MA in Community Planning FAQ

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The Basics

How long is the program?

There are twelve (12) required courses, requiring two years of full-time study, with summers off. Each course is five credits, for a program total of 60 credits (UW operates on a quarter system). Students take two courses per quarter (autumn-winter-spring) for two years, and move through the program curriculum as a cohort.

Can I be a part-time student?

Yes. Some of our students opt to pursue part-time status. Typically these students enroll in one course per quarter, rather than two, and take twice as long to complete the degree (i.e. 4 years instead of 2). This can be a good option for students who expect that jobs and other obligations will make it difficult to sustain the work required in graduate school. The downside for part-time students is that it may be more difficult to build and enjoy the cohort-based trust and familiarity with other students that is an important benefit of the MACP program.

I work full time. Is this program for me?

It depends. Are you someone who thrives on having a "full plate"? How demanding is your job, and are you engaged in other commitments that require your time and attention? How flexible is your employer?

Some people can work full-time and go to school full-time, especially if they know that other interests may need to take a back seat for a while, and that it is for a limited period of time. Others recognize that their work, graduate study, and other relationships may suffer somewhat, and decide that these trade-offs are too costly, even for a relatively short period of time.

Additionally, some positions allow students the flexibility to prioritize their studies when necessary. While the majority of our master's classes are offered in the evenings, some classes will require fieldwork that necessitates some degree of availability during the day. 

Talk to other graduate students, to the graduate advisor and program coordinator, and to your supervisor, colleagues, and family members to help you decide.

How is this program accredited?

We have chosen to focus on interpretive and practical skills that diverge somewhat from the classic urban design and public policy assumptions of city planning. For this reason, our curriculaum does not currently follow the requirements of the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB), and the MACP, therefore, is not currently accredited by the PAB. However, we are institutional members of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP); our graduates are able to sit for and earn American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification, should they wish; and our program assessment is being designed with input from PAB experts.



Admissions Criteria

Do I need to take the GRE?

No, the MACP program at UW Tacoma does not require applicants to take the GRE.

What GPA are you looking for?

The UW Graduate School requires that applicants have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in their most recent two years of academic work. Only in exceptional circumstances may a student be admitted with a GPA marginally below this grade. The Urban Studies MACP program looks carefully at each applicant’s grades in relevant coursework, and also at their statement of purpose and letters of recommendation in making decisions on admission to the program.

What is the application process like?

For detailed information about the application process and how to submit all documents, see the Graduate School's "Understanding the Application Process" page:

All applicants create an online MyGrad account to submit their application, along with requested supporting materials, including unofficial transcripts, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Your completed application will be reviewed by a graduate faculty committee. Applications received by the priority deadline are guaranteed to be reviewed shortly after that deadline. Applications received after the priority deadline, but before the final deadline will be reviewed on a space-available basis. In both cases, applicants may expect to be notified of the committee's decision within XX after the deadline.

We encourage prospective students to visit UW Tacoma, and to meet with faculty and advisors, if possible. If travel to the campus is not feasible, you can also schedule a phone meeting with faculty and/or advisors.

When is my application due?

Applications received by our priority deadline are guaranteed to receive consideration. Applications received after the priority deadline, but before the final deadline will be considered on a space-available basis. Find priority and final deadline dates for the current year listed here

Can I be admitted to this program with an undergraduate degree in something other than urban studies or planning?

We encourage students from a broad range of undergraduate disciplines to apply to the MACP program. Community Planning is a unique program and field which thrives on diverse backgrounds and experiences. The program is more focused on what you want to do in the future than what you have studied in the past. We also respect the experiences students have outside of academia, including travel, volunteer work, community involvement, and other actions and activism that round out a student's resume. Students with backgrounds as diverse as visual art, sociology, filmmaking, history, architecture, social work, and many other fields can bring those disciplines to the program.

What are the characteristics of a successful applicant?

While the MACP program is quite young, successful applicants have come from across the nation, from diverse disciplines, and with a variety of life experiences. The successful applicant is one who is articulate in explaining why they are applying to this program, has shown himself/herself to be committed to - and actively pursuing - social justice and equity in communities and at government levels. The successful applicant is passionate about creating social change, and is eager to ensure that communities have a voice in decision-making. Applicants should show evidence of concern about issues that impact communities, especially communities with less access to power.

What is a typical MA in Community Planning student like?

There is no "typical" Community Planning student. In our short history as a program we have had a host of students who are unique, committed, energized, innovative, and eager to understand and acquire the skills needed to make significant and positive social change - to lead with strategy and understanding, and to follow with strong belief in community knowledge, appropriate data, and a commitment to authenticity. It is a rigorous academic and experiential program that seeks ....


Careers & Program Outcomes

What kind of careers are your graduates prepared for?

Community Planners:

  1. Act as important liaisons between policy development, planning, and community thinking;
  2. Work across sectors and organizational scales, and build physical, financial, and operational capacity; and
  3. Enable communities to engage the democratic process and create sustainable places and programs

Given this skillset, here are some examples of positions community planners are poised to fill: Outreach Coordinator, Community Liaison, Project and Program Manager, Planner, Marketing and Government Relations Manager, Community Organizer, and Field Organization Manager.

Can I become a planner with this degree?

Yes. Graduates with this degree can become planners. If you are interested in becoming an AICP (American Institute for Certified Planners) planner, you need to get certified through the American Planning Association (APA). For more details on this, visit the APA website

Where are your graduates now?

Since this is a new program, we do not have any graduates with careers after graduation. Our current students have internships and positions at organizations like Safe Streets, United Way, and the City of Tacoma. We will update this response when we hear back from our program graduates. 

Do you provide assistance with internship and/or job placement?

Yes. University of Washington Tacoma has many great resources available to graduate students. The best resource is the dedicated staff from the Career Development and Education Center. They are a free resource for students, and we encourage our students to start working with them early in the program.

Once students have an updated resume and an idea of the types of opportunities that interest them, they are invited to make appointments with MACP faculty to discuss their specific search. Urban Studies faculty are well-connected to organizations (government, for profit, and non-profit) in the region, and are frequently approached with internship and full- and part-time job opportunities. If faculty know what you are looking for, they are likely to recommend or connect you to these opportunities as appropriate. 

Finally, the Urban Studies staff send out a weekly email with resources, including employment opportunities, and maintain online and print resources, including employment opportunities, for our students.


Program Content & Structure

Will you address environmental planning/transportation/housing/regional planning/international issues/etc...?

Over the course of the program each of these topical areas are addressed in some fashion. For instance, through case studies, course readings, short- and longer-term class assignments, and community engagement partnerships. 

However, the distribution of this emphasis can change from year to year, and in general we tend to focus on local and regional issues more than international topics.

Courses in the MACP program are organized by themes and skills (for instance, communication; social movements; equity; power; spatial design; etc., that cut across multiple issues. In any given course students are exposed to different areas of traditional spatial planning and development policy. No MACP courses are designed to focus exclusively on a single area of planning. 

I'm really passionate about ___. Will there be an opportunity to focus on that?

Possibly. It depends on the faculty teaching a particular course, and whether their emphasis and syllabus aligns with your topic of interest. However, it is important for prospective students to know that the MACP is not a "choose your own adventure" degree. Our pedagogy is founded upon community engagement and social learning, which means that 1) we work together on particular project commitments, sharing the process and delivery of scoping, defining, and producing work products that emphasize collaborative leadership and inclusive management skills; and 2) our collaborative projects are defined by the expressed needs and existing histories of our community partners, which may or may not align directly with your own topical area of interest.

Our commitment is to building effective community engagement and integrative skills among our students, which we believe are transferable and applicable to a wide range of issues and topics -- including your passion project.


I work/volunteer with ___. Can I get credit for that?

We do not give credit for work and service that you are already involved in, outside MACP coursework. These commitments are important - we look for evidence of community engagement in our applicants, and encourage it in our students - but academic credit involves significant additional reading, writing, and reflection. In rare cases a student can arrange an independent study or research project with faculty sponsorship, but this cannot replace required MACP coursework, and requires negotiation between all parties (student, faculty, and outside group) to establish academic expectations and work products.

I'd like to take classes in ___. Can I apply those toward this degree?

No. You are welcome to explore classes in other areas, and this can be an enriching addition to your training in community planning. Students sometimes enroll in additional UW classes over the summer, or find that they can add another, complementary class during a regular term, particularly if they are a full-time student, and do not have other work commitments. However, such classes do not apply to the MACP degree, may require additional tuition or fees, and cannot be substituted for MACP courses. The graduate advisor can tell you more.

How does this degree compare?

MUP/MURP: The MA in Community Planning is most commonly compared to a master's in Urban Planning or Urban & Regional Planning (MUP/MURP). While there are similarities, the main difference lies in our broad-based commitment to social justice and equitable development, which requires a shift from the traditional design or public policy orientation of most planning programs. Design and policy traditions are present in our curriculum, however the MACP draws on a wider array of professional practices and academic concepts, to train community planners in strategic, inclusive, and analytic skills of collaborative leadership for socio-spatial change.

MPA: There are also important similarities between the MACP and a Master's of Public Administration (MPA): namely the focus on a variety of professional roles, both public and private, beyond planning; the embracing of public affairs and collaborative governance as an important aspect of graduate training in community planning; and the use of the case-study method and practice-oriented deliverables and work products, in many MACP courses. However, the MPA emerges from a more narrow training in public sector management and administration, and has typically been more focused on professionalization of civil service, as opposed to a stated, normative commitment to justice and social change. The MACP is more interdisciplinary and equity-oriented than most MPAs.

MSGT: The Master's of Science in Geospatial Technologies (MSGT) is also focused on training professionals to bring about greater equity, justice, and social change in urban development, in this case through technical skills related to mapping, geospatial data, spatial representation, coding, and mobile app development. The MSGT grounds students in critical thinking and social equity concerns not always at the forefront of the rapidly expanding geotechnical profession; it is a one-year, four-quarter, 40-credit program for students with existing GIS experience, capacity for programming and application development, and a commitment to geospatial technology as a career field.