Like a few others on here, I'm considering making a jump into the Urban Planning field and going back to school for additional education.
My background is in the market research and business world - with experience performing research, analysis and consulting for major companies in the consumer goods and media areas. I received my Bachelor's in Business/Marketing from a somewhat prestigious public university here in the Northeast back at the beginning of the decade - very solid grades (3.6 GPA) with coursework in the areas of marketing, economics, database systems and other liberal arts (geography, geology, anthropology). I also feel there's a tie-in career wise, as what I'm doing now is a semi-public service (only company offering this kind of service on a mass scale or "virtual monopoly").
Urban Planning is an area I've been interested in for a while, what with the study and development of neighborhoods, cities and metro areas. I've taken a cursory look at schools so far, particularly those with an Economic Development concentration, as my thought process was around analysis, planning and putting together programs to help grow and enrich neighborhoods and cities. Also looking potentially at schools with a dual MBA option, though also considering programs that do not require a grad entrance exam (GRE or GMAT).
I'm in NYC right now and the schools I'm looking at are primarily in the Northeast - NYU, Hunter, Rutgers, Buffalo. Though I'm also considering Maryland, UNC, USC and UCLA. Also, I noticed the program at The New School is not accredited, but the ACSP lists in in its guide.
Is there a distinction between choosing whether or not to take the entrance exams for someone with my background?
Are there any other specializations that someone like me should consider?
Are there other activities for someone like me to get my feet a little bit wet in this area?
Any current or recent dual degree graduates out there? How rigorous is this program, and which exam is the better one to prepare for?
I would appreciate any recommendations and advice from those of you out there in the field or in school. Thanks for your time.