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Thread: Statistician/economist looking for advice in getting in to a planning career

  1. #1
    Member
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    Jun 2008
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    New York, NY
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    Statistician/economist looking for advice in getting in to a planning career

    Hi. I am looking for advice about how to frame my unique background and skills when applying for urban planning jobs.

    I am in my mid-twenties and have a bachelor's degree in mathematics and dance. I worked for two years doing economic research for a consulting business in Maryland. I worked on a few projects for the Maryland Department of Planning, which I plan to emphasize. I honed my technical skills at that job: I am pretty much an expert at Excel and PowerPoint and can comfortably get around SAS, SPSS, and Access. I did extensive data analysis (though usually in collaboration with a higher level economist) as well as more qualitative economic research and writing sections for some reports.

    I also have a year of graduate coursework in biostatistics. I left the program because I realized that I didn't want to be a biostatistician and some traumatic life/health events made it impossible to stay there. Even though I maintained a 3.7 GPA while there and now have a great grasp of statistics (also did some computer programming and took courses in GIS) I think that this will be a blemish on my resume.

    I have just moved to New York City and want to start working in urban planning, possible doing research, since I think that's what I'm more qualified for. Even though I think I have all the necessary skills for a planning job (especially a more technical, research oriented one), I don't have a traditional background or a master's degree. I have been applying for jobs, but no one seems to show any interest yet.

    So, I'm looking for advice on how to frame my experience and year of graduate school in my cover letter and resume. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Also, if anyone has any job leads in the New York area or knows of any companies where my technical skills would be a good fit, I'd love to know about them.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Hey there,

    It sounds to me like your expertise is more on the economic development side. The planning job market in the NYC metro isn't good at all right now and it's a good time to get into a grad program. You're already in NYC and thus have several excellent programs to choose from. We have an intern from Hunter College in our office and he's enjoying the program. This will help you learn the meat and potatoes of planning if it is something you can swing financially.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Apr 2008
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    American South
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    Quite honestly, I think you're probably going to have a hard time finding a planning job with your limited background and lack of a master's degree. The planning job market seems to be tightening in many areas, meaning that qualifications become more and more important.

    Your best bet (if you're unable or unwilling to get a master's) may be to look for a demographer/statistician job in a planning department or MPO. Those jobs are rather scarce, which means they too are typically competitive. However, if you could nab one, you might be able to forge your way into planning from there.

    Best wishes.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Tullinge Sweden
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    Space syntax

    I tend to agree with the other respondents regarding your likely success in getting a urban planning job. There might be some niche skills that you could develop, that with your maths, programming and statistics background, could be saleable.

    For example, start studying space syntax on your own. There's lots of material on it on the web, and it offers some pretty interesting analytical and predictive tools that are useful to planners. GIS - for which you have the fundamentals - is necessary to apply this in today's planning world.

    another niche might be in learning SADA, a free geo-statistical program used for analysing spatial distribution of contaminents in soils. This becomes important in redevelopment planning, especially redevelopment of industrial or harbour areas. I believe the program was developed at U of NC and special training courses are offered at reasonable prices at least once a year. Your maths and statistical knowledge would be helpful in understanding and explaining the program's results to planners and decision-makers.

    Neither of these additional skills need years at college, yet might help you get into a consultant planning team on their technical merits. From there on, you might find that "who you know is more important than what formal qualitifications you have" in terms of advancing your career.

    But...probably if you want to become a professional planner, you'll need a suitable degree.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Jul 2007
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    Tullinge Sweden
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    190

    SADA is from Univeristy of Tennessee

    I was wrong about the developers of SADA, and I apologise.

    SADA - Spatial Analysis and Decision Assistance - was developed by the Univeristy of Tennessee's Institute for Environmental Modeling. The software development is funded by EPA and NRC.

    The Webpage is www.tiem.utk.edu/~sada/index.shtml

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