PhD in Urban and Regional Planning

A group of urban planning faculty and students and community members from Buffalo stand over a map discussing climate resilience strategies.

The University at Buffalo invites applications from outstanding candidates interested in pursuing a career in research and teaching through its PhD program in urban and regional planning.

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The program, designed to nurture distinguished scholars and researchers, offers research and learning opportunities encompassing the field of urban and regional planning. Examples of some research areas where the program offers special capability, international distinction, and emphasis include:

  • Declining cities and distressed urban communities
  • Health, food systems, human abilities, and environment
  • Built environments and environmental change
  • Disasters and extreme events
  • Advanced technology, information systems, and methods in planning

Students have opportunities to study under the supervision of faculty from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and under the supervision of interdisciplinary co-chairs from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the Department of Architecture. 

Learn more about PhD Program Requirements and Curriculum

The PhD program in Urban and Regional Planning, comprising 72 academic credits, is based on a strong core curriculum. Students complete coursework in theory, methods, and a content area relevant to the student’s area of research before beginning work on their dissertation. To develop intellectual breadth, students are required to complete a minor sequence of graduate courses in a field other than planning, in an approved area of inquiry. A minor sequence will comprise of a minimum of two courses. The academic requirements for coursework are summarized below.

  1. Basic courses (24 credits): Basic courses include those that would typically count toward a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning program (18 core and 6 electives). Students with a prior urban planning degree may be permitted to transfer basic credits from another program or another university toward the basic course credits in the doctoral program.
  2. Theory stream (6 credits): Students are required to take a minimum of two theory courses, including PD 616 Advanced Planning Theory plus at least one other theory course (not including PD 510, PD 538, or any courses taken as part of the basic courses).
  3. Methods stream (9 credits): Students will take three courses to fulfill the Methods requirement. These will comprise of PD 617 Design and Structure of Planning Research plus at least two other methods courses (not including PD 512, PD 513, or any courses taken as part of the basic courses).
  4. Content area stream (15 credits): Students will take at least five courses in the student’s selected content area (not including course work completed as part of basic coursework).
  5. Minor area stream (6 credits): Students will take at least two courses in a related minor field of study.
  6. Doctoral seminar (3 credits): Students will participate in a doctoral seminar to present their own research as well as learn about latest research from faculty and scholars from within and outside of UB

Other UB departments where doctoral students may take courses include but are not limited to Anthropology, Architecture, Biostatistics, Education, Economics, Geography, Public Health, and Sociology. A list of potential courses available for each stream within the department and university is available from the Doctoral Program Director. All courses must be approved by the Doctoral Program Director.

In addition, students complete nine credits of directed research related to their dissertation. Prior to beginning work on their dissertation, students are expected to complete three qualifying exams – in theory, methods, and a content area - and defend their dissertation proposal. Students must complete the theory and methods qualifying exams within two years of enrollment in the program.

At all stages of the program, students will work closely with a faculty advisor to tailor their course of study to their particular research interests. Students will be advised and encouraged to prepare manuscripts for publication while in the program as well as present their work in the doctoral research seminar and at national and international conferences. An endowment in the School of Architecture and Planning provides doctoral candidates a chance to network with and receive mentoring from the Clarkson Chair, a distinguished visiting planning scholar in the school.

Doctoral students must satisfy a teaching requirement which entails completion of a teaching internship such as a teaching assistantship for a course. Under certain circumstances, students may show equivalent pedagogical work such as prior teaching experience, or, completed prior training or a degree in education.

Our graduate students have the opportunity to participate in research at centers and labs in the School of Architecture and Planning, including the Regional Institute, Urban Design Project, Center for Urban Studies, the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, and the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA), as well as more broadly within the University at Buffalo. Centers and labs within the School connect students with faculty with research interests similar to their own and provide an opportunity for the students to engage in advanced research.

Many faculty members are engaged in community-based research in the historic city of Buffalo, NY, and the surrounding region while others conduct research in national and international arenas. Research sponsors include local and national sponsors including the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the United States Department of Education.

Financial Support

Research positions, teaching assistantships, tuition scholarships and other financial support are available through the School, Department, research centers and faculty research projects. These sources of support vary from year-to-year. Applicants to the PhD program should check the department’s website periodically for announcements about new opportunities for financial support. Applicants should express their interest in being considered for financial support during the application process. Decisions about financial support are made after admission is offered to the PhD program.

Cost of Study

Full-Time per Semester

Part-Time per Semester

Meet our PhD Students

Meet the PhD Program Faculty

Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Department of Architecture

Interested in a PhD in Urban Planning?

Would you like to learn more?


Robert Silverman, Ph.D.
Professor and PhD Program Director, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
329 Hayes Hall
(716) 829-5882

Let Us Answer Your Questions

Please fill out the form below and our PhD recruitment team will be happy to answer any questions.