The Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL) attracts outstanding students from across the United States and around the world to its highly respected graduate programs in urban and regional planning and dual degree programs. Students are admitted in comparatively small numbers that encourage cooperation across cohorts and permit the URPL faculty to know, advise, and mentor students.
Students arrive with a passion for urban and regional planning and a commitment to improving the welfare of people and their communities. They graduate with the requisite skills, knowledge, contacts, and experience to transform passion and commitment into a meaningful career and valuable contribution to governance, in its broadest sense, in this country and globally.
Now is a great time to consider a career in planning. U.S. News and World Report ranked planning as one of the “Best Careers” in both 2009 and 2010. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects in the 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook that employment in urban and regional planning will grow faster than average when compared to other occupations. To learn more about the planning profession and what role planners assume in the community upon graduation, see the “What is Planning?” piece composed by the American Planning Association, a professional, member-based organization for planners. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) also produces an annual publication “Choosing a Career in Urban and Regional Planning,” which is a career guide to help prospective students start a career in planning by listing the accredited planning schools, describing a planner’s daily responsibilities and more.
In our master’s degree program, students complete a set of foundational courses that build competence in the following knowledge areas for a successful career in the government, nonprofit, or private sector:
- Structure and function of cities and regions
- History and theory of planning processes and practice
- Administrative, legal, and political aspects of plan making
- Public involvement and dispute resolution techniques
- Research design and data analysis techniques
- Written, oral, and graphic communication skills
- Ethics of professional practice
- Collaborative approaches to problem solving
Students individualize their programs of study developing expertise in an area of specialization that reflect specific professional aspirations and intellectual interests. In the elective coursework that cultivates an area of specialization, students work with URPL faculty and faculty in other departments, programs, and centers. This cross-college collaboration further strengthens the already robust relationships of the various departments with the knowledge their colleagues share many of the same passions and drive of the Wisconsin Idea.
Each fall, a planning workshop course offers graduate students training in planning practice. As a class, students work as consultants on a specific project chosen by the faculty for clients in the community. This is an opportunity for students to address applied planning problems and develop working relationships with professional planners in the field. Also, students are required to complete an internship, which is typically taken between the first and second year. The purpose of the internship is to give the student a sense of the operation of planning-related organizations and to give students one (or more) experience(s) in analyzing and preparing recommendations on planning issues within the constraints imposed by working for a government, private, nonprofit, or planning-related agency.
The Master of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning is primarily intended to be a professional degree and most students ultimately pursue careers as practicing planners. Therefore, students are required to write a Thesis or undertake a Professional Project and develop a Professional Project report to graduate. This report is presented and defended before a faculty examination committee, composed of the student’s advisor and one additional faculty member, and the public at large. The presentation atmosphere is similar to a public meeting where all attendees are given a chance to question the project, a type of meeting in which many practicing planners attend and often run, especially if they work in the public sector. The overall purpose of the Professional Project Option is to both establish competency of each student and to provide the student with materials that may be useful in interacting with future employers. Often students build off of their internship experience to develop ideas for their reports and even submit their reports to relevant planning parties once completed.
URPL is located in an historic landmark, a nineteenth century Victorian gothic building overlooking Bascom Mall, a green space where students congregate. Beyond the campus, the City of Madison, as the state capital, provides a wealth of opportunities for URPL students to acquire practical experience as professional project assistants or interns in state and local agencies. Students benefit from the strong relationships that URPL faculty continue to develop with these agencies, in keeping with the Wisconsin Idea of enhancing quality of life. Also, Madison consistently ranks as a top community in which to live, work, play, and raise a family.