Urban Planning Graduate Programs in California

Dec 31, 2018

California offers a range of graduate programs in urban planning with diverse learning experiences, dual degree options and/or available concentrations. Learn more about a handful of these programs, graduation requirements and admission standards.

Students in California can choose from a variety of universities with programs in urban planning, which are typically offered at the master's level, but are also available at the doctoral level from some schools. These programs provide students with hands-on experience and can usually be completed in 2 to 6 years, depending on the level. Get details about some of these programs and find out what unique learning opportunities they offer.

Schools in California with Graduate Programs in Urban Planning

University of California-Irvine

The University of California-Irvine offers a professional Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) that has accreditation from the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). The program can be completed in 2 years, requires 72 units and a Capstone Exit Requirement that includes hands-on experience and research. The degree program also offers a variety of professional engagement activities for students, including conferences, job-shadowing opportunities, workshops and an alumni mentorship program. Some students may also choose to take advantage of the school's dual degree programs in urban and regional planning and civil engineering (MSCE/MURP) or urban and regional planning and law (JD/MURP).

The university also has a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Planning, Policy and Design that requires a dissertation and comprehensive exams. It can usually be completed in 6 years.

San Jose State University

San Jose State University in San Jose has several graduate certificate programs related to urban planning, such as a Community Design and Development Certificate, Environmental Planning Certificate and a Real Estate Development Certificate, as well as a Master of Urban Planning degree program that totals 48 units. If taken full-time, the program can be completed in 2 years, but a part-time format is also available for students with full-time jobs. Students in the program must take a Capstone Studio course and complete a planning report or thesis prior to graduation. The program also requires students to earn 180 hours of professional work experience in the field before graduating.

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona has an MURP program that offers a specialty track in planning and public policy or entrepreneurship and leadership. The program requires 49 units, including a master's thesis or client-based project to conclude the program. Students usually finish the program in 2 years of full-time study or up to 7 years in part-time study. All core classes are held in the evenings to ensure working students can attend. Students also have the option to participate in Geographic Information System (GIS) programs at the university and/or international programs, such as a China-based planning/architecture studio.

California State University-Northridge

California State University-Northridge has a Master of Urban Planning program that can be completed in 2 years. The program totals 36 units and schedules classes in the evenings and on weekends for flexibility. Students in the program gain hands-on learning experience through project and field experiences throughout Los Angeles. In order to graduate, students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and complete a field and professional project in urban planning.

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles offers a Master of Urban Planning degree program, as well as 11 dual degree program options. Students in the program may also choose from a variety of concentrations, including economic development, arts and culture, environmental planning and analysis and mobility and transportation planning. The program totals 48 units, can be completed in 2 years and includes a studio class. Some students with less experience in the field are also required to take a 400-hour internship to gain professional experience.

The school also has a PhD in Urban Planning and Development that requires a dissertation, a research seminar and a teaching seminar. It also includes coursework in theory, methodology and a specialized area of study.

Common Entrance Requirements

Some graduate programs in urban planning in California only accept students in the fall semester, while others may accept students in the fall and spring semesters. In general, applicants usually need a bachelor's degree, a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and GRE test scores to apply. (If students only have a bachelor's, they may have to complete extra prerequisite courses for some PhD programs.) Most programs require students to include their transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation and a personal statement with their application. Some programs may additionally require students to include items such as a resume, personal history statement and/or scholarship essays with their application.

Students in California can choose from several Master of Urban Planning or Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree programs or PhD programs. These programs usually include some kind of hands-on capstone/final project experience and may offer flexible formats for working students.

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