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 Research I 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 87 percent, one of the highest rates in the nation. And according to the Planetizen 2017 rankings of master’s programs in urban and regional planning, ours is the sixth best planning program in the Midwest. Among master’s programs without a Ph.D., we rank seventh in the nation. We also rank seventh in the nation among smaller planning programs and fifth among planning schools in small cities.
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.
Several combined degrees, with Law, Sustainable Water Development, Occupational and Environmental Health, Social Work, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Policy and Planning or Higher Education and Student Affairs, are offered. A capstone studio course, Field Problems, 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. Field Problems 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.
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 around the world 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.
John Fuller works on the regulation of the American transportation system. Jerry Anthony's interests are American growth management and housing policy. Lucie Laurian conducts research on meaningful public participation in environmental planning processes. Charles Connerly's work focuses on housing and community development, growth management, and the history of urban and regional planning. 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. 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.
The Iowa planning program encourages student involvement with the practice of planning in a variety of ways. During the student's first semester in the program, the seminar in planning practice 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.