Program Information

The Doctor of Philosophy in Design and Planning is a research-oriented degree offered by the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver. Initiated in 1997, the program trains planners, architects, and landscape architects to become high-impact faculty members, consultants, and intellectual leaders who have a critical understanding of the social, political, and global conditions that influence their professions. The PhD in Design and Planning is the only doctoral program in planning, architecture, or landscape architecture in the state of Colorado.  

Admission is competitive and based on merit. Nearly all accepted students receive multi-year financial packages that cover some or all tuition and fees and a living stipend.  PhD students also have opportunities to teach their own courses or work as research or teaching assistants alongside faculty from the college and across the university. The doctoral program also provides travel funding for students presenting papers at national conferences and dissertation completion funds for qualified applicants.


The minimum residency requirement is four semesters, not including summer semesters. Prior to advancement to candidacy, students complete a minimum of 36 credit hours in core requirements and elective courses in their area of focus. After coursework is completed, students pass a comprehensive exam and defend their dissertation proposal. They then write and defend their dissertation. Students choose their coursework and design original research in consultation with a faculty advisor and dissertation committee. Most students complete the program in four to five years, and all degree requirements must be completed within eight years of matriculation.


A key strength of the program is that students can take advantage of resources in all departments and fields in the college and elsewhere in the university system, with more than 30 faculty members from eleven departments able to supervise and advise dissertation research. Interdisciplinary study and cross-disciplinary inquiry occur in a congenial work environment in one of the most dynamic and fast-growing urban regions in the United States. Recent work by students and faculty affiliated with the program addresses gentrification and environmental justice, green infrastructure, transportation equity, planning for autonomous vehicles, race and gender in public space, sustainable regional food systems, disaster and climate change, the politics of urban water, and more.

Career Paths of Graduates

The PhD in Design and Planning is appropriate for those seeking careers in research and teaching, in government, or in professional consulting – all of which require a research specialization. So far, over 60 graduates of the program have become faculty members, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, and consultants.  

Currently, alumni serve on the faculty of the University of Washington, University of Illinois, University of Nebraska, Penn State University, Portland State University, Colorado State University, Middle East Technical University (Turkey), Queensland University of Technology (Australia), and many others.  

Recent graduates also work for federal agencies including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the Federal Reserve Bank, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Others hold prominent research positions abroad in Kenya, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and elsewhere.