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Thread: Best planning related non-planning classes for planners.

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Best planning related non-planning classes for planners.

    With many planning programs, there are only so many planning classes that the schools will offer, so I was wondering what planning related non-planning classes would everyone recommend?

    Maybe Public Admin, Econ, or Law classes?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Ones I have enjoyed have included
    • Public Adminstration
    • Mediation

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Aerial Photo Interpretation / Cartography
    Economic; Political; Population Geography
    Landscape Architecture
    Oddball
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    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    If available, an urban sociology course is a nice compliment to the ones listed above. It's especially good if you are interested in activist planning stuff like HUD, CDBG, etc.

    Another good one is a general real estate course. It allows you to learn about development from a different perspective and allows you to see how your decisions affect the real estate profession.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    History
    History
    History

    ANY History...especially if you are going to be taking a policy oriented planning program...being able to relate policy to real-world events is HUGE...it has helped me more than everything else, with the exception of Economics...

  6. #6
    Member DRJ's avatar
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    Facilitation and Conflict Mitigation

    You will end up using it almost everyday in the public and private sectors.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Public Administration - if you wish to be the/a boss someday

    GIS - A must have for any planner nowadays

    Economics/Geography - relationships between $ and location is a must

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Conflict mediation/negotiation/facilitation. That was huge. Wish I had more of it.

    Landscape ecology/architecture. Depends on your interest as to which one.

    Economics. Really helps to understand the flows of money and why things are growing/changing.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planner22
    Public Administration - if you wish to be the/a boss someday

    GIS - A must have for any planner nowadays

    Economics/Geography - relationships between $ and location is a must
    That is one of the downfalls with the graduate program that I am in. Most of the classes deal with GIS, but I have a very strong GIS background from all the elective classes for my undergraduate. I don’t have any desire to become a GIS tech, but I do want to learn as much as possible about the social/location/economic connections.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  10. #10
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    If available, an urban sociology course is a nice compliment to the ones listed above. It's especially good if you are interested in activist planning stuff like HUD, CDBG, etc.

    Another good one is a general real estate course. It allows you to learn about development from a different perspective and allows you to see how your decisions affect the real estate profession.
    I second this. I have a minor in Urban Sociology.

    Also, While I never took a real estate course I do know a lot about it and think that it is very helpful in our profession.

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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    Another good one is a general real estate course. It allows you to learn about development from a different perspective and allows you to see how your decisions affect the real estate profession.

    Agreed. I went and got my real estate license before I entered grad school, and it has certainly helped me see the "big picture" in planning. Well worth the money/time spent.

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    GIS- way to go.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian geobandito's avatar
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    If you're interested in transportation planning, some transportation/traffic/civil engineering classes are very helpful.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    GIS is over rated!

    There has been a lot of talk about GIS, GIS is a must, GIS this, GIS that, you gotta have it. I tend to disagree.

    While I think it is important to know how GIS works and what is possible using GIS, I am not 100% sold that it is essential to being a good planner. I for one never took a official GIS class at the university level. I took a Cartogarphy and a Maps Charts and Airphotography class but never a "GIS" Specific class.

    If you want to be the GIS guy/gal in the office than great take all the GIS classes offered. But if you are going to do other forms of planning and you have a good understanding of what GIS is and can do then an introductory class or 2 day ESRI Training session is enough. That assumes that there is someone else in the office who does GIS who can do some the tedious stuff like updating the parcel layer etc.

    Don't get me wrong, It is a good tool to have in the tool box for most planners but that is about it, IMO.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Bertrand's avatar
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    GIS Schooling a waste – I concur.

    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    There has been a lot of talk about GIS, GIS is a must, GIS this, GIS that, you gotta have it. I tend to disagree.
    GIS Schooling a waste – I concur.

    In our office we have hired four people over the last 5 years with zero schooling in GIS and send them off for training for a week or two. They remain very proficient at cranking out maps. I wouldn’t waste an entire semester of college learning a software program.

    I think sociology courses are important – especially if you are doing community development planning such as neighborhood planning.
    Satan in the Suburbs

  16. #16
    Cyburbian geobandito's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bertrand
    GIS Schooling a waste – I concur.
    I think it depends on the kind of planning you're doing or intend to do. At the MPO I worked for, we had several GIS technicians, but most of the planners (land use and transportation) did some GIS, either glorified cartography or spatial analysis, as a part of their job. (I think people sometimes have a narrow perception of what GIS is and what can you do with it. It's a useful tool in a lot of ways.)

    We hired several planners while I was there and when we saw some GIS knowledge on a resume, it was a plus. Not a requirement, but a plus. Yes, of course, you can learn the same thing from a couple days of training - just saying if you're looking for a job, it's not a bad thing to have on the CV.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by geobandito
    I think it depends on the kind of planning you're doing or intend to do. At the MPO I worked for, we had several GIS technicians, but most of the planners (land use and transportation) did some GIS, either glorified cartography or spatial analysis, as a part of their job. (I think people sometimes have a narrow perception of what GIS is and what can you do with it. It's a useful tool in a lot of ways.)

    We hired several planners while I was there and when we saw some GIS knowledge on a resume, it was a plus. Not a requirement, but a plus. Yes, of course, you can learn the same thing from a couple days of training - just saying if you're looking for a job, it's not a bad thing to have on the CV.

    Anybody who thinks GIS is a waste doesn't know or understand the time saving miracle it can be. Most older planners don't usually care to understand how much it can really do for you. I never have to get up to find any maps, files, plats, records, permits, sales data, etc. and saves me at least an hour every single day. I really think its a godsend.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    That assumes that there is someone else in the office who does GIS who can do some the tedious stuff like updating the parcel layer etc.
    I'm that guy

    I just wish that all planners would at least learn how to use the "Identify" tool, as well as print their own screenshots. I'm always amazed at how many of them know nothing about GIS and aren't willing to learn, either.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  19. #19
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I took a class on Indian Lands, anticipating that I might one day work for a tribal government or work with one. My soils class and watershed management class are the non-planning classes I have found most useful. Public Administration and Human Resources are handy, particularly if you want to be a boss some day. Geomorphology was a fun class and taught me how to interpret air photos. I also had a riparian management course that has been useful. Of course my river recreation class was my favorite, mostly because it involved a three day canoe trip on the White Cliffs area of the Missouri River.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  20. #20
    Cyburbian geobandito's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    I'm that guy

    I just wish that all planners would at least learn how to use the "Identify" tool, as well as print their own screenshots. I'm always amazed at how many of them know nothing about GIS and aren't willing to learn, either.
    Yeah, it helps to be at an agency big enough that the "real" GIS people can take care of maintaining the data and provide the tech support, and you can just use it!

  21. #21
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    class dismissed

    my 2 favorite non-planning related classes i took way back when (86 grad) that i tap into more now than my planning classes (maybe because that's a given, planning, not sure) are:

    Creative Problem Solving
    Management
    Creative Approaches to Communication

    and yes to the professional development classes in mediation and don't forget facilitation because they are part of your day too

    i wish i had taken statistics and accounting too - the stats questions on the xam totally sucked and if you become a department head, you need to manage a budget

    you really are the "jack of all trades" in this profession so no class you take is a waste of time, really

  22. #22
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    There has been a lot of talk about GIS, GIS is a must, GIS this, GIS that, you gotta have it. I tend to disagree.

    While I think it is important to know how GIS works and what is possible using GIS, I am not 100% sold that it is essential to being a good planner. I for one never took a official GIS class at the university level. I took a Cartogarphy and a Maps Charts and Airphotography class but never a "GIS" Specific class.

    If you want to be the GIS guy/gal in the office than great take all the GIS classes offered. But if you are going to do other forms of planning and you have a good understanding of what GIS is and can do then an introductory class or 2 day ESRI Training session is enough. That assumes that there is someone else in the office who does GIS who can do some the tedious stuff like updating the parcel layer etc.

    Don't get me wrong, It is a good tool to have in the tool box for most planners but that is about it, IMO.
    I agree! As it is my undergraduate program was phenomenal in the quality as well as quantity of planning tools we had to learn about. While I did not do too much in the way of old school cartography, we had several very intensive GIS classes. It has made me much more marketable than some people who don’t have a basic understanding.

    Now, I have a split job discription and duties. While 80% to 90% of my time is doing zoning and codes, 10% to 20% is GIS. While some is basic stuff, I have done some surface analysis, spatial analysis, and even 3D slope rendering.

    I feel very comfortable using the program, but I like the idea that I am not the “GIS” guy. Our GIS tech can just about make ESRI dance and when we need something, he can do it in much less time than we give him. But, he almost never gets out of the office.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  23. #23
    Member DRJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    There has been a lot of talk about GIS, GIS is a must, GIS this, GIS that, you gotta have it. I tend to disagree.

    While I think it is important to know how GIS works and what is possible using GIS, I am not 100% sold that it is essential to being a good planner. I for one never took a official GIS class at the university level. I took a Cartogarphy and a Maps Charts and Airphotography class but never a "GIS" Specific class.

    If you want to be the GIS guy/gal in the office than great take all the GIS classes offered. But if you are going to do other forms of planning and you have a good understanding of what GIS is and can do then an introductory class or 2 day ESRI Training session is enough. That assumes that there is someone else in the office who does GIS who can do some the tedious stuff like updating the parcel layer etc.

    Don't get me wrong, It is a good tool to have in the tool box for most planners but that is about it, IMO.

    It is important to have an understanding of how GIS works and what it can do. This allows the planner to speak in the same language as the GIS techs so that you get what you need in a particular situation. The knowledge to drive the GIS system is evolving into a seperate but complementary portion of organizational structure. They are either a seperate department, or a seperate job listing within the agency. I know this is not the case in all areas (especially smaller towns and counties), but is certainly the case in most larger governmental and private entities.

  24. #24

    Classes

    I'd like to add that a few environmental classes never hurt anybody. I would suggest taking something that offers you a good understanding of environmental laws and concepts. Two of the best classes I took were on brownfields (important regardless of the size city/town you'll be in) and Enivonmental Impact Assessment. We went all through how to read, understand, and even prepare a complete EIS.

    As for classes I wish I took but didn't- civil engineering. At least an introductory course. Sure I can read site plans for contours and other basic concepts, but I wish I understood more about water and sewer lines, grading, erosion control, etc.

    As for the great GIS debate, take a class. Its not the holy grail of planning, but its worth one class out of the 20 you'll likely take.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian big_g's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    I agree! As it is my undergraduate program was phenomenal in the quality as well as quantity of planning tools we had to learn about. While I did not do too much in the way of old school cartography, we had several very intensive GIS classes. It has made me much more marketable than some people who don’t have a basic understanding.

    Now, I have a split job discription and duties. While 80% to 90% of my time is doing zoning and codes, 10% to 20% is GIS. While some is basic stuff, I have done some surface analysis, spatial analysis, and even 3D slope rendering.

    I feel very comfortable using the program, but I like the idea that I am not the “GIS” guy. Our GIS tech can just about make ESRI dance and when we need something, he can do it in much less time than we give him. But, he almost never gets out of the office.
    michaelskis and I went through the same undergrad program (go wildcats!). I didn't have as much GIS as he did but I got a good exposure to the basic concepts. I wish i had taken some more advanced courses. Since graduating a couple of years ago, I haven't had the opportunity to keep my GIS skills sharp because my work thus far has not required it. I am still trying to land a planning job and I know that I need to find some way work on those skills.

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