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Thread: Is a two year master program enough?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Is a two year master program enough?

    Last two years. I have been studying my master in planning school in Canada and most of students came from unrelated undergraduate background such as phycology , economy, social work, agriculture, and English. Ironically, they will call themselves planners after graduating from only 2 years ( M.Sc. Planning).

    From my point of view, planning profession's wall has been very low so everyone can claim it and be a planner with out knowing how to read a master plan or work in studios with real planners. I mean by real planner, an individual who is very skillful and well- established in his undergraduate studies, spent 4-5 years working in studios with smart fellows who are capable of reading and analyzing planning problems and coming up with best alternatives that can meet goal and objectives of projects.

    Real planners have to understand every issues such as land use, urban design, transportation, environment, urban economy ( not a general one) in addition to technical skills such as using computer programs ( Auto-Cad, GIS) to draw maps so they could reflect all their analysis and ideas on real maps and write good technical reports. Indeed, this is a real product for real planning profession. Planning is not a talk or debate as it is reflected in masters courses, PLANNING IS A REAL PROFESSION.

    The only solution I can see for this problem is that master programs in planning should not accept any student out of environmental design field ( Urban and regional planning, Architecture, Landscape architecture, Geography, Civil engineering) Otherwise, they should ask applicants from unrelated undergraduate background to take 2 years upgrading courses before joining planning graduate program.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I really don't see a problem with students from other disciplines pursuing a graduate degree in planning. The beauty of planning is its multi-faceted nature. Good planners have to understand issues beyond the physical elements that make our built environment. One of the reasons I chose planning is it gives me an opportunity to explore other disciplines like economics, psychology, criminology, religion, politics, public administration, etc. I view successive levels of education as an opportunity to expand upon what we discovered about ourselves previously. Biology majors are just as capable of earning their MBA as economic majors.

    "Real planners" are created with experience. A diploma does not make a profession. If you are fortunate enough to have heard the calling to be a planner and you have stayed on that tract for your entire educational career then you are ahead of the game. You should also consider yourself very lucky, a lot of us took our time and several non-planning directions getting here.

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    Well said kw5280. I couldn't agree with you more.

  4. #4
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    I completely agree with kw5280, as well. Furthermore, many European Planning programs are only one year, as opposed to two year in the US and Canada. With that said, UK degrees tend to be much more intensive than US degrees, as a whole, so I think it really depends on the program. UCL's one year MSc Spatial/International Planning is far more practical than many two year programs in the States, for example. It doesn't do to simply say two years isn't enough. If you don't feel prepared after two years, I would suggest that it speaks more to the quality of the particular program in question than the duration of the program.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I don't think it's "ironic" that students would call themselves planners after two years of study. If someone lands a job right out of his grad program as an entry level planner, he is still a planner. He won't be as good, most likely, as someone who has a masters and has worked in the field for 10 years, but I don't see why there should be some arbitrary amount of time of working before one is called a planner. E.g., My wife is a teacher, has her masters plus 6 years of experience. When she was first hired out of undergrad she was a teacher back then. The difference is that she is now a much better teacher.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    What a bunch of BS. You would get absolutely eaten alive at a public sector planning job with that attitude. As ChocolateChip is so found of saying, we do not live in a technocratic society. With this being the case, any prospective planner who thinks that they can survive on the job as a backroom bureaucrat doing fiscal impact analyses all day is in for a very rude shock. I came from a multi-disciplinary background and it has been very much an asset, not a liability.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Most states do not have legal definitions for planners. However, you can't call yourself an architect, engineer, surveyor, etc. without being licensed in almost every state.

    Defining "good" planners is a whole different issue.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  8. #8
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I think one of the things that makes the planning profession work as well as it does (yes, that's arguable ) is that those that work in the profession come from such diverse backgrounds. I have my undergrad education in economics and public policy, which may not fit your list of your approved disciplines but I think that type of knowledge is very important in the grand view of things. The same goes for students who came into the program with backgrounds in sociology/social work, art history, business, accounting, teaching, nursing, etc.

    Once you are out of school and actually working with a community and its citizens you can see how each and every one of these skills can be an asset. If all planners were civil engineers or something, I think we we would have a much more dull urban landscape... maybe something resembling the drab utilitarian scenes of communist Eastern Europe.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  9. #9
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    I agree with the responses to this post. Multidisciplinary is an asset, not a liability. Over-specialization is putting all your eggs in one basket.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    If you want to limit the profession to private sector physical planning, then yes, limit the requirements to what you noted. For everyone else (i.e. the vast majority of practicing planners), bring on the diversity of background and education. To quote Martha Stewart: "It's a good thing." Arguably, public planners need more experience in political science and/or public administration than they do physical planning.

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    The problem isn't that planning programs allow any disciplinary background, the problem is that planning school doesn't teach you anything useful. The whole curriculum is run by a bunch of ivory towered social science academics who haven't a clue what real planners do. This is evidenced by the fact that "planning theory" does not even brush the topic of what makes for good urbanism or even an analysis of different kinds of urbanism, but rather is obsessed with questions like "what does it mean to 'plan'?.. is it even a real thing?" and other bogus BS. We could stand to learn a lot from the pedagogy of architectural education. We should have studios every semester, and planners should be expected to draw (oh how dreaded!), and render, and map in addition to statistical analysis and public involvement. And yes, an extra year would be fine addition to planning education. Maybe then planning can be considered a real profession and our colleagues, clients, and the public can have reasonable expectations that these "planners" who want to stand in front of them and lay some claim of authority because of their masters degrees can actually do something other than blow wind and write 500 page reports that no one (understandably) wants to read.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Burnham View post
    The problem isn't that planning programs allow any disciplinary background, the problem is that planning school doesn't teach you anything useful. The whole curriculum is run by a bunch of ivory towered social science academics who haven't a clue what real planners do. This is evidenced by the fact that "planning theory" does not even brush the topic of what makes for good urbanism or even an analysis of different kinds of urbanism, but rather is obsessed with questions like "what does it mean to 'plan'?.. is it even a real thing?" and other bogus BS. We could stand to learn a lot from the pedagogy of architectural education. We should have studios every semester, and planners should be expected to draw (oh how dreaded!), and render, and map in addition to statistical analysis and public involvement. And yes, an extra year would be fine addition to planning education. Maybe then planning can be considered a real profession and our colleagues, clients, and the public can have reasonable expectations that these "planners" who want to stand in front of them and lay some claim of authority because of their masters degrees can actually do something other than blow wind and write 500 page reports that no one (understandably) wants to read.
    I am sorry that you have such a narrow view of city planning. I do hope the best for you in the design field.

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    Well, I'm not alone. Allan Jacobs agrees with me...

    http://www.designobserver.com/places...html?entry=430

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Burnham View post
    Well, I'm not alone. Allan Jacobs agrees with me...

    http://www.designobserver.com/places...html?entry=430
    I couldn't agree more. %100 true.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Burnham View post
    Well, I'm not alone. Allan Jacobs agrees with me...

    http://www.designobserver.com/places...html?entry=430
    Wow. Shocking that someone who graduated with a MCP from Penn in 1954 would believe in physical determinism

    If you want to be an urban designer these days, you pretty much need a design degree. There's a lot of room for planners' input on design projects, but there are many planning problems we can't solve with urban design. Moreover, if your planning program never moved beyond questions like "what does it mean to plan?" it sounds to me like you chose a shitty planning program. Please don't denigrate the entire field based on your own bad experiences.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

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    Oh please. First of all, one does not need to be an architect (knowing HVAC Systems, structures, and daylighting) in order to be an urban designer. The notion that the city planning profession has less claim to the discipline of urban design is ridiculous. However, if in fact planners are not suited to be urban designers (which unfortunately is often the case) it is only because our education lacks the necessary training. It would not be difficult to train city planning students to engage physical components of the city competently (as the great Mr. Jacobs reminds us). Having been to planning school (and a reputable program by the way), I know first hand that the students drawn to the planning profession are just as bright, and often more curious, then their architecture counterparts. Unfortunately, the old guard (yes, largely those who came of age circa the 1970s and are overly mistrustful of the traditional physical orientation of city planning) have the attitude that engaging the form and physical structure of the city is for others to do, and as such, the profession has turned into this technically mushy and creatively challenged stew of facilitators, bureaucrats, and administrators. I don't mean to suggest that city planners should not possess these skills, but the fact that these are the fundamental abilities of today's city planners (and little more) leaves our profession in a sad state. Jacobs is absolutely right that the profession's claim to any legitimacy is ultimately at stake if we cannot demonstrate that we have a unique set of abilities and an important role to play. If anyone asks me how to become a city planner, I first ask them whether they see themselves designing or crafting and implementing policy. If the answer is the latter, I tell them (begrudgingly albeit) to go to architecture school, if the answer is the former, I tell them to go to public administration school. This is not because I don't think city planning education - I absolutely do! We just don't have much real city planning education in this country at the present time, and that threatens the long-term legitimacy of the profession.
    Last edited by Burnham; 09 Jul 2010 at 9:20 PM.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Burnham View post
    Oh please, take your Paul Davidoff and shove it.
    LMAO..........
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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    Yeah... I edited that comment because I thought it was a little rude. I wanted to keep things a little more constructive. But I'm glad you liked it!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by kalimotxo View post
    Wow. Shocking that someone who graduated with a MCP from Penn in 1954 would believe in physical determinism

    If you want to be an urban designer these days, you pretty much need a design degree. There's a lot of room for planners' input on design projects, but there are many planning problems we can't solve with urban design. Moreover, if your planning program never moved beyond questions like "what does it mean to plan?" it sounds to me like you chose a shitty planning program. Please don't denigrate the entire field based on your own bad experiences.
    1- Planner Jacob's approach is simply plan then come up with tangible product ( Strategic plan, General Plan,...etc). He is right when he feels shame on nowadays planners who talk, talk, and.....talk after reading couple of shitty theories. Mr.Jacob is saying do it yourself if you are a real city planner. Enough is enough, we fed up with losers who fail to find decent jobs after graduating from undergraduate program in phycology, Geography, environmental science ..etc and come back to study 2 years master program in "Planning" to call themselves "Planners". Planners who do not know how to plan, they can not present their physical solutions on master plans. It is like doctors who can not treat.

    Planners with no Planning background (environmental design undergraduate degree) , do not waist your time arguing here, go back to school and learn how to master planning skills as Mr.Jacob suggests.

    It is a city planning profession not a wedding planning profession!


    2- Your approach in "planning" is Plan then talk and dream.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Burnham View post
    Oh please. First of all, one does not need to be an architect (knowing HVAC Systems, structures, and daylighting) in order to be an urban designer. The notion that the city planning profession has less claim to the discipline of urban design is ridiculous. However, if in fact planners are not suited to be urban designers (which unfortunately is often the case) it is only because our education lacks the necessary training. It would not be difficult to train city planning students to engage physical components of the city competently (as the great Mr. Jacobs reminds us). Having been to planning school (and a reputable program by the way), I know first hand that the students drawn to the planning profession are just as bright, and often more curious, then their architecture counterparts. Unfortunately, the old guard (yes, largely those who came of age circa the 1970s and are overly mistrustful of the traditional physical orientation of city planning) have the attitude that engaging the form and physical structure of the city is for others to do, and as such, the profession has turned into this technically mushy and creatively challenged stew of facilitators, bureaucrats, and administrators. I don't mean to suggest that city planners should not possess these skills, but the fact that these are the fundamental abilities of today's city planners (and little more) leaves our profession in a sad state. Jacobs is absolutely right that the profession's claim to any legitimacy is ultimately at stake if we cannot demonstrate that we have a unique set of abilities and an important role to play. If anyone asks me how to become a city planner, I first ask them whether they see themselves designing or crafting and implementing policy. If the answer is the latter, I tell them (begrudgingly albeit) to go to architecture school, if the answer is the former, I tell them to go to public administration school. This is not because I don't think city planning education - I absolutely do! We just don't have much real city planning education in this country at the present time, and that threatens the long-term legitimacy of the profession.
    Thumbs up to your thoughtfulness.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    I think Jacobs brings up good points, but it's also important to understand where his perspective stems from. I've been very familiar with Jacob's writings for years, and he is very well-respected in the planning field. He comes from an earlier time in the planning profession when planners where still primarily physical planners. I mentioned on several other threads that the few recognized planning schools, especially before WW2, where outgrowths of architecture and engineering programs. The planning programs that are more common today (policy-based, research, analysis) really didn't develop until after the War. The Post-War period saw billions of federal dollars funneled into housing and public infrastructure/defense projects at a level never before seen in America. This led to a higher demand to establish public policy/research. Starting in the 1950s, planning programs split off from their traditional design-heavy background and focused more on the non-design aspects. Most planning programs today really developed after the War. Jacobs talks a lot about this in the article.

    I work in both design and non-design with equal skill. I appreciate Jacob's comments regarding the need for more design-heavy programs. However, over the past 2 years, especially since passing AICP, I have come to appreciate and respect the non-design aspects of planning. If people are very interested in physical planning, I agree with Jacobs that one should working towards a BLA or an MLA instead of planning degree.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  22. #22
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    nrschmid gives us a good analysis of the historical break from physical planning that the city planning profession made around the 1950s. I wouldn't argue that planners should not be concerned with the non-physical. Urbanism, as I'm sure we all can agree, is about quite a lot more than the built environment. However, the planning profession, in attempting to address the importance of the non-physical elements of urbanism, has too far and essentially relegated the physical to (at best) a subset of the planning field. What should have happened, and what I hope will be the case in the future, is that the profession keep the physical environment as a central and fundamental component at the center of the profession, but recognizing the myriad additional layers of social, environmental, political, economic, health, (etc...) phenomena which are overlaid onto and integrally linked with the physical/spatial structure of world we live in. It should never be "either/or," it MUST be "both/and" and "all of the above."

    I recently studied for (and passed!) the AICP exam as well, and it occurred to me during the course of my study just now bizarre it is that the "history" section is largely composed of figures who practiced a profession completely different from that which most planners practice today. We learn about the way thinking about the built environment and its structure and composition evolved over time and gave us the Garden City movement, the City Beautiful, New Towns, etc. but then it just stops. At some point, the profession stopped asking questions about what makes a good urban planning product and became interested only in what makes for a good urban planning process. Now, there are of course, contemporary movements, such as new urbanism that have captivated the attention of the planning profession, but even if planners and the planning profession at large can pay attention to other people's ideas about the city, we certainly have not produced our own in a while. And we certainly aren't trained to do so in our planning schools. No, those conversations are for the architects and the landscape architects, but not for planners. We only have any business taking other people's ideas (or so the attitude goes.)

    In sum, I think Jacobs' point (at least one of them), and certainly my point, is that it is a sad state of affairs when one interested in practicing city planning, in the traditional sense, must study another profession (architecture, Landscape Architecture) and NOT city planning in order to do so. Why is our profession so timid? Why do we sell ourselves so short? Why don't we change this profession from the inside? It has happened before. Maybe the planning professors are right and we do need to ask the question "what does it mean to plan?" Just this time, let's answer the question and get on with it!

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post
    I agree with the responses to this post. Multidisciplinary is an asset, not a liability. Over-specialization is putting all your eggs in one basket.
    Agreed, that's why I enjoy planning. Unfortunately generalists are not viewed with the same respect as specialists in our current society. Over-specialization leads to fantastic rewards as a career and as we all know, self-sufficiency is the route to poverty. Hence the low pay

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Planner07 View post
    Planners with no Planning background (environmental design undergraduate degree) , do not waist your time arguing here, go back to school and learn how to master planning skills as Mr.Jacob suggests.
    I will echo your sentiment, only as follows:

    Planners with no Planning background (no actual experience in the field - [i.e. YOU]), do not make bogus and belittling statements about the professionalism and ability of those who are, in actuality, planners, not "people who, ironically, call themselves planners", even if they're education is either not directly in planning or they had undergraduate degrees in something besides a design-related major before earning a planning degree.
    It does not take 5-6 years of design-intensive studio coursework to be proficient, even skilled at, the elements of physical planning required for most planning positions. I learned mine on-the-job - and I'm not just some zoning/subdivision administrator. I'm also my city's historic preservation officer, have created a downtown plan, participated in a transportation plan, and served as a project lead for creating a form-based development code in the past 3 years (my entire working life), and all I have is an undergraduate degree in geography. No postgraduate work, save two courses I took with special permission while in undergrad.

    In essence, don't turn the profession and its practitioners into some arrogant, bourgeois aristocracy. If I wanted to be surrounded by that, I can attend an AIA, CNU* or ABA conference.

    Diversity of background, education, and experience, to repeat what many have already said, is an asset to the profession. Let your professional and academic interests dictate your educational goals.

    * Love NU, despise prevalent attitude of adherents.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    I will echo your sentiment, only as follows...[/SIZE]
    Thank you for this post. As an aspiring planner/ex-policy junkie becoming more interested in urban design but increasingly afraid of never having enough studios/artistic talent to be succesful, you've quelled my fears greatly.

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