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Thread: Planning as a profession

  1. #1

    Planning as a profession

    Hey all,

    I just graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in Art History. I am thinking about applying to graduate programs in city planning, but I'm not sure if urban issues simply interest me intellectually, or if I would enjoy planning as a career. Currently, the program that interests me the most is the MRP program at Cornell, partly because I most interested in international planning. Are there any Cornell students or alumni out there who'd be willing to talk with me about the program?

    If you don't want to be a planner, what are the career options like out of grad school? Is it possible to get a job at, say, UNESCO, working on heritage sites and related projects, with a masters? Is it difficult to find a job that pays a decent wage with a planning degree?

    I would appreciate any advice/information anyone could provide!

    Thanks

  2. #2

    Registered
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Bay Area, CA
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    127
    If possible, take a class or 2 at UC Berkeley in the Planning dept. The faculty are great and taking classes there will provide you with invaluable insight into whether Planning is your cup of tea as a career.

    I did, and decided it's not, and that Architecture is, so I'm now in an MArch programme! I'm also interested in Planning-related issues but not as a career.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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    407
    International planning? Hehe, haha, hoho, chortle.

    My favorite catchword used by naive college kids who have no idea what it really means and have glamorous visions of exotic countries without the reality of bugs and no bathrooms. Actually, international planning is just a fancy word that means nothing.

    What can a planning degree do for you: get you a job as a planner in the county/city planning office. A dedicated few will go into real estate working for developers. Others do urban design work for architecture firms, but always play second fiddle to MArch and MLA grads. A few more go into fiscal analysis consulting, like yours truly.

    The fiscal analysis consulting (hey, bet you don't know what this is and why the field is filled with people with planning degrees) pays the best but has the worst hours. I'm two years out of Penn's MCP program, I make between 60-80K a year, and am making more money than all but two or three of my classmates. Most planners, whether at the dreary county planning office or the glamorous downtown urban design firm, will make between 40-50K for some years post-graduation (unless you live in California, where salaries are indeed higher but then again so is the cost of living).

    If you want to work for poor people overseas, public health and not planning is the way to go. If you are interested in protecting world heritage sites, an archeology degree will help far more than a planning degree.



    Quote Originally posted by jsachs View post
    Hey all,

    I just graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in Art History. I am thinking about applying to graduate programs in city planning, but I'm not sure if urban issues simply interest me intellectually, or if I would enjoy planning as a career. Currently, the program that interests me the most is the MRP program at Cornell, partly because I most interested in international planning. Are there any Cornell students or alumni out there who'd be willing to talk with me about the program?

    If you don't want to be a planner, what are the career options like out of grad school? Is it possible to get a job at, say, UNESCO, working on heritage sites and related projects, with a masters? Is it difficult to find a job that pays a decent wage with a planning degree?

    I would appreciate any advice/information anyone could provide!

    Thanks

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
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    Mr. Cool Ice
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    4,161
    Jeff....working on an "international" planning project as we speak. You think all those resorts in the caribbean are planned and designed there? Hehe, haha, hoho, chortle.

    2 years out of school, you're still wet behind the ears, and hardly qualified to dictate what the limits of the profession are.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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    407
    Never said you couldn't do whatever passes for "international planning" with a MCP or MRP, but merely pointing out that most prospective students get wrapped up with the idea of "international planning" with absolutely no idea of what it may or may not mean (what does it mean, anyway? An architecture firm that dabbles in site design for overseas projects? I bet that never occurred to her).

    It is still unlikely one can work for UNESCO or any other UN agency with a MCP or MRP unless one has previous experience in the subject field, and consquently the MCP acts merely as the requisite master's to be hired rather than proof of knowledge or experience. A MCP/MRP is indeed a very versatile degree, which can make it either valuable or totally worthless. If our gal here is interested in resorts in the Caribbean, she'd be better off getting a MArch or landscape architecture, or engineering, or going into construction. 99.9999% of people with MCP will not be working on resort design or construction in the Caribbean or the South Pacific, nor are they going to be helping plan for environmental sustainability in Chad.

    Quote Originally posted by Jeff View post
    Jeff....working on an "international" planning project as we speak. You think all those resorts in the caribbean are planned and designed there? Hehe, haha, hoho, chortle.

    2 years out of school, you're still wet behind the ears, and hardly qualified to dictate what the limits of the profession are.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Tullinge Sweden
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    190
    jsachs, I think it's very important that you define more specifically what you want to concentrate on, or what it is you're hoping your career will give you. At the same time, when you've done that, you'll probably find out when you get there that it's not what you thought.

    Still, there are lots of opportunities outside North America related to planning... "planning" means different things to different people in different contexts. Is it urban design meaning laying out street patterns and writing zoning descriptions, or is it restoring old parts of existing cities, or is it integrated planning covering everything from social service provision, slum upgrading, economic development, environmental protection as well as cultural heritage protection etc etc?

    PennPlanner is basically right when s/he says UN organisations want higher degrees and proof of professional experience. On the other hand there are ways to get into their organisations at the bottom level, through volunteer operations or as junior professionals. As a citizen of a developed country you don't have a high chance of being selected for such positions as these programs are usually run on a national quota basis.

    On the other hand you could volunteer to work abroad with Peace Corps or other US organisation. Have you travelled abroad to the regions you think you'd like to work in? If not, do so, so you get a better idea of what its like. It's not like what you see on TV or the news. It's not all bugs and cockroaches...I sit in Cairo, Egypt as I write, have been working here for three years and don't recall seeing a roach, nor have I been bothered by mosquitos. On the other hand the traffic, noise and pollution is aweful. Nor is it all like Cairo, and there are places with the bugs, leeches and dirty hotels. My work has taken me to over 40 countries, and they're all unique in one way or another.

    If you're into urban heritage restoration, you might look more closely at architecture, or at more specialised programs. If it's ancient history and archeological ruins, then archeology mixed with anthropolgy that might be better. Do you have the opportunity or interest to study in Europe? In many ways the planning degrees there are very different from the majority of those in North American. And with all its long urban history, these European schools often give more emphasis to the urban heritage aspects.

    Don't know if that helps, but don't get discouraged by the cynics among us. And I'd love to hear the comments of others with experience of the European approach.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2004
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    Austin, TX
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    739
    Quote Originally posted by jsachs View post
    Hey all,

    I just graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in Art History.
    Well, you could just be an "Art Historian". Oh, wait......
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

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