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Thread: Career advice

  1. #1
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    Career advice

    Hello all.

    This is my first post although I have been frequenting the Cyburbia forums for a while now. I have been researching and trying to decide if Urban Planning is a career path I should follow, and although I have been able to get so much info from everyone’s generous posts, it is mostly from an American view point and it is great that there is now an Australian forum as well.

    I have a Bachelor of Business (majoring in Marketing and Business Psychology) and a Diploma of Project Management and have been working as a Market Research Analyst for a large TAFE institute in Queensland for the past 2 ˝ years. I have recently applied for a Masters in Urban Planning (thinking of specialising in Urban Design) at the University of Melbourne and I am now waiting to see if I get accepted to start in August. So as you can see I am pretty ready to get started on the path to this field.

    Before I do take the giant leap and enrol (if I get accepted), I have a few questions that I would really appreciate if Australian planners could help answer.

    I have read the PIA national inquiry regarding the critical shortages of planners and level of planners leaving the occupation due to stress, burnout etc.. My first question is – What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation or creates the most stress?

    What word of advice (warning and encouragement) would you give some one considering entering this occupation?

    How hard would it be for me to get a part-time job in Melbourne in the field with my current qualifications and experience while studying full-time?

    I was looking to specialise in Urban Design as I have a need to be somewhat creative. Would a specialisation in Urban Design be enough to work in Urban Design? If not, how creative can the other “planning” occupations be?

    I apologise for so many questions. Any positive advice would be much appreciated!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Hi Trizzle,

    Welcome! And yes, would support you in your decision to pursue UD at UniMelb (shamelessly supporting my uni).

    Maybe you might want to qualify exactly what sort of part-time work you're looking to want to do. Is it urban design work or planning work? This would help us frame the answers.

    To help you with this, essentially, there is a difference between urban design and urban planning. Urban designers focus on the built form, massing, streetscape, sense of place, etc, while the urban planners focus more on the regulatory and policy aspects of development.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your reply Joshww81.

    I guess I am still unsure which way to go. Urban design is something that interests me, but I don’t have any skills or any experience so I know that it would be very unlikely for me to get any part-time work in this area. And that is one of my questions; would I be able to gain employment in Urban Design after I complete my studies from just an Urban Design specialisation?

    With my current skills and work experience I see that it would be much easier for me to get work in the area of “planning”, I just don’t know if there are a lot of opportunities for part-time work in “planning” in Melbourne, and if I have the necessary experience to secure such jobs

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I wish I had someone with your qualifications on my team!

    I am not an Australian based planner, so forgive me for butting in....

    I work with strategic urban and regional planning (among other things) in the developing world, where growth is very rapid but uneven, where change is accelerating and tends to be much faster than Australia, North America or Europe. In several countries where I work, a major difficulty is getting planners to understand the business sector (and vice bersa) and to plan with and for the private sector, while protecting socio-cultural values and the environment. Another HUGE gap is in project management. So I would LOVE to be able to incorporate someone with your present background in my teams.

    UNFORTUNATELY, not so many decision-makers and financiers of the kinds of project I do, unerstand the need for and value of people like you.

    Now, if you had urban design/urban planning skills as well! Wow!

    so my non-Australian view is, if you have the opportunity and ability, GO FOR IT... and you'll never need to regret having the qualifications you already have. You'll find uses for everything you ever learned, from drawing and colouring in kindergarden to marketing analysis....

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Trizzle View post
    Thanks for your reply Joshww81.

    I guess I am still unsure which way to go. Urban design is something that interests me, but I don’t have any skills or any experience so I know that it would be very unlikely for me to get any part-time work in this area. And that is one of my questions; would I be able to gain employment in Urban Design after I complete my studies from just an Urban Design specialisation?

    With my current skills and work experience I see that it would be much easier for me to get work in the area of “planning”, I just don’t know if there are a lot of opportunities for part-time work in “planning” in Melbourne, and if I have the necessary experience to secure such jobs
    Perhaps I'd answer your question in two parts.

    Education

    I'd like to suggest that for an Urban Design education, you would be better off pursuing a degree in Landscape Architecture or Architecture. The reason for this is straightforward: the LA/Arch degree will be able to provide you with a rigorous basic design training that the UD degree won't be able to give.

    Urban design degrees are usually post-professional degrees which require you to have a certain amount of exposure to design prior to enrolment. Basic courses usually not taught during the MUD/Pgrad UD includes CAD, technical drawing skills (perspectives, etc), steps in appreciating design and of course getting used to presentations in studios and the like.

    Career

    The second reason I suggest getting a LA/Arch degree is simply to aid you in your work seach: having a MLA or BLA or BArch will open options for jobs in design firms, especially those run by design professionals.

    In a firm which I had worked for, they had a UD studio, which comprised of people with mostly architecture or landscape architecture backgrounds. There was only one person with a planning background but she struggled through her work at times because she was unable to do the technical work which she does not have the skills for, e.g. write technical design guidelines, draw up plans and the like.

    Unfortunately when I had asked about getting a position with the UD side, the boss told me plainly that UD is highly technical and they would rather get a person with LA/Arch background than a planner. Even a colleague of mine with a planning basic degree and MUD postgraduate wasn't able to be offered a position in the UD section for similar reasons.

    Of course, this may not true across the board and there might be some firms who do offer non-design grads opportunities in design-based capacities, but that is unfortunately few from what I've heard so far.

    Alternatively you could try to get a planning degree with a UD slant and that could help you in doing the policy aspects of urban design, e.g. drawing up guidelines and the like.

    That said, planning is highly sought after in Oz, with many positions required for planners. So I'm sure that there are opportunities out there for part time planning positions if you can seek them out. Check out the PIA website.

    We can discuss this more if you like.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Trizzle View post
    What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation or creates the most stress?

    What word of advice (warning and encouragement) would you give some one considering entering this occupation?

    Would a specialisation in Urban Design be enough to work in Urban Design? If not, how creative can the other “planning” occupations be?
    Just dealing with a few of your questions;

    Satisfactions - seeing good projects come to fruition - whether they are plans or buildings or public spaces or policies. Especially where there has been an element of community and political education built into the process.

    Dissatisfactions - developers and Councillors (I work in local government) can squeeze planners in the pursuit of their agendas. Sometimes these agendas aren't obvious, or are self-serving, and sometimes the way they go about prusuing those agendas can be to attack planners who may seem to be an obstacle.

    Advice - it can be a really rewarding career. My advice is; if you don't know, ask. I see some planners who obviously don't know and hide behind a bunch of jargon they only half undserstand to avoid admitting they are still learning (as all planners of any age or experience level should be). Have the confidence to admit there is always something new to learn or a new perspective to get your head around.

    Jobs - you will probably find a job pretty readily on graduating, provided the Australian economy is still chugging along OK and you present as someone who can work in a team environment. I don't really agree with joshww81 about Landscape and Architecture as better options. I think your other undergraduate qualifications will be of interest to employers (for the same reasons as Monomogolo said) and I know a few urban designers with undergradutate town planning degrees that have coped well with coming to terms with the design process in their post-graduate UD courses.

    Good luck.

  7. #7
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    Thank you all for your replies and useful advice.

    I dont think that I particularly want to go the Landscape architecture route due to the extra commitment in both time and money that it involves although I can definitely see the benefits of doing so.

    I feel that my best bet is to do the Masters in Urban Planning (Urban Design) as this builds nicely on my current qualifications and I can then do a CAD course to sharpen my technical skills. I did both art and technical drawing (hand not computer) throughout high school so I know I would be able to cope well with design processes such as perspectives etc..

    Another thing that I have come to realise is that I am more of a "big picture" type than a "detail" type; so Urban planning maybe a better fit. However I have a need to use creativity in my job, which is why design appeals so much to me and I think thats something that is essentially holding me back from diving into planning - I dont want to be stuck in an office reading policies or processing proposals all day long.

    It would be great to hear from planners on how much creativity they use in their jobs.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Trizzle View post
    Thank you all for your replies and useful advice.

    I dont think that I particularly want to go the Landscape architecture route due to the extra commitment in both time and money that it involves although I can definitely see the benefits of doing so.

    I feel that my best bet is to do the Masters in Urban Planning (Urban Design) as this builds nicely on my current qualifications and I can then do a CAD course to sharpen my technical skills. I did both art and technical drawing (hand not computer) throughout high school so I know I would be able to cope well with design processes such as perspectives etc..

    Another thing that I have come to realise is that I am more of a "big picture" type than a "detail" type; so Urban planning maybe a better fit. However I have a need to use creativity in my job, which is why design appeals so much to me and I think thats something that is essentially holding me back from diving into planning - I dont want to be stuck in an office reading policies or processing proposals all day long.

    It would be great to hear from planners on how much creativity they use in their jobs.
    This sounds like a good approach.

    You might also want to check out firms like Planisphere and David Lock Australia, which specialises in strategic and long-range planning, as well as urban design. They might be offering what you're interested in.

    As for creativity in jobs, it really depends on what type of position you're in and how much freedom you're given in your role. Also I'd also take it that creativity for you equates mainly to having creativity to design and create spaces, places, plans, urban strategies and the like?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Well i only have an undergrad in Town Planning, but it sounds to me, with those qualifications you have, plus an urban planning masters should get you a job in project management type of planning.

    In terms of the urban design component, one of my best friends did a masters in urban design and development after their undergrad in town planning, and has struggled to get a job in urban design- people are generally looking for architects (perhaps a generalisation i dont know)

    Wouldnt go down the route of landscape architecture but.

    I think with your degrees you will be extremely employable in planning, although the scope of you being involved in design and creativity may not be as much as you would like.

    Goodluck!
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    G'day Trizzle

    The following may be of some interest to you:

    La Trobe University - Planning.

    Cheerio, Mark.

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