HCED promotes an integrated and dynamic approach to learning. The Group's curriculum combines a foundation in policy and analytical skills, writing, and information and communication technology proficiency with the application of these competencies to real-world practice. Through classroom learning, independent research, field projects, practicum courses, and internships, students gain the skills essential for careers as leading practitioners, educators and/or scholars in the field.
Mastery of these skills prepares HCED students for dynamic careers as problem solvers who can perform in varied roles--policy analyst or policy maker, advocate and organizer, mediator, evaluator, program designer, developer and manager. At the doctoral level, we seek to prepare our students not only to produce but also to shape the next generation of teaching and scholarship.
We believe that a sound education is rooted in understanding the demands of effective practice. The Boston area serves as a valuable laboratory in which many of our students develop and apply skills while for others, the wider New England region or other regions become the focus for practical study. For all students, interaction with local, national, and global organizations and with alumni is encouraged. This interaction builds networks that are valuable for the field, not just DUSP students.
Field-based learning also happens through the Community Innovators Lab  (CoLab), a resource within DUSP that links community practitioners with scholars in what has been a long MIT tradition. CoLab enables DUSP students to engage directly with practitioners on their challenges through field research projects, seminars and courses designed to develop innovative approaches to wealth creation, environmental sustainability and democratic engagement across communities diverse in income, culture, ethnicity and race.
The convergence of theory and practice, classroom work and fieldwork, professional networks and faculty-led initiatives is the essence of the educational experience at DUSP, including HCED.
MASTER'S STUDY: HCED
In addition to the foundational courses in the Master in City Planning  (MCP) core curriculum, HCED MCP students take a required Introduction to Housing and Community Economic Development. This course provides a critical overview of the history, dilemmas, and core frameworks in the field.
Students then have considerable flexibility to pursue a customized plan of study that reflects their goals, interests, and prior training and experience. Typically, advisers encourage students to combine specialty courses, say in housing or workforce development, with negotiation and other “staple” electives that have broad application in professional practice. Since the MCP is a professional degree, we also encourage students to make career planning and development  a well-integrated and continuous part of their two-year program experience rather than an end-stage task only.
For those seeking to specialize in either housing or economic development—two strengths of our group—here are illustrative programs of study, including subjects  outside of HCED:
Housing: Housing Policy and Planning; Real Estate Finance; Real Estate Economics; Community Growth and Land Use Policy; and Politics of Urban Design.
Economic Development: Economic Development Planning; Financing Economic Development; Revitalizing Urban Main Streets; Urban and Regional Economics; Urban Labor Markets and Employment Policy; Analyzing and Accounting for Regional Economic Change.
All HCED students enroll in courses offered by other program groups at DUSP, and many cross-register for courses elsewhere at MIT or at nearby universities. For example, many students have taken courses from MIT's Center for Real Estate and Sloan School of Management, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Graduate School of Design, and Tuft's Urban and Environmental Planning Program. Students especially interested in real estate development may opt to pursue the dual degree program with the MIT Center for Real Estate .
DOCTORAL STUDY: HCED
Each year, about one to three students are invited to make HCED their intellectual home within DUSP’s highly competitive Ph.D. program. Admission is based on a strong academic record and references, compelling personal statement, and fit with our faculty’s research interests and strengths. We encourage applicants to make sure the statement addresses “why a doctorate” and “why now” in addition to “why here.”
The doctoral program prepares advanced students for both teaching and research careers in housing, economic development, social policy, and other fields. Our graduates work as university professors, evaluation professionals, senior policy analysts and program designers, philanthropic innovators, and in other roles.
Drawing on both theory and practice, the program emphasizes the development of fundamental research competence, flexibility in the design of special areas of study, and collaborative research and teaching.
The requirements  for a doctorate include coursework, a doctoral seminar paper, general exams, and the writing of a dissertation. Each Ph.D. student designs his or her particular program with an advisor. Ideally, Ph.D. students complete their coursework, doctoral paper, and comprehensive exams in four to six semesters and spend an additional four semesters writing and defending a dissertation. The time needed to complete the program, however, varies with a student's prior academic preparation, specific interests, and personal circumstances.
After passing the general exams, students focus on the dissertation, which represents the capstone of the student's work in HCED. It is a process and a product, culminating in a piece of original and important research. Consistent with MIT’s “open source” ethos and commitment to the exchange of ideas, students present the dissertation proposal at a colloquium open to the DUSP community. Students may pursue a three-essay option instead of the traditional book-length dissertation. The three papers must be of publishable quality and focus on sufficiently related topics to constitute a significant contribution to a specific research area. See samples below.