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Thread: MPA or MCRP

  1. #1

    MPA or MCRP

    I have completed 2 internships at planning departments and have recently been accepted to a Masters in city and regional planning program at Cal Poly SLO. The career looks promising because there will be a huge population increase in California and planning seems like it will be a very prevalent issue. I am sure there will be plenty of good jobs in the planning profession because of this. However, I recently have been looking at the cirriculums for a Masters in Public Admin, or Masters in Public Policy, and they sound fascinating. They cover a whole range of issues that pertain to government, health care, finance, and planning. However, it seems too general, like a liberal arts degree. I am wondering if I should defer working on my masters degree until I figure what I should do. And does the MPA degree give you practical experience and knowledge so that you can find work right after you graduate? Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Is getting a job now, and persuing a graduate degree part-time while you work and figure things out an option.

    From the courses you mention, alot of the stuff will overlap. Can you dual up?

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff
    Is getting a job now, and persuing a graduate degree part-time while you work and figure things out an option.

    From the courses you mention, alot of the stuff will overlap. Can you dual up?
    I've been working on my MPA in the evenings while working full-time. I knew that if I left school entirely after my undergrad, there was no way I would go back to grad school. Besides, many places will offer tuition reimbursement if you are willing to sell your soul to them for x years after you finish (which is what I'm doing).

    If your undergrad was in planning, then I suggest the MPA. A MCRP will duplicate a significant amount of stuff from your undergrad and most MPAs have a special planning track.

    As you move up the food chain in planning, the value of understanding public finance, personnel issues, etc. becomes increasingly important. If your goal is upper-level management, then MPA is the way to go.

    Definitely look into a dual degree. I can't imagine it adding a lot of time to your graduate school... maybe a year.

    "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)

  4. #4
    Well, my undergrad was in history. But I see that the MCRP offers a public policy class and a management class, and it also has two free slots for electives, which could be for more public policy and management classes. Maybe an MPA isn't necessary. An MCRP should be sufficient to become a director eventually. The director where I work only has an MCRP. But what about a city manager...or mayor? Elected office? That would seem to utilize the MPA more than an MCRP. Maybe even a law degree.

  5. #5
    When I was getting my MCRP, there were several borough/township managers who were also taking taking classes part time to get the degree. That being said, I think you ought to make a choice, as best you can, between a long term interest in day-to-day public/government administration and actual community or infrastructure planning. There's a good bit of overlap between the programs and professions, to be sure - enough so that I'd suggest getting both degrees would be redundant. For what it's worth, my undergrad degree was not planning related (communication), and I went for the MCRP (I wanted to be a planner, not a budget monkey - no offense intended!).

    EDIT: In my admittedly limited experience, directors and executive directors I'm familiar with have planning degrees and AICP certification. It may also be a factor for your decision that an MCRP or MCP can be credited toward AICP, but I don't believe an MPA can (unless it's highly planning focused, in which case what's the point?)

  6. #6
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    Well, my undergrad was in history. But I see that the MCRP offers a public policy class and a management class, and it also has two free slots for electives, which could be for more public policy and management classes. Maybe an MPA isn't necessary. An MCRP should be sufficient to become a director eventually. The director where I work only has an MCRP. But what about a city manager...or mayor? Elected office? That would seem to utilize the MPA more than an MCRP. Maybe even a law degree.
    In that case I suggest the MCRP since you have some elective flexibility. However, I cannot stress the value of public finance and personnel management classes enough.

    "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)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    I have completed 2 internships at planning departments and have recently been accepted to a Masters in city and regional planning program at Cal Poly SLO. The career looks promising because there will be a huge population increase in California and planning seems like it will be a very prevalent issue. I am sure there will be plenty of good jobs in the planning profession because of this. However, I recently have been looking at the cirriculums for a Masters in Public Admin, or Masters in Public Policy, and they sound fascinating. They cover a whole range of issues that pertain to government, health care, finance, and planning. However, it seems too general, like a liberal arts degree. I am wondering if I should defer working on my masters degree until I figure what I should do. And does the MPA degree give you practical experience and knowledge so that you can find work right after you graduate? Thanks for any advice!
    I have a MPA and was hired as a planner before I graduated. You will get enough practical experience and with your internships you should be fine. The MPA is comprehensive, however, it gives you the ability to do a lot differnet things like working in public policy, public managing, public finance as well as planning. MPA is a great program look into it some more.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Crabkey
    I have a MPA and was hired as a planner before I graduated. You will get enough practical experience and with your internships you should be fine. The MPA is comprehensive, however, it gives you the ability to do a lot differnet things like working in public policy, public managing, public finance as well as planning. MPA is a great program look into it some more.
    To be honest I haven't really had that much exposure during my internships. I am not ready to be a planner yet. I haven't even had any counter experiences! But is an MPA so broad that public agencies won't take it as a serious degree? Is there any intrinsic value an MPA has over an MCRP, or vice versa? Because it seems like an MCRP will get you a job right off the bat, while an MPA won't since its so broad.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    You won't get a job right off the bat with a masters in planning unless employers are really desperate - especially in the public sector as they have to follow hiring procedures. The best it will do is get you an interview. In the public sector, you typically get points as you meet and exceed the minimum qualifications. If there are a lot of applications and the min qualification is a degree in planning, then you may lose points with an MPA and then won't even get an interview. However, everything is relative and the other candidates may not have planning degrees either or even internship experiences, so your education is not your sole factor.

    I would like to stress though that University is not about job training - it is about higher learning and understanding - what you do with that knowledge is ultimately up to you. I say this b/c you will spend a minimum of 2 years (for grad program) to earn a qualification that does not quarantee you a job. Education is only one of many factors and if getting a job is more important that higher learning in your chosen subject of interest then I would suggest spending your resources and those 2 years shoring up other aspects of your portfolio that would make you a more lucrative applicant. This can work for you since I am assuming you have your undergrad, so really you can shore up other areas of on your resume.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by RubberStamp Man
    You won't get a job right off the bat with a masters in planning unless employers are really desperate - especially in the public sector as they have to follow hiring procedures. The best it will do is get you an interview. In the public sector, you typically get points as you meet and exceed the minimum qualifications. If there are a lot of applications and the min qualification is a degree in planning, then you may lose points with an MPA and then won't even get an interview. However, everything is relative and the other candidates may not have planning degrees either or even internship experiences, so your education is not your sole factor.

    I would like to stress though that University is not about job training - it is about higher learning and understanding - what you do with that knowledge is ultimately up to you. I say this b/c you will spend a minimum of 2 years (for grad program) to earn a qualification that does not quarantee you a job. Education is only one of many factors and if getting a job is more important that higher learning in your chosen subject of interest then I would suggest spending your resources and those 2 years shoring up other aspects of your portfolio that would make you a more lucrative applicant. This can work for you since I am assuming you have your undergrad, so really you can shore up other areas of on your resume.
    Getting a job is more important to me than anything. I'd rather not go to school again but if I have to then so be it. The masters program I applied to has a 100% job placement record, claiming all graduates find employment with high salaries, and follows the mantra "learn by doing." It's very practical, so it is job training in a sense. I honestly don't see how I could get a job without a masters degree in this. How do you get a job in anything that offers a middle class income these days, with only a BA?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    The masters program I applied to has a 100% job placement record, claiming all graduates find employment with high salaries, and follows the mantra "learn by doing."
    Huh? How can they claim that ALL graduates find employment with "high salaries"? What does that even mean? Are you sure you didn't apply to a Microsoft-Certified Network Administrator technical program? I hear ads like that all the time on the radio...

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by SpringfieldMonorail
    Huh? How can they claim that ALL graduates find employment with "high salaries"? What does that even mean? Are you sure you didn't apply to a Microsoft-Certified Network Administrator technical program? I hear ads like that all the time on the radio...
    Actually they said "excellent salaries", not high salaries. My bad. But they do claim 100% placement of their students. This is Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    1. What is the time frame for people finding jobs?
    2. Do the 100% find jobs in the field for which they studied?
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
    http://hafd.org/~jordanb/ Pretentious Weblog.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    Getting a job is more important to me than anything. I'd rather not go to school again but if I have to then so be it. The masters program I applied to has a 100% job placement record, claiming all graduates find employment with high salaries, and follows the mantra "learn by doing." It's very practical, so it is job training in a sense. I honestly don't see how I could get a job without a masters degree in this. How do you get a job in anything that offers a middle class income these days, with only a BA?
    Dude - there is no relationship between level of education and salary. It used to be a crude, quick and easy indicator, but not today. You make what you want out of your career. There are MBAs working as bank tellers and successful businesses owned and operated by people whom haven't even completed a high school diploma. There are PhD taxi drivers and millionaire real estate agents that don't have a degree. Level of education is no longer the best or primary measure of income in a world saturated with degree earners. 40-30-20 years ago was different than today.

    But my point was and is, based on my experiences as an interviewer and interviewee, that in the public sector don't expect to get a job offer JUST because you have met or exceeded the minimum education qualifications for that position. There are many other factors that are accounted for in the hiring process, which is exacerbated in a competitive market.

    Oh and planners tend to not make very much money. Sure there are a few outliers but on the whole it is a very average and modest income, despite your education level. If you want to get a good job and make very good money with the least amount of time, think about getting a trade.

    But as to your original question, an MCRP tends to be more hands on than an MPA. The latter is more management and administrative focussed. Many managers tend to take courses to bone up in management. I think though that the MPA would be more useful mid-career so that you can relate to the management process with the experiences of your corporation or level of government under your belt unless you are lucky enough to get an entry or mid level project management/specialist type of position.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    Getting a job is more important to me than anything. I'd rather not go to school again but if I have to then so be it. The masters program I applied to has a 100% job placement record, claiming all graduates find employment with high salaries, and follows the mantra "learn by doing." It's very practical, so it is job training in a sense. I honestly don't see how I could get a job without a masters degree in this. How do you get a job in anything that offers a middle class income these days, with only a BA?
    Dude - there is no relationship between level of education and salary. It used to be a crude, quick and easy indicator, but not today. You make what you want out of your career. There are MBAs working as bank tellers and successful businesses owned and operated by people whom haven't even completed a high school diploma. There are PhD taxi drivers and millionaire real estate agents that don't have a degree. Level of education is no longer the best or primary measure of income in a world saturated with degree earners. 40-30-20 years ago was different than today.

    But my point was and is, based on my experiences as an interviewer and interviewee, that in the public sector don't expect to get a job offer JUST because you have met or exceeded the minimum education qualifications for that position. There are many other factors that are accounted for in the hiring process, which is exacerbated in a competitive market.

    Oh and planners tend to not make very much money. Sure there are a few outliers but on the whole it is a very average and modest income, despite your education level. If you want to get a good job and make very good money with the least amount of time, think about getting a trade.

    But as to your original question, an MCRP tends to be more hands on than an MPA. The latter is more management and administrative focussed. Many managers tend to take courses to bone up in management. I think though that the MPA would be more useful mid-career so that you can relate to the management process with the experiences of your corporation or level of government under your belt unless you are lucky enough to get an entry or mid level project management/specialist type of position.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by RubberStamp Man
    Oh and planners tend to not make very much money. Sure there are a few outliers but on the whole it is a very average and modest income, despite your education level. If you want to get a good job and make very good money with the least amount of time, think about getting a trade.
    You mean like an electrician, or a plumber? What do you mean by trade?

    And why would an MCRP exist if it gave you only a modicum advantage in the workforce?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    Yes - a trade would be a plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic - many of these trades will earn more than some professionals, including planning.

    Education is not about training for the labour force. It is about higher learning. Graduate degrees are not about increasing your income earning power - the advent and popularity of the MBA though probably ballooned this notion.

    IMO a masters in planning exists to offer opportunity for those whom have already completed an undergrad into the planning field and can draw on their other knowledge to contribute to planning - planning afterall is a very broad and diverse subject and profession. If you had an undergrad, would you likely go back and do another undergrad in planning? The same can be said about the other masters professional degrees - architecture, landscape architecture. Law enjoys a much older and richer history and is not comparable. Engineering course structure requirements are also set up different and I don't think can be done in 2 years.

    If you look at undergrad planning and grad planning programs there is not much different in terms of course work and knowledge, which makes sense b/c there are minimum standards that are required to be a recognised planning school as set by the national professional association.

    But, everything else being equal, a grad degree would give you an edge over an undergrad.

  18. #18
    Interesting topic here for me.

    RubberStamp Man: What do you mean that a planning degree is more hands-on compared with a degree in MPA? Job prospect-wise, would it make sense for an under 30 year old to get into planning first, and then study towards more policy-oriented/MPA work?

    It seems that although there is quite a bit of overlap, it could also be possible to focus on two very different aspects under a Planning degree versus an MPA degree. e.g. planning usually deals with more local or maybe regional areas, but public admin and affairs can be more on the national-scales and stuff in between.

    Also, I would think a masters part-time or full-time would be quite intensive, how do you people manage to hold a full-time job while getting yourself another degree?!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    Gkostad Staegenheim: good clarification question. I was responding more to the perception/question on which degree seemed to be more practical. By hands on I meant closer to the ground. Planning tends to be more hands-on b/c of its diversity - a large proportion of professional planners practice in development control, which tends to reflect tangible elements such as soils, grading, infrastructure, buildings, etc. I am guessing that a good portion of Public Admin grads practice in the policy arena, whether its corporate strategic planning, program finance (e.g. farm subsidies), etc. all of which tend to have a less tangible focus. Don't get me wrong, there is also a significant portion of policy planners, not all of which work in the land use arena, that also do less tangible work than their collegues in development control.

    In terms of overlap it really depends on what you focus. Definately more planning schools could benefit from the policy theory and analysis courses that MPA schools are offering - but not every planner works significantly within the policy framework so in practice there wouldn't be much overlap there. The different geographic scales, i.e. local, regional, national is less relevant than the actual core of the work, such as problem definition, information gathering, analysis, and policy formation. The subject applications could be different but I am assuming the decision making process (excluding approval by elected officials) are the same.

    Others in this thread whom have taken both degrees or the MPA can correct me if I am wrong, but my planning school had close ties to the MPA school, where it took a PA course so I am basing my next opinion on my experience there. The difference I see between the two programs is that planning is more focussed on the subject - what were, are, will be good planning principles? - how are these principles developed, implemented, refined? - what are appropriate approaches and methods to comprehensive planning? - how does the natural environment interact with human settlements, the impacts of the latter on the former, and then vice versa? - what are the effects of the widening income gap disparity upon the built environment and the overall population? - and of course there is some focus on the methods of enquiry such as population forecasting, subdivision cut/fill, human-scale building ratios, etc. MPA I think focusses more on the broader skills inherent in public administration - governance, financing, economics, public equity, and policy formulation.

  20. #20
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RubberStamp Man View post

    Others in this thread whom have taken both degrees or the MPA can correct me if I am wrong, but my planning school had close ties to the MPA school, where it took a PA course so I am basing my next opinion on my experience there. The difference I see between the two programs is that planning is more focussed on the subject - what were, are, will be good planning principles? - how are these principles developed, implemented, refined? - what are appropriate approaches and methods to comprehensive planning? - how does the natural environment interact with human settlements, the impacts of the latter on the former, and then vice versa? - what are the effects of the widening income gap disparity upon the built environment and the overall population? - and of course there is some focus on the methods of enquiry such as population forecasting, subdivision cut/fill, human-scale building ratios, etc. MPA I think focusses more on the broader skills inherent in public administration - governance, financing, economics, public equity, and policy formulation.
    You are generally correct. There's probably about three schools of thought on the function of public administration/public service. I won't go into the others, but the one I tend to subscribe to is that public administration is a framework in which another profession is applied. For example, someone can work in HR in the private or public sector, but the public sector operates a little differently when it comes to personnel management because of things like civil service, etc. A planner in the public sector is more apt to craft new policies to address street connectivity, while a planner in the private sector uses those regulations and theories to physically design. Basically, its a different way to apply a similar set of skills--but one is responsive directly to a client while the other is responsive to the public and has to deal with maintaining the public trust, etc. This is a big reason you see so much variance between planning schools and different degree tracks within each school. I actually gave a class presentation on this in my public management and ethics course not to far back.

    "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)

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gkorstad Staegenheim View post
    Interesting topic here for me.

    RubberStamp Man: What do you mean that a planning degree is more hands-on compared with a degree in MPA? Job prospect-wise, would it make sense for an under 30 year old to get into planning first, and then study towards more policy-oriented/MPA work?

    It seems that although there is quite a bit of overlap, it could also be possible to focus on two very different aspects under a Planning degree versus an MPA degree. e.g. planning usually deals with more local or maybe regional areas, but public admin and affairs can be more on the national-scales and stuff in between.

    Also, I would think a masters part-time or full-time would be quite intensive, how do you people manage to hold a full-time job while getting yourself another degree?!

    "but public admin and affairs can be more on the national-scales and stuff in between."

    This is not true. An MPA is useful on the local level for it offers skills in management, the ablity in making policy decisons and often thinking outside the box. Planning decisions are policy decisions for a town or city. Any local government would be lucky to have an MPA or two working in that government, they are specialized in understanding all aspects and functions of government, and some are even planners.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by Crabkey View post
    "but public admin and affairs can be more on the national-scales and stuff in between."

    This is not true. An MPA is useful on the local level for it offers skills in management, the ablity in making policy decisons and often thinking outside the box. Planning decisions are policy decisions for a town or city. Any local government would be lucky to have an MPA or two working in that government, they are specialized in understanding all aspects and functions of government, and some are even planners.
    Sorry, I wasn't clear enough in my wording. I meant to say that while planning is often on the more local level (though not forgetting the importance of regional planning), public affairs seem to be more on the national scales and "everything in between" including the local.

    Of course, there is also international public affairs which I should tack on there now since I'm on a roll!

    ---
    But having said that, and please correct me if I'm wrong, from my understanding public admin/affairs/policy/management does seem to have a tendency to be more higher up focused (i.e. national, state-level). Or at least the offering of programs seem to suggest a bias towards 'higher-level' policies and affairs, as opposed to more locally-oriented themes. (Even though I do know of programs that have a local government focus).

  23. #23
    So if I'm more interested in state and national issues, I should get into an mpa program? What kinds of jobs could I get? An Mpa seems so vauge...like a liberal arts degree.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    MPA is broad

    An MPA is broad covering HR, Public Policy, Public Finance/ Budgeting, Planning, Non-Profit and offers the science and theories behind public administration in how government operates on the local, state and federal level. It is not vague, but broad. Find online an university that offers an MPA and look at the courses. If you want to go into planning, get a Masters in Planning. When you’re done you go plan. If you choose an MPA, with the right classes and internship, tailoring your graduate work you can get a planning position. The university I attended has produced several working planners in the last year as well as positions in non-profit, town management, and even working in the federal government.

    One thing to remember.......You earn an MP you really are directed toward a planning career and have a solid foundation in getting hired before or out of school. You hold an MPA you can get a job as a planner. However, you also be able to wear many other hats if you choose in government and the private sector. In today’s career market, career paths often change.

    I hope that helps.

  25. #25
    Then maybe due to it's lack of versatility, the MP is a less valuable choice than the MPA.

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