at least two planning application courses (PLACs). A planning application course combines theory and application through work on a team project for a hypothetical or actual client. These are listed each semester in the Course Offering Directory, with their subject matter rotating each year.
While the core classes provide the basic curriculum, students meet with their advisors to plan a course of specialized study called Planning Concentrations (PCs). Their purpose is to guide the student in designing a coherent program with an individual focus. The Planning Concentrations listed below should not be viewed as mutually exclusive program compartments. Rather, they are umbrella categories that assist students in focusing their interests. Within these categories, students may develop subspecialties. The PCs overlap, combine, and reinforce each other, remaining flexible while suggesting the types of programs we emphasize at the University of Virginia.
Housing and Community Development
This concentration focuses on established communities and neighborhoods, land reuse and redevelopment, and community and economic development. Housing is a key element in each. The PC encompasses physical, economic, and social aspects of development. Opportunities are provided to explore land development and public/private development partnerships, and/or to concentrate on urban design and preservation planning. Courses in community organization, mediation, and participatory aspects of communities are included in this PC. The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5400.
Environmental Management and Conservation
Planners who specialize in the environment perform functions such as assessing the impacts of land development on the biophysical environment and recommending policies to conserve the natural resources of air, water, land, energy, and minerals. Specialists in this PC also develop plans for addressing the issues of local food systems and the protection of sensitive settings, such as coastal, mountain, wetland, heritage, and special habitat areas. Environmental planning embraces many types of sites, ranging from urban environments to wilderness areas to agricultural ecosystems. The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5830: Environmental Policy and Planning.
Land Use and Growth Management
As communities change or grow, decisions are made about the uses of land, about qualities desired in the physical environment, and about the location of development and the protection of open areas. Questions of public facilities and financial resources arise alongside issues of timing and adequacy. A wide range of tools now exists in land use and growth management planning. These include plans, regulations, tax and finance policies, as well as public service programs. Local land use and growth management activities are frequently linked with regional and state level concerns. The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5600.
Historic Preservation Planning
Planners with a special interest in historic preservation work in numerous settings. They may be on the staff of a local planning agency, work closely with an historic architectural review board, develop the historic element for a comprehensive plan, prepare nominations for building or districts, or create strategies to take advantage of historic assets for economic development purposes. Preservation planners work for state offices of historic preservation, non–profit preservation advocacy groups, and private consultants. Students may earn a 24–credit Certificate in Historic Preservation and choose their courses accordingly, or they may select a more flexible course of study to complete this planning concentration.
The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5300: Preservation Planning. The year–long community history sequence offered through the Department of Architectural History can also provide an appropriate starting point for this concentration.
Public Policy and Planning
This concentration educates planners to serve as general program policy planners in planning agencies or as advisors to elected officials. Planning policies must reflect an understanding of the political and economic contexts in which they occur. Knowledge of substantive areas and analytical skills are both required for successful policy decisions. The breadth of policy planning demands familiarity with other courses and programs in the University, and students are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary opportunities. The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 6070: Urban Theory & Public Policy.
Student-Designed Planning Concentrations
Although the PCs described above permit a substantial degree of flexibility, students are also free to develop planning specialties outside these categories. Students might wish to develop specializations in urban design, transportation planning, food systems or planning and public health. Required course work is determined in consultation with the student’s advisor.
Graduate students are required to complete an internship during the summer between the first and second years of study. The internship is an approved ten-week assignment in an agency, firm, or organization engaged in planning activities. The department regularly receives announcements from organizations seeking interns and circulates those notices to students throughout the year. Students may also find their own positions, locally or in another region. The department assistant keeps a notebook of internships for examples of the type of work our students have found over the last several years. In special circumstances, prior work experience may satisfy this requirement.
Students are welcome to pursue any of several individualized opportunities for academic credit. These include master’s theses (Thesis Guidelines), independent study, and field study. Approval in advance by a faculty advisor who will take responsibility for grading the work is required, and in some instances, the entire faculty will review the proposal. Ample time should be permitted for the process. A research report is expected in addition to a review of the literature.
Program policy permits as many as six hours of credit to be gained by work on approved projects or in work experience judged appropriate for credit. In addition, a thesis may be undertaken for up to 6 credit hours.
The Graduate Program in Urban and Environmental Planning is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board, sponsored jointly by the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.
Planetizen, the leading on–line network for the urban planning community, published a Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs for the first time in 2007 and again in 2009. The University of Virginia Department of Urban and Environmental Planning ranked 15th nationally out of 75 master’s programs in 2007. We ranked 16th in 2009 according to professional practitioners, the people who hire our graduates. We were 9th in the south, 6th among the top ten not offering a PhD, and included in the top 15 best in the areas of environmental planning and land use planning. In 2007, we were also pleased to have been ranked 4th nationally for historic preservation. . Faculty member Tim Beatley, Tereza Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, is included among Planetizen’s illustrious top 100 Urban Thinkers.For further information, see the Planetizen website.
Another useful guide is that published by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning in 2010, The Undergraduate and Graduate Guide to Education in Urban and Regional Planning.
Students from a wide range of academic backgrounds are admitted to the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree program. Applicants with an accredited bachelor’s degree in the social sciences, engineering, design, or liberal arts contribute to the vitality of the program and to the field of planning. There is NO portfolio requirement for admission. For more information please see the Graduate Admissions page.
Graduates of accredited undergraduate planning programs will be considered for advanced standing in special cases. A minimum of 30 graduate credits must be completed at the University of Virginia. In combination with the undergraduate program, each of the requirements for the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree must be met, including the core courses, planning application courses, planning concentration, and internship. The advanced standing opportunity is intended for students with strong undergraduate records and at least a 3.5 GPA in planning courses.
A Certificate Program in Historic Preservation is open to graduate students enrolled in the School of Architecture. Admission is subject to the approval of the director of the program. Students must also meet all requirements for admission to, and completion of, the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning Program. Students are expected to meet the program requirements within the normal two years.