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Thread: Transportation planning: where should I focus on my degree?

  1. #1
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    Transportation planning: where should I focus on my degree?

    As I'm mostly interested in transportation, I would ideally want a job that deals with transportation planning. Do you think it would be better to get a M.S. in civil engineering with a transportation concentration or to get a Masters in urban planning with a concentration in transportation? What has better job prospects? I should also note that my undergraduate degree is not in engineering or anything related, but I assume I'd still be able to pursue a M.S. in civil engineering.

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    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    If you want to actually design where things go, I suggest the engineering route. If you just want to help decide what gets funded and push the appropriate papers, I suggest the planning route.

    My first job was as a Transportation Planner for a small Regional Planning Commission. It wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it would be. All the municipal engineers and public works directors got to make all the decisions, and I was only in charge of getting the appropriate paperwork to the state, so they'd get their money.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by minerj View post
    I should also note that my undergraduate degree is not in engineering or anything related, but I assume I'd still be able to pursue a M.S. in civil engineering.
    I doubt you'd be able to get a master's in engineering without an undergrad degree in an engineering field. My undergrad alma mater is an good engineering school and they wouldn't let people in for an M.S. in engineering without a B.S. in engineering. Other schools may be different, but I think you should definitely research that.

    If you like Transportation Planning and can't go the engineering route, find a planning school with a good Transportation Planning component. Find out if their grads get TP jobs that are what you'd be interested in. Ask transportation planners how they got their jobs and what classes prepared them well. Ask professors at these schools for names of alumni in TP that you could talk to and ask them what path to follow in terms of courses. If I had known starting grad school what I know now, about which specialty I was interested in, that's what I would have done.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cch View post
    If you want to actually design where things go, I suggest the engineering route. If you just want to help decide what gets funded and push the appropriate papers, I suggest the planning route.
    This pretty much sums it up. Although I would add that the planning route can invlove more than funding and paper pushing; traffic forecasting, revenue forecasting, transit planning.....just not design.

    Consider the pay issue...the engineering degree will get you more $$$....and you will have more carreer choices... and you would be eligable to sit for the PTOE.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I second the opinions voiced in this thread. I talked to a prof of mine (civil engineering--transportation specialization) who has had private sector experience, and he said that people in the frontline of transportation planning in private practice are for the most part engineers. He also added that engineering/quantitative skills are a lot harder to pick up on the job for people without an engineering background.

    The fact that your undergrad wasn't in engineering might be a handicap in getting into master's programs. But at my school (UofToronto) at least, graduate planning students are given access to most of the graduate level transportation engineering courses.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    This pretty much sums it up. Although I would add that the planning route can invlove more than funding and paper pushing; traffic forecasting, revenue forecasting, transit planning.....just not design.
    I thought that you had to be an engineer to pursue these items as well. Or at least a transport economist or econometrician. Please do correct me if I'm mistaken but I thought the transport engineers are taught modelling, design of networks, design of stations, timetabling in their degree, whereas transport planners might cover all these but at a more general level than detailed level. Usually transport planners who pursue this would have an engineering, statistics or economics/econometrics background on top of the planning background.

    Which probably brings us to the interesting differentiation (if any) between transport planners and engineers.

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