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Thread: "Portability" of a degree

  1. #1
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    "Portability" of a degree

    If I want to work in California following completion of my planning master's degree, would I gain a significant advantage by having a degree from USC or UCLA vs. one from a midwestern school? To put it another way, how much harder will it be for me to enter that job market with a degree from an out-of-state (but accredited) school?

    I would really like to live and work in the Bay Area, Greater LA, or anywhere in Cali...thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I don't know the exact details but as I understand it, planning is approached slightly differently in CA compared to other states. So while you probably can get hired with a degree from out of state, a degree from CA is preferable. Also worth noting, there are a ton of planning schools in CA and you won't have access to the networking opportunities associated with them.

    Basically if you want to start out in California, I would go to school there.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Fang View post
    If I want to work in California following completion of my planning master's degree, would I gain a significant advantage by having a degree from USC or UCLA vs. one from a midwestern school?
    The short answer is yes. As Blide mentioned, planning out here in CA can be different due to the large amount of state laws that deal with planning and the environment. However, while it may be somewhat more difficult to enter the CA planning job market from out of state, it is by no means impossible. Much of what you need to know about planning in CA can be learned on the job or through classes and seminars at the local university extension or APA/AEP chapter. If you are set on going to planning school in the Midwest I would recommend talking with the professors to see if the program has alums working in CA that they could put you in touch with. Additionally, if possible/feasible, you should attempt to secure a summer internship in CA that you could use to build up your CA planning knowledge and professional network.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    I agree with what has been said, however if you are accepted to a top-tier school like MIT, Harvard, or UNC (for example), they may have tight-knit networks in those areas which could be very beneficial in the job hunt. I know for sure that MIT has a big group in the Bay Area that likes to hire "internally"
    "Try to be in two incredibly successful bands. If not, that's okay." -- Words to live by, courtesy of Dave Grohl

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by planr View post
    I agree with what has been said, however if you are accepted to a top-tier school like MIT, Harvard, or UNC (for example), they may have tight-knit networks in those areas which could be very beneficial in the job hunt. I know for sure that MIT has a big group in the Bay Area that likes to hire "internally"
    planr, would you consider either UT-Austin, Maryland-College Park or UW-Seattle in the same category?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    planr, would you consider either UT-Austin, Maryland-College Park or UW-Seattle in the same category?
    Honestly, I am not personally familiar with the programs/faculty at the schools you mentioned. I know that UT-Austin is very well regarded in a few sub-genres of planning, but I know nothing of the others. Sorry!
    "Try to be in two incredibly successful bands. If not, that's okay." -- Words to live by, courtesy of Dave Grohl

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    planr, would you consider either UT-Austin, Maryland-College Park or UW-Seattle in the same category?
    My observation is that the UW program is very well regarded in the fields of urban design and environmental planning. The UW College of Architecture (now Built Environments) in which the program is housed seems to thought of very highly in architecture circles which could be of benefit if you are looking to work in urban design.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by planr View post
    I know that UT-Austin is very well regarded in a few sub-genres of planning, but I know nothing of the others.
    Can you expand on this a bit?

    I'm also curious about the portability of degrees but not because I know where I want to end up. When I finish school my husband will have started a post-doc somewhere and we don't know where that will be. I don't know how much more portable Cornell or Penn will make me over UT-Austin and Maryland. All I know is that we will not end up in Texas but as of right now, UT is the best bet for me purely from a financial perspective.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I personally think a lot of the idea of "portability" or a school's reputation being all-important is overblown.

    You can get a job in any part of the country with a degree from a school from any other part of the country.

    Far more important than the name of the school is what you do with the opportunities once in school.

    Naturally, which school we get into and choose to attend is what we get carried away with at this stage of the game, but trust me, it does not dictate everything that will follow.

  10. #10
    What about schools like Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY? The impression I get is that the number of visiting, 'temporary' professors who are professionals in the field far outweighs the # of full-time faculty. Perhaps I am wrong in using this as an indicator about the 'portability' of a program, but to me that signals you have a large number of connections within the NYC planning field, but not necessarily experience beyond the NYC sector.

    Would I be wrong to assume that if one were to attend a Pratt vs. a MIT, UNC, or UCLA that you'd have a) limited knowledge of planning practices beyond that of NY Metro area (or your respective geographic area) and b) more likely to be funneled into the immediate region's work-force vs. outside state/regions and more of a struggle if you sought to be employed in another state.

    One of my greatest worries in choosing the right program is the transferability of my degree in various cities.

    What are people's feelings on the 'portability' of an UPenn vs. Columbia degree?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bessymarch View post
    Can you expand on this a bit?

    I'm also curious about the portability of degrees but not because I know where I want to end up. When I finish school my husband will have started a post-doc somewhere and we don't know where that will be. I don't know how much more portable Cornell or Penn will make me over UT-Austin and Maryland. All I know is that we will not end up in Texas but as of right now, UT is the best bet for me purely from a financial perspective.
    UT-Austin is very well regarded in transportation / transportation engineering circles. If I remember correctly, they have a good urban design curriculum as well
    "Try to be in two incredibly successful bands. If not, that's okay." -- Words to live by, courtesy of Dave Grohl

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Anyone have any insight into what incentives a municipality or firm might have for hiring someone in one region whose education came from another region? I did not get into school in the region where I ultimately want to work, and I'm trying to do as much research as I can about the options I may have to stay connected to that region (internships, possible alumni connections, etc.). I'm wondering what might motivate a hiring manager to hire someone despite not being familiar-through-education with their region.

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