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The Master’s program is designed to successfully prepare you for a long-term career in planning. The program is structured to provide a core of planning theory and planning methods, in-depth coverage of methods, techniques and institutions in an area of specialization, elective courses to broaden or deepen knowledge and skills, and an application of knowledge and skills in a problem-solving workshop and Master’s Project.

To sustain a long-term career in which your interests and skills change and grow alongside changes in professional practice and the role of planning in society, you need to develop a sound base in planning theory and methods and a broad perspective on planning as a public activity. The required courses in theory, methods, urban spatial structure, and microeconomics serve this objective. The planning core and in-depth study of the theory and methods in at least one area of specialization in planning will prepare you for entry into professional practice. You must declare an area of specialization by October of your first semester when you register for spring classes. Faculty advisors will help with course selection and sequencing. You may also take courses throughout the University and at Duke University, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina State University at no additional cost provided that you register at UNC for that semester. Only courses above 400 level (or equivalent) are eligible toward graduate credit.

This guide sets out a general framework and minimal requirements. It does not convey what you need to do to make the most of the resources available in the Department and the University. Use this guide as a starting point and checklist, not a blueprint. In addition, all University rules including those of the graduate school apply.


You should structure your program to fulfill all core requirements and take the necessary foundation courses in your area of specialization during your first year. You should use the first semester to meet the core requirements and a course in your intended specialization. In addition to beginning your area of specialization during your first year, you should use elective courses to explore other areas of planning.


Satisfactory completion of the MCRP degree requires you to pass a minimum of 51 credit hours, including core courses, required courses in one area of specialization, a problem-solving workshop, and a Master’s Project. A minimum of 39 semester credit hours must be taken inside the department.


Completing core courses and one area of specialization will account for 27 credit hours, leaving 21 credit hours plus the Master’s Project to graduate. Students can therefore pursue a second area of specialization, which requires up to 12 additional credit hours. Alternatively, students can gain competence in another aspect of professional practice or discipline, another professional program represented on campus, or develop analytical skills and general competence for professional practice through a grouping of courses selected from different areas of specialization or elective courses. This flexibility is offered to enable students to customize their program and maximize the benefits of their tenure at DCRP.


DCRP offers a number of dual degrees in coordination with the Gillings School of Global Public Health (Health Behavior Master’s, Environmental Sciences and Engineering Master’s, Healthcare Administration Health Policy Management), the Law School (JD), the Kenan Flagler Business School (MBA), the School of Government (MPA), and with the North Carolina State University School of Design (Landscape Architecture). Those interested need to apply and secure admission to DCRP and to the other school or department independently, though this does not have to be simultaneous (a student can apply to both programs at the same time, or to one program and the following year to the other). In contrast to a non-dual degree student, planning students pursuing an approved dual degree must complete eleven (11) PLAN courses (33 credit hours) plus the Master’s Project (3 credits, PLAN). The remaining 15 credit hours come from the student’s other Master’s program. Any 15 credit hours taken in that other program can be counted as planning electives. Some programs have capstone paper requirements similar to the Master’s Project. Students often are able to combine these research or practice-oriented projects to help them synthesize knowledge from both fields. When degree requirements for each program are fulfilled, students receive a MCRP degree and second degree.


To apply for independent study, students must complete their first semester and formally apply through an instructor using an independent study approval form (Graduate Independent Study Contract). It is generally expected that independent study will involve a research project or extensive literature search and will not duplicate material covered in courses in this department or elsewhere on campus. To obtain the instructor’s permission, students are asked to outline the contents of the proposed study, illustrative readings or methods to be employed, and the final product.

A maximum of one independent study course is permitted in any one semester following the first semester in residence. Students with an outstanding incomplete grade may not apply for independent study. See the department’s Student Services staff for more details and assistance with initiating a request for Independent Study.


Though it is strongly recommended, the department does not require an internship to graduate. If you plan to pay tuition in order to get course credit for the internship, you should register for PLAN 793 in the semester (including summer).  PLAN 793 is a 1 credit course and can now be taken up to three credits (i.e summer, fall and spring) in the second year. For an international student, Curriculuar Practical Training (CPT) approval by the International Student Office is contingent on the student being registered in PLAN 793 in that particular semester.


Students must submit a final project of professional quality on a topic in their area of specialization. This Master’s project serves to demonstrate the student’s capabilities in his/her area and his/her readiness for professional practice. It is completed in the student’s second year of the MCRP program. See the MP Guide for more details and a timeline for MP milestones.


Pursuant of the graduate school and registrar guidelines, the following definitions will be used for assignment of Graduate grades.

H High Pass
P Pass
L Low Pass
F Fail
IN Work Incomplete

A temporary grade that converts to an F* unless the grade is replaced with a permanent grade by the last day of classes for the same term one year later.

AB Absent from Final Examination

A temporary grade that converts to an F* unless the grade is replaced with a permanent grade by the last day of classes for the same term one year later.

A graduate student becomes academically ineligible to continue in the Graduate School if he/she receives any grade of F or receives 9 or more credit hours of L.

Under special circumstances, academically ineligible students may be reinstated upon petition through the Department Chairman. Petition must be initiated in the form of a letter by the student. This letter should include a statement explaining the circumstances of the poor grades, why he/she should be reinstated, and a plan for completing degree requirements, which includes making up courses if necessary. The petition will be forwarded to the Graduate School with a statement of endorsement or non-endorsement from the Chair, who receives a recommendation from the ad hoc faculty Committee on Student Reinstatement. The committee shall request a recommendation from the student’s faculty advisor and examine the student’s departmental records. The committee shall meet as soon as practical after receiving a student’s petition for reinstatement, but, because petitions usually occur during vacation periods between semesters or after spring graduation when faculty are not regularly available, the committee will take the time it needs to make its recommendations.

After reinstatement, the student receiving an additional grade below P will again become ineligible. A minimum of three semesters in residence is required for the MCRP. Additionally, all rules (e.g honor code and campus code) of the Graduate School on maintaining academic eligibility apply.


Students who have completed graduate courses in other schools may request transfer of credit towards the MCRP under the following conditions:

  • The courses were graduate-level and taken for credit;
  • The courses were not credited toward any other degree;
  • A grade of “B” or better  (equivalent) was obtained; and

They are reviewed and approved by the student’s advisor as appropriate for credit towards the MCRP, and approved by the Director of the Master’s Program. For review, the student writes a request to his/her advisor, specifying the name and number of courses taken, date taken and the grade received, their equivalents at UNC, and their relevance to the student’s MCRP program. A syllabus and examples of the work in the course are also desirable. An official transcript is required by the Graduate School. Advisors are authorized to recommend transfer credit under the following general criteria:

  • For planning courses being considered for transfer, the advisors will evaluate the courses taken in comparison to comparable DCRP courses, and where equivalent may recommend transfer credit provided that the courses fit logically into the student’s UNC program.
  • For core courses, the student must also obtain the approval of the instructor of the equivalent DCRP core course.
  • Non-planning courses will be evaluated as electives in the student’s program here and will be judged on their merit and their contribution to the student’s total program.

All rules of the Graduate School on eligibility for transfer apply to requests made in the department. A maximum of 10 semester hours may be transferred from other institutions. Transfer credit is granted in a memo to the Graduate School from the Director of the Master’s Program recommending the transfer. At the time of graduation, the student lists all transfer credits on an application for a degree form for the Graduate School.


An Incomplete grade results from the course instructor’s determination that exceptional circumstances warrant extended time for completion of course work, but in no case will this extension exceed one year. If the time allowed is less than one year, this information should be transmitted in writing to the student with a copy to the Graduate School. If within twelve months a grade change request has not been submitted by the instructor, the Incomplete automatically becomes an F.

The department does not regard requests for grades of Incomplete on the grounds of personal convenience. It is the student’s responsibility to complete coursework during the semester in which the course is taken. Students with one or more Incomplete grades will not be permitted to register for an independent study course. The department’s student services staff will check the student’s grade record prior to forwarding a request for independent study to the Director of the Masters’ Program.

Students with two or more Incomplete grades from previous courses will not be considered in good standing within the department until they have successfully completed these courses and removed the Incomplete grades. This standing will affect recommendations for assistantships and other departmental assignments.


It is DCRP policy that a student may not submit the same paper, or a slightly modified version of it, in more than one course, unless:

  • The instructor(s) is/are consulted in advance and agree (in writing) that the paper may be used in more than one course.
  • The paper’s cover sheet carries a statement indicating the courses to which it is being or has been submitted.

The usual DCRP expectation for a dual course paper or for a paper used sequentially in more than one course is that it must represent substantially greater effort than a paper prepared for a single course.

Violation of this procedure shall be considered a violation of the Student Honor Code.


The department’s student services staff can provide guidance and assistance with program-related matters. All forms required for the department and the Graduate School are available from the Graduate School website and the department’s student services staff.

All general rules of the Graduate School, including the University Honor Code, apply to students in the department. Consult the Graduate School Handbook and the Graduate School Guide when in doubt.