MSc in Rural Planning & Development
Guide processes of change in rural planning and development.
The MSc in Rural Planning and Development is offered through our School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD) and provides the opportunity for graduate study, research and professional development in either Canadian or international context.
Explore the challenges and opportunities faced by rural communities to find approaches, solutions, and processes of change for rural communities.
2-year accredited program
Ensure your career is on the right path with this two-year program accredited by the Professional Standards Board and the Canadian Institute of Planners.
Join world-class research programs
Benefit from the strong research networks developed by your supervising faculty members. Meet mentors and colleagues locally and globally.
Unique in Canada
University of Guelph has Canada’s only planning program exclusively focused on rural, Indigenous, and remote communities.
Focus on your interest
Study in either the Canadian or international stream and choose an emphasis: Community and Social Development; Land Use Planning; Resource and Environment Planning; Rural Policy, or Indigenous Planning.
Learn from the best
Work and study with leading national and international scholars and practitioners in rural planning and development.
The MSc program offers courses in all three semesters: Fall (September – December), Winter (January – April), and Summer (May – August). The MSc program typically offers at least one online course in each semester. Student may enroll in either full-time or part-time studies in the MSc program. Students select from three routes for completion of their studies:
- Thesis Route: Five (5) required courses, five (5) electives + thesis
- Major Research Paper Route: Five (5) required courses, seven (7) electives + a major research paper
- All-Course Route: Five (5) required courses + nine (9) electives
Students also select to study in one of the following streams:
- Canadian Stream: The focus of the Canadian stream is on rural, Indigenous, and remote communities in Canada. Students gain critical knowledge and skills sets in planning theory, planning law, plan formation, implementation, project management, and evaluation. These skills are developed and demonstrated through community-based course projects, case studies, and student research.
- International Stream: The International stream prepares students for practice and research in rural and regional development planning in the international context. It focuses on the rural regional dimension within a national or global context, in particular the policy, planning and management processes that are driving development interventions. It emphasizes applied research and practice based on a firm foundation of theory.
Both streams are recognized by the Professional Standards Board, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, and the Canadian Institute of Planners.
Collaborative Degree Opportunities
Rural Planning and Development participates in the International Development Studies (IDS) collaborative specialization. The MSc degree for students in this program will have the specialist designation Rural Planning and Development: International Development Studies. Please consult the International Development Studies listing for a detailed description of the collaborative specialization including the special additional requirements for each of the participating departments.
Rural Planning and Development participates in the collaborative specialization in One Health. Master’s students wishing to undertake thesis research or their major research paper/project with an emphasis on One Health are eligible to apply to register concurrently in Rural Planning and Development and the collaborative specialization. Students should consult the One Health listing for more information.
- Rural Research Methods
- Planning and Development Theory
- Foundations in Rural Planning Practice
- Land Use Planning Law
- International Rural Development Planning
- Rural Development Administration
This is just a sample of the courses. View all course requirements and options here.
Sample careers this program supports, include:
- Planners with local, provincial, federal governments
- Policy and program analysts
- Consultants with Canadian and international companies
- International development agencies
- Community and economic development
- Community advocates
- Environmental/conservation planning
The MSc program and the University of Guelph provide a series of scholarships and funding supports to graduate students. That being said, the MSc program in Rural Planning and Development is predominantly a self-funded professional program. As such, students need to be prepared to cover the full costs of the program. Here are a few funding supports that may be available:
- Entrance Scholarships: Each year the MSc program strives to provide entrance scholarships to student with strong academic performance. The value and quantity of this financial support changes from year to year.
- Graduate Research Assistantships: Faculty members may have opportunities for graduate students to work on funded research projects. The funded research initiatives change from year to year. For further information please contact individual faculty members.
- Graduate Teaching Assistantships: The School of Environmental Design and Rural Development typically hires a small number of graduate students to provide support to undergraduate courses. These positions are advertised in advance of each semester.
- University Scholarships: The University of Guelph offers many resources to financially support graduate students. Explore your funding options on the Graduate Studies website.
More information on courses and admission requirements can be found here.
Meet Your Profs
I help communities, whether it be local governments, regional governments, make perhaps better environmental decisions regarding the natural world around them. I think better can be qualified in a lot of ways but hopefully what I'm doing is allowing through different processes to make decisions that are a better reflection of local cultures, values, and visions for the future.
My research centres on understanding how the theory and practice of evaluation is linked to planning practice and planning theory.
How to Apply
Application to this program is more like the process of a job application (rather than the process you went through applying for your undergrad degree).
You apply directly online at Applying to Guelph.
Eligibility requirements for applications to the MSc program are that you hold a four-year honors degree or equivalent, with an average standing of at least second class honors (B-) in the last four semesters or two years of work.
Admission to the MSc program is competitive. Students achieving academic standing below B- with 5+ years of relevant work experience may apply under alternate admission criteria. Please contact the MSc program coordinator to discuss this admissions option.
The following information is required to apply to the MSc program:
- All university-level transcripts: You are required to provide transcripts from any institution where you have earned (or will earn) a degree, studied for one semester or more, or took courses that relate to your graduate study interests. This includes transfer credits and University exchange/semester abroad transcripts. Your application checklist on WebAdvisor will identify which transcripts you are required to upload.
- Statement of interest: You must include a statement of interest expressing your interest in the program. Your statement of research interest (separate from the one requested within the online application form) should outline the following:
- Your motivations for studying in the Rural Planning and Development program. Why do you wish to study Rural Planning and Development?
- Your area of research that will be pursued through the program? What do you wish to research through your program?
- How your academic, professional, and voluntary experiences prepare you for success in the Rural Planning and Development program?
- Your career goals. What are your professional aspirations at the conclusion of this program?
- Identify which Rural Planning and Development faculty member(s) you wish to work with in pursuing your research. Please refer to the list of faculty members for information on their expertise and backgrounds.
- Your statement of interest must not exceed two-pages.
- Current resume or curriculum vitae: Please provide a current resume that gives a profile of your educational achievements, professional experiences, and voluntary experiences.
Please be aware that any material collected towards a graduate application, (for example transcripts, reference letters, etc.) must be dated within the past year. Any material dated prior to a year from the application date will not be accepted
Good academic standing alone will not guarantee entry to the Program. One of our faculty members must be interested in, and willing to supervise, your research. It is therefore important that you state your research interests and goals clearly and succinctly. Work experience in a related setting is also considered especially useful in applying theory to practice and to identify research needs and topics
The Master of Science in Rural Planning and Development program admits students annually in the fall semester.
Domestic Application Deadlines
- May 31 for Fall entry (September start)
- Applicants are encouraged to apply early.
International Application Deadlines
- January 30 for Fall entry (September start)
- We encourage international applicants to apply early to provide sufficient time for any necessary study or travel permits.
More details on the U of G graduate program application process here.
- If your first language is not English, and you do not have a degree from an English speaking university, you must provide an official English Testing score from an acceptable source. Please refer to the Office of Graduate Studies website for required English Language Proficiency acceptable tests and scores.
- Please use this guide to compare your academic credentials and determine the grade equivalency needed.
- More resources for international applicants are available on the U of G Graduate & Postdoctoral website.
Additional planning options
You may also be interested in the Master of Planning (MPLAN).
For questions on applying and admissions:
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
519-824-4120, Ext. 56780
For questions on program options:
Ontario Agricultural College (OAC)
519-824-4120 Ext. 52101
Hear from Rural Planning Students & Alumni
The most challenging thing about my program has been balancing a high number of courses with my research assistantship. But this has also been a huge advantage since it has given me the ability to work through my degree efficiently and gain invaluable research experience.
In one of my policy classes with Prof. Nic Burnet we had to do a policy paper on a current issue. I’ve always had an interest in how the built form can impact people’s health and well-being, and I came across a news article on safe injection sites. From a planning perspective, where to put these sites and the policies that surround them is an important topic of conversation.
My research is putting me right in First Nation communities across Ontario (virtually for now) and giving me the opportunity to explore what Indigenous resurgence looks like in the field of planning and development. Through both research and coursework, I am learning about and sharing my experiences with water and food security in First Nation communities and am extremely excited to collaborate with students who are driven to learn about and determine how they can play a part in reconciliation.