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Thread: How can I became a planning director?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    How can I became a planning director?

    If you have a masters in city planning and work for a city planning department, after how many years there can you be considered for becoming director of the department.

  2. #2
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    It all depends. It’s not about degrees and years of experience, rather it’s about skills and abilities.

  3. #3
    Member CosmicMojo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    It all depends. It’s not about degrees and years of experience, rather it’s about skills and abilities.
    and available positions; you have to wait for someone to move on so the position's open

  4. #4
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Stage a bloody coup?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Get some administrative experience. Manage a grant or some other program where you are responsible for the budget. Get on an interview committee for hiring. Get some supervisory experience, even an intern helps. And be willing to move.

    I became a director after a masters and 18 months. But I was willing to go to a small county.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    about how much do directors get paid?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    my Director makes about $150k. and has the stanard govt benefit package.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Future_Planner
    about how much do directors get paid?
    It varies a lot depending on region. Since you're from Texas, the majority of director's salaries run between $50K and about $175K, depending on city size for the most part. My director position was on the low end at $42K due to my low experience and it being a little exurb of just over 5,000 people. They will have to bump it up to $50K-$55K and do some major surgery on their benefits package to attract another good planning director with enough quality experience. As far as a good city to get in with, I'd suggest cities between 20,000 and 50,000 population--they are small enough that you can gain a load of different experiences, but big enough that they can face serious planning issues, have fairly complex budgeting and personnel issues.

    Experience is the key to getting a director position. At your first job you should have a sit-down with the director or assistant director (if you're in a really big department) to discuss your career goals. Ask if you can get into the nuts and bolts of the budget preparation process so you can gain that experience--budget knowledge seems to be the thing that can most hamper advancement. Also, I highly recommend a MPA if you want to be a director, especially in a larger city--you will find those positions have a lot less to do with planning and much more to deal with personnel management, budgeting and, sadly to say, politics.

    As far as length of service with a masters, I'd say about 5-7 years at a minimum is needed before you can make a really viable run. What's more important is what you do in those years.

    "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)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    What do u think about directors in Texas in a city with a population of 180,000.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The quickest way to move up is to move around. Think of all of the people with more seniority than you who are now working in your department. Do you want to wait around for most of them to move on, and still compete with your peers for the director's job? By moving you jump ahead.

    Another way to get to be a director quickly is to go to smaller communities. I had my first director position when I was 28 because I went to a small community where they were happy to have someone with my education and experience.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Be willing to move. I am in my fifth job, all relocates, and you must be willing to work long hours. Remember the farther you move up the less involved you will be with real planning. Also, remember as you climb the ladder of "success" the closer you get to the burning rays of the sun.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TOFB
    Be willing to move. I am in my fifth job, all relocates, and you must be willing to work long hours. Remember the farther you move up the less involved you will be with real planning. Also, remember as you climb the ladder of "success" the closer you get to the burning rays of the sun.
    I'll second what TOFB said and add make sure it's really what you want. The stress level increases dramatically and the job security goes down. Pick your community carefully. Develop a thick skin but also be very flexible.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Don't forget that in small communities the "Town Planner" in a 1 person department is essentially the director in charge of all planning responsibilities. You might not have the title, but its probably the best route towards being a director somewhere else.

  14. #14
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Future_Planner
    What do u think about directors in Texas in a city with a population of 180,000.
    I don't know that one off the top of my head. However, government employee salaries are public information. Also, I'd suggest you contact the director in Laredo and explain to him that you are in HS and interested in a career in planning, with a goal of being a director in a City similar to Laredo. I'm sure you can milk his salary out of him (worst case scenario you file a RFI with the City Secretary). You might even be able to convince him to let you tail him for a day or two to see what its like. That early contact might be good for an internship later and even an entry-level job following graduation.

    "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)

  15. #15
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Future_Planner
    What do u think about directors in Texas in a city with a population of 180,000.

    You don't go into planning to worry about making money. You go in it to help guide the future and facilitate sound decisions being made by politicians.

    The bottom line is good planners will be marketable and generally happy with their career choices. If you want to work for this specific place, you will be happier there than working somewhere else that may pay you a few grand extra. Eventually your ethusiam will be recognized and rewarded if you stay at a place, and work for a citizenry you care about.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  16. #16
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Ambition is a good thing. Not even out of planning school and wants to know how to become a planning director. Though I have thought about it from time to time, I don't think I would want to be the planning director. No. 2 planner in the department is a good position to be. You get to be the boss sometimes, but you are just a deputy director of planning.

    Being the person in charge all the time of dealing with the knuckleheads that come into the office, the commissioners and especially the knuckleheads and soreheads who work in the office is too much for me. At least for now.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  17. #17
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    The tallest blade of grass is the first to get cut.

    In my opinion a person shouldn't aspire to be a director as an ego thing, and the fact that you are asking these questions makes me wonder how inexperienced you must be. A person should want to become a director once they have reached the point where they are confident in their decision-making, and they are ready to take responsibility for everything that happens below them. Like some other people said, it is all about moving up as you move around. Most people, eventually in their career, reach the point where they want to be in charge because their experience has built up to it and they have great ideas on how to run a department well. They are ready to take the reigns, instead of being told what to do by someone else.

    I know of two director vacancies near me now.. one starts at about 48K and requires no supervisor experience, and the other starts at about 66K and requires at least 7 years supervisor experience. Of course, they both require several years of planning and zoning experience.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    Don't forget that in small communities the "Town Planner" in a 1 person department is essentially the director in charge of all planning responsibilities. You might not have the title, but its probably the best route towards being a director somewhere else.

    Well, to speak from experience...I am 3/4 done with my Masters in May, and I have been a Planning Director now for 6 weeks in a small community (5500). I do it all, for better or worse. I do everything from zoning administration, changing the zoning code, dealing with knuckleheads, and brainstorming grand ideas and programs to implement. My salary is in the low 30's, but it depends on the part of the country you are in and the size and fiscal responsibility of the community.

    It's not all the glory the title says and I didn't do it for the title. I took it because I want to stay in the Midwest area and planning jobs are hard to come by here. It was open, I applied, I was accepted. Will I stay forever, highly unlikely--Do I like it? Most days (then again, I've only been there 6 weeks.)

    As they say in the planning field--it depends.

    Good luck as your career progresses

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plus
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    I echo otterpop's observation.
    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)

  20. #20
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cch
    In my opinion a person shouldn't aspire to be a director as an ego thing, and the fact that you are asking these questions makes me wonder how inexperienced you must be. A person should want to become a director once they have reached the point where they are confident in their decision-making, and they are ready to take responsibility for everything that happens below them. Like some other people said, it is all about moving up as you move around. Most people, eventually in their career, reach the point where they want to be in charge because their experience has built up to it and they have great ideas on how to run a department well. They are ready to take the reigns, instead of being told what to do by someone else.
    I agree with this opinion.

    I was very glad to have worked my first 7 years out of school up to project manager in the private sector, then started over in the public sector working my way up after another 6 years to be a planning director - I was really ready, had watched enough good and bad situations get worse or better - it's amazing how much you can learn at those lower level positions because you're in the know because you are there, you can watch the meetings, read all the documents but you are not responsible - you can even take some risks yourself to learn because, hey, you're not responsible (just ask first)

    so stay cool, be an intern making copies, then get that entry level position when you graduate and watch & learn - there's alot they don't tell you in planning school

    what I found is hard work and a little humility pays off when working your way up

  21. #21
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    This thread has new significance. Last week my boss resigned. Here was my opportunity to join the applicants for his job. Am I going to do it? No. I like it where I am at. Even my wife, who would love me to bring home more bling, doesn't want me to do it.

    Of course I may regret it later, when the new director comes in and I realize she/he is a major tool. But senior planner is fine with me. And in not too many more years I will be eligible for a new position title - senior citizen planner.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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