PhD in Planning

Henry Renski Program Director

PhD Handbook

The Ph.D. program in Regional Planning leads to a research degree for students interested in careers in the academic world or in research in public agencies or private corporations. We are able to supervise doctoral work in most areas of planning, plus some areas where planning and landscape architecture overlap. To learn more about faculty interests and expertise, and the intellectual tone of the Department, potential applicants should review faculty descriptions and the sections on both the Master's in Regional Planning and the Master's in Landscape Architecture elsewhere in this handbook.  It is generally helpful if the student's research interests align with a planning faculty member, and contact with the appropriate faculty member prior to application will assist the student in understanding current research opportunities. 

Applicants to this program are encouraged to visit the campus and meet with the Program Director and pertinent faculty. Considerable care and thought should be given to the written statement as part of the application. Research and writing samples may be included by the applicant in their admissions forms.  While we include standardized test scores (GRE, TEOFL) in our application requirements, these are only one aspect of the qualities we seek in a candidate.  Other important attributes include a passion for scholarship in planning, originality of thought, ability to work independently, ethical awareness, leadership and collegiality, and a commitment to rigor in research whether qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods are used.  We encourage the use of electronic mail for inquiries (addressed to

Students admitted to this program normally have a Master's degree in planning or a closely related field (such as landscape architecture or geography). Those with a Master's degree in other fields but with appropriate professional experience are given serious consideration and encouraged to apply. The typical student will require two years to complete the course requirements and the comprehensive examinations, and a third or fourth to complete the dissertation. The total time allowed to complete the degree (known as the Statute of Limitations) is four calendar years for those with a Master's degree in planning, and six years for those with degrees in other fields.

Persons interested in part-time study must be aware that Ph.D. studies at the University of Massachusetts requires a minimum of one year residence (two consecutive semesters).

Financial Support

We attempt to offer an assistantship that carries small stipend and a tuition waiver to all students admitted to the doctoral program, either a Teaching Assistantship in one of the other academic programs offered in the Department, or a Research Assistantship in one of our research programs.

Course Requirements

The degree requires satisfactory completion of 60 credits, of which 22 are required, three in the Ph.D. Seminar (Regional Planning 891), and 18 in dissertation credits (Regional Planning 899). The course program is initially developed by the student and the Director of the Ph.D. Program, and is subsequently adjusted in consultation with the dissertation supervisor. The principal criteria for selecting courses are preparation for the comprehensive examinations and relevance to the student's research field and dissertation. As a result, each student will have a highly individualized curriculum.

Foreign Language Requirement

The Program has no foreign language requirement.

Comprehensive Examination

A written and oral Preliminary Comprehensive Examination must be taken after course requirements are completed. The written examination has three parts: (1) planning history and theory; (2) the substantive area of interest of the student; (3) research methods. The oral examination will deal with issues raised in the written exam, major issues in the planning field, and the dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Supervisor and Committee

A dissertation supervisor is generally identified by the end of the first semester in residence, and a committee by the end of the second semester. They are formally appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School after submission of an acceptable research proposal, generally in the fourth semester.

General Regulations of the Graduate School

The General Regulations of the Graduate School cover such matters as graduate credit, the course numbering system, changing or dropping of courses, requirements regarding incomplete work in a course, and the format of the doctoral dissertation. These Regulations are listed in the Graduate School Bulletin.

Doctoral Degree Eligibility Form

LARP Research Travel Grant Program