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Thread: Career in Planning

  1. #1
    Member
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    Career in Planning

    Hello people,

    I just got accepted to the USC school of planning, policy, and development graduate school. My undergrad is in Electrical Engineering and I can't find a job; and yes Ive applied everywhere from Kansas, Namibia, to Nepal.

    One thing that concerned me about Planning is that I read an economic development weblog stating that economic development does not pay enough to support a "growing family." What is the starting pay for someone in economic development, urban planning? outside California, since its hard for me to calculate California expenses.

    Is Urban planning becoming saturated? I hear it is a hot field.

    What planning discipline has the highest starting salary with some prospects of finding a job? I might get some sneers, but planning would be a pay cut even if it is a theoretical one.
    And I don't trust the business outlook report, looking at the electrical engineering section I can tell it is very misleading and has many ommissions.

    Is there any planning disciple that could be complemented with Electrical Engineering?

    How time consuming is something like economic development? When I was in Electrical Engineering, I barely had a life.

    -muer

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I am an economic developer/planner. Economic developers will usually earn more than the typical planner. Salaries are going to vary considerably by geography, but a starting salary might be in the $25,000 to $35,000 range, depending on the work. An economic developer in a small city or county could earn $35,000 to $55,000, but urban/suburban salaries are higher. I was at $68,000 in a city of about 15,000 people. Larger cities will pay their director $50,000 to $100,000, and other staff might range from $40,000 to $80,000. I am now in a city of 100,000, and my position is authorized up to $120,000.

    Economic development jobs may be difficult to find. Usually, there is only one person in smaller cities, and only a handful in the larger cities. Getting your foot in the door is a challenge, but I found Main Street programs and rural cities to be a good route, especially for people with planning backgrounds. I would not recommend state jobs. They pay the least and do not seem to transition people to cities, where most economic development jobs are located.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I am an economic developer/planner. Economic developers will usually earn more than the typical planner. Salaries are going to vary considerably by geography, but a starting salary might be in the $25,000 to $35,000 range, depending on the work. An economic developer in a small city or county could earn $35,000 to $55,000, but urban/suburban salaries are higher. I was at $68,000 in a city of about 15,000 people. Larger cities will pay their director $50,000 to $100,000, and other staff might range from $40,000 to $80,000. I am now in a city of 100,000, and my position is authorized up to $120,000.

    Economic development jobs may be difficult to find. Usually, there is only one person in smaller cities, and only a handful in the larger cities. Getting your foot in the door is a challenge, but I found Main Street programs and rural cities to be a good route, especially for people with planning backgrounds. I would not recommend state jobs. They pay the least and do not seem to transition people to cities, where most economic development jobs are located.
    Also how does a pension work? If you work a lot of places do you just pray you saved enough money by the time you retire? Do you always have to rent your house? Is it hard to have a family? etc?

    What are the chances of doing international development through USC with some international workshop experience? Is this a field for Ph.d's? I hear MIT and Berkeley are the schools for international development.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Apr 2003
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    Here, but where are you?
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    Every place is different. For my job, we put into a 457 plan and the City puts 14% of our pay (not out of our pocket) into a 401 (a) plan. My last job was with an older city twice this size that did the whole pension thing.

    As for owning v renting, It is not a problem to own. Depending on the state that you live in, the city or firm may or may not have a residency requirement. In the state of Michigan, they can not require employees that are not in an emergency services type of job to live within the municipality. Pennsylvania can require it.

    Everyone in my office other than me and one other person have families, and are married, but they have understanding families because sometimes you will have to go to night meetings and travel to training sessions. As for a life… that depends. For some (not all) planning is more than a job. It is a way of life. I know many planners (including my self) who will be on vacation, out to the bars, or watching TV, and will comment on a violation, infill opportunity, bad access, or even stupid designs. We sometimes will have nightmares that include planning commission members or city council, or getting lost in a Wal-Mart. It can be a high stress/ high reward job, but it is all what you put into it.

    The money issue… it is what you make of it. Like Cardinal said… some places will pay you next to nothing, others will pay you more than you can imagine. It all depends on what exactly you will be doing and where you are. It is a great field to get into because it gives you the chance to make a positive difference in a community, and make some money while you’re at it.
    "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism." - George Washington

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by muer
    Also how does a pension work? If you work a lot of places do you just pray you saved enough money by the time you retire? Do you always have to rent your house? Is it hard to have a family? etc?

    What are the chances of doing international development through USC with some international workshop experience? Is this a field for Ph.d's? I hear MIT and Berkeley are the schools for international development.
    Most government jobs have pretty good retirement packages. Previously, I got both social security and a city plan into which they put 10% of my salary. Here, I put 8% in a plan and the city puts in 10%, but no social security. I would say that in most cases, economic development and planning are not fields for PhD's. In fact, many places will consider you overly academic-oriented if you have one. A master's is required for the better jobs.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Member
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    Jan 2005
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    Chicago, IL
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    Florida beckons

    The poster should do what i and many others have done - head to Florida. Check the FAPA jobs page - plenty of entry leevl positions, some in rural areas, some more metropolitan. Put in 2 years there, move up the ladder a notch, then head out.

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