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Thread: Can someone tell me why even do planning?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Can someone tell me why even do planning?

    So from talking with alot of different people, from what I am to understand is that Architectes can do urban planning... With that said, what is the point of going for a Masters in Urban Planning degree over a MArch degree... is it because the MArch is 1 extra year? personally I am a hard worker and wouldnt mind going to school for one more year if I would be able to do Architecture and planning as opposed to just doing planning... I just dont understand why anyone would do a masters in planning program? is there something I am missing? I was accepted to the Masters of Urban Planning at SUNY Albany in hopes of specializing in Environmental and Land Use planning because I thought that would be the most interesting for me and I would be able to hopefully make some nice money in the future, but now I am considering dropping the hole thing and persuing the MArch program at the City College of New York... from what I hear its a pretty good upcoming program, its 3 years, and they also offer an Urban Design program which is a year long that I could take after the MArch... It would be alot cheaper to go to a CUNY than SUNY Albany, I would be able to live at home, and I would be able to do architecture and/or planning from what I am to understand... I just dont get why I am still even considering doing the Albany program... can someone please just tell me why anyone would do a Masters in Urban Planning program over an MArch program? I feel like for one extra year you will get so much more out of the MArch... cant architects potentially make alot of money? more than planners at least? I just dont get it, please someone enlighten me please before I make any drastic moves

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Bro, you need to do more homework on the planning profession starting with the Occupational Outlook Handbook at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos057.htm.

    Design is only one area of planning. There are plenty of areas of planning (zoning ordinance updates, plan review, economic development, historic preservation, transportation planning, statistics, environmental planning, affordable housing, budgets/finance, international planning, disaster planning, etc.) that have little to nothing to do with design. An MArch, though important, does not cover the heavy theory, analysis, and research that an MUP, MPA, or related degree affords.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I've seen plenty of architects screw up a site plan royally, even landscape architects.

    You need to evaluate why you were looking at planning in the first place. If you are looking to do mostly design on individual buildings, then the March may be more appropriate. However, if you are interested more in design for the public realm (on a broad scale) or urban policy, a MUP may be better.

    From reading your post, it sounds like you've already made your decision and need some validation. Based on what you wrote, I think changing to March is the best decision for you. There is no shame in changing programs--life is too short to do something you don't enjoy at least a little.

    My one word of warning... I've heard a lot from advisors in my area of the country that there are too many architects coming out of colleges. Be sure to take classes and internships that will set you apart--that urban design program is a good start.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    you might also consider looking at the classes you would have to take for the MArch vs MUP. This will give you a better feeling of what each degree will prepare you for.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for your thoughts guys, I really appreciate it... Maybe I will stick it out at Albany and just take a few civil engineer/architecture/design classes while I am there, to "set myself apart" from the other planners out there... I have asked it so many times before but would it be completely rediculous to go for an MArch after my MRP? I honestly want to do what I love and be happy but at the same time I want to be able to make a good living when I get older and I dont know if a simple planning masters will be able to get me to that level... I thought in like 10 - 12 years from now if I had both masters I could do planning and than on the side do architecture... that would ideally be my dream because I would be doing what I love and make some nice cash, at least I think that would be a good way to make some nice cash... I know I have asked taht question on a few other posts before but I guess I never wrote why I wanted to do that... Thanks again for your comments guys I really do appreciate it, its a tough time right now figuring all this out.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Jakers's avatar
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    KISS

    My advice is to take it one at a time. Slow down. Get your MUP, work a little in the field, get an ideal of what it is you want to do from the inside, then get the MArch if it is necessary. Keep in mind that Experience is worth more than plain degrees. Just remember that you have plenty of time and to rush these decisions by looking to far ahead about a decision you cant possibly make now is only a disservice to you.
    i wise man once told me, you can always count on humans to do one thing, to make their lives and decisions more complicated than they need to be. Let it be simple. Let-it-be-simple.

    Good Luck!
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    i get the impression that neither architects (save for a select few) nor planners make big money. if that is what you're looking for, you might be barking up the wrong tree.

    anyone disagree?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by milodesc View post
    i get the impression that neither architects (save for a select few) nor planners make big money. if that is what you're looking for, you might be barking up the wrong tree.

    anyone disagree?
    I disagree on the money part. But I have been doing this 20 years.

    But I also have found that the dual degree program is a waste of time. Pick one or the other.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    chet wat do you do? what kind of planning?

    and can someone please tell me WHY it is a waste to get the MArch after the planning masters... I wanted to do planning as my main job and architecture on the side, but people keep telling me its a waste but I still dont know why
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 25 May 2009 at 11:27 PM. Reason: double reply

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    and can someone please tell me WHY it is a waste to get the MArch after the planning masters... I wanted to do planning as my main job and architecture on the side, but people keep telling me its a waste but I still dont know why
    What do you mean by architecture on the side? Do you have an idea of what that is? Are you doing this on your own? You say you want to do sustainable design site design, but architecture is a whole different realm where are talking to here. So you are going to be a "planner by day" and DD or CD guy by night?
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    and chett what I meant was what is the secret to being a successful (wealthy) planner... that question goes out to anyone... how can i strike it rich, be happy, and be succesful at the same time... and yes I guess thats a good way to put it, a planner by day and an architect by night... or at least on the side... is that just rediculous or can it be a realistic goal?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    successful = wealthy????

    The only people I see coming out of planning school wealthy are real estate people. Planners and architects have pretty different day-to-day job responsibilities and most dual-degree people I know lean heavily one way or another. Pick your poison.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    and chett what I meant was what is the secret to being a successful (wealthy) planner... that question goes out to anyone... how can i strike it rich, be happy, and be succesful at the same time... and yes I guess thats a good way to put it, a planner by day and an architect by night... or at least on the side... is that just rediculous or can it be a realistic goal?
    Do you want to make good money or the MOST money? If you want to make the MOST money, I recommend the following:

    Architects and engineers, on the whole, make more money than planners or landscape architects. They are the ones that are building the largest and most impressive structures and sites on the international level.

    You need to go to a top-notch school, preferably an Ivy League. Not so much because they teach the best hands-on skills (sometimes they come up short) but because of the alumni network and the prestige here and abroad that an Ivy holds.
    Granted, you will probably go well into debt, and unlike a law or medical degree, there is no guarantee that you will be making even a ton of money 10 years after you earned the degree.

    You need to have talents that drastically increase profit margins and you need to be innovative. You have to work smart, and make the right connections. It is a combination of technical skills and people skills. If you want to move up the food chain in a private firm, you should develop a reputation for bringing in new clients, even at the entry level. How else will you prove to your superiors that you have what it takes to think outside of the box? It is not enough to just do your job 200% more than what is required. You need to think of the larger picture, otherwise you are going to suck as a businessman.

    Starchitects are celebrity architects (your Frank Lloyd Wrights, Frank Gehrys, Renzo Pianos, etc.). They make uber cash, but it was either their phenominal talent or sheer luck that got them to where they are. These guys are pure characters and really don't represent the typical practicing professional. However, they serve as role models for tens of thousands of aspiring designers. Some of their work is pure crap, but it is revered because who rubber stamped the drawings. Again, it is pure innate talent, or at least convincing the public that you are larger than life. There is no school that can teach you this. Their super success steams from their personality and their thought process, which is incomparable, but not necessarily better, than the average joe architect.

    You need to own a LARGE and SUCCESSFUL firm. True, owning any successful firm of any size will mean you take a larger cut of the pie. However, you asked how to make a ton of money, you need to be the biggest fish in the biggest pond. This also means being on call 24-7 to your clients. At this level you are no longer a project manager, but serve as the face of the company and spend more time wining and dining expensive clients to maintain good relations. An MBA might come in handy, but hey that's why you hired the CFO. See previous posts.

    You can also be a developer. There are a lot more of these than any celebrity architect. They are the ones that are buying up the land and developing it quickly. It is also a cut-throat industry that can kick you to the curb. A MSReD coupled with an MBA or MUP might be better if you want to run this type of firm. An MArch would move to the drawing board and you could make good money designing large developments. As soon as demand plummets, the designers are often the first out of work. Working as a developer, you experience the yo-yo effect of development first hand. Some of us private sector consultants, however, witness it indirectly at first.

    So why is everyone telling you to AX the architecture degree? No one knows what the heck is going to happen to the building industry once this recession is over. Yes, the national economy will get back on its feet. There is already plenty of evidence that the stock markets have bottomed out and things are slowly and steadily improving. However, we can't predict how this recession will change how developers and municipalities view developing land. There are a TON of unfinished projects all over the world that have come to a screeching halt. These projects need to be finished once the financing comes trickling back, or else they are abondoned.

    Yes, there will always be new demand for housing because the population expands. However, this recession has spooked a lot of groups' spending habits. Communities are going to be hesitant to rubber stamp anything coming into town. Many areas have defaulted on municpal bonds and need to put money back into the coffers before taking out loans on new projects.

    Don't believe all of this sustainability crap either. I am hopping on the bandwaggon and taking the LEED NC exam next month, but I still believe most of this stuff is a pure hoax. As long as gas is relatively cheap we will keep doing what he have always been doing. The only way for sustainability to really have an impact is if it were strictly enforced at the federal level (which would leave to protests by the state governments). Obama has good intentions but I highly doubt this economy will be saved by these new green jobs, most of which won't pay at a fair market wage.

    Bottom line, going into any profession that is heavily dependent on new construction is a coin toss. Ask any professional who finished school in 1980 or 1992. I was fortunate to finish my BUP when the economy was good and started work when it was still humming. Unfortunately, I can't say that the housing industry will pick up enough steam by the time you finish school in 3-4 years. Yes, we will have growth, but it will not be enough growth to provide well-paying jobs for everyone. There has always been an inbalance of jobs available and the labor pool. I think it might take a decade or more for us to have anywhere close to the explosive growth we had earlier this decade.

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I would just add that in my experience here in Albuquerque (maybe not the best market example, but its what I have) many architects I know make around the same as me and my planner cohorts. Yes, there are some bigger names like Predock, but many friends who are architects are struggling if they are not a principle in the firm (and there are few firms, so the competition is high and some firms just are not looking to add any more principles). They get laid off a lot when money dries up. Many are hired only for specific projects. Firms tend to expand and contract a lot with the market. Overall, I think my architecture friends feel unnerved and unstable save for the few that had enough money to invest in establishing a firm. And that's no easy task either. In fact, I know two people who have tried this and one has failed.

    Also, as far as time and money invested, architects, after finishing school, also have to take a series of exams to be certified and to stamp drawings. That's a nother good bundle of time to study and some thousands to take the exams.

    As nrschmid said, planning is a very diverse field with design and physical planning being only one area. If design is your interest, check out architecture. If some of these other areas are more interesting (what was mentioned in the second post - its a pretty complete list), I would stick with planning.

    Personally, I think if making a good bundle of money is your objective, neither planning nor architecture is a very safe bet. You might do well and you might not. If you are concerned with a sure thing, go to law school. The hours may be long, but for the most part, you are very likely to make good money.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    You can also be a developer. There are a lot more of these than any celebrity architect. They are the ones that are buying up the land and developing it quickly. It is also a cut-throat industry that can kick you to the curb. A MSReD coupled with an MBA or MUP might be better if you want to run this type of firm. An MArch would move to the drawing board and you could make good money designing large developments. As soon as demand plummets, the designers are often the first out of work. Working as a developer, you experience the yo-yo effect of development first hand. Some of us private sector consultants, however, witness it indirectly at first.
    Masters in read estate development coupled with an MUP? never heard of that... That could be really cool, developing... why is this a cut throat industry that can kick you to the curb tho?... do you need any specific qualifications to get into the MSReD program? and is this the only path to becoming a developer?


    and I never said I wanted to be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, i figured planning wouldnt get me anywhere near that... but I do want to be maybe pulling down at least 100k 5 - 10 years into the game... thats why I figured I would try and couple my planning degree with something else... law I heard is silly to couple with an MUP though because if I went to law school I am sure there are alot of other opportunities to make better money than doing the planning aspect of law. like corporate law or something else.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    but I do want to be maybe pulling down at least 100k 5 - 10 years into the game... thats why I figured I would try and couple my planning degree with something else... law I heard is silly to couple with an MUP though because if I went to law school I am sure there are alot of other opportunities to make better money than doing the planning aspect of law. like corporate law or something else.
    Good luck with that! Only places you may be able to do that is here in cali or on the eastern seaboard with a high cost of living. Planners certainly do not make that kind of money, and as stated earlier by nick only the top dawgs of a firm pull that kind of money (and Planning Directors or Dept heads) and even than, leaders of firms certainly don't do as much as the hands on stuff as staff does. They get paid to pull in projects and market the firm my often than not and have experience to back it up (certainly more than 5-10 years). Planners, architects, and designers aren't in it for the $$ (i know i am certainly am not), but rather we are in it for the (i hope) that passion and love for the built environment.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    My friend I hate to burst your bubble but very very few careers including law will land you making 100,000 5 years out of school. The guys like in "The Firm" are very few and very far between. Hell I know more unemployed lawyers right now than planners.

    But back to planning...
    I have been working as a planner of various types in the Mid Atlantic now for over 10 years and I am lucky as hell to be pulling in just over $74K and thats in the Washington DC area... that sort of income alone could almost land me in a housing assistance program. I kid you not. Planning is a wonderful diverse field with wonderful people but you will not get fat and happy nor will you get fame and fortune. Hell I figure the planning profession by in large is screwed for years due to the sheer number of folks coming out of school and so many of them thinking high dollar school = high dollar job BS

    If you love something do it, you will be MUCH happier in the long run than if you chase a name or a $.

    Best of luck
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  18. #18
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    Before you commit to any grad school, you need to decide what exactly you want to do and why you want to do it. From the content of your posts, you don't seem to have a firm grasp of what characterizes the day-to-day work of planners and architects. If your primary concern is making $100k/year without putting in the time, you should probably reconsider your career trajectory. I work with 6 certified planners, all of whom have at least 10 years experience in private/public and/or non-profits. The only one making more than $100k has over 30 years experience and a PhD in Sociology. This is in a bedroom community of DC where living expenses are not cheap. All of these folks have two things in common: a serious passion for intelligent, environmentally-sound community planning; and little concern for their socioeconomic status.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    Masters in read estate development coupled with an MUP? never heard of that... That could be really cool, developing... why is this a cut throat industry that can kick you to the curb tho?... do you need any specific qualifications to get into the MSReD program? and is this the only path to becoming a developer?


    and I never said I wanted to be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, i figured planning wouldnt get me anywhere near that... but I do want to be maybe pulling down at least 100k 5 - 10 years into the game... thats why I figured I would try and couple my planning degree with something else... law I heard is silly to couple with an MUP though because if I went to law school I am sure there are alot of other opportunities to make better money than doing the planning aspect of law. like corporate law or something else.
    As a planner or architect, you would only be making that level of income after 7-10 years working in a metropolitan area with a high cost of living (LA, San Francisco, DC, NYC, etc.). Even people in Chicago don't make nearly as much. You will need to be licensed and work your tail off. It can be done. Plannergirl brought up a very good point: there are plenty of students coming out of school looking for work, and it will keep on going this route as long as the media encourages people to enter planning. I think the people who really stand apart from the competition are those that work for a few years between degrees to build up credibility: coming out of school with multiple degrees is certainly a plus. However, in the end, experience will probably make more of difference.

    I, too, want to make a ton of money. However, I entered the profession knowing I wouldn't make anything more than a working wage. The only people who do that run the firms. I am still considering staying in the field, for at least another year or two, to see how things improve for this industry. I am hedging my bets that my predictions play out, but no one ever has the answer to everything. I might end up going to law school, bringing my planning experience to the table, practice law, make good money, and if I choose to do design down the road so be it. At least I would be more insulated by the ups and downs with a GOOD paying job.

    Why do you HAVE to start designing stuff now? I am a big believer in deferred gratification. There is no law that says you can't practice architecture as a second, third, or fourth profession. True, you might miss some golden opportunities to work on some great projects. However, what is more important to you, the chance to work on a great project IF you are in the right place and the right time OR to work in a high-paying job that is more likely to have long-term stability (there is no right or wrong answer to this). There is also no black and white either: plenty of people weave in and out of one profession or another and some people do side jobs in different fields.

    Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to your question. I was in your same shoes for years. I started in architecture, switched to planning, practiced planning, and wanted to bring landscape architecture on board. That is still the offficial plan. However, I am going to probably scrap the design career for right now and might have to focus on something else. I understand your frustration: just when you have all of the puzzle pieces put together everyone comes along and smashes them. In better times, it would be easier for me to say just go get a job and work for a few years. That is an impossibility for the moment, and you need to stay in school to get past this economy.

    My biggest obstacle was staying in state to earn my bachelors. Yes, it was cheaper and yes I was able to find work. But there are many other opportunities outside of the area. I have not really heard of Albany so I don't know much about their architecture program. They certainly don't have a law school in the top two tiers either, which will make a huge difference. I would start looking for graduate programs that offer dual degrees in architecture and law (my alma mater UIUC offers one such program). This way, you have three different degrees. I would also recommend you look out of state if needed. You have a lot of ambition and you might need to go where there are more options.

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    speaking as an architect - do not go into architecture if you want to get rich. registered architects with 10-20 years of experience make (relatively) good money, but no where near what the general public seems to think they do and certainly no where near what they should given the amount of liability assumed.

    you really have to define for yourself what it is that makes you happy and how you define success. if the only qualifiers are your income level then you are barking up the wrong tree. CPSURaf nailed it when he said:
    Planners, architects, and designers aren't in it for the $$ (i know i am certainly am not), but rather we are in it for the (i hope) that passion and love for the built environment.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    There's not much that can be added to what's already been said, except that the only "sure-fire" way (and that's even a stretch) to make big money is to consistently excel at what you do (whether it's planning or not) for a long time, and then it'll be after you've acquired the "for a long time" that you'll start to see big (relatively) money. I'm still fairly young, and I barely make enough to qualify as middle class. The director of my department makes less than $100K. My dad, a successful CPA, only crossed the 6-digit mark in the last couple of years, and he's been in the field and successful for 29 years. Unless you're born into a good financial position or you have luck with investments (financial or property) or networking connections, big money comes with increasingly responsible and successful experience. Or certain specializations in medicine or law, but it'll still take you a long time to feel the money in those professions due to the amount of personal debt you accrue to start out.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Planning and Archect are similar, Planners and Archetects work together as awel as working with engeneers, lawers, environmental prof ect, I have some archect classes in my planning courses as well, each profession overlaps. So there are some similarities between planning and archect but also alot of diffrences. In the real work archetects dont design every building, many places keep blue prints in storage and use them again and again, and thats where the planner can deside what plan to use where.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    listen dont get me wrong... I definitely am passionate about planning... trying to change outdated and inefficient planning techniques to accommodate the growing population is what I really want to do... I feel that we are destroying this country with urban sprawl and depleting resources at an unacceptable rate... I feel that strategic land use and environmental planning techniques will really help us become more sustainable, less dependent and is just flat out healthier for the environment and the nation... I know I am talking really big, but when I think about urban planning, thinking about the big big picture is what I have in mind... Architecture was how I thought we need to tackle this whole concept on a smaller level by developing more energy and better quality/efficient houses and buildings... Thats why I wanted to bring architecture into the picture by getting the MArch... Money is definitely a plus seeing how planners dont make as much as I feel they should but apparently from what people are telling me there might not be enough money in it and i cant do planning and green architecture at the same time "pick my Poison" someone had said... all i am trying to say is I feel planners dont make enough money and although I know this is what I want to do you cant blame a guy for wanting to keep hustlin and adding more onto my plate so I can be a planner and at the same time make a good living... I dont mind working my butt off to get there its just I dont know how to yet, and when I keep thinking I have everything all figured out I find out it aint gonna work that way... if anyone has the magic answer please let me know, but as for now I think this summer I am going to take physics and calculus and I guess I am going to go to albany, try and take some environemntal arch classes/CAD/design/civil engineering classes and hopefully in a year or 2 from now I will have a better understanding of how this game works and how I can get to where I want to be... thanks for all your comments and feel free to keep them coming its been really really depressing and discouraging, lol, but really really helpful

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I see a small contradiction between the high value you place on money and your stated desire to help reign in sprawl, promote environmental sustainability...etc. You might hit the library and peruse some budget-minded books on living frugally, like Charles Long's "How to survive without a salary" and Amy Dacyczyn's "Tightwad Gazette" books.

    There are also excellent books out there on what makes for a successful career (in human terms, not monetary), for example "Do what you love, the money will follow". People who do what they love and really believe in also tend to make more money because they are passionate and committed. Last, I will note that if you really, truly want to be rich, the best way to get there is by founding your own company. It's risky, it's hard work. It will likely take many years to get rich...etc...

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Robbins View post
    I feel that strategic land use and environmental planning techniques will really help us become more sustainable, less dependent and is just flat out healthier for the environment and the nation
    First, environmental planning is a specific branch of planning that has nothing to do with physcially planning the environment. This type of planning usually deals with detemining the environmental impact (air, water, pollutants, etc.) coming from development, and establishing regulations that mitigate these problems. Don't worry though, students often confuse terms. I made a similar mistake at a job interview 6 years ago confusing green architecture with open space preservation (and no, I didn't get the job).

    After listening to your goals on this thread and through the PMs you sent me, your head is spinning in multiple directions. Before you do anything, you need to first step up time with professionals who do what you want to do, and THEN determine the next route. Look up previous posts on informational interviews. Most people are willing to sit down with you and talk about themselves: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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