Master of Science in Rural Planning and Development

Aerial photo of a rural Ontario town and surrounding fields

The accredited Master of Science program in Rural Planning and Development (MSc) provides the opportunity for graduate study, research and professional development in either the Canadian or international streams. The program objective is to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills to conduct interdisciplinary research and, in a professional capacity, guide processes of change in the rural planning and development contexts.

The MSc program is a two-year program accredited by the Professional Standards Board and the Canadian Institute of Planners. Students need to identify one stream within the program, either the Canadian stream or the international stream. In addition, the MSc program offers three different routes to complete the program: thesis route consisting of 10 classes plus the thesis, the major research paper route consisting of 12 courses plus the major research paper, or the all-course route consisting of 14 courses. The diagram below outlines the required courses for each stream. A list of all MSc courses offered along with a brief description can be found on the Graduate Calendar.

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.

The program prepares graduates to work as researchers, international development specialists, project and program managers and designers, field staff, planners, project officers, evaluators and a variety of other positions.  Graduates work for: consultants, all levels of government, international and national non-governmental agencies, research agencies, colleges and universities, the United Nations, multilateral and bilateral agencies and others.

Degree Options

The MSc Program allows students to focus their studies in either the Canadian or international contexts.           

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: 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.

In both the Canadian and International streams, students have the opportunity to develop in one area of emphasis: Community and Social Development; International Agriculture Development Planning; Land Use Planning; Environmental Management; Resource Management; Program Evaluation, and Impact Assessment. The Canadian and International streams are both 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.


Primary Areas of Research Focus

Nicolas Brunet

Natural resource governance; role of community and local expertise in environmental science; environmental decision-making; remote, northern, Indigenous communities; wildlife and plants of cultural and economic significance.

Wayne Caldwell

Agriculture and land use planning; rural communities; community development; community-based approaches to economic and environmental issues; facilitation; healthy communities.

Leith Deacon

Sustainable development; resiliency; rural governance; resource-based communities; innovation and innovation policy; qualitative methodologies; environmental impact assessment; environmental justice.

Sara Epp

Agriculture and food system planning; local food; community engaged research; migration; social planning; land use planning; northern Ontario; resilience.

Ryan Gibson

Economic development, collaboration, place-based development, immigration/migration, governance, and philanthropy/charities.

Dave Guyadeen

Program evaluation; plan evaluation (plans, implementation, and outcomes); plan making and plan quality theory; and rural climate change planning (as it relates to plan quality).

Sheri Longboat

Water resources security, planning and management; Indigenous community planning and development; Indigenous engagement and community-based research; Indigenous food sovereignty; Indigenous rights and governance; Collaboration, governance and collaborative institutions.

Silvia Sarapura

Agri-food systems and rural planning; gender transformative change planning, innovation systems and community development; youth in rural development; community engaged and farmer led research; intersectionality in land use planning; applied research – research in development.

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