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.



Admission to the MCP

Admission to the MCP Program is highly competitive. Approximately 55-60 new students enroll each year from an applicant pool of about 400+. Of these, 30 percent are international students, approximately 50 percent are women, and about 20 percent of domestic students are from underrepresented minority groups. Most applicants have strong academic records coupled with some field experience. Also considered are promising applicants who are changing fields. Applicants are urged to give considerable thought to their Statement of Objectives, which, coupled with experience and references, is the most important element of the admissions process.


Applications for Fall 2013 will be available on September 15th. All online applications and supporting materials must be postmarked and/or submitted electronically by January 3rd, 2013. Students are accepted for September admission only. It is the responsibility of the applicant to submit all forms and supporting materials by the application deadline.

Detailed application instructions can be found in the Admissions section

For an application to be considered, the following materials must be submitted:

  • A completed Graduate Application for Admission which includes:
    • Statement of Objectives
    • Record of Courses
    • Financial Statement
    • Resume or CV
  • Three letters of recommendation from teachers, professionals, and/or others who know the applicant's work (can be submitted online or by mail).
  • Official and scanned transcripts from the registrar of each undergraduate and graduate college or university you attended.
  • Official and scanned GRE scores
  • Official and scanned TOEFL or IELTS scores (required for all applicants whose native language is not English, regardless if you have attended school in the United States). No exceptions will be made for this requirement. Permanent residents or US Citizens do not need to take the TOEFL exam.
  • A non-refundable application fee of $75 paid by credit card at the time of submission of your online application.

MIT is committed to the principle of equal opportunity in education and employment and abides by its nondiscrimination policy in administering the admissions process.



Master of Science (SM)

Under special circumstances, admission may be granted to candidates seeking a one-year Master of Science (S.M.) degree. The SM is intended for professionals with a number of years of distinguished practice in city planning or related fields who: have a clear idea of the courses they want to take at MIT, the thesis they want to write and the DUSP faculty member with whom they wish to work.That faculty member must be prepared to advise the candidate when at MIT and to submit a letter of recommendation so indicating as part of the candidate's application. This process means that prior to submitting an application, the candidate must contact the appropriate DUSP faculty member and work out such a relationship. The SM does not require the candidate to take the Core Courses which are mandatory for MCP candidates. As indicated above, a thesis is required.



Dual and Simultaneous Degrees

Dual Degree

Students may pursue dual degrees in virtually any other department at MIT, provided they are accepted for admission and complete degree requirements in each department. Some common dual degrees completed by planning students are with architecture, real estate development, transportation, and operations research. In addition to taking courses in other departments at MIT, students may cross-register at Harvard and other area universities, thereby allowing a wide range of course opportunities.

Simultaneous Degrees In Architecture And DUSP

Students admitted to the Department can propose a program of joint work in Architecture and Urban Studies and Planning that will lead to the simultaneous awarding of two degrees. Degree combinations may be MArch/MCP or SMArchS/MCP. All candidates for simultaneous degrees must meet the requirements of both degrees, but may submit a joint thesis.

Neither the Department of Architecture nor the Department of Urban Studies and Planning support petitions for the simultaneous award of two masters degrees with less than six regular semesters (fall and spring terms only) of residence and registration.



Measures of Student Achievement

Consistent with the standards of the Planning Accreditation Board ยง7D, the program is providing the following information:

  • Cost & Tuition: Tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year is $43,210. The estimated budget for a single graduate student is approximately $67,078 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 $2,400 for a single graduate student and $3,044 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 2011, 70 students enrolled in the MCP program; in Fall 2012, 68 of those students returned for the second year, for a retention rate of 97.1%.  In Fall 2012, 60 students enrolled in the MCP program; in Fall 2013, 60 of those students returned for the second year, for a retention rate of 100%.
    • Graduation Rate: In Fall 2008, 73 students enrolled in the MCP program; by Fall 2012, 71 of those students had earned an MCP degree, for a four-year graduation rate of 97.3%.  In Fall 2009, 63 students enrolled in the MCP program; by Fall 2013, 63 of those students had earned an MCP degree, for a four-year graduation rate of 100%.
  • Professional Certification (AICP Pass Rate):
    According to the American Institute of Certified Planners:
    • The percentage of MCP graduates from the class of 2009 taking the AICP exam within 3 years who pass was 100%.
    • The percentage of MCP graduates from the class of 2010 taking the AICP exam within 3 years who pass was 100%,
  • Employment of Graduates: 97% of 2012 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. Representive employers inlcude: NYC Economic Development Corp., McGuire Real Estate, Boston Redevelopment Authority, Mayor's Institute on City Design, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Consensus Building Institute, Institute for Transportation and Developmenbt, Urban Launchpad, Samuels & Associates, NYC Department of City Planning, Los Angeles Department of City Planning, Clean Energy Finance and Investment.
  • Student Acheivement as determined by the Program:The program used an exit survey of graduates of the program in 2011, administed 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".