Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning

Extending the Horizon of Planning

Each year, the Ph.D. program seeks exceptional applicants with research interests that correspond closely to those of our faculty.  Our faculty engage in research and teaching across the diverse spectrum of planning, including economic and community development, housing, land use, environment, transportation, planning theory, collaborative governance and urban design.

Some of the cutting edge issues they focus on include climate change, land conservation, sustainable development, megaregions, disaster planning, and healthy cities. The 3-5 new Ph.D. students that we admit annually work closely with their faculty advisors to develop a course of study that will extend the horizons of knowledge available in our profession.

Besides their major area of focus in planning, students identify a minor area outside of planning to augment their intellectual foundation.  Students are able to take courses in other degree programs at Georgia Tech, as well as at other research universities in Atlanta, including Emory University and Georgia State University.

If you apply to our program, we will want to know what motivates you to make the significant commitment to pursue a Ph.D. in the field of planning, as well as why you see Georgia Tech as an appropriate home to fulfill that commitment.  

Doctoral study in city and regional planning offers the rewards of conducting research and building theory in an applied professional field. By linking theory to practice, students and faculty explore the most important issues facing cities and regions today. Our focus is on building sustainable and vibrant urban environments and communities through interdisciplinary study and research. Our doctoral students have consistently graduated to top academic and other professional careers. We welcome your interest and inquiries.


Program Director Brian Stone

Brian Stone teaches in the areas of urban environmental planning, climate change, and planning history and theory. We know the relationship between a Doctoral Student and their advisor is crucial to getting the most out of their degree.

We encourage those interested in the Ph.D. program to contact Dr. Stone at If you'd like to earn more about Dr. Stone, visit his faculty page on this site.



Program Requirements

The doctoral program has three main components: the coursework, which includes the program core, a major field and a minor field; the comprehensive exams; and the dissertation.  The program of study requires a minimum of two years of residency (no fewer than four semesters enrolled for at least six (6) credit hours each excluding summer) devoted to coursework and other preparation for advancement to candidacy. A successful student will demonstrate mastery in these areas and thus be prepared to pursue upper-level careers in government, business, research, and academia. Full details can be found in the Ph.D. Program Handbook.


The program of study requires two years of full-time residency (at least four semesters, excluding summer) devoted to coursework and other preparation for advancement to candidacy. Coursework involves a specialized program of study designed by the student and faculty focusing on a major field within city and regional planning, and on a minor field outside the College of Design. Students complete at least 46 credit hours in their major field, minor field, and the Ph.D. program core requirements, and in various elective courses. Students complete a minimum of 15 semester-hours of study in their major field, a minimum of 9 hours in their minor field, and a minimum of 16 hours in the program core.

Descriptions of courses offered in city and regional planning and other programs in the College of Design can be found in the Institute’s course catalog.


Major Fields

Each PhD student is admitted to a major area of study. Any change to the major requires review and approval by the PhD faculty.

Requirements for the major are met by satisfactory performance (B or better letter grade) in courses composing not fewer than 15 credit hours. The student’s Advisory Committee may require other courses within the College or other units within the University System of Georgia consistent with the student’s expressed interest in her selected field of concentration. The courses are expected to provide a full grounding and preparation in both the substance of the field of study and appropriate methods of inquiry and analysis.

Examples of majors pursued by doctoral students in the School of City and Regional Planning include:

Urban environmental planning

Urban transportation planning

Regional development planning

Minor Fields

The purpose of the minor is for the student to demonstrate competence in inquiry in an area of study related to but outside of the School of City and Regional Planning. Requirements for the minor are met by satisfactory performance (defined as a B or better letter grade) in courses composing not fewer than 9 credit hours.

Examples of minors outside the School of City and Regional Planning include:

Regional economics

Public health

Water resources management

Program Core

The Core course requirement is meant to provide students with a basic knowledge of planning theory, regional theory, and research design and methods. The PhD Seminars also have as their purpose to acquaint students with questions, methods, and paradigms of research and with modes of scholarship and pedagogy associated with the city and regional planning and related fields.

Requirements include:

Advanced Planning Theory, three credit hours

Advanced Urban and Regional Development Theory, three credit hours

Quantitative Research Design and Methods, three credit hours

Qualitative Research Design and Methods, three credit hours

PhD Foundations Seminar, one credit hour

PhD Planning Seminar, one credit hour each year

Comprehensive Examination

Once students have completed their coursework, with the exception of on-going attendance in Seminar in Advanced Research Design and Methods, they are ready to take the comprehensive examinations. Students focusing in the city and regional planning field of study will be tested in five areas: the student’s major field, the student’s minor field, planning theory, regional economic theory, and research design and methods. The examination process includes both written and oral testing of a student’s mastery of the subjects. Upon successful completion, the student moves on to the dissertation phase of the program.


The doctoral dissertation is a written piece of original scholarship that represents a significant new perspective or contribution in the chosen field of study. The dissertation must be relevant to the field of planning, and either an addition to the fundamental knowledge base in the field of study or a new and better interpretation of facts already known. It must demonstrate that the candidate possesses powers of original thought, talent a for research, understanding of theory and methodology, and ability to organize and present findings.