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Thread: Graduate certificate programs

  1. #1

    Graduate certificate programs

    As you all may know, I finished up my BS and am considering graduate school (MLA). Before I charge into that program, I've considered doing a grad certificate in either transportation planning or traffic engineering, since my long-long-long-term goal involves transit-oriented development.

    My logic is that the MLA will not focus as much on the transportation aspects of the planning and design process, and the certificate would provide additional beneficial knowledge in that area. Additionally, the certificate may help me move up into a better position as I proceed with my 20-year plan (I exaggerate, but not by much) for the MLA. Current employer has good health benefits, $30K a year salary, but no tuition benefits and isn't entirely in line with my long-long-long-term career path.

    1) Are graduate certificates useful?
    2) Would I be better served by getting the MLA first, then building on that knowledge with the certificate?
    3) Any other opinions?

    Thanks all.

    P.S. I was unsure whether to post here or the student thread. Feel free to move if needed.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jkellerfsu's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2005
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    Baltimore, MD
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    Change companies. Go some place that will pay for your degree. Personally, I think experience is more valuable than the advanced degree at this point - so I think it is wise to invest your time with a company that you can stand while you are held hostage (this is in reference to the fact that many companies make you stay 2 or so years after the degree is recieved).

    You are in Baltimore....I know plenty of consultants hiring.

  3. #3
    I enjoy where I'm working now (a government agency), but unfortunately I'm classed as a "non-merit" employee. I don't lose much, but one of the benefits I do lose is tuition reimbursement. Even if I were to have that benefit, the classes must be approved, and they only pay for 30 credits beyond the undergrad degree - barely a drop in the bucket of a 90-credit first professional MLA.

    The experience I'm gaining now is good experience, but it's in the GIS arena, not planning or LA. I interviewed with several firms, and applied with several more firms, and nothing came of that. I'm always keeping an eye out for greener pastures, but considering that I went through quite a spell with no work at all, I had to jump on this offer when I got it.

    In a way, I was hoping that the certificate would be something I could do more quickly than a MLA, and that it would give me the boost I need to climb the ladder a bit more.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Machesney Park, IL
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    It seems there have been a few threads from recent graduates and job seekers who have over-qualified themselves right out of contention for a lot of entry level jobs. My personal opinion is that you learn more on the job then you ever would in a certificate program. And if you get the right job, they may pay for you to go to training and workshops specifically about transportation planning. I was lucky enough to get some NTI courses paid for by an old employer (http://www.ntionline.com/index.asp, and I got paid for the time I was at these courses. One was specifically about transit-oriented development. They look good on a resume, and I think you can learn as much in a couple of intensive days as you would an entire typical semester of a college course. The classes are full of working professionals, who have a lot more insight and informative comments then those students who are taking certificate courses straight after getting their B.S. As you can tell, I think NTI courses are great.

    If you want to keep your job, maybe you could even consider paying for NTI courses yourself. They are probably comperable to the costs of college courses.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    midwest
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    Penguin, can you give me a brief overview as to what your "history" is (as I am too lazy today to search through your previous posts ) What is your undergrad degree in? Do you have any planning experience so far? What is your 20 year plan?

    Why do you want to get a degree in LA? With the notable exceptions of physical site design, streetscapes, and landscape plans, most of the TOD work is much more planning heavy. Three years of LA school is going to burn you out, so don't make this more difficult for yourself. Landscape architects are much more able to take on planning projects, and I know several who do it without a formalized degree/certificate.

    Get through your LA degree (if that is what you want to do) take some planning electives, get a job as a landscape designer, and see what other TOD work you can take while on the job.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Penguin, can you give me a brief overview as to what your "history" is (as I am too lazy today to search through your previous posts ) What is your undergrad degree in? Do you have any planning experience so far? What is your 20 year plan?

    Why do you want to get a degree in LA? With the notable exceptions of physical site design, streetscapes, and landscape plans, most of the TOD work is much more planning heavy. Three years of LA school is going to burn you out, so don't make this more difficult for yourself. Landscape architects are much more able to take on planning projects, and I know several who do it without a formalized degree/certificate.

    Get through your LA degree (if that is what you want to do) take some planning electives, get a job as a landscape designer, and see what other TOD work you can take while on the job.
    My relevant history is a B.S. in Geography (technically Geography and Environmental Planning, but the planning part is really there in name only). My education and experience is GIS-focused. The closest I've come to planning experience is a summer internship in a planning department, and that was primarily GIS-based.

    My other experience is in no way connected to GIS, LA, planning, office work, etc.

    My "20 year plan" involves working full time, going back to school part time to work on the MLA (90-credit, first professional program). Odds are, I would continue that until I finish. The time frame is unknown, since it depends on funding, and how work schedule and school schedules mesh. Probably five years minimum if I'm lucky, more than likely pushing ten, but who really knows? It's unlikely that I'll ever be able to return to school full-time.

    site design, streetscapes, and landscape plans
    You basically nailed the things that attract me to LA. I guess it's an odd way of envisioning things, but I'd like to play a role in making TOD people-friendly, accessible, convenient, safe, aesthetically pleasing, etc. I want to be concerned with the finer details, the choice of plants, materials, street furniture, and so on.

    Maybe I'm just completely off base, and I should retreat back to my old profession (and take a pay raise in the process), but we'll see.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
    Registered
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    DONT go to school part time for LA. It is FARRRRRRRRRRRR too intense and you are more likely to forget alot of things. Take the 3 years and get it over with.

  8. #8
    My brain is mush. I'd forget stuff anyway.

    I just don't know that I'll be able to afford full-time school. I can take out loans, but they only pay for school, not living expenses.

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