Master in City Planning

The basic professional degree in the planning field is the Master in City Planning (MCP). The Department of Urban Studies and Planning provides graduate professional education for persons who will assume planning roles in public, private, and nonprofit agencies, firms, and international institutions, in the United States and abroad. It seeks to provide MCP students with the skills and specialized knowledge needed to fill traditional and emerging planning roles. The two-year MCP program emphasizes the mastery of the tools necessary for effective practice, and is therefore distinct from liberal arts programs in urban affairs. An intensive course of study stresses skills for policy analysis and institutional intervention.

MCP graduates work in a broad array of roles, from traditional city planning to economic, social, and environmental planning. In addition to its basic core requirements, the program offers four areas of specialization: city design and development; environmental policy and planning; housing, community, and economic development; and international development. MCP students, in their application to the department, select one of these areas of specialization and, when applicable, indicate interest in the department programs in Transportation Policy and Planning, Urban Information Systems, and Regional Planning.

Degree requirements for MCP


A collection of subjects and requirements to be taken during the students two years in the MCP program constitute a core experience viewed as central to the professional program and consisting of an integrated set of subjects and modules designed to introduce planning practices, methods, contemporary challenges, and the economic and social institutions within which planners work. The core subjects and requirements include the following:

First Semester (Fall)

  • 11.201 Gateway: Planning Action & Communication
  • 11.202 Gateway: Planning Economics
  • 11.203 Microeconomics
  • 11.205 Introduction to Spatial Analysis
  • An introductory subject in the chosen specialization area:
    • 11.301 Introduction to City Design & Development
    • 11.401 Introduction to Housing & Community Development
    • 11.601 Introduction to Environmental Policy & Planning
    • 11.701 Introduction to International Development Planning

Second Semester (Spring)

  • 11.220 Quantitative Reasoning

Additional Requirements

  • A practicum course-- complete one of several designated courses that provide the opportunity to synthesize planning solutions within the constraints of client-based project
  • A thesis preparation seminar in the area of specialization, taken during the second or third term of study
  • Thesis

For more detailed course descriptions please visit:

Through lectures, case studies, and hands-on experience, students become familiar with theories of planning and their application in professional practice. Students are encouraged to take one of the Department's many workshop and studio subjects that engage planning issues in real-world settings. Entering students with significant knowledge in Microeconomics, Data Management and Spatial Analysis, or Quantitative Reasoning may test out of these requirements.

During the course of four semesters, students typically take about 14 subjects (in addition to thesis prep and thesis) from a selection of about 90 graduate subjects offered by the Department and additional courses offered elsewhere at MIT, Harvard and other area universities. Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January offers the opportunity to take additional short subjects or workshops or to conduct thesis research. Students must complete a total of 150 units of credit to graduate with a Master in City Planning degree.

The MCP program is designed to be completed in four semesters, but students can finish in three semesters if all requirements are met.


At the end of the first semester, students submit a program statement developed jointly by the student and faculty advisor confirming their area of specialization and the subjects they plan on taking in the remainder of the MCP program. Linked to career development goals, the program statement describes the purposes and goals of study, the proposed schedule of subjects, the manner in which competence in a specialization is developed, and an indication of a possible thesis topic.

In the second and third semesters, most students take advanced subjects in their area of specialization as well as a studio or workshop. There are also opportunities for research work and field placements. In the second or third semester, students are required to take a thesis preparatory subject in their area of specialization. Each student chooses a thesis advisor and committee, and must complete an acceptable thesis proposal by the end of the semester.


The fourth semester is devoted to completing a thesis and rounding out course work leading to graduation. A thesis in the MCP program may take one of several forms: an independent scholarly research project guided by an advisor and readers; a directed thesis contributing to a larger research effort directed by a faculty member; or a professionally oriented thesis developed in the context of a studio or practicum course. In all cases the thesis must be a piece of original, creative work conceived and developed by the student.

Field Work and Internships

Students in the MCP program are encouraged to integrate field work and internships with academic course work. The Department provides a variety of individual and group field placements involving varying degrees of faculty participation and supervision, as well as a number of seminars in which students have an opportunity to discuss their field experience.

In addition, some students complete additional requirements for the department's Environmental Planning Certificate and/or Urban Design Certificate.

Measures of Student Achievement


Consistent with the standards of the Planning Accreditation Board §7D, the program is providing the following information:

  • Cost & Tuition: Tuition for the 2016-2017 academic year is $48,140. The estimated budget for a single graduate student is approximately $72,372 for nine months. These figures include tuition (nine months), books and supplies, health insurance fees, and an allowance for a reasonable standard of living. Additional costs should be added to this budget for students with families. Living expenses vary widely depending on such factors as marital status, availability of resources, and interests. Monthly living costs (housing, food, and personal expenses) average $2,600 for a single graduate student and $3,250 for a married graduate student.  The estimated living expenses assume that a student will live frugally. Little is allowed for clothing, travel, and incidental expenses. The budget does not include the purchase or maintenance of an automobile or other major items. It may be possible with careful budget planning to reduce the allowances for housing and food, but not by more than two or three hundred dollars. Round trip transportation costs and travel insurance are not included. (Additional information on costs, financial aid, and up-to-date tuition figures can be found on our Admissions Page.
  • Student Retention and Graduation Rates:
    • Retention Rate: In Fall 2013, 63 students enrolled in the MCP program; in Fall 2014, 62 of those students returned for the second year, for a retention rate of 98.4%.  In Fall 2014, 53 students enrolled in the MCP program; in Fall 2015, 46 of those students returned for the second year, for a retention rate of 86.79%.
    • Graduation Rate: In Fall 2010, 64 students enrolled in the MCP program; by Fall 2014, 61 of those students had earned an MCP degree, for a four-year graduation rate of 96.4%.  In total, 69 students graduated in 2014 with an MCP.  In Fall 2011, 62 students enrolled in the MCP program; by Fall 2015, 58 of those students had earned an MCP degree, for a four-year graduation rate of 93.5%.  In total, 60 students graduated in 2015 with an MCP.
  • Professional Certification (AICP Pass Rate):
    According to the American Institute of Certified Planners:
    • The percentage of MCP graduates from the class of 2010 taking the AICP exam within 3 years who pass was 100%.
    • The percentage of MCP graduates from the class of 2011 taking the AICP exam within 3 years who pass was 100%.
    • The percentage of MCP graduates from the class of 2012 taking the AICP exam within 3 years who pass was 100%.
  • Employment of Graduates: Employment of Graduates: 95% of 2015 graduates were employed in a full-time planning or planning-related position within one year of graduation.  Planning or planning-related jobs include a range of public, private and non-profit organizations, as well as those conducting planning research or pursuing advanced degrees. Representative employers include: DataKind; City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture; Berkeley Investments; Center for New York City Neighborhoods; Gehl Studio NYC; Arup; NYC Economic Development Corporation; McKinsey & Co; US DOT; United Nations; Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation; Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
  • Student Achievement as determined by the Program:The program used an exit survey of graduates of the program in 2011, administered by the Provost's Office of Institutional Research, which included the following questions:
    • Overall, how would you rate the quality of your academic experience at MIT?: 86.5% responded "good", "very good", or "excellent";
    • Overall, how would you rate the quality of your professional development opportunities at MIT?: 73.2% responded "good", "very good", or "excellent";
    • Overall, how would you rate the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines?: 72.8% responded "good", "very good", or "excellent";
    • Overall, how would you rate the overall program quality: 87.6% responded "good", "very good", or "excellent".