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Thread: Question for Current Planning Grad Students

  1. #1
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    Question for Current Planning Grad Students

    Hi everyone,

    I'm going to be applying to masters programs in urban planning (with hopefully the option of obtaining an urban design certificate) for fall of 2008. I have a double major in Government and Sociology and currently work as a paralegal at a large law firm.

    I have the opportunity to take a class or two at a local college with tuition reimbursment from my employer. I was wondering if you could suggest some classes for me to take that would help my application and ultimately be helpful in grad school. Were there any classes that you wish you had taken knowing what you do now about your graduate program? I've taken intermediate microecon theory, research methods and statistics that were required for my major. I have no planning experience--would it be helpful to take classes in the urban studies department? As for urban design, would there be anything that I could take that would help me with this aspect of my interests?

    I'm very new at this, so any help would be very much appreciated. Thank you all!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    A course on the history of the city is a good intro course, and a lot of the general public enjoys learning about it. A urban design course that is more theory based will give you an understanding of how this design speciality works, and may help you decide if want to specialize in this type of planning.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I agree that a history of the city, or some overview of urbanism would be helpful and not something I really got as a discreet course. Another course I never took was a basic overview of architectural history. I picked up stuff from other classes, but wish I had a better command of the terms and features of distinctive styles.

    I did finally take a course in real estate development which I found immensely helpful as well. Too often planners make suggestions about this or that type of development that could benefit a place without understanding the financial realities of how such places get developed. In fact, I have thought since taking the class that a very aggressive way to promote desired forms of development would be for municipalities to develop pro formas showing the details and profit margin that could be had if a developer built a specific type of project on a specific property (or properties). It takes a lot of guess work out of it for developers and shows in a concrete way the feasibility. It also pinpoints the exact type of development (without dictating architectural style) that would be most desired by the city. Just a thought...

    Overall, though, I would say ease into grad school with some general overview classes before dicing into the nitty gritty.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Though I can't say based completely on personal experience, but I think taking courses that would give you a general overview of planning and urban studies would be really beneficial. I don't know if others would agree. But it seems that at the Master's level there's less room for leaning back, pushing you to figure out your interests more quickly than compared with the four years undergraduate degree. Just my feeling.

  5. #5
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    GIS classes or a site planning class won't hurt.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I would recommend taking a course in something that you think you might have an interest in but are not really sure about.

    Once I decided to get my masters, I applied primarily to schools that focused on the policy side of things thinking that was what I was most interested in. It was only after I had been in the program for a year and I took a GIS course that I realized I found that much more interesting. Unfortunately, my program only offers two courses using GIS and basically nothing on architecture/design theory (another sub-field I now wish I had looked a little closer into). Had I known I liked these fields before I applied to the schools I did, I would have likely looked elsewhere.

    Basically, if you can take a couple courses somewhere free, use it as a learning experience to determine that you are really getting into what you want. Since you're not paying for it, it really does not do much harm if you take a class in a subject that you discover you cannot stand.

    I hope this helps some.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    If they offer any type of planning law or environmental law, you should definitely take that, although I'm sure they are required for your masters anyway? Outside of what you'd need for your masters, architecture classes about accessible design are very useful. Also, environmental science or soil science classes are important (It is good to understand why the underlying dirt may not let you design what you want to design)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yes....

    Real Estate Development is a great class to take!
    Real Estate Finance is the one I would take now if I had the chance
    Environmental Law and Regulation would be another good one....
    A site planning studio or class would be good in your case.....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    GIS, Architecture, Art, and possibly a soils course. Urban Design is about as close to architecture as Planning gets. Your background sounds like you prepared for Economic Development, but if Urban Design is your calling you'll definitely need to buff up the above skills.

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