FAQ about the Master of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa

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 Urban and Regional Planning 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. And according to the Planetizen 2023 rankings of master’s programs in urban and regional planning, ours is the 16th best nationwide and top in programs with less than 55 students. We're ranked 2nd in the Midwest and are the country's fifth most selective. Among planning schools in small cities, ours is rank 2nd. We're third in master’s programs without a Ph.D. We also rank ninth in programs within a public university.

The planning program's vision is to promote just and inclusive human settlements in which economic development, environmental enhancement, and social justice jointly contribute to sustainability, resilience, and quality of life at all scales from local to global. Within this context, our mission is to educate professional planners who will be responsible future leaders and decision-makers into the 21st century.


The program's Overall Goals and Objectives have been developed through annual faculty/staff retreats and meetings with students, alumni, the SURP Advisory Board, and the Iowa APA Board of Directors, and communications with employers of our students and graduates. Our goals and objectives are as follows:

Goal 1. Provide our students with state-of-the-art skills as well as the depth and flexibility needed to progress in the field to help solve the world’s grand socioeconomic and environmental challenges.

Goal 2. Improve our students’ experience.

Goal 3. Improve the quality of practice in the planning profession, through research, professional, and service activities.

Goal 4. Generate knowledge, learning, and scholarship about important planning issues, the practice of planning, and planning pedagogy.

Goal 5. Increase the diversity of students and faculty. We seek to enhance diversity in a variety of ways, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, identity, national origin and background, professional experience, ways of thinking, and areas of interest.

Goal 6. Increase our graduate student enrollment while maintaining the quality of our student body.

Goal 7. Solidify budget and generate new revenue.

Goal 8. Improve state, national, and international program reputation.

Goal 9. Enhance the quality of life in Iowa communities

The program is committed to admitting a diverse student body and supporting a learning environment in which many values and perspectives contribute to the richness of the educational experience, to the field of planning, and to the communities we live and work in.

Students come from a wide variety of undergraduate majors and professional backgrounds but possess qualities which show potential for success in graduate school and in the planning field. The graduate students come from all over the U.S. and from countries around the world, and typically include one or two Fulbright students each year. Here is what some of our students have to say about the program.

The accredited planning program at Iowa has an excellent reputation, an extensive and active alumni network, and competitive and well prepared graduates. The curriculum includes both the practical and analytic skills planners need to be successful, and the Sustainable Communities Lab courses give students “real world” planning experience. The School’s own career services coordinator works closely with students providing individualized career assistance and with internship and job searches.

M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning


  • Higher Education and Student Affairs
  • option to pursue combined degrees other than the formalized ones (popular choices include law, social work and public health)

Undergraduate-to-graduate (U2G):

     Open to those in any undergraduate major.

     Previously formalized U2G options are available for those in:

  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Policy and Planning
  • opportunity to pursue U2G programs outside the formalized ones

  • Economic Development
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Housing and Community Development
  • Land Use and Environmental Planning
  • Transportation Planning

Nine full-time professors and eight adjunct faculty

15-20 students

Yes, a student may complete the program as a part-time student.

While a thesis is not required, as a capstone course Sustainable Communities Lab reflects the time, commitment, and importance commonly associated with a thesis. It should therefore be treated as if it were a thesis. Those wanting to do a traditional thesis may do so in addition to the Sustainable Communities Labs.

It is not required, but is highly recommended. Most students do an internship during the summer between their first and second year.

Introductory statistics and microeconomics