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Thread: The value of BURP

  1. #1
    Member
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    The value of BURP

    I have one stupid question for all of you.

    I have long planned my future goal as an urban planner. I have one internship experience with planning agency and really enjoyed it. But as I'm turning a junior, I have to officially declare a major. I have an option of majoring in economics and taking additional statistics, accounting, computer science courses, or double majoring with urban planning and just forgeting about the electives.

    When getting a job in either public or private sector, how advantageous is bachelor's in urban planning if I double major with economics? There seem to be many debates about whether master's in planning is really necessary if one already has bachelor's in planning, In theory, yes, people look at you as more mature, more intelligent person just because you have a master's degree, and this is true not only in planning but also in any other field. But in reality, if you already have a bachelor's in planning, wouldn't an advanced degree in planning be redundant?

    My opinion is, master's in planning is more or less meant to make students advanced thinkers, analytic problem-solvers, and also to give necessary skills and knowledge to those whose undergrad degree was not in planning.

    Let's say, you are a human resource manager at a large securities firm and reviewing applicants for financial analyst position. You narrowed down to two candidates, one with a bachelor's in accounting from Michigan, and the other with a bachelor's in economics from Harvard. Who would you prefer? And for that matter, do you think undergrad education in planning, which usually is domain of second-tier schools with an exception of MIT, will necessarily give you a leg up when you are competing with top school graduates for an entry-level planner position?

    Also, if I just major in economics and then go directly to graduate school in planning with a hope of gaining an entry-level job after graduation, would that be a bad choice? Should I gain experience first, and then graduate school? Or Bachelor's in planning and no graduate school at all? I'm just so confused.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    First, answer the question: what do you want to do when you graduate? I stress this question over and over again. I can't tell you how many students really do not have a concrete answer to this question, and yet it is so simple (I, too, struggled with this). I think it is harder, but not impossible, for planning students to answer this because the field is very ambiguous in so many ways.

    Instead of double-majoring or switching to planning or economics, I recommend that you speak with people in the field who are doing what you want to do. Double-majoring does not guarantee better chances of finding a job (especially when the two fields are not that different, as opposed to medicine and law, for instance).

    I have a bachelors in planning, and I am confident in my professional skills to say that I could probably move pretty far up the corporate ladder without a masters. You just have to work much harder than the rest, and get a ton of on the job experience. I think a lot of entry level planners assume that you are required to have a masters, without doing a very very very thorough job search and finding those jobs that don't require one (there are more jobs than you think).

    I don't think someone with a masters is going to automatically appear more mature. I can name several dozen planners without even a planning degree who can do the job ten times better than someone with a masters.

    You brought up an interesting example with the human resources manager. First, there are probably going to be other professionals (who you will probably work with or report directly to) that will be part of the hiring process. If the Wolverine identified my needs and how he could solve my problems, and the Crimson gave me a bunch of academic fluff, I would hire the Wolverine.

    Finally, you can never EVER hope that a job will just drop in your lap, none of us are that lucky. Planning is a growing profession but it is a very small field and you really have to pound the pavement when you look for work.

    Here are my four simple steps to career fulfillment.

    1.Find out what you want you to do.
    2.Find people who do what you want to do.
    3.Ask how they got to do what you want to do.
    4.Do what they did.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 05 Jun 2007 at 9:48 AM. Reason: forgot stuff

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Just one thought:

    Planning agencies post jobs requiring a degree in planning, whether it's a master's or a bachelor's. A lot of them will throw you out if you don't have one (or, in my case, if your Master's in Planning isn't complete because your thesis isn't done ). If you want to be a planner, make sure you have a planning degree under your belt, or you're willing to fight your way into agencies saying "I know what I'm doing even though I don't have a degree in the field!"

    Double major in fields you love, not because you think it will get you a job. It sounds like you know that, but I have to say it!

    One option would be to do your undergrad in Econ with all the electives, get a job doing economic development, economic analysis for a regional economic development agency, or something else in that vein, and then go back for a Master's in planning. The year(s) off between undergrad and grad school really are beneficial, at least they were for me.

    Whatever you do, if you know you want to do planning, make sure you learn ArcGIS and the Adobe programs. Take a GIS class in whatever department offers one. That will be a selling point in almost any job interview or application. The Adobe stuff is just good to know, knowing how to lay out material and design it, another selling point.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    That was more than one thought...

  5. #5
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Many of the jobs I have seen say a degree in planning or a related field. I work as a planner but my degree is in landscape architecture. I guess that is considered related. Have you considered landscape architecture? You could go either route that way though I hear that landscape architects make more money than planners.

    More and more, I see that it is the experience you get that really makes or breaks you. A degree is fine and dandy, but if you can't apply your knowledge in a real world setting, it is not worth the paper it is printed on.

    JMHO.
    Responsible Beverage Server since March 26th, 2008

  6. #6
    A Masters degree in Planning is rapidly becoming the benchmark for a certain expected body of knowledge, due in large part to the APA's lobbying. It's only going to get harder to get a proper job in Planning without that degree. Get the undergraduate degree in Economics, and a Masters in Planning. A B.S./B.A. in Economics is the keystone to pretty much any job you could ever want, and I kick myself daily for not having stayed in that field (instead of Geography, which I love for entirely different reasons) as an undergrad.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Whereas I kick myself for getting into planning lol....
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian plnrgrl's avatar
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    In my part of the world, a Masters is the preferred level of education. I'm sure it varies by region of the US. If you don't have the Masters, then the level of experience required is higher.

    The more competitive the market for planners, the higher the standards get. If you live in a part of the country where planners are hard to come by, then the employer can't afford to be so choosy if they have a job to fill.

  9. #9
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    Wow How things have changed. When I got into Planning you couldn't even get your foot in the door without a Masters and some experience. I had a BA in Political Science with an emphasis in Publoc Administration and Urban Planning. I got refused constantly until I finally bit the bullet and went to Graduate School. Back in the day Bachelors degrees in Planning were not held in high esteem except in maybe California.

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