The Master of Science degree program in Urban Studies provides students with a broad understanding of urban society and trains them in research techniques appropriate to the study of metropolitan communities. The course of study stresses the understanding of social processes and the analysis of social and economic policies affecting cities.

The PhD degree program in Urban Studies is designed to prepare individuals to obtain employment in academic departments, as well as government institutions and social agencies, and to conduct sophisticated research in the field of urban studies. The course of study emphasizes history, research methodology, and social science theory.

Urban Studies Programs offers two interdisciplinary graduate programs of study that are housed in the College of Letters and Science and led by social science faculty members from the Departments of Africology, Architecture, Criminal Justice, Educational Policy and Community Studies, Geography, History, Political Science, Nonprofit and Public Administration, Public Health, Sociology, and Urban Planning.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus the following requirement to be considered for admission:

  • Undergraduate major in one of the social sciences or experience in relevant occupational roles such as planning, community organization or social work.
  • Two letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic ability. Recommendation forms may be obtained online from the Urban Studies Programs website.
  • A letter of intent (reason statement) outlining the applicant's reasons for graduate study.
  • Submission of Graduate Record Examination scores is recommended but not required.

Applicants may be admitted with specific program-defined course deficiencies provided that the deficiencies amount to no more than two courses.

The student is expected to satisfy deficiency requirements within three enrolled semesters. The deficiencies are monitored by the Graduate School and the individual graduate program unit. No course credits earned in making up deficiencies may be counted as program credits required for the degree.

Credits and Courses

The minimum degree requirement is 30 graduate credits. Students must earn at least 15 of their 30 credits in courses numbered 700 or above. All Urban Studies students are required to take a core curriculum of 15 credits.

Core Curriculum
Select an approved quantitative analysis course3
URB STD 921Seminar: Research Methods in Urban Studies3
Select three of the following:9
Urban Social Structure
Seminar in Urban Political Process
The Internal Structure of the City
Seminar on the History of American Urban Problems
Select 15 credits of approved electives15
Total Credits30

Students may opt to enroll in URB STD 990 and earn up to 3 credits toward the MS degree for their paper/thesis research and writing.

Additional Requirements

Major Professor as Advisor

The Director and Associate Director of the Urban Studies Program act as the initial advisors to all entering students. Therefore, upon admission to the program, students should meet with one of them to discuss their course of study. As specified by The Graduate School, the student must have a major professor to advise and supervise the student’s studies. Once the student has defined an area of interest within Urban Studies, an advisor with similar interests may be chosen from among the other members of the USP faculty.

Paper or Thesis

A master’s paper or thesis is required to receive the MS degree in Urban Studies. A master’s paper may be developed from a seminar paper and should demonstrate conceptual ability and research competence in a sub-area of Urban Studies. It is expected that the master’s paper will be prepared in a scholarly fashion conforming to the format characteristics of journal articles published in the chosen area of study.

A master’s thesis is a more formal document of greater breadth and depth than a master’s paper. Students should refer to Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Format Requirements for information regarding preparation and review of the thesis.

Regardless of the option chosen, the student, in consultation with the faculty advisor, must assemble a committee of three faculty (two of whom cannot be from the same department and must be USP faculty) who will serve as the paper or thesis examination committee. The student must pass an oral examination based on the paper or thesis.

Time Limit

The student must complete all degree requirements within five years of initial enrollment.