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Thread: Urban planning vs. MBA vs. RED

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Urban planning vs. MBA vs. RED

    Ok, so let me just give you profile, and maybe you guys could help point me in the right direction.

    I am 26 years old, UCLA/History/3.3gpa, and I have 2 years work experience at a large private land development firm in Los Angeles (working in purchasing). I enrolled in law school right out of undergrad, but dropped out after I quickly realized it wasnt for me.

    Post grad school goals: To work for another land developer (as a project manager), architecture firm, planning firm, consultant, and hopefully Id do more with sustainable works. I want to work more with the acquisition, design, planning, and even management phases. My long term goal is to build sustainable/green homes on my own someday (on a small scale).

    Up until recently Ive been studying for the GMAT, and only really looking at MBA programs. Then it suddenly hit me, is this really the route I want to take? Maybe there are other, more specialized degrees focused on what Id like to do. All the project managers at my firm hold MA in Urban Planning, so it suddenly occurred to me that it may be worth looking at, even if only to rule it out as an option. Not only do I want to be happy in what Im doing, but Id also like to make more than $30k for the rest of my life. Is a high paying job possible (or even likely, if you look for them?) from a top tier school? Im not looking to make $250k/yr, but what about $70k-100K/yr, is that possible with a MA in Urban Planning? Aside from all of that, I find the courses to be much more interesting than the MBA, or even the RED. The RED seems like most of it could be learned on the job. Anyway, just based on what Ive revealed, what program do you think might best suit me?

    One side question, are there more career options coming out of Harvard GSD or Berkeley with an MA in Urban Planning? I mean, if you wanted to work for KB Homes, or some top consulting firm, would that be possible?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian drjb's avatar
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    Having just graduated with an MA in Urban Planning from your alma mater, I may have some insights for you.

    A little bit about myself, I also would like to get into sustainable real estate development in the future and feel that my graduate degree has properly prepared me for the rigors of the field. The only problem has been getting my foot in the door (especially considering the economy). I currently work for a real estate consulting firm doing a lot of financial and economic work for developers, which is interesting but it is not exactly what I would like to do.

    As to your debate of degrees, I think an MBA or MRED may be able to get you in the door more easily relative to an MA in Urban Planning (and may even give you more money to start). However, I feel the people with the MA in Urban Planning have a more well rounded understanding of urban processes and development, which may allow them to be more valuable and instrumental to a company. As these individuals get industry experience and actually get their feet in the door, I feel they will be able to shine more easily than those with MBAs or MREDs. That is not to say, those with MBAs or MREDs cannot do the same, it is just my opinion on some of things I have seen.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Victory, I was in a similar situation not too long ago. I've always had an interest in planning, but I strongly considered pursing a MBA or MSRED instead due to my educational background and professional goals. I dual majored in finance & real estate (3.1 GPA), and I have two-years RE experience with a consulting firm in Chicago. My interest is in urban land development.

    Some important points to consider which will help you make the right choice for your situation:

    1) Return on Investment. A MBA will be costly, and there is no guarantee the career you find after graduation would justify the cost of the MBA. Many planning schools on the other hand offer much more attractive financial aid in terms of fellowships and assistantships than the MBA programs (that's been my experience anyway). If you are accepted into a planning school willing to pay all or part of your tuition, go for it!

    2) Location. There have been arguments made that the planning school you attend does not matter. I suppose however you should attend an accredited program in the region you're interested in pursing employment. This is in direct contrast to MBA programs. In my opinion, the location of your MBA is very important! So aim for a top 25 b-school or the best in the region.

    3) Job prospects. What is it you want to do after graduation? A MBA is very versatile. There should be no trouble finding a good paying career in a wide variety of fields after graduation. MSRED is a little bit more specific. I honestly don't know how HR departments will view it, and I'm not convinced it's an automatic entrance into the the land development industry. Planning is in good demand and opens to door to many private and public sector careers. I know a few people who have recently been hired by a major development company to work in land entitlements, despite the slowing real estate market.

    4) Personal interests. Know what you're getting into, and be sure it's something you're interested in! This goes for both the curriculum (be it MBA, MSRED, or Planning) and your future career choices.

    Best of luck on whatever you decide! BTW, If you're not afraid in racking up a little debt (a lot of debt), there is also no reason you can't pick two degree programs if that's truly what you desire. There are some schools which offer joint degrees for Planning/MBA or a MBA with a strong real estate development focus.

  4. #4
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    Wow!

    Hello Everyone,

    I am a junior at USC majoring in Policy, Planning and Development (GPA 3.42). I absolutely love it and want to pursue it further. My career goal is to become a project manager for an international or national developer. I love to travel and to socially interact.

    As expressed by the fellow posters, I am also conflicted as to which graduate degree to pursue. I have debated over law school for quite sometime but came to realization that my personality is not compatible with the demands of the profession. I have a passion for real estate development but, as stated by another poster, I feel that MRED skills can be acquired on the job. My next thought was to pursue a MBA, though I excel in business administration, I loath the practice. The applications make me feel doomed to be behind a desk forever- which is my worst nightmare. Finally, I begun to research schools for MA in Urban Planning. The programs seem interesting, especially at MIT and Harvard, but I do have concerns. My two main concerns are: One, unlike Victory, I do want to make around 250k-plus and I don't think that's possible with a MA in Urban Planning, regardless if it's from Harvard or MIT- please tell me if I am wrong. Second, I don't think a MA in Urban Planning is taken too seriously in the professional world and people with MBAs and JDs will always be ahead of the pack.

    Help! Please.

    Trojan23

    FIGHT ON!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Victory View post

    Post grad school goals: To work for another land developer (as a project manager), architecture firm, planning firm, consultant, and hopefully Id do more with sustainable works. I want to work more with the acquisition, design, planning, and even management phases. My long term goal is to build sustainable/green homes on my own someday (on a small scale).
    When you say "build" homes on your own, do you want to work for a design/build? In addition to an MBA you might want to consider an MArch. True, you don't "need" an architecture degree to run a firm that builds homes. However, it boosts your credibility as the owner.

    On a separate note, law schools and MBA programs are over-saturated with students. Now is not a good time to be going into these fields unless you really know what you want to do. Don't expect to be making a huge salary right of school either. I predict the recession will lower everyone's salaries for the next few years.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  6. #6
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    I'm so over the recession. Be gone!

    I am in the same boat as Victory and have the same concerns. So keep the constructive thoughts coming!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Jakers's avatar
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    I plan on working in RED as well. I am getting a Masters in Urban Planning and a Graduate Certificate in Real Estate Development. Many good UP programs offer this to supplement a broad Planning Degree. Mine is an extra 6 classes for the certificate, a few of which the planning program requirs anyway. You also have to perform a capstone studio that you create your own development (on paper) from stakeholders/financing, design, law, leasing etc.. the whole kit and kaboodle.
    I want to go this route because of many of the reasons already expressed. Cost is much lower. It is more interesting to me to study RED within the context of Planning as a whole than just RED. I think it leaves me with just as many if not more options than an MBA or MSRED. You might want to look into some programs that offer this option.
    Good luck!
    "Inside Joke"

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I feel like that post was a lifetime ago. Just in case anyone is wondering, I went the urban planning route. Going to Cornell, but will probably take a nice chunk of real estate dev/finance courses. Already scoping out potential summer internships at commercial developers in nyc.

    I have been feeling really conflicted with where I'm going professionally, as I've had an interest in sustainable development/transportation. However I also realize that it's incredibly beneficial to learn your profession from every angle (development, planning etc), where you start isn't necessarily where you'll finish your career, and you'll never be stuck in a job if you don't let yourself. That being said, I'm also toying with the idea of applying to the Johnson school of management (cornell) for a dual MBA/MCRP during my first semester.

    Good luck

  9. #9
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    If you are thinking of doing an MBA make sure it is what you really want and that you are the type of person that can benefit from the type of education you are going to receive.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  10. #10
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    Not quite in a similar boat to those above.

    I'm a 23 year old chartered planner working for local government.

    I graduated with a 3.4 and studied from an MA in Planning and Sustainable Development.

    Like those above i'd consider myself quite ambitious. I dont even consider an MBA to be an option. To go to the top or near the top i think its a complete necessity.

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