Urban and Regional Planning

Master of Urban and Regional Planning

Student Desc crit
Student desk crit with Distinguished Alumnus Earl Gales Jr. ('72, urban and regional planning).

The Masters Program in Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly was established in 1972 and is fully accredited by the American Planning Association. It is the only accredited program in Southern California offering most of its classes in the evening hours. The program can be completed in two years if taken on a full time basis, or in up to seven years on a part-time schedule. The quality of the program has been recognized by national accreditation teams, in awards by professional organizations, and by employer demand for our students. In 2006, Planetizen rated the program in the top 25 nationally, 6th in the nation for zoning administration. Planetizen also rated the program as the most diverse in the nation. The Graduate Coordinator is Dr. Dina Abdul Karim dabdulkarim@cpp.edu.

Our graduates work as planners, managers, analysts, advisors, and designers, at urban, regional, state, and national levels. They work for local governments and governmental agencies, for private consulting firms, and for nonprofit and environmental groups. Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Many are working part time while they move into or expand their education in the field of planning.

Planning issues are complex and interrelated. The program draws upon a broad range of disciplines, including economics, sociology, ecology, philosophy, political science, management, and the design professions. This multidisciplinary aspect is valuable in a world where the pace of change and interaction is intensifying. The setting in a College of Environmental Design offers opportunities for collaborations with graduate students in architecture, landscape architecture and regenerative studies.

The program offers a broad, interdisciplinary, and rigorous curriculum that combines lectures, seminars, and studio projects. The program features extensive contact with faculty. All required core courses are offered in the evening to accommodate working students. The Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board and has been cited as a national model for the education of planners.

The program consists of a 28 core units, 4 units emphasis core units, 13 units of electives, and 4 units for either a Masters Thesis or a Client-based project. The emphasis units allow students to focus their attention on one of two tracks offered by the program: Planning and Public Policy and entrepreneurship and Leadership.

The Planning and Public Policy Track will serve students interested in research-based planning and policy practice in public, non-profit, and private sectors, as well as those intending to pursue a Ph.D. It emphasizes the advanced mixed-methods research and analysis techniques that underpin plan and policy proposals. Students will have the opportunity to focus their attention on a substantive planning and policy area of interest such as environmental policy, transportation policy, community development, or land use and design.

The Entrepreneurship and Leadership Track will produce leaders who thrive in a highly advanced, globalized society. It recognizes that graduate planning programs’ roles now serve a broader function than mid-level public planning positions, and provides graduates with the necessary analytic tools, technical skills and vision to take on leadership positions in private, non-profit, and public sector entities. Students will be able to focus their attention on the needed planning, entrepreneurial, and leadership courses to prepare them for their field of interest, and will complete a professional project in partnership with a planning or community development organization.

Students’ preference for completing a project or thesis depends on their objectives. For the Client Project, the students identify potential clients and develop their own client project topics. They gain understanding of the client and client's needs for the project, develop goals and objectives for the project, prepare a scope of work, schedule and analysis methodology.

The electives, which are taken in related areas of interest to the student, are developed with the help of the Graduate Coordinator. The program also allows up to 9 units of electives to be taken in other graduate programs or at other graduate institutions.

The multidisciplinary core of the program emphasizes:

  • A perspective on the history and theory of urban development and planning
  • Analysis through rigorous training in the definition, assessment and methodological study of current problems
  • Values and diversity through the study of the ethics and implications of different actions and the promotion of diversity in study and practice
  • Effective communication through the use of writing assignments, computer technology, and presentations throughout the program

Students may participate in many international programs, including a planning/architecture studio in China. They may also take advantage of strong Geographic Information System programs in the department and across the campus.

Learning Outcomes

The primary learning outcome demonstrated by graduates of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning is effectiveness as urban and regional planning professionals. This effectiveness is exhibited in the application of planning knowledge and skills to facilitate the development of vision and goals, create and implement plans, and solve urban and regional problems. Planning work takes the form of physical design as well as plans and policies. This work is done with a long-term comprehensive perspective, addressing environmental sustainability and social justice.

These outcomes are assessed in capstone studio and individual research projects. External assessment is provided through student competition in American Planning Association and other organizations’ competitions and award programs as well as Planning Accreditation Board reviews.

The secondary learning outcome is that graduates have a critical reflective perspective concerning the creation of knowledge, use of planning skills, and professional practice and ethics. They continually consider their own values and those of their clients and communities in undertaking professional planning. Their reflection considers issues of democratic participation, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

These outcomes are assessed in students’ ability to reflect on key planning issues in a capstone professional practice seminar.

Effective urban and regional planning practice requires knowledge about cities, regions, and global issues. It is expected that graduates of the program demonstrate knowledge in the following areas:

  • Structure and function of urban settlements, and how those settlements are part of larger regional, national, and global systems
  • Ecological principles and their implications for sustainability
  • History and theory of planning processes and practices
  • Administrative, legal, and political aspects of plan-making and policy implementation
  • Mastery of their chose area of emphasis

These outcomes are assessed in students’ performance in lecture-based core classes and in planning electives covering specialized knowledge areas.

Effective urban and regional practice requires skills in plan development, problem solving, and implementation. Graduates demonstrate skills in the following areas:

  • Problem formulation, research skills, data gathering, and analytic techniques.
  • Quantitative analysis and computers, including statistical methods, forecasting, and spatial analysis.
  • Qualitative research and analysis such as interviewing, discussion facilitation, human behavior, and matrix analysis
  • Design research, iterative design process, synthesis
  • Written, oral, and graphic communication. Reflective listening
  • Collaborative problem solving, plan making, and program design
  • Synthesis and application of knowledge to practice
  • In-depth research and social policy analysis
  • Planning management and leadership

These outcomes are assessed in students’ performance in core classes, primarily through instructor/student interaction in activity and laboratory sections.

Ethical urban and regional practice requires that planners adopt a reflective practice that considers complex issues such as social justice, diversity, and the public good. Graduates demonstrate an ability to reflect on and argue a reasoned position on the following issues:

  • Relationship of undergraduate education with the field of urban and regional planning
  • Equity, social justice, economic welfare, and efficiency in the use of resources
  • Government and citizen participation/balancing individual and collective rights and interests in the pursuit of a civically engaged population
  • Respect for diversity of views and ideology
  • Conservation of natural resources/heritages in the built environment and obligations to act to solve global problems such as climate change
  • Ethics of professional practice, including management positions where responsible for ethics of others

These outcomes are assessed in students’ performance in seminar classes, as part of capstone studies, and in activity sections.

Measures of Student Achievement: Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) 1F/Public Information

The Department accepts applications for Fall semester only.

To be considered for admissions, you are required to submit your application materials through the university’s online application platform. Please pay close attention to the procedures and deadlines. For specific information, application instructions, and requirements please refer to the Masters Admissions page: Apply as a Graduate Student.

Application Deadline for Fall 2024 is February 15, 2024. 

**For those who have missed the deadline and are still interested in applying to the program, please reach out to the Graduate Coordinator 

Submit your application through the university’s online application form found on the Office of Admissions webpage along with any supporting material, which includes:

  • Unofficial transcripts from all institutions of higher education that you have attended.  
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can address your scholarly and/or professional abilities and can comment on your potential for success in graduate study. Recommenders should upload their letters through the Cal State Apply platform on letterhead, .pdf or doc. file.
  • Statement of Purpose in which you indicate your reasons for seeking a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree and discuss your interest and career goals. The statement should be 600-900 words and typed.
  • Unofficial test scores (GRE and/or TOEFL). Please see below for specific requirements. 
  • CV 

The department has established the following minimum requirements to prospective students.

  • GPA: Minimum grade point average (GPA) score is 3.0. The University determines your GPA by evaluating all college course work.
  • GRE: Applicants with an undergraduate grade point average between 2.5 and 3.0 will be considered for admission on the basis of scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Applicants with an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or better are not required to take the GRE. We require a combined score of 280 and no less than 135 on either the verbal or the quantitative sections.
  • TOEFL: Applicants who received their undergraduate degree from an institution where English is not the main form of instruction must submit the results of the TOEFL examination. The required minimum score on this examination is 237 (computer-based), 580 (paper-based), or 92-­93 (Internet-­based).


International Applicants

Known for its outstanding academic programs, Cal Poly Pomona offers excellent education for international students who wish to pursue a degree in the United States. The Graduate Program accepts non-resident and foreign students. Current and future International Students in Cal Poly academic programs must contact the International Center for information regarding visas, guidelines for maintaining academic progress, and procedures for internships and post graduation work. For additional information on Incoming International Students and requirements, please refer to: Apply as an International Student.



For inquiries regarding admissions to the Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree program, please contact: 

Dr. Dina Abdul Karim
Graduate Coordinator

The Department's learning outcomes are strategically connected to each course in the curriculum. The statment below includes the learning outcomes of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree.

The Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree seeks to achieve the learning outcomes described below. The curriculum follows a progression in which learning outcomes are introduced, developed, and mastered. The Master’s degree seeks a level of development appropriate to mid-level professional planning manager or entry into a Ph.D. program. Students complete a core curriculum and select from among two tracks: 1) planning and public policy, and 2) entrepreneurship and leadership. Students develop their own subject matter expertise in one of the tracks, selecting a specific subject matter expertise in conjunction with the Graduate Coordinator.

  • The Planning and Public Policy Track serves students interested in research-based planning and policy practice in public, non-profit, and private sectors, as well as those intending to pursue a Ph.D. It provides advanced mixed-methods research and analysis techniques to guide and underpin plan and policy proposals. The track is intended for those seeking to be analytic leaders in the field and provides a research experience that includes a thesis. Students work with the Graduate Coordinator to focus their attention on a substantive planning and policy area of interest such as environmental policy, transportation policy, community development, or land use and design.
  • The Entrepreneurship and Leadership Track aims to produce leaders who thrive in a highly advanced, globalized society. Recognizing that graduate planning programs’ roles now serve a broader function than public planning positions, this track provides graduates with the necessary analytic tools, technical skills and vision to take on leadership positions in private, non-profit, and public sector entities. It is intended to produce visionary leaders who build organizations from the ground up to meet unmet needs for the public good, both domestically and internationally. Students work with the Graduate Coordinator to focus their attention on the needed planning, entrepreneurial, and leadership courses to prepare them for their field of interest.
  1. Mastery of urban and regional planning knowledge

    1. Demonstrate knowledge of the evolution of substantive and procedural planning theory, emphasizing behaviors and structures to bring about sound planning and the purpose and meaning of planning, emphasizing the philosophical underpinnings of that understanding, an ability to discern and critique paradigms, and an ability to theorize about planning.

    2. Demonstrate knowledge of the role of planning in public, private, and non-profit settings and methods of collaboration and entrepreneurship across sectors appropriate to management-level planning.

    3. Demonstrate an ability to argue positions regarding planning laws, constitutional rights, legal procedures, and the intergovernmental framework for planning and organizational administration.

    4. Explain the historical, current, and likely future influences shaping cities and regions, including design, land use, environmental, social, economic, financial, legal, institutional, and social justice dimensions, while understanding these influences in a global context. Show an ability to apply a multi-paradigmatic approach to these influences.

    5. Demonstrate expert knowledge of at least one subfield of planning, such as community development, environmental policy, transportation policy, or land use and design.

  2. Demonstrated communication and dialogic skills

    1. Make well researched, logically crafted, and adequately warranted presentation, analysis or argument in written, oral and graphic forms, suitable for graduate research and advanced professional reports.

    2. Discuss clearly planning concepts, research activity, and policy proposals at a level appropriate to mid-level professional planning.

    3. Communicate, listen, and interpret effectively in planning and interdisciplinary groups, diverse community settings, and decision-making environments, using tools for stakeholder engagement.

    4. Effectively design and carry out visioning, facilitation, and negotiation in planning settings, emphasizing empowerment and broadening of the voices in planning.

    5. Demonstrate leadership and collaboration skills for organizing team work, community motivation, and decision-making, based on an understanding of organization and community culture.

  3. Demonstrated skills and creativity in research, analysis, and problem solving

    1. Demonstrate competence and creativity in graduate-level data collection, including secondary sources such as library, internet, and government data sources, and primary sources such as field research, surveys, and interviews.

    2. Uncover and mine relevant data, literature or policy, use case studies, and develop research designs appropriate for graduate research and/or advanced studies.

    3. Apply quantitative, qualitative, mixed-method, and spatial analysis tools suitable for carrying out graduate research; interpret research methodologies from the literature.

    4. Apply models for ex ante and ex post policy analysis for sophisticated, multi-dimension problems.
  4. Demonstrated skills and creativity in design, plan, and policy making

    1. Assess the application of alternative design, plan and policy making processes to a problem context, emphasizing change making and organizational capacity. Innovate in designing new planning processes.

    2. Develop physical design and non-physical economic and/or social solutions and strategies that anticipate and influence future conditions.

    3. Develop implementation strategies to carry out physical designs, and/or economic and social policies, including designing ex post evaluations.

    4. Develop a logical hierarchy of ends and means in plan texts; write clear policy and regulatory language that meets legal standards for logic and clarity.

    5. Evaluate designs, development plans, and associated implementing tools once implemented.

    6. Demonstrate entrepreneurship in implementing plans, policies and regulations, including project management, through in-class experiences.

  5. Reflective capacity in ethical and normative reasoning

    1. Reflect on, articulate and justify with graduate-level reasoning positions on concepts such as the public interest(s), governance processes and participation, sustainability and environmental quality, economic growth and efficiency, and diversity and social justice.

    2. Demonstrate analytic capability and judgment in considering professional ethics as they apply to typical public, private, and non-profit planning situations that commonly occur at the management level. Articulate and coherent approach to politics and power.

    3. Manifest self-knowledge, experiences, and reflective ability concerning learning styles, roles in interdisciplinary teams, and cultural awareness. Have a game plan to carry reflection through one’s professional career.

    4. Demonstrate a commitment to civic engagement and ability to foster and participate in community activities.


The forty-eight (48) units that must be completed in the graduate degree program are divided into four parts:

  • Core                                                    28 units
  • Track Core                                            4 units
  • Client Project or Master’s Thesis      3 units
  • Electives                                             13 units

Core Courses: 28 Units

The program core courses provide the breadth of information needed for excellence in planning practice. They are designed to be taken concurrently with the emphasis and elective courses. There are core courses for the first, second, and if necessary succeeding years. Because each core course is offered once a year, students should first concentrate on scheduling core courses in the proper sequence. The core courses are:

URP 5010             How Planning Works (Fall)

URP 5050             Planning and Place (Fall)

URP 5060             Land Use Planning: Law and Intergovernmental Relations (Fall)

URP 5120             Planning Ideas and Actions (Fall)

URP 5070             Planning for Environmental Sustainability (Spring)

URP 5210/L         Research Design and Methods (Spring)

URP 6520             Professional Practice (Spring)

URP 5400L           Planning for Community Change (Fall)

URP 6400             Graduate Studio Prep (Fall)

URP 6420/L         Graduate Planning Studio (Spring)

URP 6430             Leadership and Ethics Seminar (Spring)

Track Core Courses: 4 Units

Choose one Track.

Entrepreneurship and Leadership Emphasis

URP 5430             Methods in Leadership and Entrepreneurship (2)

URP 5430A          Methods in Leadership and Entrepreneurship (1)

URP 6901             Capstone Project Preparation - Client Project (1)

Planning and Policy Emphasis

URP 5230             Policy Analysis and Advanced Research Methods (2)

URP 5230A          Policy Analysis and Advanced Research Methods Activity (1)

URP 6902             Capstone Project Preparation - Thesis (1)

Culminating Experience: 3 Units

URP 6950             Client Project (3) or

URP 6960             Master’s Thesis (3)

URP Graduate Electives; 13 Units

Choose a minimum of 13 units with approval of advisor from courses listed below:

URP 4000             Special Study for Upper Division Students (1-3)

URP 4030             Physical Design Applications (1)

URP 4030L           Physical Design Applications Laboratory (2)

URP 4040             Placemaking: Theories, Methods, and Practices (3)

URP 4110             Evolution of American Cities and the Planning Movement (3)

URP 4200             Methods of Engagement; Participation, Negotiation, Mediation (2)

URP 4200A          Methods of Engagement; Participation, Negotiation, Mediation Activity (1)

URP 4210             Planning Advocacy, Community Organizing and Social Change (2)

URP 4210A          Planning Advocacy, Community Organizing and Social Change Activity (1)

URP 4220             The Just City (3)

URP 4230             Planning for Minority Communities (3)

URP 4240             Public Participation (3)

URP 4330             Affordable Housing Seminar (3)

URP 4340             Community Development and Housing (2)

URP 4340A          Community Development and Housing Activity (1)

URP 4360             Public Finance (3)

URP 4370             Planning for Infrastructure (3)

URP 4380             Land Use Entitlements (3)

URP 4390             Infrastructure Finance (3)

URP 4510             Land Use and Urban Design Policy (2)

URP 4510A          Land Use and Urban Design Policy Activity (1)

URP 4660             Environmental Assessment (3)

URP 4750             Planning in a Global Economy (3)

URP 4760             International Planning (3)

URP 4780             GIS Applications in Planning Studio (2)

URP 4780L           GIS Applications in Planning Studio Laboratory (1)

URP 4820             California Water (3)

URP 4830             Development Processes (2)

URP 4830A          Development Processes Activity (1)

URP 4840             Neighborhood Development (2)

URP 4840A          Neighborhood Development Activity (1)

URP 4850             Urban Design Principles and Techniques (2)

URP 4850L           Urban Design Principles and Techniques Laboratory (1)

URP 4870             Environmental Policy (3)

URP 4880             Local Transportation (2)

URP 4880L           Local Transportation Laboratory (1)

URP 4890             Transportation Methods and Analysis (2)

URP 4890L           Transportation Methods and Analysis Laboratory (1)

URP 4900             Advanced GIS (2)

URP 4900L           Advanced GIS Laboratory (1)

URP 4910             Planning for Climate Change (2)

URP 4910A          Planning for Climate Change Activity (1)

URP 4980             Advanced Planning Studio (2)

URP 4980L           Advanced Planning Studio Laboratory (1-3)

URP 4990             Special Topics for Upper Division Students (1-3)

URP 5250             GIS for Planning (2)

URP 5250L           GIS for Planning Laboratory (1)

URP 5340             Urban Housing and Community Development (2)

URP 5340A          Urban Housing and Community Development Activity (1)

URP 5350             Regional Transportation Policy and Planning (3)

URP 5370             Environmental Policy (3)

URP 5380             Urban Design (2)

URP 5380L           Urban Design Laboratory (1)

URP 5410             Field Internship (1-2)

URP 5990             Special Topics for Graduate Students (1-3)

URP 6910             Directed Research (1-3)

How long does the program take?

Two years if you attend full time. Part-time attendance is possible. All coursework must be completed within seven years.

When can I start?

The course sequencing is set up for Fall semester admission.

Do you require a particular degree for entry?

No. A variety of undergraduate degrees are appropriate preparation for a planning education.

What does it mean that the program is accredited?

Accreditation means that the Planning Accreditation Board has certified that the program provides professional training that meets their standards. Employers look for students from nationally accredited programs.

Do I need a drafting background?

No. A first year studio course will teach you what you need to know in graphic communication and design. Beyond that, it is your option whether you want to take additional courses in urban design.

Is an internship required?

Internships are a valuable source of experience but they are not required. The college has an internship coordinator to help you find a position.

Will I get practical job skill?

The program focuses on providing the skills you need for effective professional practice. Coursework emphasizes learning by doing, through fieldwork and projects in communities.

What are the job prospects?

Job prospects are very good. Southern California will grow rapidly in the next decade; planners are needed to manage that growth. Recently, there has been growth in the areas of GIS, environmental planning, transportation planning, economic development and telecommunications.