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Thread: Practicality of a BS in Civil Engineering and a MS in Urban Planning

  1. #1
         
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    Practicality of a BS in Civil Engineering and a MS in Urban Planning

    I知 a rising senior in high school and have recently been looking around at colleges and contemplating possible majors. Urban planning has really caught my eye as a future career. I知 wondering if it would be practical to go for a BS in Civil Engineering and then go to grad school for a MS in Urban Planning. Do employers look favorably on those dual degrees? Does the job market have positions that require those degrees? Are salaries better with combined engineering and planning degrees than with just a planning degree?

    Any advice in this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    A BS in Engineering is a great and very safe, versatile absolutely practical undergrad degree to get. You'll have a lot of choices for subject concentration. Do you like math?

  3. #3
         
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    Yeah, math is one of my stronger subjects, and I enjoy it. Would a concentration in transportation engineering be better for going on as an urban planner, or is any concentration in civil engineering beneficial? Something tells me that structural engineering would be less relevant, but I could be wrong.

    Thanks for your reply!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    The sad part is that you'll probably make *less* as a planner than a CE after spending the additional time / money to get the master's in the first place. That doesn't even take into account the lost wages from not working as a CE for those 2 years. AFAIK, in general CE's make significantly more than planners.

    Now, if you go into something technical like traffic planning this probably won't be the case, but as a general planner it would.

    My advise? Get a good liberal arts degree. Decide what you like as a freshman, and get a degree in that. If you still want to go into planning, get the planning degree then.

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    I don't ever recalled meeting anyone who had that combination of degrees. Many engineers are by-the -book types and often focus on just their engineering issues. That's the type of training you will get with that track. Planners are trained to take a more comprehensive approach and to include the public in decision making. I have only meet a few engineers that had the softer people skills more associated with planners. I once met a traffic engineer that had both skill sets and handled a tense neighborhood meeting with ease as he explained how traffic moved around a hospital site and the adjacent neighborhood. I don't think I saw anyone do it better job with a hostile crowd. A person with both degrees could evenually make a good Public Works Director, Planning Department Director, or do well in a private consulting firm.

    If you decide to study engineering as an undergrad try to take a few classes associated with planning. Look at electives such as human geography, environmental design, urban policy, communications to get an understanding of the issues and ideas planners work with. It will make you a better engineer even if you don't go on to be a planner.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jmac's avatar
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    I have a BS in civil engineering and currently work as a transportation planner at a consulting firm. I started in highway design after graduating and quickly decided it wasn't for me... I've been able to move into a group that mainly does travel demand modeling, toll/revenue analysis, comprehensive planning, and transit work. It was a pretty easy transition, and involves both technical work and public interaction.

    One of the transportation/highway professors in my engineering program was focused on transportation modeling, transit operations, urban transportation design, and pedestrian and bicycle facilities. He was very influential in shaping my interests. Engineering programs will vary significantly according to the interests of the faculty; it can be really helpful to check out the faculty's pages and look over their research topics and the classes they teach.

    Of course, I entered school as a chemical engineering major, so the planning didn't help me out at all. Luck did, though.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Iron Ring's avatar
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    I also have a BS in Civil Engineering and now work as a Transportation Engineer for a consulting firm (working closely with many planners). A BS in Civil along with a MS in Planning is certainly a very valuable combination and I know of a few ppl who have done exactly that. Transportation is certainly the obvious overlap area, but municipal engineering is also very relevant (ie water/wastewater).

    As has been suggested already, if you go this route make sure you take a civil program that will allow you to take many courses which are applicable to planning. At my school I was able to take courses in urban planning, site planning, economics. Transportation, water/wastewater, surveying, statistics would also be useful to a future planner.

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I agree that a liberal arts degree then the MURP or whatever is a good way to go - being well educated in social sciences, law, environmental sciences, writing/speaking/mapping, and hard sciences is the key to a successful, and, I will add that my Shakespeare classes I took 20 years ago help keep my sanity knowing the world is no different than the Bard

    I will say, I wish I was more fluent in engineering practice - generalist planners have to know a little about everything just so they know when to call in peer review or a consultant -


  9. #9
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Hopefully I'll be able to speak to this topic in 3 or 4 years.

    I'd say that having the background in engineering would provide you with a good perspective as you'd see the 'nuts and bolts' approach taught to the municipal and transportation engineers who implement the plans laid out by professional planners.

    An engineering education is not for the faint of heart, though. Seriously, it's not just the math, either. An engineering curriculum can often take alot of the freedom away from students (in choosing which electives they want to read.) If you wish to take some planning courses, I'd suggest doing a lot of research on curricula at the schools you're most interested, and be warned that it may require 5 years to fit in all the requisite engineering courses and the electives you want. (incidentally, very few people graduate with engineering degrees in 4 years, anyway.)
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by PhantomOwl
    I知 a rising senior in high school and have recently been looking around at colleges and contemplating possible majors. Urban planning has really caught my eye as a future career. I知 wondering if it would be practical to go for a BS in Civil Engineering and then go to grad school for a MS in Urban Planning. Do employers look favorably on those dual degrees? Does the job market have positions that require those degrees? Are salaries better with combined engineering and planning degrees than with just a planning degree?

    Any advice in this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    You will probably make more money in Engineering than Urban Planning. Many positions that I have seen that are relevant to engineering and planning will accept just an engineering degree. Also, engineers and planners think about things differently. I was going to get a BS in Civil Engineering and came across Urban Planning so now I have a BS in Urban Planning. I have to remember that I need to think like a planner and not an engineer.

    Why not get a BS in Planning if you want to do planning?

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