Jul 20, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Urban Planning (MUP)

The Master of Urban Planning (MUP) degree trains students to be leaders and innovators in all aspects of urban planning. Students study the traditional elements of urban planning while being immersed in innovative and emerging themes. Students will study normative approaches to social justice, equity, and inclusion in planning practice, data resources, and visualization techniques that are transforming cities, and methods for crafting place-based approaches to societies most pressing issues. 

Planners are engaged in evaluating and guiding community and urban development at geographic scales, ranging from the local American neighborhood to the global village utilizing the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Cities worldwide are being transformed by technology, mass movements of populations and demographic transitions, environmental challenge, rapid economic change, and questions of distribution and justice. Planners play a central role as analysts, conveners, forward-thinkers and innovators.

The MUP curriculum provides a core of knowledge around five themes – (1) the interaction of planning theory and history with normative questions of justice, (2) the use of research, data, and evidence to inform the public good, (3) the economics of urban areas, including the economics of environmental externalities and cost benefit analysis, (4) the legal context for planning, and (5) the built environment and urban design. In all cases, students are immersed in study that includes comparative approaches and examples from international examples, training students to be globally adept. A goal of the MUP curriculum is to prepare planners to practice anywhere in the world.

The Planning Accreditation Board of the American Planning Association and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning accredit the MUP program.

All persons pursuing the MUP will complete core courses that present basic theories, techniques and methods.

Concentrations are available in six areas: arts and culture; design of the built environment; economic development; planning for climate change and sustainability; housing and real estate development; and mobility and transportation planning. A concentration in any of these areas qualifies graduates for a wide range of private, public and nonprofit sector careers with government agencies, consulting firms, corporations, utilities, international technical assistance programs, nonprofit and special interest organizations and joint public-private ventures.

Concentrations (16 units)

There are six concentrations available in the Master of Urban Planning program. Each concentration has a required gateway and method course for 8 units and students select 8 units of concentration electives. ​

Arts and Culture Concentration

In post-industrial societies, arts and culture play an increasingly important role economically, socially, and environmentally. In Arts and Culture Planning, students will prepare for positions in cultural affairs offices, nonprofit advocacy and program providers, economic development organizations, and political offices. Students will consider such concepts as cultural economy, creative placekeeping and placemaking, and cultural heritage as they learn to assess and spatially analyze community dynamics and work with disparate types of art interventions with those skills related to community engagement and improvement.

Design of the Built Environment Concentration

In contemporary settings, planning and construction typically do not begin with a blank slate. Rather, new structures are inserted into an existing built environment, which must be respected for its historical heritage and its contributions to the new. Design of the Built Environment offers students the opportunity to prepare for practice in urban design as well as for community planners addressing issues of health and environmental justice through design. Students will acquire skills to assess, plan, and design spaces using sophisticated methods as well as the ability to spatially analyze stressors within the built environment that inhibit residents’ quality of life.

Planning for Climate Change and Sustainability Concentration

Metropolitan areas are the source of most of our environmental quality problems, such as air and water pollution, species and habitat problems, and greenhouse gas emissions. Planning and design of our cities and communities play a critical role in both pollution and exposure to its damages. How and where we site housing, commercial centers, or trash dumps helps to determine how much pollution is generated and who is affected. This concentration addresses issues of environmental justice, sustainable urban design, public health, and climate change. Students will learn methods for analyzing environmental impacts, relationships between exposure and health, urban vulnerabilities to climate change effects, and the role of urban planning and public policies in achieving more sustainable and livable urban environments.

Housing and Real Estate Development Concentration

A well-housed, economically healthy community is an essential part of residents’ quality of life. Cities and towns worldwide are experiencing housing crises that range from severe affordability problems, insecure and informal land tenure, social inequities, and sub-standard housing quality. In Housing and Real Estate Development, students will prepare for practice as housing analysts, planners, policy-makers, or developers. Students will learn needs estimation, the fundamentals of urban development and land markets, and a set of specific problems related to gentrification and neighborhood change, filtering, and the structure of affordable housing development projects and policies. Careers include policy positions in all levels of government, work with affordable or market-rate housing developers, and advocacy groups.

Economic Development Concentration

Economic development focuses on core activities of workforce development, strategies for job generation, and methods for improving the fiscal well-being of local areas. Specific topics include the technology sector, arts and culture sector, advanced manufacturing, and logistics related to trade through the ports. Students in the Economic Development concentration will learn the fundamentals of urban economies, the causes and consequences of economic decline, strategies of subsidy and tax revenue use, strategies of public/private partnerships, incubators, micro-financing, and other entrepreneur and small business development strategies. To support their analytic work, they will also acquire skills of demographic and economic analysis, and spatial analysis of local economies. Students’ skills will equip them to work in either the public or private sector.

Mobility and Transportation Planning Concentration

Transportation is essential to urban life. The movement of both people and goods is a fundamental determinant of land use and urban form, as well as of quality of life. These movements take place by motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, trains, buses), bicycles, and walking, all of which are studied in this concentration. Transportation is being disrupted by technology in ways that have not occurred in a century, and students in this concentration will learn how to lead innovation in rapidly evolving public, private, and non-profit settings. Transportation and urban mobility students will acquire skills related to transportation analysis, travel behavior, environmental impacts of mobility, spatial analysis, land use and transportation relationships, and design of sustainable transportation strategies and policies.

Planning Studios (4 units)

Planning studios are an integral part of the curriculum of the Price School of Public Policy, providing the essential educational link between academic education and preparation for professional practice. The planning studios require that students learn to work together as a team by applying their respective capabilities and knowledge to a real-world common problem and to produce a professional project. Students must complete 4 units of planning studios.​

Capstone (4 units)

All Master of Urban Planning students must complete PPD 629 Capstone in Urban Planning  (4 units).

Free Electives (8 units)

Total Units: 48

Additional Requirements


Students working toward the Master of Urban Planning degree must complete an internship of at least 10 weeks duration and 400 hours in an organization engaged in planning or a closely related activity. Students must submit a report to the director of career services describing and evaluating the internship experience. Arrangements must also be made for an evaluative report of the internship by the student’s supervisor submitted directly to the academic adviser. The internship is not for unit credit.

Students often fulfill their internship while working part-time in a planning-related job during their course of study in the program or in the summer between the two academic years. If a student has had equivalent career experience prior to admission to the program, the department chair may waive the internship requirement on the recommendation of the student’s academic adviser.

The Price Office of Career Services actively works with school alumni and area planning organizations to assist students in obtaining appropriate internships. Numerous internship opportunities are available in the greater Los Angeles area. The student is responsible for securing the internship and fulfilling the requirement.

Directed Research

With the advice of the faculty, a student may elect to enroll in directed research as an elective. Working directly with a faculty member, the student pursues an interest or problem appropriate to the student’s program of study.

The faculty member supervising the student must approve the final product of directed research. The final product may be a written report, article, graphic formulation, physical model, mathematical-statistical analysis, computer output or film — depending on the most appropriate expression of the research undertaken.

General Requirements

Residence and Course Load

The Master of Urban Planning normally requires two academic years of full-time study. Courses are also scheduled to allow completion on a part-time basis.

At least 36 units of graduate-level study must be done in residence at USC. The residency requirement may not be interrupted without prior permission from the Price School of Public Policy. Students accepted into the program with academic deficiencies will require a correspondingly longer time to complete their course work. Students seeking the degree on a part-time basis must take at least one course each semester.

Students must be enrolled at USC for the fall and spring semesters each year until all degree requirements have been met. Students who find it necessary to be excused from a semester of registration must request a leave of absence from the Academic Programs Office by the last day to drop/add courses of the semester in question; such leaves may be granted for up to one year. For additional information refer to USC policies governing continuous enrollment, readmission, and leaves of absence in the Academic Policies section of this catalogue.

Time Limits

All requirements for the Master of Planning must be completed within five calendar years from the beginning of the semester in which the student was admitted to the program. University regulations prohibit the acceptance of credits for courses taken toward the Master of Planning degree more than seven years after the date they were successfully completed.

Grade Point Average Requirement

While enrolled in the program a student must maintain a grade point average of at least a 3.0 for all courses taken toward the degree.

Probation and Disqualification

Any student with a cumulative grade point average below 3.0 for all courses taken in the program will be placed on academic probation. A student whose semester grade point average is below 3.0, but whose cumulative grade point average is 3.0 or higher, will be placed on academic warning.

A student may be disqualified to continue toward a graduate degree if the student has been on academic probation for two consecutive semesters. Whether or not on academic probation or warning, a student may be disqualified at any time from continuing in the program if the dean of the school, after consultation with the faculty, determines that the student is deficient in academic achievement or in another qualification required for the attainment of the Master of  Urban Planning degree.

Course Exemptions and Transfer of Credits

Graduate work by transfer may be accepted from approved graduate schools as determined by the USC Articulation Office upon recommendation of the dean of the school. Not more than 12 units of graduate work, with grades of B or better may be transferred for credit to the Master of Planning degree.

The following courses, or their equivalents, cannot normally be transferred for unit credit from other institutions: PPD 522 , PPD 523 , PPD 528 , PPD 529 , PPD 531L , PPD 534 , PPD 629 , PPD 594a , PPD 594b , PPD 594z . Undergraduate work will not be credited for advanced or graduate standing. Students may petition to receive subject credit for these courses; but unit requirements must be met through the completion of additional electives.

Some applicants for admission to the school have been engaged in work in planning, development or closely related activities. Although this experience may have been beneficial to the students involved and may satisfy the internship requirement, it may not be considered equivalent to academic education.