As a long-time "guest member", this is my first post as a cybubrian. I am looking for all opinions, comments, perspectives, ideas, suggestions, etc. Ok, this may get a little long, but here is the deal...
I am a police officer for a medium-sized city. To say that I enjoy my job would probably be a stretch. I have been an officer for about 4.5 years and the entire time I have felt that my undergraduate degree (in Sociology) and overall education is under-utilized in terms of patrolling in a squad car. Not to undermine the profession, or to say that my job is not important to society, because it sure is. Someone has to do it, right? To me, the job is just not intellectually challenging. The excitement and luster of the job is defientely over-dramatized by the media and culture.
Obtaining my masters has always been a goal for me since graduating from college. I have been given the fortunate opportunity to start graduate school at a Big 10 public affairs school. I just started my program and I am currently a Master of Public Policy candidate with a concentration in public and nonprofit management and leadership. My thought process at the time of applying was that this would be a great degree to give me an understanding into how a police department could be effectively and effeciently run someday. Kind of counter-intuitive as I am currently not very satisfied with my job, but more of a futuristic type look of where I want my professional career to lead to.
Now, I have always had a love and passion for: big cities, maps, reliable and effecient transportation, arguing against sprawl, etc. Having hardly any knowledge about the planning field, I started talking to others within my graduate school that are in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree. Not only did this intrigue me to an extreme degree, I have seriously thought hard about switching my degree. I have spoken to numerous professors, associate deans, students, police chiefs, police managers, etc. My main concern being, if I decide to go the planning route but in the end stay in my current profession, will the degree be useful? On the end of my profession, I have often been told that a masters degree is all that is required; there is no usual fundamental focus that is needed. After speaking with some professors, I could major in planning with a focus in public management that could satisfy both worlds.
Why would I want to go into planning if I don't leave the law enforcement field? That is a great question, and one that I have been debating endlessly. I don't know what my future is headed towards, and perhaps I would want to switch careers. I have researched pay and benefits in the planning field, and I may be wrong, but the pay does not compare. However, working wierd hours/weekends and the danger of the job no where comes close to the compensation we receive. So, at this point I don't know if planning would be my new profession. When it comes down to it, my take is that I would rather obtain my Master in Urban and Regional Planning that is accredited by the APA that would lead to a planning position if I decide to switch. If I decide not to switch, the fact that I have a masters and being able to articulate how that can relate to an upper-level administration job in criminal justice is all that is truly required. In addition, I would say that this degree would offer some diversity in my line of work that is sometimes needed at the leadership end.
That is my dilemma that has caused some serious back and forth arguing in my head. I am not looking for a definete answer on what I should do, as I know I am the only one that can make that decision. Though, I need to decide which route I am going to take before I start taking classes that might be wasted if I switch to another degree too late in the game. At this point, I am leading to switching to the planning degree with the concentration in public management. I have never felt this interested in anything before and the ability to be able take courses that focuses on cities and regions seems almost to good to be true. To me, it wouldn't even feel like work.
So, without further ado, I would love to hear some insight that could be from supportive to critical. I know many on this forum probably do not have experience with criminal justice/law enforcement, but to have some insight from planners and others with this type of degree would be very beneficial and truly appreciated.