Accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board and open to students with an undergraduate degree, the two-year professional Master in Urban Planning (MUP) degree program engages with critical issues facing cities and regions in coming decades.
Drawing on the strengths of the department, school, and university, GSD planning students learn how to understand, analyze, and influence the variety of forces—social, economic, cultural, legal, political, ecological, and aesthetic, among others—shaping the built environment. Four key areas of concern animate the learning environment: how planning can manage change in complex environments; dealing with multiple scales and systems; engaging ethically with problems now and in the future; and planning as an active practice where implementation matters.
A two-year enrollment of roughly 80 students and a core, interdisciplinary faculty of scholars and practitioners generate an intimate, engaged educational atmosphere in which students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for leadership positions in their future professional careers. Graduates of the program work in local city planning departments, state and national agencies, private consulting firms, not-for-profit organizations, development companies, and other public and private institutions in the United States and internationally.
See our profile series for views from current students on why they chose to study planning at the GSD, and from alumni on how they have used their planning studies in their careers.
Connections within Harvard, Cambridge, and Beyond
The planning program administers joint degree programs with the Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Planning students often cross-register in courses offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Kennedy School, and the schools of business, law, education, engineering, and public health. Students in the MUP program also take courses offered by the GSD’s other degree programs in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, design studies, and design engineering. They can cross-register in courses offered by the neighboring Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Loeb Fellowship program is a terrific resource for students bringing mid-career professionals, many of them in planning and related areas, to the GSD for a year. Each year, the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, collaborating with the American Planning Association and Harvard, convenes planning directors from the 30 largest cities in the U.S. to discuss emerging issues. MUP students interact with the directors informally and in a classroom setting.
Studio, thesis, and class projects link students to communities in the Boston area and beyond. The school’s Community Service Fellowship Program (CSFP) provides both summer internships in the U.S. and small overseas travel grants. Various Harvard units provide summer and winter opportunities relevant to MUP students including the Public Policy Summer Fellowship, Edward M. Gramlich Fellowship in Community and Economic Development, and Presidential Public Service Fellowships. There is also funding for research travel (e.g., thesis data collection) or independent internships in Latin America, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere.
In 2022-2023, 91% of MUP students received some form of financial aid. MUPs received over $4 million in total including $1.2 million in loans and the rest in other forms such as grants, fellowships, work-study, and assistantships. Harvard provides grants to international students as well as U.S. students, though funds available for international students are more limited. Grant funds are awarded on a two-tier system based on need. The Tier 1 grant is based solely on the student’s financial information. In order to be considered for more substantial Tier 2 grant, students must provide parental information (submitting information for Tier 2 funding will not adversely affect the amount granted through Tier 1).
In addition MUPs can take advantage of a number of other fellowships, work-study allocations, and student assistant jobs both for semester-time and summer activities. In the past this has included multiple recipients of funds from the Presidential Scholars Program for students in public service areas. More information about funding is available in the Financial Aid section.
Four terms of full-time study in residence are normally required for award of the degree. Under special circumstances, students may receive permission to reduce their course loads and extend their studies over a longer period of time. Concurrent and joint degree candidates must consult the rules governing concurrent and joint degrees for information on residency requirements.
Please note that the MUP program is designated as a STEM program. Accordingly, international students holding F-1 visas may be eligible for a 24-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension on top of their initial OPT of 12 months, for a total of 36 months, following graduation. Each F-1 student must petition United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve the 24-month STEM extension, and Harvard does not represent or warrant that USCIS will grant any individual petition.
The Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program, combined with practical experience and the AICP exam, leads to professional certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners. Harvard has not determined whether the program meets the educational requirements for professional licensure in any state other than Massachusetts.