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Thread: Law school instead of masters in planning (seeking advice)?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Law school instead of masters in planning (seeking advice)?

    I was recently accepted into the Master in Urban and Environmental Planning at Arizona State University. However, I have the undergraduate urban planning degree from that same school and have found it to be good for certain areas but completely worthless in others (redundant classes, not so good teachers, etc.). The school is going to be combined with geography into a new program and the current MUEP and urban planning undergraduate program will be changed. It sounds like a positive move and they're heading in the right direction with emphasis on different areas and, as far as the MUEP goes, offering more flexibility for students.

    Due to me having an undergraduate degree in urban planning (and another in geography), would it be wise to choose a different graduate program? My main thought process behind this is that the two programs, from what I've heard from people who have done the undergrad and grad programs, are closely related (I know that's obvious...).

    I was contemplating going for a juris doctorate here at ASU instead (focusing on environmental and land use law), but have read and heard terrible things about law schools in general and the legal profession.

    What do you think would be the better option? The planning graduate program even though I have an urban planning undergrad? Law school (I know the degree of difficulty, time, tuition, etc.)? Perhaps a different option at another school? Nothing?

    Thank you very much for your time and all responses. I can provide more information on the programs or myself if needed.

  2. #2
    Most of the faculty at my undergrad college frowned on attending the same school for undergrad and grad (an honest bunch, to be sure). Your dissatisfaction with your undergrad shows through your post, so i think you already know part of the answer.

    What do you want to do when you are paroled from those Ivory Towers?

    A law degree would make you valuable to larger governments but probably out of the price range of most smaller governments. I'm a PD in a city of 36,000 with a legal budget of less than $25k per year, for example.The private sector could be rather lucrative but again it depends on your location in many respects.

    A MUP would be similar to the above, but would include the smaller locales and counties. Private sector would probably be less lucrative in the short term, I'd guess.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    The undergraduate program typically starts out with an introductory studio and a planning methods class. These two are normally taken in addition to two approved program electives (classes such as GIS, new urbanism, classes on researching cities, etc...4 approved electives required). The following semester goes into more theory based areas like urban design (theory, not the practice), history of urban planning, and "city structure and planning" (which was just political rambling, no joke or exaggeration).

    Third semester hits more relevant areas in zoning, planning law, environmental planning, and citizen participation. These are project-based courses. However, planning law is basically the teacher standing up front going over a Word document he created before the start of the semester. Fourth semester is the more "advanced" studio, urban land economics (just like city structure apparently), and ethics and theory which my fellow students claim is worthless.

    The MUEP seems to reintroduce urban planning so, if one were an undergrad before in the program, they'd be forced to take a class introducing everything (which makes sense). Everything from the 'idea of planning', and a more advanced planning methods class, planning theory, etc. Its unclear right now what they'll do because they're in the transition phase of moving to another college. They'll go from the College of Design to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. That will place more of an emphasis on the science aspect rather than the design aspect, or place it in that general area. I should note that I double majored in a major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, so I don't think I'll benefit from the move much which does seem positive in my opinion.

    I just want to know if law school would really be worth it instead of mastering in urban planning despite what I have mentioned about the unknowns at the moment. Is there much of a future in law? What about urban planning? I've read terrible and damning things about the career and potential law schools. I would like to focus either on environmental law or environmental planning.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by El Barto View post
    I just want to know if law school would really be worth it instead of mastering in urban planning despite what I have mentioned about the unknowns at the moment. Is there much of a future in law? What about urban planning? I've read terrible and damning things about the career and potential law schools. I would like to focus either on environmental law or environmental planning.
    Every lawyer has told me that if you imagine doing anything else other than practicing law then you should do that. I know plenty of land use lawyers and they they spend most of their days working on contracts or torts. If you want to go blind by paperwork then by all means be a land use lawyer. Granted the land use lawyers I know like what they do but they love the law and the practice of it...and their paychecks are nice...or they were nice.

    Have you ever worked for a living? I mean no school, just worked, paid bills etc? If not you should try it for a year. You be amazed at the perspective you get when you are no longer a student.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    Have you ever worked for a living? I mean no school, just worked, paid bills etc? If not you should try it for a year. You be amazed at the perspective you get when you are no longer a student.

    My .002$ would be to second the above advice because you will be able to figure out what kind of graduate degree really suits you if you work for at least a year.

    When I was in undergrad I also considered a law degree, MBA, in addition to environmental/urban plannning. Working for 2 years helped me to focus my interests and realize that law or b-school are not the paths I want to pursue to work in the environmental field.

    Also, don't go to law school because it seems like a good idea. Its damn expensive and according to my friends there, incredibly grueling.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    If you want to be...

    If you want to be a lawyer, go to law school. If you want to be a planner, get an MUP at another school other than where you got your undergrad. A planner with a BA and a law degree sounds a lot like a planner with a BA degree and not much else to most planning employers.

  7. #7
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    ASU

    El Barto,

    I will be moving to the Tempe/Phoenix area in July and am interested in applying to the MUEP program for 2010-2011. Is there any insight you can provide on the program, i.e. the pros and cons? Will you elaborate on your criticism in your first post?

    I spoke with a graduate coordinator earlier this afternoon and he indicated two things:

    a) that the School of Design and/or Planning leaves it up to the student to secure internships, etc. Do there seem to be a lot of private/public opportunities in the Phoenix area?

    b) that most students don't receive funding from the University. Have you applied for any type of fellowship or assistantship?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Thank you for all the responses. Any more advice?

    BUtterfield8, I sent you an email but when I clicked send the site logged me out. Let me know if you got it

  9. #9
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    I received the message and appreciate the information/insight. Will respond shortly.

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