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Thread: How much of a difference does going to grad school make for planning?

  1. #1
    Jun 2006

    How much of a difference does going to grad school make for planning?

    Just curious. Sorry for the short explanation, the thread title says it all (and my apologies if it has been done before). I'm just wondering before I decide to do apply or not, or perhaps seek a dual degree(s) which can be completed in the same amount of time (such as geography, sustainability, or even architecture, etc.). I know employers look highly upon those who went to graduate school, but are there any other positive notes? Sorry for my ignorance

  2. #2
    Dec 2006
    IMO, an MUP makes a big deal (1) if you don't have any prior training/experience working as a planner and (2) how high you want to move up the food chain. Traditionally, most people's first planning degree is their masters. However, there are a growing number whose first planning degree is a bachelors or who practice planning with a degree in a related field such as architecture, landscape architecture, geography, etc.

    You can complete most MUP programs within 2 years. By themselves, MArch and MLA programs will each take 2 years to complete if you have a BArch or a BLA (and 3 years if you don't). However, not all dual degree programs offer an equal amount of course overlap, so you might end up taking up to 4 years (3 years for the MArch or MLA with electives in planning +1 year of planning coursework).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    I agree that it depends in part on how upwardly mobile you would like to be. Even with experience, a BA in Planning plus 5 years of experience may not get you the position or salary that a Masters and 5 years of experience will. Of course, this says nothing about people's actual ability, just what the market pays and how they determine it.

    I do think that a graduate program in planning can give you a lot of knowledge and opportunity. You get to have an intimate audience with many people who have a great deal of experience in the field (some may be idiots, but more are probably not) which can help you chart a course - planning being a very broad field. There are also many chances out there for graduate students to intern in municipal departments, the private sector, or non-profits. Many of these are opportunities you might not get as a non-student. Whether you end up liking that particular job or not, it does help you build your resume and gain potentially valuable recommendations.

    The last thing I would say about graduate school (perhaps more that undergrad - at least for me as I was too immature to know what I really wanted to do anyway) is that it is in itself an opportunity to develop contacts and networks that will help you find a desirable job. It is as much about the information learned as the contacts made. Or in planning-speak, its about "enhancing your social networks to improve your social capital."

    I found my graduate experience incredibly useful. I had no previous experience in planning and although I am now doing work I could have done without the degree, I would not be doing it as well and I would be making a good deal less money.

    Good luck
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
    May 2002
    Kzoo . . . for now!
    I think grad school's importance is influenced by the concentration of planners in your area. I live in an area where there are at least four different grad programs within a couple hours of each other, so I needed to get one just to stay even.

    I use the same arguement for whether or not AICP is worth it.
    The cookies are worth the drive

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