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Thread: Could the recession put those with a planning degree at an advantage for planning jobs?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Could the recession put those with a planning degree at an advantage for planning jobs?

    In my last job, I was the only one of four staff planners who had a planning degree; both undergraduate and graduate. The other planners: BS geography, BS public administration, and a planning director that only had a high school diploma.

    There's a LOT of planners out there that don't have planning or planning-specialized geography degrees. I wonder if the "planner planners" will gain a significant advantage in a more competitive job market? Could the recession spell the end of hiring those without planning and planning-heavy geography degrees for planner postions?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    It's a given that folks in a position to hire planners are always going to try to hire the best candidates possible. My impression is that at mid to upper level echelons experience carries and will continue to carry much more weight than any degree, as it can provide prospective employers with some idea of an individual's real capabilities and how well they actually have performed under fire. Perhaps if there were two equally experienced candidates and one had a 'specialized' graduate degree that individual might have a small edge in such a situation.

    Where I think it will have the biggest impacts, though, is for entry or lower level positions, where candidates are typically not going to have years of experience on their resumes. Here's where a specialized degree would provide a significant advantage.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian
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    I agree. If you are higher up and have a proven track record of getting the job done, that will matter more than the degree itself. Since everyone is making cut backs, I also think the professionals who (1) have experience and (2) work in more than one field (planning + finance, planning + engineering, etc.) will stand out more than someone with experience in just planning. Communities and consulting firms are finding ways of cutting costs and want to get to the most bang for their buck. I think this is recession is going to create a new fiscal behavior in how employers hire new staff. Unforuntately, I think it is going to be harder for these professionals to negotiate higher salaries and will be required to do two jobs for the price of one.
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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I'll chime in along the same line. The further along you proceed in a career, the less relevant a particular degree become. At the start of a career I think a planning degree may play a minor advantage. This will tend to be more so when the competition may be coming in with degrees in fields that are unrelated. There will be little advantage between a planning and public administration degree, but perhaps a great advantage between a degree in planning or a degree in music. I don't think that is any different from how things have always been, however.
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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Planning is very much a multidisiplinary position that is rooted in the eath sciences but also incorporates quite a bit of sociology, economics, law, and finance. This is why I chose to get dual degrees in Geography and Urban Studies. Depending upon your specialty, you can have engineers working as planners, or planners working as engineers.

    Experience, aptitude, and ability has much more to do with how well you advance in your career than what your degree says on it. Being able to get along with people regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation does as well. That and a whole lot of luck!
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  6. #6
    I don't think (from an entry-level point of view) that having a multidisciplinary background is more important that adequate education.

    I have a B.A. in Liberal Arts (essentially a triple major in art/art history, humanities and urban planning) from a school not accredited (at least to shorten AICP requirements). On top of that, I have about 4 years as a art director/design editor for a small-to-medium publishing firm (circulation between 45,000-60,000 per publication). Then I have about 4 to 5 summers worth of volunteering for the USDA, US Forest Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife and the ASPCA.

    I don't list it on my resume [because I skirt tax laws by making just below the declaration limit] but I also freelance [both graphic design and planning], do pro bono work, run a micro charity, tutor and <strike>write other peoples papers</strike> research assistance. I also have some trouble because my portfolio took a hit when my laptop got stolen this last November.

    I've probably applied to 200 jobs in the last 4 months but the last time I've gotten a call or a e-mail back was 7 months ago.

    To my knowledge, most of the people beating me out are masters' holding, 6 month internship having with 4 years of food service experience fresh graduates. I wished I knew this before I blew out my credit!

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    Cyburbian
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    Is a planner with a degree from an accredited graduate institution going to be one of those people with a more competitive edge if they got a masters in architecture degree as well?

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pierre-montee View post
    I don't think (from an entry-level point of view) that having a multidisciplinary background is more important that adequate education.
    And that's why you haven't had a call back in 7 months. Planners put on many hats and the more disciplines one can have knowledge (i.e. engineering, landscape architecture, etc) make stronger candidates imo. As for robbin's question i guess the "edge" will depend on what type of planning gig ur looking for. Working for the government, probably not, but a private design firm, you bet it would.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Cyburbian
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    I was thinking of pursuing a specialization in Environmental/Land Use Planning, and wanted to couple this with an Architecture degree because I love the whole sustainable/green building concept and thought both would really compliment eachother... My undergrad was in Environmental Planning as well, so I thought it would all fit together... I heard private sector jobs are dwindling though, so should I toss this whole idea because the job market might not seek this kind of no-how?

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    I was thinking of pursuing a specialization in Environmental/Land Use Planning, and wanted to couple this with an Architecture degree because I love the whole sustainable/green building concept and thought both would really compliment eachother... My undergrad was in Environmental Planning as well, so I thought it would all fit together... I heard private sector jobs are dwindling though, so should I toss this whole idea because the job market might not seek this kind of no-how?
    Well environmental planning could mean to different things depending on where you live. In NY and CA environmental planning is more along the lines of CEQA/NEPA regulatory fact checking, etc. to determine of a project will cause significant environmental damage. This industry is still hiring once you get your foot in the door. Sustainability in land use planning is on the uptick. Just because the market is in the tank now doesn't mean a good private firm can use those skills. Assuming you missed the LEED deadline, try to get LEED certified and market your skills in sustainable design and something should turn up.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Assuming you missed the LEED deadline, try to get LEED certified and market your skills in sustainable design and something should turn up.
    **Whacks Raf on the head***

    People are ACCREDITED. Buildings, sites, etc. are CERTIFIED!!

    Since you missed the deadline, the best you could possibly do is a LEED Green Associate. You would not be elligible to call yourself LEED-AP unless you take a second specialized exam. The 2009 roll-out makes things much more confusing (see gbci.org and other posts on this forum for more info).
    All LEED exams are not hinderances. However, as more and more students graduating in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and engineering, are struggling to get their foot in the door are taking the LEED exam, even as green associates Unless you are already a Legacy LEED-AP as a student, I don't think you will have a significant edge over anyone. Not only would you be competing for jobs against people with work experience, their higher LEED accreditation status would still trump the green associate status. All LEED exams are expensive to take, even for students, not to mention CEUs to maintain. I'm not discourging you from taking the exam, but there are a ton of people (students, unemployed, and employed) taking the exam.
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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    I suspect many of the planners that have lost a job recently may end up in other fields and change direction completely. This would open up a lot of potential planning jobs in the future.
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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    I heard private sector jobs are dwindling though, so should I toss this whole idea because the job market might not seek this kind of no-how?
    Private sector and public sector jobs are both dwindling right now, in planning and in a majority of other occupations. Short-term economic conditions should not be your motivating factor in deciding a career path. You will spend more than forty years on the job. Make sure it is something you like. Don't choose one degree or another simply because of the job prospects for this year's graduates.
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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    No one has mentioned money.
    I believe that part of it is an issue of pay. A degreed planner will look for jobs with a higher pay schedule. Yet local government will go for the cheaper option if presented. (You can learn it as you go). That certainly doesn't mean that some of the people that are learn as you go can't end up being wonderful employees.
    As the economy worsens will degreed planners take positions that pay less?
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Queen B View post
    As the economy worsens will degreed planners take positions that pay less?
    Hell no!!! I am waiting out this recession for the next year or two before I make a significant career change. After putting in 200% at my job for 4 years staffing the entire department at less than average pay, putting up with three prinicpals who have no business running a company, earning AICP, and being shown the door last week, and now having to compete against hundreds of planners for jobs, I might end up throwing in the towel. I am worth far more than this, and I want to be have more in control of my success. If I am going to put in the extra time, I want to be justly compensated. I might even ax the MLA and go for a law degree instead. I don't think I'm the only young planner who feels this way.

    The One brought up a good point. This same thing happened with the recessions in 1980 and 1992. Thousands of architects, landscape architects, and planners left the professions never to return. Yes, there will always be a need for planning and construction. I am just not going to wait on the sidelines for things to gradually pick up, hum for 7-10 years, and then grind to a screeching halt again. As I mentioned on another thread, I think this recession will have a negative impact on the planning profession resulting in either fewer jobs at salaries slightly lower than the pre-recession or the same number of pre-recession jobs but at much lower wages.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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