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Thread: How can I get a planning internship?

  1. #1
    I live in an area that is growing rapidly (the southern part of Santa Clara County in CA) and planning seems like a facinating profession to me. I have looked at the websites for several cities in my area and most of them have openings for planners. My friend is an urban planner and he showed me what he does. However I have a degree in History with no planning experience (I'm 25 years old). I was wondering if getting an internship would be the best and most viable way to break into this profession, and how I could get one. Should I contact the planning divisions in these cities directly and ask if they have any internship offerings? Will they ask what my experience is and why I want to become a planner? Are the internships usually paid or unpaid?

    Thanks for any advice, I really appreciate it.

    Please, I need help guys...anyone have advice?
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 01 Nov 2005 at 3:51 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Usually internships are tied in with a student working toward their degree.

    An internship can be paid or unpaid depending on at least two factors -
    dept budget and their organizational/cultural structure toward having interns.

    Internship wages are usually low w/o benefits and work less than half time, again oriented toward a student.
    Oddball
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    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by JNA
    Usually internships are tied in with a student working toward their degree.

    An internship can be paid or unpaid depending on at least two factors -
    dept budget and their organizational/cultural structure toward having interns.

    Internship wages are usually low w/o benefits and work less than half time, again oriented toward a student.
    I have a friend who already graduated with a degree in economics, and he landed an internship which was 20 hours a week. How do I get one of those?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Internships are often posted at college employment offices and often directly through departments. Check out other campuses as well as your own. You can also look at the handful that get posted on the APA web site.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    I have a friend who already graduated with a degree in economics, and he landed an internship which was 20 hours a week. How do I get one of those?
    An internship is typically tied with college course work and there may be personnel rules that stipulate internships are only available to those actively enrolled with a university. The other option is to volunteer your time to a department. This may not be available within certain jurisdictions due to union regulations.

    How did your friend land his paid internship? His degree is probably relevant to the work he is doing within the department. Having a relevant degree (minimum) makes getting in the door easier.

    You could try emailing the director or supervisor of sections and ask if there are any interhship or volunteer opportunities available. The pay part is probably unlikely, you are looking for exposure and experience.

    You are trying to break into the profession with little or no direct experience and no direct relevant academic experience. Enroll back into school, take undergraduate urban course or get a masters in planning. Enrolling in school for a semester gives you a better reason to seek an internship. Theoretically, that may be enough for you to convince the organization of your worth to stay on board after your intership has ended. A masters typically takes two years, the degree makes obtaining a position somewhere in the U.S. much easier

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    i never had a paid internship during my undergrad studies (planning). there were a few, but somehow i never got them. however, i only put in 5-6 hours a week anyways (i probably would have put in more if it was paid, but the internship was in addition to a paying job). anyways, i had 3 unpaid internships during undergrad, but they helped me get a paying job in planning once i graduated. so i would recommend getting an unpaid position if you must, and have another paying job as well; there is a good chance that eventually they may offer you a position. that seems to happen frequently. this may be inconvenient, but definitely a good strategy. no one has ever turned down my offer of free help.

  7. #7
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    The undergrad planning program at my school actually requires 6 quarters of (generally paid) internships as part of its cooperative education program. Being halfway through the program, and currently in an internship, I believe without question that all schools should have this requirement.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    I had no problem getting paid internships... I had three while an undergrad. I would recommend contacting local planning departments to see if they are interested in getting an intern. I know when I worked as a county planner, we had an intern budget, but simply waited for them to come to us from teh local university.
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  9. #9
    Hey guys, good news. I went to my planning department in my city and asked if they had internships. They said yes but not right now. However, I could intern as a volunteer which may turn into a paid position. I start this friday. I will work there 1 day a week for 8 hours, on top of my usual 40 hour job.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    Hey guys, good news. I went to my planning department in my city and asked if they had internships. They said yes but not right now. However, I could intern as a volunteer which may turn into a paid position. I start this friday. I will work there 1 day a week for 8 hours, on top of my usual 40 hour job.

    good job, hope you have fun licking envelopes. Now it is your job to convince everyone you're worth having around.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Congrats on getting your foot in the door.
    As your schedule allows try to attend night meetings such as:
    Council on zoning night, Planning Board, BZA, neighborhood meetings.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

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