The University of Iowa planning program has thrived for over 50 years, and our alumni have made important contributions to planning - in "traditional" government positions, in private sector development and consulting firms, and in the nonprofit sector.

  • The faculty at Iowa is committed to providing an excellent teaching environment for students. Our faculty/student ratio is outstanding at six students per faculty member. Faculty are responsive to student needs - current students and alumni often tell us that faculty-student interaction in the Urban and Regional Planning program is more typical of a small liberal arts college than a major research institution: informal, relaxed and friendly. But unlike small colleges, we have the student and faculty resources of a large Tier-I research university.
  • The master's degree in planning at the University of Iowa is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board.
  • Our graduates’ pass rate on the AICP exam is one of the highest rates in the nation.
  • According to the Planetizen 2023 rankings of master’s programs in urban and regional planning, ours is:
    • 16th best planning program in the US
    • Number one program in those with less than 55 students
    • 2nd in the Midwest
    • 5th most selective
    • 2nd among planning schools in small cities
    • 3rd among master’s programs without a Ph.D.
    • 9th in programs within a public university


Our curriculum is under constant review - courses are updated annually to reflect changes in the "real world" of urban planning practice. We have been amongst the leaders in incorporating new technologies in our curriculum. Feedback from current and graduating students, and regular surveys of alumni, show our success at providing both the practical, analytic skills planners need day-to-day, and the rich, in-depth education planners need to become leaders.

  • There is a "core" set of classes that all students take. These classes cover the basic analytic, legal, economic and historical knowledge that all planners need.
  • Students choose an area of concentration (housing and community development, land use and the environment, transportation, geographic information systems [GIS] or economic development), and supplement these specialized classes with a range of elective options that enhance particular skills. The curriculum also emphasizes themes that are part of all areas of concentration: sustainability, GIS in planning, and social justice.
  • Combined degrees options are open to students in any graduate area of study. Popular programs include combined degrees with Law, Social Work, and Public Health. 
  • A capstone studio course, Sustainable Communities Lab, organizes teams of five or six students to work on a "real world" project for a local client - a city government, or a non-profit or state agency. Sustainable Communities Lab is the core component of the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities which seeks to address sustainability issues in Midwestern communities. Various study abroad options also exist. The most current student manual, with specific curriculum information, is online.

Career Assistance

The School has its own Career Services Coordinator who is available to work with students one-on-one towards obtaining a job or internship. Graduates tend to move up the planning ladder quickly; years later, they are still happy with the education they received at Iowa. They work nationwide in city, metropolitan, and regional planning agencies, state and federal government entities, nonprofit organizations, and private consulting firms. More details are on our career assistance page.


Our faculty are committed to research - we believe that research is crucial to staying on top of current trends in American planning practice and thus is crucial to excellence in planning education.

  • Jerry Anthony's interests are American growth management and housing policy.
  • Phuong Nguyen's research concentrates on state and local public finance in the U.S. and Vietnam.
  • Scott Spak’s research focuses on urban development and climate change.
  • Haifeng Qian's research interests are in entrepreneurship, innovation, regional economic development and public policy analysis.
  • Carrie Schuettpelz's academic interests include social policy, homelessness and poverty. 
  • Steven Spears conducts research on how travel and residential location preferences evolve over time, and how people respond to changes in the built environment. He is particularly interested in understanding how psychosocial factors like attitudes, habits, and life events affect transportation choices and physical activity.
  • Samantha Zuhlke's research and teaching center on public policy, public administration, and environmental politics.

The Practice of Planning

The Iowa planning program encourages student involvement with the practice of planning in a variety of ways.

  • During the student's first semester, the program seminar introduces students to the diversity of planning issues through a series of presentations by visiting professionals.
  • We assist students in obtaining an internship with a planning agency during the summer between their first and second years in the program, and provide a small number of additional paid assistantships during the academic year in local planning agencies where we have established an ongoing relationship.
  • The program regularly offers two to four courses on various aspects of planning practice, taught by adjunct faculty who are professional planners from the Iowa City area with many years of experience.