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Thread: Public Policy or a Flexible Planning Program

  1. #1

    Public Policy or a Flexible Planning Program

    Hi, I'm at an important cross-roads right now and want to make some good decisions.

    A recent grad with a Bachelors in Geography, and I want to get into Public Policy.
    Do not have amazing cumulative GPA (2.69). Last 2 years is 3.3 .

    My real goal is to get into Public Policy with a focus on Social Policy. What's the best route to get into this field, given that I also want to be pragmatic, in terms of gaining some financial independence after I graduate?

    I was thinking that Planning would jump start my career more quickly, thus being able to pay off any loans, and start saving up to feed myself in the short-run. Then, working as a Planner, I would be able to transition relatively easily into Social Policy. If I go into a Master of Planning program, I would maintain a focus on policy and social issues, but with Urban Design courses on the side, and brush up on my GIS if I have time. Or should I just go straight into Public Policy?

    I guess essentially what I would like to know is:
    a.) How do the job prospects of recent Public Policy grads and Planning grads compare?
    b.) Are there any good planning, policy, and design schools (that I have a chance of getting into)? What about just a good public policy program with options in social areas?
    c.) Any info would be great help! Thank y'all!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    there are definitely programs which offer a planning education with a policy focus - I've looked into some - Rutgers, USC, NYU come to mind. However, utlimately what type of organization would you like to work for? If you want to work for a non-profit, think tank or as a legislative aide in DC, an MPA is probably the way to go (not a planning masters).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    go straight into public policy. if you want, take some planning classes on the side. but yeah, get your MPP.

  4. #4
    Yeah, I've been doing some research myself on MPAs, MPP, and the like. It seems that they (even a 'plain old' political science degree) are much more competitive than planning degrees, in both admission requirements and numbers of people applying.

    Quote Originally posted by ebina49
    there are definitely programs which offer a planning education with a policy focus - I've looked into some - Rutgers, USC, NYU come to mind.
    Right. Rutgers, and particulary USC, seems to have a nice fit of interests for me. Don't remember if I've been to NYU's site, but I'll look that up again. LOL, as I was reading each of the schools you mentioned, I was thinking: yep, yep...but GPA, nope. Not that I don't think I can do well, but major GPA killer was my first 2 years in undergrad (from some poor academic choices). Managed to pull it up quite a bit, but still doesn't meet the usual minimum GPA of the schools you mentioned. Actually think that USC has an amazing school for planning and policy in spite of my GPA. Would have been one of my top choices I think.

    Main goal is doing social policy. So, I wouldn't mind working for government, non-profits, and others in the long-run. But in the short-run, the few or several years after graduation, got to accumulate some salaries and maintain some financial stability first. Did I mention I would need to pay the bills and rent?

    Quote Originally posted by The District
    go straight into public policy. if you want, take some planning classes on the side. but yeah, get your MPP.
    Yes, I do think it would make more sense to go straight into Public Policy if that's ultimately what I want to do. But at the same time, it seems like I may have a better chance of getting into the field, or simply grad school, from Planning. The funny thing is that if I get into a Master of Public Policy, I might want to add a city/municipal bent to it, or like you said some planning courses. On the otherhand, if I get into a Master of Planning, I would definitely want to have a policy and/or politics focus. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle to fit all the pieces together.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    "Right. Rutgers, and particulary USC, seems to have a nice fit of interests for me. Don't remember if I've been to NYU's site, but I'll look that up again. LOL, as I was reading each of the schools you mentioned, I was thinking: yep, yep...but GPA, nope. Not that I don't think I can do well, but major GPA killer was my first 2 years in undergrad (from some poor academic choices). Managed to pull it up quite a bit, but still doesn't meet the usual minimum GPA of the schools you mentioned. Actually think that USC has an amazing school for planning and policy in spite of my GPA. Would have been one of my top choices I think."

    A couple of other potentials that haven't been mentioned here as often as some of the well known schools - SUNY Buffalo, CUNY Hunter. Also Portland on the west coast and UI- Chicago, I believe all have a social focus. The CUNY program in particular is an urban affairs and planning program - and quite a good deal financially.

  6. #6
    Thanks for the tips. I've checked them out...

    just sitting in front of the computer is not a fun way to do research on potentially life-changing decisions like this, lol.

  7. #7
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    MPP student's point of view

    Hi, I'm currently an MPP student at Berkeley. I'm really interested in urban policy and redevelopment issues. The great thing about the MPP (at least at Berkeley) is that you can take electives in other departments. I plan on taking most of my electives in the City & Regional Planning Dept. I don't know how much flexibility there is for planning students to take courses outside their dept.

    As far as career opportunities go, I think either way you can't go wrong... A lot of policy-focused job opportunities (like in think tanks) look for people with planning degrees just as much as MPPs, it seems.

  8. #8
    Because of my Geography background, I'm really wanting to get a different perspective on things, so looking more into Policy right now.

    I've looked at many policy as well as planning programs in North America, and some in the UK.

    It seems that the U.S. has more places which have policy and planning programs under the same department compared with Canada. In Canada, they are still very much in separate departments with not much to do with each other.

    Anybody have any info on policy programs in Canada? (I think most of the Canadian programs are actually MPA public administration programs, rather than MPP public policy).

    -----
    But what you said was interesting. It would make sense for think-tanks that focus on urban issues, but I think you are talking about other think-tanks with more general interests. I find that interesting, can you name a few?

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