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Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP)

MURP Students
  • Degrees offered in Blacksburg and the Washington, D.C., area (Ballston metro station)

  • VT MURP ranked #22 in the US by educators (Planetizen)

  • VT MURP ranked #3 small-city program in the US (Planetizen)

  • 96% of MURPs have passed the AICP exam since 2009

  • VT MURP among 10 longest continuously accredited planning programs in the United States - celebrating 60 years of accreditation in 2021

The Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree has a dual objective of providing graduates with technical skills for their work in planning or related areas, and more importantly instilling conceptual and critical thinking necessary for lifelong learning and career development. Graduates are able to assume professional responsibilities in a wide variety of positions in public service or in the private sector.

Core Requirements (18 credit hours)

Careers in planning in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Planning practice in different contexts and governance systems. Planning ethics, community and stakeholder engagement, social justice, and professional regulations. Social, physical, environmental, economic, and other dimensions of complex planning problems. Professional skill development, with a focus on written, oral, visual, and digital communication, including social media in planning. 

Public participation in planning and decision-making. Deliberative democracy and citizen empowerment. Tools for and approaches to community involvement and alternative dispute resolution. Facilitation and engagement process design. Opportunities and challenges associated with engaging communities in planning and decision-making.

Key planning theories and the history of planning thought and planning practice. Critical perspectives on the challenges and issues facing contemporary planning practice. Milestone events, themes, and debates in the history of planning and their influence on current planning thought and practice. Subfields and specializations in urban planning. Ethical issues in planning. Effective communication tools and techniques. 

Quantitative and qualitative methods pertaining to urban and regional planning and analysis; types of data, data sources and data preparation; survey research; technologies for urban planning and analysis; ethics in planning methods. 

Urban and regional political economy and finance. Interactions and effects of economic forces and political institutions on urban policy and governance, as well as physical and social infrastructure and inequities. Urban growth and change, institutions of local and federal government and governance, real estate markets, equity, and institutional access. Urban finance, taxation policy and local revenue sources.

Fundamentals of law as it applies to the use of land, with a primary focus on its practice in the United States. Comparative land use law. Case law and statutory law briefing. Constitutional and statutory limitations on regulation; common law principles; traditional use-based zoning and zoning processes and documents; alternative approaches to planning and zoning such as smart growth techniques and form-based codes; and the relationship between land use regulation and urban/metropolitan issues, such as social segregation, sustainability, and environmental justice.

Capstone Project (6 credit hours)

Individual and collaborative group work on a community client-based project. Project management. Problem identification, data collection and analysis, community/stakeholder engagement. Professional norms and practices.

Data analysis and visualization. Proposal of potential solutions to client-based planning problem. Preparation of a written report. Oral presentation.


The thesis presents the results of a well-defined and original research effort that involves either:

  1. the analysis of primary or secondary data sources (an example of a primary source would be the statistical analysis of the results of a questionnaire you designed and mailed to a set of state economic development agencies, a secondary source would be a statistical analysis of HUD Housing Survey data in an innovative way)
  2. the analysis of primary or secondary document sources (an example of a primary document source would be a set of municipal ordinances relating to economic development which you collect and analyze, a secondary source would be a set of such sources collected by someone else but which you analyze in an innovative way)
  3. the analysis of primary or secondary ethnographic sources (an example of a primary ethnographic source is a set of interviews with city planning directors whom you interview personally, a secondary source would be a set of interviews someone else collected but which you interpret in your own original way)
  4. the use of another academically legitimate analytical technique (such as history, jurisprudence, philosophy) with approval and guidance of your thesis advisor and your committee.

Students selecting this option should enroll in UAP 5994 - Research & Thesis and consult with their advisor and/or Committee Chair at the beginning of the second year in the MURP program. Ideally, students planning on pursuing the thesis option will discuss with their (potential) chair within their first year in the program.

Electives (24 credit hours)

Together with their adviser, students select elective credit hours using coursework from across the university. Students and advisers also develop individualized areas of concentration that include courses relevant to their interests. Sample concentrations are provided below and in the MURP handbook, but students may also work with their advisors to design a custom concentration that fits their particular interests: 

  • Environmental Policy and Planning
  •  Land Use and Physical Development Planning 
  • Housing, Community, and Economic Development 
  • International Development Planning 
  • Transportation Planning and Policy
  • Planning Analytics 
  • Urban Design

The Virginia Tech Community Scholars Fellowship Program is a partnership between Virginia Tech's Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program (MURP) and the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association to encourage diversity in the planning profession. The fellowship program has provided financial support for incoming MURPs from underrepresented groups (including African American, Latinx, Pacific Islander, or American Indian). All students who are admitted to the MURP program and have submitted applications prior to the March 1st financial aid admissions deadline will be invited to submit an additional essay to apply for the Community Scholars Fellowship Program. Selection criteria will accompany the fellowship application details. Selection of  Community Scholar Fellowship recipients in any given year is dependent on the availability of funding.

As part of their courses taken towards the MURP degree students can also obtain any of the following Graduate Certificates. Availability of certificates varies by campus. Some of these certificates are also open to non-degree seeking students enrolled as "Commonwealth Campus."

Student Achievement    
MURP Alumni Survey 2019 Grads   2020 Grads   2021 Grads   2022 Grads    
Questions Strongly Agree or Agree   N   Strongly Agree or Agree   N   Strongly Agree or Agree   N   Strongly Agree or Agree   N
1. During the program, I developed skills in assembling and analyzing ideas and information from diverse sources. 82% 11 92% 12 100% 11 100% 2
2. During the program, I developed abilities to prepare clear, accurate and compelling text, graphics, and maps. 73% 11 92% 12 82% 11 100% 2
3. During the program, I developed abilities in analyzing data, both quantitatively and qualitatively. 91% 11 83% 12 91% 11 50% 2
4. The program helped me build skills in creating and implementing effective plans.  73% 11 58% 12 64% 11 100% 2
5. While in the program I obtained skills in involving stakeholders, engaging the community, and working with diverse communities. 91% 11 75% 12 91% 11 100% 2
6. The program gave me an appreciation of key ethical issues in planning and public decision-making.  73% 11 75% 12 75% 11 100% 2
7. The program prepared me to understand the economic, social, and cultural factors in urban and regional growth and change. 91% 11 92% 12 100% 11 100% 2
8. My education prepared me for understanding issues of equity and social justice.  73% 11 92% 12 82% 11 100% 2
N = number of responses.    


2024-2025 Tuition and Fees
In State Residents, per full-time academic year $18,565
Out of State Residents, per full-time academic year $35,091


Student Retention Rate Percent
Percentage of students who began studies in fall 2022 and continued into fall 2023 75%


Student Graduation Rates Percent
Percentage of students graduating within 4 years, entering class of 2020 64%


Number of Degrees Awarded
Number of degrees awarded for the 2023-2024 Academic Year   28


AICP Pass Rate Percent
Percentage of master's graduates taking the AICP exam within 3 years who pass, graduating class of 2020 75%


Employment Percent
Percentage of all graduates obtaining professional planning, planning-related or other positions within 12 months of graduation, graduating class of 2023 95%

Graduate students can pursue dual degrees that share the same graduate level courses. No more than 50% of appropriate graded course work requirements for a master's degree may be common to both degrees. For example, if one master's degree requires 20 credits of graded coursework and the other degree requires 30 credits of graded coursework, no more than 10 credits (50% of the graded work on the degree with lower credit requirements) can be used toward both degrees. No Research or Project and Report credits from one degree may be counted toward the other degree. No credits can be triple-counted.

In the past years UAP students actively participated in Simultaneous Graduate Degree programs with Landscape Architecture (MLA/MURP) and the Center for Public Administration and Policy (MPA/MURP).

Less typical dual degree options have included, but were not limited to: Geospatial Information Technology (GEOG); Infrastructure Systems (CEE); Intermodal Transportation Planning and Analysis (ENG); Construction Engineering and Management (BC/ENG); International Research and Development; Solid Waste Management; and Transportation Policy.

Interested students must submit applications to both programs and be accepted into both programs.

If a student wishes to pursue two graduate degrees in different departments simultaneously, an Application for Simultaneous Degree must be submitted"


SUBJECT: Small Businesses in Neighborhoods Surrounding VT's Innovation Campus
PROFESSOR: Margaret Cowell

In Spring 2020,  students analyzed the current small business ecosystem in the neighborhoods that surround the new Innovation Campus site and provided recommendations to both Virginia Tech and the City of Alexandria about ways to respond to the impacts of this investment. This work also resulted in a StoryMap they created and posted online for relevant stakeholders to access as needed. For more details please see:

Fall 2020 Year Long Studio

SUBJECT:  Enhanced Near Miss Survey to Improve Pedestrian Safety
PROFESSOR: Tom Sanchez

Our studio class worked with Alexandria Families for SAfe Streets (AFSS). AFSS and its affiliated Families for Safe Streets (FSS) chapters in Arlington and Fairfax County (collectively referred to as the Northern Virginia Families for Safe Street or “NoVA FSS”), have the Near Miss survey on their respective web sites where pedestrians and other vulnerable road users can report vehicle / pedestrian “near miss” incidents that were almost crashes as well as describe dangerous locations so that pedestrians and/or bikers.

Currently, there is limited data analytics regarding the Near Miss/Dangerous Location survey on the AFSS website, but it will soon be upgraded to an Esri software platform with GIS mapping thanks to the work that the capstone studio class at the VT Masters of Urban and Regional planning is about to complete. The VT Graduate students have also built the platform so that VDOT’s TREDS crash data involving pedestrians and cyclists can be displayed by the jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax and then the Near Miss data can overlay the TREDS crash sites to compare where the history of crashes have happened versus where the NM incidents are happening in more of a real time setting. One can visually see the correlation (or not) of reported Near Miss incidents versus historical crash sites. For more information please see:

Spring 2019 E-Scooter Studio

SUBJECT:  Shared Mobility Devices in Arlington
PROFESSOR: Ralph Buehler

Dockless e-scooters, e-bikes, and pedal bikes, also known has shared mobility devices (SMDs), have recently emerged as another mobility option available for rental in many major cities across the US. Our study surveyed 182 Rosslyn residents, workers, and visitors about their experience with and attitudes towards dockless e-bikes and e-scooters. In Addition, we counted over 600 parked e-scooters in three neighborhoods in Arlington County to evaluate how many were parked correctly.
Our study resulted in the following findings:
• E-scooter users are younger, more racially/ethnically diverse, and financially less well-off than non-users. User and non-user gender distributions are similar.
• Respondents choose e-scooters as the fastest option to make practical trips such as errands and work.
• Respondents would use e-scooters more frequently if they had safer places to ride, if prices were lower, and if accessing e-scooters were more convenient.
• E-scooters are more likely to replace car (mainly TNC and taxi) trips than public transit trips.
• Perceptions of e-scooter safety and parking impacts to sidewalks vary sharply between users and non-users—with more negative opinions for non-users.
• The most frequent causes of improper parking are that scooters were not upright, blocked the pedestrian right of way, or were on private property.
• Many respondents are unfamiliar with SMD rules in Arlington County.
We presented the results of this studio class at the TRB annual meeting and published a peer-reviewed paper:
James, O., Swiderski, JI, Hicks, J., Teoman, D., and Buehler, R. 2019. Pedestrians and E-Scooters: An Initial Look at E-Scooter Parking and Perceptions by Riders and Non-Riders. Sustainability, Vol 11, No. 20, 5591;”

Fall 2019: Year Long

SUBJECT: Affordable Housing in Arlington and Alexandria
PROFESSOR: Shelley Mastran

The year-long capstone studio focused student research on projects related to affordable housing in Arlington and Alexandria. During the fall, all 12 students worked on a history of residential development in Arlington County as it relates to planning and zoning. Students traced the evolution of housing patterns from the late 19th century to today. One of the major findings of the study is that through its zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans, Arlington reinforced the dominance of single-family subdivisions across the landscape, which has contributed to today’s dearth of housing that is affordable to those of low and middle income.

During the spring semester the class divided into groups, working on projects related to affordable housing in the city of Alexandria. These projects include studying the results of a resident survey in Del Ray and Arlandria; identifying underutilized parcels of land that would be suitable for “missing middle” housing; identifying financial mechanisms for providing Accessory Dwelling Units; conducting case studies of “co-living,” such as rooming houses, that would be applicable to Alexandria; inventorying and analyzing the range of mixed-income assisted living facilities across the U.S.; and studying barriers to building affordable housing in northern Virginia and conducting a cross-jurisdictional analysis of the housing development process

FALL 2019 Year Long Studio

SUBJECT: Craft Beer and Urban and Regional Planning
PROFESSOR: Theodore Lim

Craft breweries are enjoying a surge of popularity, growing from an estimated eight craft brewery operations in 1981, to over 4,500 microbreweries and almost 2,600 brewpubs as of 2018 (Brewer’s Association, 2019). In 2018, small and independent brewers comprised 13.2% of market share by volume, and 24.1% market share by retail value (ibid). Craft breweries are not just significant symbol of the US’ changing taste in beer. Their presence in local communities are also creating interesting spaces where people can gather, revitalizing downtowns, adapting historic buildings, and creating linkages between outdoor recreation, and the local business and food movements. Regionally, some areas are promoting craft breweries as part of a regional economic development strategy related to tourism and food and beverage processing. The growth in popularity in craft breweries is not without its challenges however. Examples of concerns accompanying brewery establishment include: increased congestion, public drunkenness, cultural changes, resident quality of life vs tourism development, infrastructural constraints, and environmental impacts.

In this studio we will examine the role urban and regional planners play in balancing the goals of community and economic development, infrastructure capacity, quality of life, environmental amenity, historical preservation, and sustainability. We will conduct in-depth site research using interviews, surveys, and photography in the City of Asheville, NC, known for its craft beer culture and tourism industries, and apply lessons learned to deliverables we prepare for our clients: (1) the Town of Blacksburg, VA; (2) the Blacksburg Partnership; (3) Onward New River Valley; and (4) the Brewer’s Association.


SPRING 2019 Year Long Studio

SUBJECT: Preparing Communities for Automated Vehicles
PROFESSORS: Wenwen Zhang and Theodore Lim

Description: Automated vehicles (AVs) are vehicles that require no driver. These vehicles represent the culmination of several rapidly developing technologies, such as remote sensing, machine-learning, and computer vision, and are capable of transporting passengers with little to no human input. In this studio, students explore what local agencies, policy-makers, planners, and residents can do to prepare their communities for local changes associated with the coming of AVs. While no one can predict the timeline of AV implementation with complete certainty, we can expect that AVs will have a profound impact on many aspects of private and personal life over the next decades, including: 1) individual vehicle travel, 2) public transit, 3) parking, 4) the metropolitan footprint, 5) parks and open space, 6) affordable housing and 7) employment. The challenge to planners and policy- makers is that the future of AVs is both uncertain and highly impactful. We will work to identify case studies of what planners can do to plan in the face of such uncertain, impactful change, as well as survey planners’ own perceptions of their communities’ readiness.


SPRING 2017 Transportation Studio

SUBJECT: Capital Bikeshare station expansion, feasibility study in Merrifield, VA
PROFESSOR: Dr. Ralph Buehler
Bikeshare is a convenient mode of neighborhood circulation that can also improve first and last mile access to public transportation. In the Fall of 2016, Fairfax County launched bikeshare in Tysons as well as Reston. In an effort to further expand their bikeshare network, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has reached out to Virginia Tech to develop a feasibility study for a bikeshare expansion to Merrifield, Virginia. 

  • Bio Item
    David Bieri
    David Bieri , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Affiliated Faculty of The Department of Economics and The Blackwood Department of Real Estate | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 213, Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-3831

  • Bio Item
    Jim Bohland in a blue dress shirt
    James R. Bohland , bio

    Professor Emeritus, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Email:

  • Bio Item
    Ralph Buehler
    Ralph Buehler , bio

    Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Arlington, Room 6-012 | Email: |

  • Bio Item
    Margaret Cowell
    Maggie Cowell , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Arlington, Room 6-018 | Email: |

  • Bio Item
    Ralph Hall
    Ralph Hall , bio

    Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP); Director, Undergraduate Studies, School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA); Associate Director, Center for the Future of Work Places and Practices; Affiliated Faculty, VT Honors College | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 201, Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-7332

  • Bio Item
    Steve Hankey
    Steve Hankey , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 208, Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-7508

  • Bio Item
    Theodore Lim
    Theodore Lim , bio

    Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 212, Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-232-8710

  • Bio Item
    Shelley Mastran
    Shelley Mastran , bio

    Professor of Practice, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Arlington, Room 5-040 | Email: |

  • Bio Item
    Shalini Misra
    Shalini Misra , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Arlington, Room 5-182 | Email: |

  • Bio Item
    John Provo
    John Provo , bio

    Adjunct Professor, Urban Affairs & Policy (UAP) | Office: Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-4004

  • Bio Item
    John Randolph
    John Randolph , bio

    Professor Emeritus, Urban Policy and Planning (UAP) | Office: Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-7714

  • Bio Item
    Todd Schenk
    Todd Schenk , bio

    Chair of Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Director of Science, Technology & Engineering in Policy (STEP) Program | Affiliated Faculty, Global Change Center (GCC), Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and Center for Coastal Studies | Office: Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-1803

  • Bio Item
    Max Stephenson
    Max Stephenson , bio

    Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) Director, Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG) | Office: Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-6775

  • Bio Item
    Paroma Wagle
    Paroma Wagle , bio

    Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 201, Blacksburg | Email:

  • Bio Item
    Kris Wernstedt
    Kris Wernstedt , bio

    Professor Emeritus, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Email:

  • Bio Item
    Diane Zahm
    Diane Zahm , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 206, Blacksburg | Email:

  • Bio Item
    Yang Zhang
    Yang Zhang , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 214, Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-1128

MURP-Handbook-2024-Updated.pdf Download the MURP Handbook (pdf)

Both the Blacksburg and Arlington campuses boast exclusive amenities based on their geographic location that shapes the way students engage with our programs. This makes the MURP at Virginia Tech unique as it offers access to urban planning in rural, suburban, urban, national, and international areas. In addition, regardless of campus location, all MURP students have access to our internationally recognized faculty and fellow students in both Arlington and Blacksburg. Access such as:

  • Courses offered virtually to connect the campuses
  • Joint studio classes
  • 1-credit weekend modules that allow faculty and students to travel
    between campus locations
  • Capstone thesis committees and independent/directed studies with faculty
    advisors from both campuses
  • Joint-campus events held virtually such as alumni panels, speaker
    series, student engagement events
  • Open to part-time (3 credit/1 class per semester minimum) and full-time
  • Moreover, students have the ability to switch campus locations during their
    course of study if they so choose (e.g. spending 1 year in Blacksburg and 1
    year in Arlington).

What's UP?

Through UAP's original video series, we are getting the word out about urban planning. Check out interviews with students, alumni, faculty and planning professionals who let us know “What’s UP?”

Thinking of applying? Talk to us!

We highly value offering a tailored educational experience. Our UAP advisors will be able to answer any questions you may have about the degree and whether it meets your professional and academic needs. They can also guide you through the application process.

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