Apr 17, 2024  
Graduate Record 2015-2016 
Graduate Record 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Master of Urban and Environmental Planning

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs


Students from a wide range of academic backgrounds are admitted to the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree program. Applicants with an accredited bachelor’s degree in the social sciences, engineering, design, or liberal arts contribute to the vitality of the program and to the field of planning.

Overview and Philosophy

The Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree prepares students to make significant contributions as professionals in a variety of public, private, and non-profit settings.

The degree requires 49 credits: 19 in the core generalist courses, 15 in a special concentration, 6 in planning application courses (one of these courses must be in the area of concentration), and 8 in open electives. Graduate courses (5000-level or higher) are selected from those in the department and in other departments in the School and University. Students earning dual degrees or who have transferred from other planning programs may warrant advanced standing and be able to complete the planning program in less than two years. Students may take more than the minimum 50 credits if their schedules allow it.

Courses taken at other institutions are normally not accepted. Under exceptional circumstances a petition along with supporting materials (i.e. syllabus and work samples) may be submitted to receive an exemption from taking a required course. Candidates are required to fulfill the total degree credit requirement regardless of course exemptions granted.  Petitions are to be submitted to the department chair or graduate program director for consideration and final decision.

A distinctive feature of our program is our commitment to community sustainability. Sustainability is addressed in specific courses with that title, but sustainability also provides the underlying framework for virtually all of the department’s courses. The title of our department is Urban and Environmental Planning. We believe it is necessary to consider both the urban and environmental aspects of a setting to address its issues, problems, and opportunities. We are as much concerned with the economy and issues of equity as we are with the environment and find it more useful to emphasize linkages than distinctions. We hope to inspire our students to share our enthusiasm for addressing the planning needs of sustainable communities.

Planning Application Courses (PLAC)

In addition to the above courses, all students must take at least two planning application courses (PLAC). A planning application course combines theory and practice, emphasizing application through a project approach. These are listed each semester through the Student Information System (SIS), with their subject matter rotating among land use planning, housing, community development, environmental impact analysis, social planning, transportation planning, neighborhood analysis, and other subjects.

Planning Concentrations (PCs)

In addition to completing the basic curriculum, students meet with their advisors to plan courses of specialized study called Planning Concentrations (PCs). Their purpose is to guide the students in designing coherent programs with individual foci. The Planning Concentrations listed below are umbrella categories that assist students in focusing their interests. Within these categories, students may develop subspecialties. The PCs overlap, combine, and reinforce each other, remaining flexible while suggesting the types of programs we emphasize at the University of Virginia.

Environmental Management and Conservation

Environmental planning embraces many settings, ranging from urban environments to wilderness areas to agricultural ecosystems.  It deals with impacts of land development on the biophysical environment and policies to conserve air, water, land, energy, and minerals.  This concentration addresses issues of sensitive settings, such as coastal, mountain, wetland, heritage, and special habitat areas. 

The foundation course is PLAN 5830 .

Housing and Community Development

Focuses on issues of established communities, land reuse and redevelopment, and community and economic development from spatial, economic, and social perspectives. Related topics include land development and public/private development partnerships, urban design, and preservation planning. 

The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5400 .

Land Use and Growth Management

Examines the location of development and the protection of open areas, in addition to the provision of public facilities and the resources needed to finance them.  Tools in land use and growth management planning include comprehensive plans, regulations, tax and finance polices, and public service programs at the local, regional, and state level.

The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5600 .

Public Policy and Planning

Addresses multiple political and economic contexts in which planning occurs, including formal planning agencies, city governments, and nonprofit organizations. The breadth of policy planning demands familiarity with other courses and programs in the University, and students are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary opportunities.

The foundation course is PLAN 6070 .

Historic Preservation Planning

Emphasizes the preservation of buildings, landscapes, and places of special interest to communities. Local planning agencies and architectural review boards prepare nominations for buildings or districts, or create strategies to take advantage of historic assets for economic development. State offices of historic preservation, non-profit preservation advocacy groups, and private consultants are all involved in historic preservation. An interest in historic preservation may be combined with housing and community development or with land use and growth management. Students may earn a Certificate in Historic Preservation, or they may select a more flexible course of study while completing this planning concentration.

The foundation course for this concentration is PLAN 5300. The year-long community history sequence offered through the Department of Architectural History can also provide an appropriate starting point for this concentration. The Historic Preservation Certificate requires 21 hours.

Student-Designed PCs

Although the established PCs permit a substantial degree of flexibility, students are also free to develop planning specialties outside these categories. Students might wish to develop specializations in urban design, transportation planning, or planning and public health. Required course work depends on the individual’s previous study.


The internship is an approved ten-week assignment in an agency, firm, or organization engaged in planning activities. It takes place during the summer between the first and second years of study, for which no course credit is given and no tuition is charged. Prior work experience may satisfy this requirement.

Two-Year Program Summary

A typical two-year program leading to the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree would follow this general pattern. The environmental course requirement may be taken in any semester.

First Year

Fall Semester - Credits: 12 Spring Semester - Credits: 13
Summer Session  
Internship in a planning agency, organization, or firm (no credit).  

Second Year

Fall Semester - Credits: 12 Spring Semester - Credits: 12

Degree Total - 49 Credits

As many as six credits may be gained by independent study for approved projects or work experience. These credits are granted only when the work or subject has been approved in advance by the faculty. Normally, the independent study credits include periodic faculty review, appropriate readings, and a final report in the form of an analytical paper or case study.

Students are encouraged to take graduate courses (5000-level or higher) throughout the School and University. The Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Law all offer a variety of courses appropriate for degree requirements.

Urban and Environmental Planning Course Descriptions

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs