Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

Poll results: Based on the situation initially posted to this thread, what should I do?

9. You may not vote on this poll
  • Go for my MPA at the University of South Carolina

    3 33.33%
  • Continue with my MBA

    2 22.22%
  • Wait until I can get into an urban planning program

    4 44.44%
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Thread: University of South Carolina

  1. #1

    University of South Carolina

    Hello everyone!

    I have been offered the opportunity to enter the MPA program at the University of South Carolina. They don't have a specific transportation planning or urban planning concentration program. I have talked with a professor from the MPA program in June and he said he would work something out where I could work with the Geography department to get some GIS classes in to use as electives as part of my MPA degree. We would also work out a plan where planning would be my focus in my MPA, but it is not a specific program at USC. The MPA program also has a huge advantage since the classes are at night and is designed for working students, and with USC being the flagship school of South Carolina, they would have immense networking opportunities.

    I'm currently in an MBA program Charleston Southern, but I've been interested in urban planning and felt it would more be in line with my ultimate career goals if I could take a program in planning. But I have a full time state government job in Columbia and other responsibilities which inhibit me from moving elsewhere. People have suggested Clemson (the only accredited FT urban planning program in the state), with a FT job that is not possible.

    Since the urban planning track I would be taking at USC is not specifically an urban planning program, and therefore, wouldn't be "accredited", my question is would that matter down the road? Realistically, would an MPA program as described above be okay for a career step into the urban planning field? My other option is to stay in my MBA program, but I'm not sure how that would help right now.

    Any insight on this would be great! (I've posted a poll too to get some opinions...)

  2. #2
    Feb 2002
    I am a Clemson MCRP Grad and loved the program and how it has helped me in my career.

    That said, there is nothing wrong with being well rounded and USC's MPA program has a good enough reputation.

    I think if you do your best to structure a MPA program strong or at least weighted in the planning discipline you should be fine. One thing that may be a constraint: it is critical for masters program students to have quality internships so if possible make sure you experience is on the planning side. There is nothing more valuable imo than a planning internship if the planning profession is where you want to be.

    PM me if you want to chat more

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
    Nov 2005
    In the Peach State
    If you want to be an urban planner, you should go to a program that specializes in that. A MPA is a good degree, but you will not be in the same competitive position when you graduate compared to others. Just look at the other threads and see how tough it is now. Imagine if you were competing with these same people, but had a degree that was even less specific to planning. Just my 2 cents.
    Satellite City Enabler

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
    Jul 2007
    more West now
    I started an MPA once upon a time (even had an urban planning cerficate option) and hated it. I hated the non-planning classes and the fact that I was settling on a degree I didn't want because of location. Needless to say I was not very motivated in the program. I applied and started my MAURP the next fall. A masters is very intensive, you should love what you are getting your degree in, not settle for something else.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
    Jan 2009
    Remote command post at local bar
    It's a hard choice, all three lead to different careers.
    MBA would not easily lead to a planning job.
    MPA with some GIS and geography may get you into a planning job, but a planning degree leaves no doubt.
    If you're just looking to get into public work in general, I'd go for the MPA.

  6. #6

    more discussion...

    Thanks to all for the insight. Here's some more views I've received outside of this forum that are open to discussion and your thoughts:

    -An MPA or MBA degree would give more flexibility in changing economic/political times than a specific planning degree would, considering how stiff the competition is for planners as someone on this forum has already mentioned

    -It's possible to get positions related to planning or specific interests (such as transportation, which is my interest) while maintaining flexibility with an MPA, and still be well fulfilled in a career path

    -Obtain planning certifications with the MPA during or after the program

    Any thoughts?

  7. #7
    Oct 2007
    Way out there
    The planning profession needs people who understand the theory and practice of planning. Public administration is great; so is business administration. But if you want to be a planner, do the profession and yourself a favor and get a planning degree. As long as practitioners treat our profession as an afterthought, those outside our profession will as well. Lawyers have law degrees. Doctors have medical degrees. Architects have architecture degrees. Engineers have engineering degrees. Notice the trend?

    Best wishes.

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