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Thread: Is the one year MUD program worth it?

  1. #1

    Is the one year MUD program worth it?

    Hello Cyburbia members. This is my first post on Cyburbia and it is to help my girlfriend who recently graduated with an Masters in City and Regional Planning degree. First, I apologize for the long post but would really appreciate your help. As many of you are aware, looking for planning jobs is almost impossible right now especially for someone fresh out of college without couple years of job expierence. My gf has been trying very hard for a year now to find a full time job, but she hasn’t been able to land one except for several paid/unpaid internships she has been doing. It’s been tough for me to see her struggle so much especially since she wants to work not to make money (although she needs to, to pay off her loans), but because she loves her field and wants to make a difference.

    As a backup plan and since she wanted to study urban design, she applied to couple of one year MUD programs. And she recently found out she got into a program. Now my question to you is…should she attend the MUD program?

    Her main goal even before doing her Masters in City and Regional Planning program was to do MUD. However, since her bachelor degree was in business which doesn’t have anything to with MUD, Arch, or LA, she couldn’t do a masters in Arch, LA, or urban design. Therefore she took the route of Masters in City and Regional Planning which she loved and tried to focus on urban design classes instead.

    To help her with the decision she has ahead of her, I came across Cyburbia. I used to search function and came across several old posts from 2007 and even 2002 with information about the MUD program. From what I have been reading in these old posts, it seems like MUD program is not really a Masters but more of a certificate. One of the members quoted the following…

    “I asked him about the career prospects in urban design with a dual MUP & MUD background. He told me bluntly that I would need an architecture background to deal with real urban design. Of course, he also told me not to discount urban design as a career - an MUP is valuable in the sense that I can help communities draft urban desgn guidelines. If you love policy, then stick with the MUP. But if you want to do the real sketching/rendering/drafting/CAD, then you need more than an MUD.”

    The quote was from 2002. Does that still hold today? My gf is not really into the policies but more into the designing aspect such as sketching/rendering/drafting. My first reaction when I found out she got into the MUD program was total excitement because I knew that’s what she wanted to do. However reading posts on Cyburbia, I am not so sure anymore if she should spend $50k for a degree that might not even help her with what she wants to do.

    I know those quotes are old, but does it still hold weight now? If she has both her Masters in City and Regional Planning and MUD degree, can she apply for Urban Design jobs and do the actual design work? Or would she be in the same boat right now looking for planning jobs and losing out on urban design jobs to MArch and MLA students even though she has a degree in MUD? Or with the MUD degree, can she go out and really do urban design jobs and work for urban design private firms?

    I know the easy answer might be for her to go get her MArch and MLA degree if she really wants to do design, however that’s another three years (plus one year to apply) and probably 100k+ in more loans that will be already added on to her current debt from school.

    Any help and insight will really be appreciated.

    Thanks all.
    Last edited by sjk; 06 Apr 2010 at 6:28 PM.

  2. #2
    Don't let anyone tell you (or her) what you can and cannot do with a degree. There are many, many urban designers who have a planning degree. About half of my class went into urban design and half went into planning/policy, and it was a "city and regional planning" degree. If a program is on the PAB list, then it will include a healthy dose of urban design classes, and not just be planning.

    With that said, why would she want to go back and get an MUD after an MUP? It just sounds like there would be a LOT of overlap. She should try to get into a 3-year M.Arch program. She needs to build her portfolio and start applying.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Don't let anyone tell you (or her) what you can and cannot do with a degree. There are many, many urban designers who have a planning degree. About half of my class went into urban design and half went into planning/policy, and it was a "city and regional planning" degree. If a program is on the PAB list, then it will include a healthy dose of urban design classes, and not just be planning.

    With that said, why would she want to go back and get an MUD after an MUP? It just sounds like there would be a LOT of overlap. She should try to get into a 3-year M.Arch program. She needs to build her portfolio and start applying.
    Sorry i made a mistake. She has a masters in city and regional planning and not MUP.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by sjk View post
    Sorry i made a mistake. She has a masters in city and regional planning and not MUP.
    Not much difference.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    1. If your gf does not have an architecture, landscape architecture, or engineering degree, she would need to complete a two year MUD at the very least. I agree, an MArch or an MLA is a better option. Yes, it would take +3 years to complete but she would come out more well-rounded in the end. If she went for the MArch or the MLA she probably wouldn't even need the MUD since there are electives in several programs that either have urban design specializations or at least electives. Personally, I am not a big fan of specializations in planning, architecture, or landscape architecture, unless you are 200% sure you want to work in only one speciality for your career.

    2. Keep in mind that there are limits as to what you can do with an MUD. Without a technical degree [and licensure] you will usually hit a ceiling in terms of what you can do as a designer. There are exceptions to this, but as chocolate mentioned, you will first need a stellar portfolio plus a proven track record of professional work. I am happy that your gf has a passion for design, but there isn't much design work going on right now, if any, and I doubt it will improve even by the time she finishes another degree in 1,2, or more years. She would also be competing against licensed architects, licensed landscape architect, etc.

    3. If she is still very serious about this, I think she should start creating a portfolio of her planning projects/internships (including analysis, research, and non-design work) and then rolling that into a design portfolio that she keeps adding to while in design school. She should market the design AND the non-design aspects of her PLANNING side in her portfolio, cut sheets, resume. I think should have an edge over the competition by bridging both areas. I did this approach over several years and am fortunate to work in both design and non-design as a planner.

    4. There are many ways to practice planning without being a full time planner. She could work as an independent consultant, serve on a plan commission, volunteer, join a steering committee, or even work for a politician or non-for-profit. Is she interested in other careers besides planning? It's imperative to have a back-up plan in any career field. I plan on working for several more years in planning but I am also interested in changing careers completely way way down the road and possibly serving on a plan commission.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  6. #6
    In addition to nrschmid's comments, I'd like to add that if she wants to design, she needs to get an accredited architecture degree. M.Arch degrees are usually 3 years for people without an arch. undergrad degree. The one-year MUD program would just be one more year she spends on something that won't let her design on her own.

    Also, just wanted to mention that there are good MArch programs out there that don't really consider super high GRE scores like many others do. Look into the Pratt Institute for a good example.

  7. #7
    Thanks for the reply Chocolate and Nrschmid.

    I am little confused. Why does the MUD program even exist if itís really not worth it? Since you are saying you can focus on urban design in MArch and MLA, why would someone who graduated from a 3 year program want to spend an extra 50k plus and an extra year to do a program they have already learned?

    I see the point on having a ceiling later on in her career without having a license in Arch or LA, but what kind of job opportunities are there with just having a MUD background? Although a firm might want a MArch or MLA background candidate, Iím sure there are some advantage of having someone with a city planning & MUD background.

    Also, I was pretty surprised that she got into a MUD program since it seems like most candidates are required to have a MArch and MLA degree.

    So are there any advantage of going to the MUD program? Going through three years of MArch and MLA with 100k+ debt, hoping that the economy has rebounded by then and trying to pay off loans especially since designers donít get paid very much seems pretty harsh. So I guess im asking if she has to be a licensed Arch and LA designer in order to have fun and have exciting work to do.

    Thanks again!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by sjk View post
    Thanks for the reply Chocolate and Nrschmid.

    I am little confused. Why does the MUD program even exist if it’s really not worth it? Since you are saying you can focus on urban design in MArch and MLA, why would someone who graduated from a 3 year program want to spend an extra 50k plus and an extra year to do a program they have already learned?

    I see the point on having a ceiling later on in her career without having a license in Arch or LA, but what kind of job opportunities are there with just having a MUD background? Although a firm might want a MArch or MLA background candidate, I’m sure there are some advantage of having someone with a city planning & MUD background.

    Also, I was pretty surprised that she got into a MUD program since it seems like most candidates are required to have a MArch and MLA degree.

    So are there any advantage of going to the MUD program? Going through three years of MArch and MLA with 100k+ debt, hoping that the economy has rebounded by then and trying to pay off loans especially since designers don’t get paid very much seems pretty harsh. So I guess im asking if she has to be a licensed Arch and LA designer in order to have fun and have exciting work to do.

    Thanks again!
    With the MUP the additional MUD wouldn't be worth it. I didn't say the MUD isn't worth it on its own. The reason why I say it wouldn't be worth it is that it shouldn't be that hard to get into urban design with the MUP. You should be able to go as far into urban design with an MUP as it is with an MUD, so I don't see much reason to spend another year on an MUD, since there will be a lot of overlap with that and the MUP.

    Again, and this is the last time I'll say it: If she wants to design on her own she needs to do an MArch (forget about MLA degrees--don't see the point when architects can do landscape architecture but LAs can't do architecture). One year spent on the MUD in order to do design is one year away from the MArch. Getting an MUD on top of the MUP just seems repetitive and excessive. She already has the training to think about urban spaces and community stuff, and that's how the MUD would benefit someone coming from an arch background. The MUD would not adequately benefit someone with an MUP, since its just going to go over the same crap, with maybe a little more design time, although with only a year there won't be much, that's for sure. So my advice is either settle at the MUP and try to get into urban design now, or get into an MArch program.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Most small firms won't hire planners to do design work. The MUD won't help much with this. They need architects who can double as planners. She would need to look at the larger firms. Paradoxically, though, people are more specialized at the large firms, so planners tend to do planning work - not design stuff.

    That said, most planners with amazing design skills can eventually find work. The degree would help, but only in that it will allow her to make contacts and polish her portfolio. The portfolio is key, imo.

    Cost/benefit is something you need to figure out together. Would she be devastated if she spent the money and still had trouble finding work? In this economy, there are no guarantees.

    I'm in the same boat, btw. I would like to get into more design work. I'm about to graduate from the GSD. But even with a decent portfolio and a design concentration, I am loosing out to architects. I have one planner friend who has had more luck with this, but he is the MOST talented designer I have ever seen.

    Good luck, and let me know what she decides.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by sjk View post

    I am little confused. Why does the MUD program even exist if it’s really not worth it? Since you are saying you can focus on urban design in MArch and MLA, why would someone who graduated from a 3 year program want to spend an extra 50k plus and an extra year to do a program they have already learned?
    I'll have a go at this question, although I'll be answering mostly from the Australian/Asian context where I did my studies and is now working.

    Here in Australia, degrees for architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning are seen as "professional" degrees, meaning that they train you with the basic skills needed to do your work as a professional architect, LA, UP. Urban design, on the other hand, is seen as a "post-professional" degree, which is geared towards helping you build your expertise in urban design. There is thus a scope for such degrees - but it would be best that you attempt these degrees with a bit of work experience.

    (I suspect this is the case with the Amercian educational context as well.)

    Moving on, as your post states, if your gf wants to be an actual designer, she will need basic skills in design (as what others have iterated)

    for e.g. :
    - How to draw freehand? What is a perspective?
    - How to use AutoCad/GIS/Photoshop?
    - How do I draw a realistic 3D model of what I want to achieve?
    - What are suitable plant species to create shade along a walkway?
    - What are certain types of materials that is durable to withstand a crowd of 40,000people?
    - How do I put all these things together (materials, rendering skills, creativity, awareness of context, etc) to create a workable yet great product?

    And so forth. Thus the professional degrees provide more than the administrative licensing she needs.

    At first my understanding of design was limited to merely drawing up a 'concept' on a piece of paper and somehow expecting someone to make it work. But as I became involved in real-life projects, for e.g. now a stadium that a consortium is building - I see how critical those simple questions are.

    Given the above, why would you do a MUD if you have a MArch or MLA or MUP? Personally I think you may not have the full availability of subjects to take on the UD courses while undertaking your basis degree. That is why the MUD is there to supplement knowledge to your basic degree.

    My 2c worth. Hope it helps.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I just have a BUP (non-design) but do a mixture of design and non-design work. I taught myself most software programs by just "fooling" around on the programs. I didn't sign up for any classes or buy some expensive training CDs. I refined my graphics communications skills from working very closely under landscape architects for 4 years.

    Think drastically outside the box even if it is not traditional planning work to build up the portfolio. The dream planning/design job will come in time. It took me several years of various unrelated planning internships to build up the portfolio. Keep tabs on each project, even if it is not design-heavy. I include SPSS and economic development work in my portfolio, among other things. It also helps to be in the right place at the right time. Luck played a huge role in where I am working right now.

    Be prepared to labor extensively on projects to fine tune them. Your GF can start doing this now. Take photos, grab a sketch pad, create your own projects (see previous posts), design a make-believe city, get an easel and go paint! There are untold ways to get creative juices flowing. As a designer, I am very atune to detail. I spent about 70 hours this week making the final touches on the layout, organization, and graphics for a downtown streetscape plan for a municipal client. It was a very hectic week of moving between InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Word, Excel, AutoCAD, and hand sketches. Did I HAVE to do this? Probably not, but I want the highest quality for the client, even if that means staying late and coming in early. Fortunately, my boss is very supportive, which helps.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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