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Thread: Undergraduate studies

  1. #1
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    Undergraduate studies

    I am a senior in high school from Minnesnowda and I am on the desperate search for "the right college." After endless google searches for schools with a BA in Urban Planning I am still without direction so, I figured I should ask people who know a thing or two about my prospective career. Here goes...

    What should I be looking for in the curriculum to get a good undergraduate education in urban planning?

    What schools do you recommend I look into?

    Are there any disadvantages to studying in Canada?

    and so on and so forth

    and you can expect another post like this in about four years in regards to grad school...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    If you are already dead set on grad school (in planning), your undergraduate degree program is relatively worthless as long as you do well grade-wise and get involved in your chosen field while still in school (internships, volunteering). Grad schools accept just as many english majors as engineers, just as many planning majors as philosophy majors etc. I think that if you want an advanced degree in planning you would be well off choosing a complimentary undergraduate degree like civil engineering or geography, but that's just me...

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I strongly disagree with your undergraduate planning degree being worthless. I think that going to a good undergraduate planning program will set you up well for a graduate program. Not to mention if you go to a pretty good school you get the reputation as well as more opportunities for internships.

    I honestly think that Ball State in Indiana has one of the better undergraduate programs and really helps get your foot in the door. Many people will say that it is pointless to get two planning degrees, and to a point I agree, but it does make getting into graduate school a bit easier.

    And if you love planning in high school, why study econ when you could study planning? I say take your time picking the right school, but don't get away from planning just because you plan to go to graduate school.

    Good luck!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    I don't think it makes sense to begin college with a major anyway. Go to school that offers courses in planning and take some, along with other subjects, to see what you like. You might be surprised by what else is out there. You can get some planning classes under your belt now, maybe do a summer internship, and always go to grad school if you want an official planning degree. I think your undergrad major could really be anything.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Strongly disagree with that. If you know what you want to do, get the undergrad degree in that field. I echo hink planners view, my bachelors in planning IS an official planning degree, dude, and I wouldn't be working here as a planner if I had just any college degree

  6. #6
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I got my B.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State U. We had a few students in the department from the Twin Cities area. It is an accredited program, beautiful campus, and not too far away from you. I really enjoyed it there, but then again, I've got nothing to compare it to.

    It only took me a couple of months to get my first Planning job, after I graduated 8 years ago (my god, has it been that long ). And you DO NOT need a Master's to break into a planning career... at least from my experience. But, as more and more people get their master's, that may change.

    Anyway, I feel Iowa State prepared me well. I've got my AICP now, and a pretty good career going.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    If planning is what you want to do as a career, go ahead and try to find an undergraduate program that fits your interests. You can always double-major or change majors if you discover that you'd rather do something else.

    I started college as a dead-set historic preservation major. Almost immediately, I picked up an urban studies and an art history major (yes, at one point I was tripple majoring). I later dropped the art history major in favor of a spanish minor. I graduated in May, started a paid planning internship in June, and I start a full-time historic preservation planning position in 2 weeks.

    Just read the course catalog carefully to see what you absolutely have to take, what you would like to take, and how many of the classes you need/want to take will count for more than one major.

    Depending on your financial situaiton, having an undergraduate degree in planning might help you in the long run. You will have a better chance getting a job in the field immediately afterwards if you need (or want) to wait to go to grad school. Or, if you decide to go to graduate school, it will increase your ability to get fellowships, teaching assistantships, and paid internships.

    Don't get discouraged by programs that require you to take classes you don't want to take. I hated accounting and econmics, but they have helped me immensely in understanding how developers think and work as well as the reasoning behind some of the county/city policies in my area.

    In the same vein, don't be afraid or think it's a waste of time to take classes that interest you but are not required/don't count towards your major. Two of the best classes I took were Geography and Politics of the European Union and Painting I. Taking classes outside of your area of study broadens your horizons and helps you relate to people who don't necessarily think the way you do.

    Three semesters of Economics taught me a very important lesson: get the most bang for your buck. Don't let your $$ or lack thereof be your only guide to choosing a college. But if you feel that you'd be as happy at a state school as you would at a private school...well...remember that the money you save on undergrad can be used for grad school.

  8. #8
    right now I'm doing an Undergraduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. I really like the program here so far and they make everything very hands on being that it's a polytechnic school and we're in the College of Environmental Design with architects, artists and other planners and most of the time work in groups due to the fact our instructors tell us that's what we'll be doing in our career field. The teachers here have all worked in planning and they really know there stuff.

    Some other colleges I think that offer and Undergrad degrees in Planning are University of Southern California & California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

    However, we were talking with the department chair here today and he told us since there are not that many colleges that offer degrees in Urban & Regional Planning and that once we're graduated with our undergrad degree here it is worth just as much as a Masters in Urban Planning degree from somewhere else due to the fact that most get their Undergrad degree in something else first and don't focus on planning until they go for their Masters.

    So... I would say if you really know what you want to do it is worth it to go to a college that is accredited for Urban & Regional Planning.

    good luck

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally posted by anf View post
    If planning is what you want to do as a career, go ahead and try to find an undergraduate program that fits your interests. You can always double-major or change majors if you discover that you'd rather do something else.

    I started college as a dead-set historic preservation major. Almost immediately, I picked up an urban studies and an art history major (yes, at one point I was tripple majoring). I later dropped the art history major in favor of a spanish minor. I graduated in May, started a paid planning internship in June, and I start a full-time historic preservation planning position in 2 weeks.
    Where did you graduate from?

    And thanks to all that have replied! I have many a thing to look into now!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    I graduated from the College of Charleston. The Urban Studies program is not an Urban Planning program and is not accredited in any way by the AICP. Many of the usefull every-day planning skills (being able to read a site map, for one) I actually learned in the Historic Preservation program.

    The Historic Preservation program is a bit more practical and hands-on. The two programs have a lot of course overlap, so a double-major is pretty easy. The Urban Studies program is very interdisciplinary and very theory-based. It will teach you to think critically about all the issues involved in planning: politics, social interaction, and economics.

    I'm more of a liberal-arts type person, so I enjoyed my whole C of C experience thoroughly. If you're more of a "get me in, get me out, and only teach me what I need to know for my job" type, you might want to consider somewhere else.

    Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    An undergraduate degree in planning is not a prerequisite to a career in planning. If you can study a related field and take courses that support your future career choice, that is equally acceptable. A BS in public administration and an MS in urban and economic geography have served me very well. I remember that when I am hiring.

    When it comes to hiring new planners, I do tend to contact people at a handful of universites. Ball State is the first one I call.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  12. #12
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    What about obtaining a bachelor's degree in Urban Studies and Planning that is not accredited by the AICP? I know that anf did this, but is this viewed as a "bad move"?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    I've not been working enough to know whether the un-certivied BA is a "good" idea or not. I do plan to go to graduate school within the next 5 years (either for planning or something else), so maybe it doesn't matter too much.

    There are 2 guys who work at my office who have their BA in Urban Studies from my program. One has been working here for several years - he handles rezoning cases, reviews plans and guides developers during the PD process, and helps develop long-range land use policy reccomendations.

    The other is a few years younger. He worked for 3 years in another county and is currently finishing up his Masters degree.

    The big thing about not graduating from an APA certified degree program is that you have to wait longer to become AICP certified. If I remember correctly, I have to work in the field for 5 years before I can become certified.

    Also, there are some every day planning things that I missed out on in college. 3 subjects I wish I could have taken: GIS, Land Use Law, Transportation Planning.

    3 "useless" classes that I will never regret taking: Urban Design, Painting 1, Model Organization of American States
    (i <3 my liberal arts).

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    The Planning Accrediation Board (PAB) accredits planning programs (it is sponsored by the APA, AICP, and ACSP (Association for Collegiate Schools of Planning)).

    If you have a non-accredited graduate planning degree, you have to practice for 3 years as a planner to be elligible for the AICP exam. If you have a non-accredited undergraduate degree in a planning or "related or other" field, then you have to practice for 4 years.

    I think its more important that your school has a good reputation than whether it's accredited. I know a few people with urban studies degrees, but they do alot more sociological work.

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