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Thread: Breaking into planning in the Northeast

  1. #1
    Apr 2007
    Boston, MA

    Breaking into planning in the Northeast

    Hey all, thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

    I'm finishing up my senior year at Boston College, graduating with a B.A. in polisci and a minor in music. I'm interested in environmental issues and discovered planning through a course in urban ecosystems last semester. It really piqued my interest in the field and now I'm strongly considering an MUP.

    I have 2 questions:

    1. Is there any way to get some relevant planning experience with only the polisci degree? As an undergrad, I took courses in federalism, the court system, public policy, econ, architecture, that urban ecosystems class, and interned in a senate office. I understand that many of the planning internship programs are geared towards grad students but I'd really like to try something in the field before I invest in the masters.

    2. As someone who's generally interested in the relationship between cities and the environment, is this a field that's going to be interesting / rewarding?

    Thanks again for your help.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
    Mar 2006
    Machesney Park, IL
    As for your second question, about whether it would be interesting or rewarding, it totally depends on where you work and where their values and goals lie. I use to work for a development-hungry jurisdiction that gave little care towards environmental impacts. Now I work for a place that looks over every development with a fine-toothed comb to mitigate effects on environmentally significant areas. Then of course, there are firms that specialize in environmental land use planning, and I would think that would probably be the type of place you'd like to end up.

    What I've heard (but never experienced first-hand) is that some small towns are more than happy to take in an intern, sometimes unpaid, to help out with basic planning and zoning functions. Honestly, there are a lot of tasks you don't need to have a planning background to do. When I was on 8 weeks of maternity leave they hired an office temp who was able to perform about 60% of my job, after I spent a few days training her. These tasks included sending letters to property owners adjacent to zoning petitions, looking up zoning of properties using the computer, collecting prelim. background info for staff reports, etc. Though those tasks in and of themselves don't teach you much, you can pick up a lot of insight into the planning realm by sitting in on development review meetings, reading over Zoning Board minutes and stuff like that.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
    Apr 2002
    I actually went to BC and got a degree in political science. I would recommend trying to find a job in a planning-related capacity before making a jump to grad school. You'll do much better when you go back to school after some real work experience under your belt. Granted, it can sometimes be able to find those jobs, but if you network around, you'll find something.

    If you are interested in cities and environmental issues, look for a job in either area, trying to refine what you're interested in. That will help when you decide to get a Master's. I took a different path and ended up in planning school with no planning experience, but it was a career change for me and I had five years' experience in other fields (helped me get most of school paid for, too).

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