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Thread: Qualifications for planning/urban design career (was "career path")

  1. #1

    Qualifications for planning/urban design career (was "career path")

    hey, all you city planners. can you tell me what a city planner does in his job? i am a high school student and i want to be an architect first and then a city planner. is this a good plan? how should i structure my schooling to put me in the best position to be a good city/regional planner? also, do you need a PhD to be a city planner? that's supposed to be recommended by the APA. i visited their website and they had a page of schools offering PhD programs for urban/regional planning. one last question: how much on average do you guys make annually? collegeboard told me $57K, but im not sure if that's true.

    Moderator note:

    moved from Make No Small Plans to Career Advice. Hopefully you'll catch some good traffic here.

    (Suburb Repairman)
    descriptive title added

    Last edited by Gedunker; 26 Nov 2006 at 8:47 PM.

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    You, like I, wanted to be an architect first. I job shadowed an architect in high school and found that sitting at a desk all day, drawing pretty pictures that would never become reality just wasn't for me. It is for some, but not for me.

    I think that most people will tell you to get the widest variety of classes in college that you can. Planners seem to find a way to get into every crease of the government and daily structure. The more you know, the better planner you will be.

    A PhD is in no way required. Honestly, most practicing planners don't have a PhD, and some (maybe lots?) don't have a Master's. Experience is also important in the world of planning, as you will find out, school cannot teach you everything.

    And planners make a range of salaries. I don't think that we live like kings, but well enough. Marry rich. That makes money not an issue
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    Salary is highly variable depending on where you live.

    No need for a PhD. Most planners have an undergrad in a related subject (geography, urban studies, environmental studies, architecture, landscape arch) and a masters in planning.

    One career path I mifght advise you to look into is urban design.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Emerald Coast
    Iím a department head with a simple bachelorís degree in planning and environmental studies. It depends on your skill set. Salary depends on where you want to work. California will pay a touch more than North Dakota, but the cost of living....well, factor that into your decision.

  5. #5
    thanks for the posts guys. keep em coming...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
    Nov 2004
    Where 8 Mile hits Lake M1
    The best degree for planning is a masters in urban planning or something similar. Also consider a masters in public administration which would be more directed to city management.

    Some important skills

    Learn how to listen
    Understand what development patterns make a healthy urban area and how you can encourage those patterns with land use regulation
    Read law and apply it, especially planning law and real estate law
    Learn to write zoning ordinances, municipal plans
    Learn how to plan, organize, and facilitate public meetings
    Understand the real estate development business
    Understand the network of utilities and infrastructure and how it is financed, maintained and extended
    Understand the needs of small and large businesses
    Learn how to work in a bureaucracy: comunication, budgeting, process, meeting strategies, chain of command, how to get people to do things
    Learn how to network with many people
    Develop good political judgement
    Be able to explain nonobvious urban design goals to those with less expertise
    You need a thick skin because civil behavior continues to degrade (not that it was ever that great)
    Accept that the real world is far too complex for ordinances to cover everything correctly, be able to let some things go

  7. #7
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
    Apr 1996
    New Hampshire
    A (hopefully) helpful link:

    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  8. #8
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Dec 2001
    West Valley, AZ
    IMO, find a program that is teaching land use relationships/ market shed analysis/real estate & Urban Design. It has helped me incredibly to be able to talk-the-talk with developers and understand what their needs with the site are. Then I can explain to them what the City's needs are and how we reach middle-ground much easier.

    With the infusion of Form-Based Codes and the like into local developement regulations, having an understanding of how form dictates liveability, traffic, etc. is important.

    You'll probably need a masters. I think I'm one of the last who was able to get a job in this field with a BS in Urban Geography.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
    Mar 2006
    Machesney Park, IL
    I'm 99% sure you'd make more money as an architect than as a planner.

    I started college, set on becoming an architect, but it was a 5 year program, with 2 years pre-architecture and then you had to get permission from the department to move on (and not everybody got that permission, and many of them switched to the planning major), and then all architect's have to pass the licensing exam, and I read at the time that less than 50% of licensed architects actually work as architects. So, I changed my major right away, to Community and Regional Planning.

    I was able to get my first job, with just the B.S. degree. But, after 1 1/2 years of working I decided to go for a M.A. in Geography (with an emphasis on planning), mainly because my employer offered tuition reimbursement, if you got a B or better. So, if you start working and feel that a master's could be good for your future, see about having your employer pay for it. I think that the M.A. has given me a leg-up on the competition for subsequent jobs I've gotten. No way do you need a PhD. Once you work for 3 years or so, you can take the AICP exam, and having that probably means as much to future employers as a Masters would.

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