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Thread: Community planning and development as a career? (was "Community Planning and Development question")

  1. #1
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    Community planning and development as a career? (was "Community Planning and Development question")

    Hello All,

    I am currently a 2nd year undergrad pursing a sociology degree who is currently interested in community planning.I am a very altruistic person and enjoy working with people on the ground level. Social problems concern me and therefore I would like to be in a profession which allows me to help large groups of people who are in these problems and help create plans which will prevent these problems from reoccurring. From the research I have done, community planning consists of going into the community finding out their issues, drawing up a plan based on their concerns then implementing the plan if allowed by the local government ect. It also includes a lot of face to face interaction with the residents of said area and allows the planner to create programs which incorporate the people living there so they will be a part of the solution. Salary does not matter for me in the beginning, but as I grow older I would like to be able to comfortably support a family.

    Is this the line of work I should be in? Or should I look for something else.
    Thanks for the Input.

    Moderator note:
    Maister: Seems to be a career-related question. Moved from Economic and Community Development forum. Carry on.
    Last edited by Maister; 12 Mar 2010 at 9:09 AM.

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    You'll be a little lacking in technical expertise, but the sociology background should be useful as far as understanding social & cultural issues and getting to the root of problems through citizen participation. You might be able to build technical planning abilities through elective classes, a minor, or even a double-major. Given your statement about altruism, etc., I'd say going into conventional community planning might be risky because so often the best laid plans are not implemented (political reasons, financial reasons) and that can be frustrating. There are specialties I think you should pursue--mainly those community development programs rooted in HUD. Those programs come with federal funding and come closer to allowing you to see/feel/touch results in a rather short timeline. You would probably be a good match for a local CDBG/HOME/ESG type program. Atlanta has a big department, so I might suggest contacting them about an internship or at least job shadowing.

    "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)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    I was a sociology major myself as an undergrad, and had many of the same interests and ideals. I agree with Suburb Repairman that the community development field is worth considering as a potential career option. In addition to municipal agencies, you might also want to look into the work conducted by community development corporations. These are non-profit organizations incorporated to offer services and provide programs to promote and support neighborhood social change. Many of them are involved in the development of affordable housing.

    I found this one in Atlanta. There's also an association of neighborhood-based developers here. (Note: I am not familiar with any of these; I just Googled them for you.)

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    So does this mean that community planning would not necessarily meet my career goals? If thats the case do you or anyone else know what type of schooling a successful community developer needs? If cp does meet my goals, what major would better prepare me for it. Also to Mud Princess as a sociology major, what type of planning did you go into and how has it helped or hindered you in your field of work.

    I'm trying to look at this in all angles.
    Thanks for the Input

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    I didn't find out about planning until my junior or senior year in college, after I'd taken several urban studies classes (offered as part of a major that was being phased out) and really enjoyed them. I worked as an intern at a non-profit housing organization, and that exposed me to one aspect of the field. Actually, it may have been my supervisor there who told me she had a master's degree in planning.

    When I went to grad school, my initial plan was to get into affordable housing development based on my internship experience, but I ended up, for a variety of reasons, changing my concentration to economic and community development. In retrospect, I probably could have pursued a master's in public policy or public administration as an alternative, but I thought of planning as a more practical application. My career experience since then has been a mix of public and private sector positions in planning, economic development, and public policy.

    I don't mean to suggest that community planning wouldn't meet your career goals. It really depends on the program, the specialties/coursework offered, and the approach. You wouldn't want to get locked into a master's degree program that prepares you for, say, interpreting a zoning ordinance, if you're more interested in working directly with community residents to improve their neighborhood. I'd suggest that you look at a couple different master's programs, in both planning and public policy.

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    This will vary depending on your sector of planning and your position. I do environmental planning mainly, and I sit at a desk with no interaction except emails and phone calls. Planning is desk work, you will work in a cubicle with others, a cubicle alone, in an office with others, or in an office alone. You will have a desk, a phone, a computer, stacks of papers, filing cabinets, Dilbert cartoons, etc. It's a desk job. There's no getting around that.
    That is horrible...

    This was a comment made in another thread. Like you I am interested in Community and economic development. Please tell me it is nothing like that! if so then I know planning is not for me.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Planning, like any profession, is what you make it. That might entail choosing interest over pay check but there are places for people with your skills and intentions.

    I got to watch this TED video in my class recently.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ma...n_renewal.html
    You can really feel her intensity and love for her career. This is what any profession should be about.

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