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Thread: Advice for choosing methods courses?

  1. #1
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    Advice for choosing methods courses?

    Hey everyone,

    This is my first post here. I've got a question about methods courses within planning programs, and which ones will prove to be more useful.

    My program gives me a choice between quantitative or qualitative methods or GIS. I'm trying to base my decision upon which option has greater 'marketability' when it comes time for me to hit the pavement and find a job. I've taken an undergrad stats class which was a joke (we didn't even learn SPSS or any other software, just used a pencil and paper which was totally useless). I've also taken half of a GIS class (long story) which I enjoyed but seemed to get more and more complicated and I don't have a lot of patience with computer-design oriented stuff. And I've done interviews for research projects but I'm wondering how useful a course in qualitative methods would be outside of academia.

    I know it might help for me to specify which aspect of planning I'm interested in pursuing, but I'm about to start my master's and I'm really not ready to commit at this point (nor am I expected to, obviously). I'd be primarily interested in working in land use, economic development/real estate, or housing and social policy type stuff.

    Does anyone have any insight or recommendations?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    If anything, doing statistical work by hand will help you to understand how SPSS works. I agree it can be tedious and frustrating. I very very rarely have to any hard-core statistics work at my current job, but I had to defend my SPSS calculations to a client a few years ago. I don't think i would be able to do this without understanding HOW these various formulas work on paper.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    If anything, doing statistical work by hand will help you to understand how SPSS works.
    You've got a good point. Unfortunately the stats class was a half credit taken in my second year of undergrad, which was three years ago now ... so maybe taking another stats class would be a good refresher.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    In the quantitative methods class I took for my Masters we created, implemented and analyzed data for a community survey which I found incredibly educational. I have not done a survey since, mind you, but the process touched on many aspects of information analysis (from how questions are framed, to the implementation process and finally what kinds of conclusions can actually be drawn from the resulting data). I'll never see another survey the same way again.

    If I could do it again, I would have preferred to take a GIS course instead (they did not allow this to count for a quantitative methods class). I agree that taking classes about how to use software programs is a very cumbersome learning context, but GIS remains an incredibly powerful tool for so many different kinds of information - really anything you want to relate to the physical world. At present, I see a lot of jobs for GIS folks that ask them to do that kind of work exclusively, which I think is unfortunate (its the CAD Monkey equivalent from architecture). Still, this may change in the future and the fact remains that skilled GIS people can make some serious cash.

    In terms of other work you might do, though, I can still see it as a very useful tool in communicating complex data to the general public.
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