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Thread: Urban planning with international focus

  1. #1
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    Urban planning with international focus

    I know this topic has been posted before, but I just can't seem to find it...

    So I'm concluding my college career, and still uncertain of what exactly I want to do in grad school. Or rather, I know what I want to do but I'm having difficulty pinpointing exactly what/where, if you understand what I mean. I want to work with developing countries (in the US and abroad) on urban issues, particularly transportation and education.

    Basically, I'm looking at doing to urban planning with an international focus. But I'm afraid it's not internationally focused enough. I'm thinking something like International Development with an urban focus, but I haven't had much luck in finding that, and I'm not quite sure what job prospects I might have after graduating. I feel like a MUP w/ an international concentration would give me more options overall.

    I know some of the top urban planning schools offer international concentrations, and I would love to attend those programs (and may even be able to get in), but any type of job I get (city gov't, NGO, USAID, Peace Corps) wouldn't be very conducive to a large debt repayment.

    Any ideas on some programs that might be a good fit? FWIW, I'm getting a BS in Econ and BA in Global Studies, and I might consider getting a PhD later on down the road (I'd definitely consider a PhD program that's a good fit now, too)

    I'm willing to go anywhere, and I can offer my stats later if necessary. I'm taking a year off to teach English in Korea, but I plan on applying for schools this fall for fall 2010.

    Thanks for helping me out.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Have you thought about doing the Peace Corps before getting an advanced degree? The Peace Corps has some great educational benefits: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?....whyvol.eduben

    I am not a RPCV, but work with some and am friends with some, many of whom have pursued their advanced degrees this way. They all found the experience of working in the field invaluable to their education upon return.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    From what I've read/heard MIT, UC-Berkeley, UI-Urbana Champaign, and UNC all have strong international development components. Virginia Tech has a Master's International Program that combines at Masters in Planning degree with a two year Peace Corps tour - 1 year at VT, two years in the Peace Corps, and a final year at VT. A big time commitment for a master's degree, but it seems like some pretty amazing opportunities have come out of it.

    Unfortunately, whether you are practicing planning abroad or here in the U.S., you can't really expect it to be that lucrative for the first few years. Practicing abroad would probably be even less lucrative initially unless you can score a sweet job with the World Bank or the like. It seems to me that international development jobs available to new graduates would likely be through non-profits in developing countries lacking a strong planning or resource management infrastructure. I would think that there are opportunities for debt forgiveness if you commit to humanitarian work after grad school through certain federal/international agencies, though I don't know of any offhand.

    For many people, the financial costs pale in comparison to the experience and gratification resulting from that type of career. Good luck.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    While it's certainly something to factor in, and it could have an effect on which school you ultimately choose, I'd be careful not to let concerns about debt play too large a role in your decision.

    I see these kinds of comments on this board a lot, and it makes me think a lot of current college students might be a little more concerned about graduate debt than they really need to be. A lot of it has to do with perspective. I think a lot of people who haven't worked full time have trouble visualizing the new economic reality that's going to bring with it. You get used to not having that much money in college, and even though you know you'll be making more once you work full time, you don't - or at least I didn't - quite realize how different it feels in practice (and I've been working as a journalist for more than a decade, so I'm not exactly raking in the money).

    If you're used to paying $500 in rent, then paying that much on loans probably sounds like a lot. But if you're making even a relatively modest salary, that's not going to be that much in the grand scheme of things (barring expensive tastes in cars, personal items, etc.)

    Another factor is that at some point, if you get married or are in a long-term relationship where housing and other costs are shared and two incomes are in play, the college loans are even less significant.

    I guess what I'm saying is, yes, costs should be a factor, but don't let them drive your decision too much, because what seems like a lot of money now might not seem so daunting later.

  5. #5
    this is exactly what i am planning to do! Right on!

    I'm graduating from undergrad in a few weeks with TONS of debt, but decided to go to grad school at home to save money on tuition and housing- at Hunter College. I don't believe in order to go into third world development you need to have an MUP with a specialization in third world development (doesn't really exist as such)

    While the MUP offered at Hunter has the option for a specific focus on international development, its not as specialized as I would like, but you have to remember the field of urban planning in an international context is not really taught as a masters curriculum rather it takes portions of development economics, international planning, and planning theory and with a comprehensive experience abroad (for example going to a university in Africa- I'd recommend Nigeria or South Africa) you will have a really knowledgeable basis for what you want to do.

    In the end as people have pointed out, unless you get a cushy job with the World Bank immediately post grad- you will not start making a lot of money for many years down the line; not assuming that money is your goal, but it is an important element to factor into decisions. I know the world bank offers internships after your first year of grad school, and the UN has similar opportunities, but you will most likely end up working for a city or state government to stabilize yourself financially before pursuing an international career-

    So if I were you, I'd go to whatever masters program for urban planning is practical money wise. Pick a specialization in something that intrigues you and be sure to take as many electives in international development and econ as possible and study abroad in a developing country. BUT take note the TU Darmstadt in germany offers an entire Master's program based on urban development in developing countries if you really want a comprehensive degree in this field, but the tuition is high and you'll be living in Germany, also in Europe Mundus Urbano has a consortium on universities including TU Darsmatdt that offers a comprehensive international cooperation masters in urban planning, although you get to spend a semester in a new country and the degree is very marketable globally, it's expensive and you're in Europe (http://www.mundus-urbano.eu/)

    Good luck with the Ph. D. possibility as well, I asked a question about it, that didnt really get answered, but I'm looking at the London School of Economics as a possibility.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the responses so far.

    I'm not so sure about doing the Peace Corps thing immediately, but I want to keep it open as an option down the road.

    Here's what I'm looking at...

    UC-Berkeley
    MIT
    Cornell (any thoughts on their Urban Studies program?)
    UNC (I didn't see anything international on their website, but maybe I overlooked?)
    Columbia (I know they get a lot of flack here, but I hear the international focus is great)
    UIC (don't know much about this program yet?

    Any other schools that offer a good international focus? I'm open to Canadian schools as well. I also would like to look at some less competitive programs as safeties, although I think my heart would truly lie with the top programs...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I'm interested in working internationally as well.

    I was accepted to University at Albany and planning to attend there and specialize in transportation and work on my language skills and pursue an internship abroad.

  8. #8
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    So do you think it might be better/easier/just as good to go to school without necessarily a reputation for international specialization and just focus my electives and internship on things international?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by NoChance View post
    So do you think it might be better/easier/just as good to go to school without necessarily a reputation for international specialization and just focus my electives and internship on things international?
    That is what I'm going to do. I'm starting this fall. I'll let you know how it goes!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by NoChance View post
    Thanks for the responses so far.

    I'm not so sure about doing the Peace Corps thing immediately, but I want to keep it open as an option down the road.

    Here's what I'm looking at...

    UC-Berkeley
    MIT
    Cornell (any thoughts on their Urban Studies program?)
    UNC (I didn't see anything international on their website, but maybe I overlooked?)
    Columbia (I know they get a lot of flack here, but I hear the international focus is great)
    UIC (don't know much about this program yet?

    Any other schools that offer a good international focus? I'm open to Canadian schools as well. I also would like to look at some less competitive programs as safeties, although I think my heart would truly lie with the top programs...

    I just went through the application process at UIC and UIUC... (along with Wisconsin)

    UIC seemed pretty rigid in their curriculum... at least more so than other schools... I didn't really recall much of anything with an International Focus.


    UIUC has the "transnational planning stream"... which is they have a group of a couple international planning oriented classes you can take in addition to your concentration (basically, instead of an international planning concentration, you concentrate on something and can do so with an international focus if you chose)... there is at least one professor that deals with international planning, and a few professors that I know have done international projects....

  11. #11
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    After more research, MIT is really sticking out. It seems to have what I really want. Cornell is not very far behind, though.

    My dream location would either be NYC or San Francisco, and I know this shouldn't factor too heavily, but it is important to me.

    So in that case there's
    NYU
    Rutgers (okay not exactly NYC...)
    Columbia

    and for San Fran
    Berkeley

    The only worrisome part is that all of those are really nice schools. I'll have to be lame and do a chances thread...

  12. #12
    That's interesting..I was looking at the Hunter College website and I didn't see any kind of focus/concentration on int. planning? On the site it only lists Community Planning and Advocacy (including Human Services), Sustainability and the Environment, Transportation and Infrastructure, Housing and the Built Environment (including Urban Design and Historic Preservation), Economic Development, and General Practice as concentrations.

    Quote Originally posted by dpileofashes View post
    this is exactly what i am planning to do! Right on!

    I'm graduating from undergrad in a few weeks with TONS of debt, but decided to go to grad school at home to save money on tuition and housing- at Hunter College. I don't believe in order to go into third world development you need to have an MUP with a specialization in third world development (doesn't really exist as such)

    While the MUP offered at Hunter has the option for a specific focus on international development, its not as specialized as I would like, but you have to remember the field of urban planning in an international context is not really taught as a masters curriculum rather it takes portions of development economics, international planning, and planning theory and with a comprehensive experience abroad (for example going to a university in Africa- I'd recommend Nigeria or South Africa) you will have a really knowledgeable basis for what you want to do.

    In the end as people have pointed out, unless you get a cushy job with the World Bank immediately post grad- you will not start making a lot of money for many years down the line; not assuming that money is your goal, but it is an important element to factor into decisions. I know the world bank offers internships after your first year of grad school, and the UN has similar opportunities, but you will most likely end up working for a city or state government to stabilize yourself financially before pursuing an international career-

    So if I were you, I'd go to whatever masters program for urban planning is practical money wise. Pick a specialization in something that intrigues you and be sure to take as many electives in international development and econ as possible and study abroad in a developing country. BUT take note the TU Darmstadt in germany offers an entire Master's program based on urban development in developing countries if you really want a comprehensive degree in this field, but the tuition is high and you'll be living in Germany, also in Europe Mundus Urbano has a consortium on universities including TU Darsmatdt that offers a comprehensive international cooperation masters in urban planning, although you get to spend a semester in a new country and the degree is very marketable globally, it's expensive and you're in Europe (http://www.mundus-urbano.eu/)

    Good luck with the Ph. D. possibility as well, I asked a question about it, that didnt really get answered, but I'm looking at the London School of Economics as a possibility.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by NoChance View post
    I know this topic has been posted before, but I just can't seem to find it...

    So I'm concluding my college career, and still uncertain of what exactly I want to do in grad school. Or rather, I know what I want to do but I'm having difficulty pinpointing exactly what/where, if you understand what I mean. I want to work with developing countries (in the US and abroad) on urban issues, particularly transportation and education.

    Basically, I'm looking at doing to urban planning with an international focus. But I'm afraid it's not internationally focused enough. I'm thinking something like International Development with an urban focus, but I haven't had much luck in finding that, and I'm not quite sure what job prospects I might have after graduating. I feel like a MUP w/ an international concentration would give me more options overall.

    I know some of the top urban planning schools offer international concentrations, and I would love to attend those programs (and may even be able to get in), but any type of job I get (city gov't, NGO, USAID, Peace Corps) wouldn't be very conducive to a large debt repayment.

    Any ideas on some programs that might be a good fit? FWIW, I'm getting a BS in Econ and BA in Global Studies, and I might consider getting a PhD later on down the road (I'd definitely consider a PhD program that's a good fit now, too)

    I'm willing to go anywhere, and I can offer my stats later if necessary. I'm taking a year off to teach English in Korea, but I plan on applying for schools this fall for fall 2010.

    Thanks for helping me out.
    My 2c worth. Perhaps you may wish to consider working backwards - i.e. start by looking at development jobs available, see what sort of skill sets they generally need, then work backwards to see what type of degree you require.

    I'm not sure about the North American context/education system, but I studied in Australia where there is a separate field of study called 'development studies', which focuses on the "third world" and related fields of studies, e.g. gender studies, poverty, development theories, economics, etc. I believe that someone else pointed out that 'international planning' is more on such theories/practicum than a specific technocratic approach to things.

    As far as I'm aware, (and for those who have more experience than I do, pls do correct me) development jobs generally fall under two fields - the technical stream and the administration stream. The administration stream are usually project managers overseeing development or aid projects, may do consultation as well as manage (even approve?) financing. The technical stream are, as the name suggests, filled with professionals with specific technical skills - doctors, dentists, water engineers, architects, soil scientists, and so forth.

    Hope this helps.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Batmanda's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NoChance View post
    Thanks for the responses so far.

    I'm not so sure about doing the Peace Corps thing immediately, but I want to keep it open as an option down the road.

    Here's what I'm looking at...

    UC-Berkeley
    MIT
    Cornell (any thoughts on their Urban Studies program?)
    UNC (I didn't see anything international on their website, but maybe I overlooked?)
    Columbia (I know they get a lot of flack here, but I hear the international focus is great)
    UIC (don't know much about this program yet?

    Any other schools that offer a good international focus? I'm open to Canadian schools as well. I also would like to look at some less competitive programs as safeties, although I think my heart would truly lie with the top programs...
    Michigan has one, but its focused on developing countries in particular, not sure if thats what you're interested in.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    If you land a good job with the UN, WB, USAID or an international NGO, you can certainly pay off your loan debt in a matter of a year or two. I was able to pay off my undergraduate school debt within months at a USAID funded project with an international NGO. I am now debt-less, primarily, because of USAID funded projects.

    MIT really does stand out among the other schools with international planning.

    UNC seems rather weak in international planning. Emails back and forth with the department more or less confirm this.
    Last edited by Mauricio; 01 Jan 2011 at 12:20 PM.

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