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Master of City and Regional Planning

Master of City and Regional Planning

The Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP) degree is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). It can be combined in a dual degree with the MS-GIST for STEM designation.

The MCRP prepares students to excel as professionals capable of understanding and resolving complex urban planning problems. The curriculum gives students both a broad understanding of the urban and regional environment and a foundation of skills needed to plan for today’s regions and cities.

Top Ranked Program

The MCRP program strives for a careful balance between the theoretical, historical, and conceptual knowledge about urban and regional development, while also focusing on the acquisition of practical skills and methods of analysis. The MCRP program is ranked top ten in the nation by Planetizen

The program offers six specializations as well as several dual degree programs with architecture, civil engineering, law, and public policy.

Students are admitted to the MCRP program to begin studies in the fall term. Applicants can be considered for spring admissions under unique circumstances such as those experienced by transfer students and dual degree students.

Full-time study toward the MCRP is expected. Admitted students with exceptional circumstances may petition for part-time enrollment.

Hands on Learning

The applied studio course acts as a capstone for the core program that allows students to synthesize their planning knowledge and skills in a real-world situation ranging from large city neighborhoods to moderately sized cities and towns.

Multiple studio opportunities are provided each year, with studios conducted locally throughout Atlanta, as well as nationally and internationally.

A thesis or applied research paper provides an opportunity for focused study in the student’s major area of specialization and interest.


The curriculum is a two-year, 55 credit program. The curriculum requirements include seven core courses, a methods distribution, a 12+ semester hour specialization, an internship, and a thesis or applied research paper. Two options exist for completing the curriculum—the formal thesis or the applied research (option) paper.

A full breakdown of the requirements can be found in the MCRP Student Manual and on the official GT course catalog.

Core Courses

CP6035: History and Theory of Planning (Fall) - Examines theories of planning and the public interest, the intellectual and historical development of the planning profession, and the roles of planners within political systems.

CP 6036: Community Dynamics and Engagement (Fall) - Study of theories and dynamics of community-building, with a focus on working in communities, equity and inclusive community engagement.

CP 6025: Advanced Planning Methods (Fall) – Study of analytical methods in planning including inferential statistics, linear regression, and analysis of variance, and how they are applied to planning problems.

CP 6514: Intro to Geographic Information Systems (Fall or Spring) - Introduces students to spatial analysis using geographic information systems. Examines fundamentals of software design and geographic data.

CP 6037: Planning Law, Regulation and Implementation (Spring) - Study of legal framework of planning focusing on managing development and increasing opportunity to achieve desired outcomes for the economy, society, and the environment.

CP 6031: Economic Analysis in Planning (Spring) - Applies economic principles to planning, including market theory, public goods, externalities, cost-benefit analysis, and project economics.

Research Design and Methods Distribution Requirement (Fall or Spring) - 3 credit hours of methods from a list of approved courses.

CP 6052: Applied Planning Studio (Fall or Spring) - Analyzes and prepares alternative plan(s) for an existing neighborhood, community, or region. Emphasizes application of planning skills in a real-world situation.

Specialization Coursework

In the specialization coursework and the internship, the student develops skills focused on a particular aspect of city and regional planning. To enable students to focus their education on a consistent and cumulative body of knowledge, the program offers seven specializations: economic development, environment and health, global development, housing and community development, land use planning, transportation, and urban design.

Specific requirements for each specialization can be found in the MCRP Student Manual.

Economic development planning seeks to build a stable economic base that preserves and raises a community or region’s standard of living by developing its human and physical infrastructure in a sustainable manner. In so doing, economic development planners address issues such as the following:

  • How can we improve the quality of jobs in a community?
  • How can we structure a deal that will bring economic development impact from a proposed convention facility?
  • What can we do to revitalize an area hit by industrial decline?
  • How can we upgrade workforce training in existing businesses?
  • Should we do more to support new small business creation?
  • How can we promote technology start-up ventures?
  • What can we do to bring development to impoverished areas of the inner city?
  • How can brownfields be made part of an overall economic development plan?

Georgia Tech, the Atlanta region, and the state of Georgia present a wonderful set of laboratories for students interested in the economic development field. Georgia Tech itself plays a major role in state technology-based economic development, offering many business assistance and technology services. The Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute is a major center for economic development assistance and research (where students frequently find graduate assistantships). The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest in the United States. Many Atlanta community and regional groups are engaged with economic development issues. And, the state is a major sponsor of a broad array of economic development programs. Many MCRP graduates are engaged in economic development planning in the metro area.

Students who have pursued the economic development concentration at the master-degree level find jobs in local, state and federal government, non-profit groups, and private consulting firms. Currently, there is a strong demand for economic development planners and policy analysts.

The environment and health specialization integrates knowledge and tools from the fields of environmental management and public health to better understand how the management of the built environment influences human and ecosystem health.

Human health criteria are increasingly employed in the design and management of the built environment. The environment and health specialization explores the physical pathways through which land use and urban design influence environmental quality, and how environmental quality, in turn, influences human health.

Contemporary examples of environment and health planning include climate-responsive design, health impact assessment, green building, brownfield redevelopment, renewable energy planning, and urban agriculture. In light of the highly interdisciplinary nature of the environment and health specialization, coursework is designed to emphasize the scientific and regulatory foundations of environmental management and public health, analytical tools to measure environment and health interactions, and the design and implementation of policies to improve health and ecosystem outcomes associated with the built environment.

School graduates with expertise in environment and health planning are prepared for employment in a number of areas. Traditional areas of employment include private firms, as consultants to a range of land development activities, and all levels of government, as policy analysts, regulators, and as sustainability program directors or managers.

Global Development seeks to improve the lives of individuals worldwide by addressing critical challenges of rapid urbanization, climate change, poverty and inequality, and the socio-economic wellbeing of individuals worldwide. The specialization is guided by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in order to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.  The specialization seeks to compare insights and lessons at the state and non-state-levels and across the North-South divide and to prepare students for planning sustainable futures for cities and regions across the globe, ones that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially just.

The specialization responds to the substantial challenges of rapid urbanization, climate change, and growing inequality in cities of developing regions and draws on concepts and skills from economics, politics, city and regional planning, and international affairs. Students will gain multidisciplinary knowledge and training needed to help address challenges in anything from infrastructure provision to poverty reductions, preparing students for opportunities in organizations dedicated to addressing economic development, urban and regional planning, environmental problems and international affairs. 

The housing and community development specialization’s central goal is providing students with the knowledge and skills to guide the housing, community, and real estate development activities of public, private, and/or nonprofit institutions. Graduates pursue careers in all three sectors, and, because contemporary development frequently involves multiple sectors, understanding how the differing perspectives of each sector shape their approaches to development is essential.

A second aim of the specialization is to focus the acquisition of knowledge and skills on urban and suburban real estate development and infill, in both the residential and commercial sectors. This is where much and perhaps most future development will take place over the next generation.

The specialization prepares students for careers in housing, community, and real estate development occupations with planning and/or development authorities, public housing authorities, local land banks, and state housing or development authorities. Private sector careers include real estate research firms, private development companies, financial institutions, and development consortia. Nonprofit sector careers include nonprofit developers, community-based community development corporations, development intermediaries, and technical assistance providers.

Historically, land use planning formed the core of the planning profession and provided more planning jobs than any other specialization. Some land use planners create comprehensive plans to guide all aspects of development, while others work in the day-to-day administration of zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations. Land use planners also develop financing plans for the delivery of future public services, and evaluate the diverse impacts of proposed residential, commercial, or industrial development.

Most land use planners work directly for public agencies, but a substantial number also work for consulting firms that provide services to the public and private sectors. All land use planners work to integrate the full range of planning activities in urban design, housing, economic development, transportation, environment, and information systems in order to create cities that are efficient, fair, and sustainable places.

In recent years, land use has emerged as one of the key components of sustainability. Land use decisions have direct and massive impacts on water quality, air quality, biodiversity, energy consumption, and nearly every other aspect of sustainability. Land use planners can be found in the forefront of debate over many of the great planning issues of the day, including fighting sprawl, encouraging smart growth, pursuing neo-traditional development, preserving greenspace, and enabling sustainable development.

The specialization in transportation planning provides students with the ability to conceive, consider, and to assess the implications of supply and demand side strategies to enhance local accessibility and regional mobility within the context of an urban system. At the heart of the student's understanding of transportation are the critical linkages with macro scale aspects of land use, urban form, and regional spatial structure and micro-scale aspects of urban design, site design, and non-motorized movement.

The transportation planning specialization is designed to address issues such as the consideration of:

  • Equity, environmental, and economic trade-offs between alternative transportation investments
  • Inter-governmental issues in reaching regional consensus over transportation investments
  • Secondary implications of transportation investments on economic development and urban form
  • Physical activity and health implications of alternative transportation investment futures
  • The impact of auto dependence and the need for providing travel choices
  • The role of transportation supply and demand side solutions
  • Land use as a travel demand management strategy
  • Benefits and burdens of alternative transportation and land development proposals for low income and minority populations.

Students who pursue the transportation planning concentration are highly competitive in the marketplace and find careers in local, regional, state, and federal agencies and within the private sector. Transportation planning tends to be amongst the highest paying areas within city and regional planning. Historically, the demand for transportation planners has been very high.

The urban design specialization is intended for planners who seek to engage effectively with architects, developers, and institutions around issues of urban form and design.

Students develop an understanding of how planning and policy alter the built environment, by delineating the legal, regulatory, economic, and social context within which design can occur. Courses in this specialization teach concepts used by architects in the design of urban places, and the development of plans and policies that support good urban design.

The curriculum builds upon three major bodies of material:

  • Urban history and design theory as a way of understanding the formal and architectural order of the city
  • Economics and development methods as a basis for formulating development projects
  • Process and methods as a means of understanding professional practice and of designing policies and strategies that can be implemented in a private market regulated by public bodies.

Those with some introductory, academic or professional background in a design-related field, such as architecture, engineering, or landscape architecture may especially benefit, but that background is not a requirement for the specialization.

Photo of Michael Elliott in front of an Atlanta skyline

Meet the MCRP Program Director

Michael Elliott

Michael Elliott is an associate professor, jointly appointed to the Schools of City and Regional Planning and Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Elliott current research and intervention work focuses on women’s action towards climate resilience of urban poor in South Asia. More broadly, his research focuses on environmental dispute dynamics, evaluating the effectiveness of dispute management processes and systems, and examining the social impact of collaborative processes, with emphasis on risk perception, conflict assessment, political analysis, and strategies for managing conflict in complex, multi-party disputes associated with public policymaking.

We encourage those interested in the MCRP program to consult the 'Why Planning? Information Virtual Session' listed below, and to reach out to Michael Elliott for questions. 


In addition to the core and specialization areas, the curriculum includes 12 semester hours of electives. 

Students may also take electives within the school, within the College of Design, in other schools and departments at Georgia Tech (e.g. Civil Engineering, Public Policy, Information Systems, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences).

Through the cross-registration system, students are allowed to enroll in a number of courses at other area universities, such as Georgia State University or Emory University.


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