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Thread: B.S. Urban Planning (Minor: Political Science) in 05/01/2015 PLEASE HELP!

  1. #1

    B.S. Urban Planning (Minor: Political Science) in 05/01/2015 PLEASE HELP!

    Hello All,

    I am an undergraduate student scheduled to graduate next Spring (2015). I am very confused on what I should do after I graduate. Do I want to go to graduate school? Yes. Do I want to begin working in a full time planning position? Yes. As you can read, my indecisiveness knows no bounds.

    Nevertheless, I am hesitant to attend graduate school because of the 1.2 Trillion dollar student loan bubble that will likely burst sometime in the near future. The graduate school I would attend is fairly inexpensive (350 per credit hour - graduate); and the total 42 credit hour program will cost me about $28,000 and take 2 years to complete. I want to get a MURP degree with a concentration in Transportation. I believe transportation is the best concentration field for urban planning; I can explain why I believe that later, if you want me to.

    Additionally, I want to begin working immediately in order to pay down some debt that I have already amassed. I am really nervous and excited to begin working in the planning field, even if I am reviewing and making site plans, or zoning ordinances, all day. I've started applying to positions posted on governmentjobs.com, planning.org, and planetizen.com 9 moths in advance.

    What would you do? I realize that to be a professional planner, you have to have a MUP, MURP, or MCP degree, or a BA, and a ton of experience. However, I don't want to be $60,000 in student debt, and only get job offers only $40,000 per year. I realize planning won't make you rich, but I don't want to be "barely getting by" with a MURP degree, especially when I could have gained two years of experience and made a decent salary during that time spent in grad school.

    Lastly, a degree does not equal a job; and you will only be paid what you are worth to an employer (private sector). Employers compete for labor, but if there is an over saturation of laborers in the labor market, which some could argue there is, then I should probably be happy with what I get. I am anxious as HECK Please help, all comments are welcome

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    For job searches don't forget to look at local city websites, your local MPO if you have one, state APA chapters if they have a website, league of cities (it'll be something like that in each state) and of course check into the private companies to see where they're hiring. Not everyone will post on APA or planetizen.

    It's hard to give advice not knowing you, but I would say try for the job and then once you're in for a little while talk to your employer about taking night classes. Most won't mind and most master's programs offer night classes. Then you can pay you own way through school, hopefully, and have less debt.

    Your other choice is to go to school and keep searching for a local job, but I think it's harder to convince someone to hire you while taking classes than it is to get hired and convince them you need time for more school, but it's been known to happen.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yup

    Begin the extensive job search in cities that have at least one graduate program you could get into. Get a job.....really almost any job that has a living wage plus a little bit more to pay for classes. If it relates in any way to planning or any related field.....great. Share an apartment and ride a bike to work/school or take the bus/train. Take the 4 years to do part time study, internships and you will come out the other side in a good place.
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I tried the whole night grad classes after working a low paying planning job during the day and well it was not for me. First of all, many planning programs offer assistantships and other ways to cheapen school, so that is something to consider, also if you are in working 40 hours a week, you cannot possible have a life outside of school and work for 3.5/4 years. That is no way to live and it gets old quick. My advice would be to work in planning or something related if you can for 1-2 years...save, save, save. Then go to a public grad school in a location that is not so expensive to live in, hopefully get an assistantship or part time gig, take out the student loans you need and come out in 2 years with a masters, planning friends and a great experience. It takes about the same amount of time but is far less stressful.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    I second all that. While I don't have the academic background in Planning. I did a BS in Political Science and the moved to a city just to do a night MPA program and worked a low wage job. One semester consisted of me working 40+ hours with no benefits in retail, 12 hours of graduate courses, and having long field drills on the weekends out of town with the USMC. Needless to say, whenever I had free time I was either in the gym or on the bottle. It's not anyway to live.

    Like Dave Ramsay I'm going to look at this perspective of if I were you. I would find a job, any job that gets your foot in the door. Look at MPOs, counties, cities, state, level. Look in the private sector as well, there may even be real estate firms that would hire you. I worked my first year in Transit even though I didn't have a background in it so that is an option.

    Get your foot in the door, somewhere and get a few years experience. If it's not somewhere with a graduate program, maybe they will at least do tuition assistance and hopefully you can Florida's program whenever it gets accredited. Or you can do your years there and have a little breathing room to pick where you want your next job to be, which is where a university is.

    I wouldn't bank on the Assistantships personally. I was highly optimistic that my professors would be either able to get me a job or get the assistantship. Those assistantships are few, and personally I wouldn't care if you worked grading papers in graduate school if it were up to me, it doesn't equate to an experience aside from helping you get into a PHD program IMO. Also, none of my professors had a real job and no connections.

    I started college, enlisted, finished college, went to graduate school while working retail, worked in transit, and am finally in planning. Don't make stupid mistakes like I did.

  6. #6
    Thanks for all of the advice. Lately, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and these replies help. I like the idea of going to work immediately upon graduation, and attending graduate school later. My only concern is that the job prospects for an undergraduate planner, with minimal planning experience, is not too bright. Just because I can quote Kevin Lynch's The Image of the City, to an employer, does not mean they will be impressed.

    In the Southeastern U.S. (other than Florida), planning jobs seem almost nonexistent. Using the online search engines, I mentioned in my previous post, shows me that MS, AL, GA and TN are not looking for planners any time soon. However, CA, MA, TX, OR, NC and NY appear to always be in need of planners; and coincidentally, those are where some of the nations top planning schools are located.

    Despite my political feelings about California, and the current condition of that state, I must confess that I would move there in a heart beat for the right job position. I also listen to Dave Ramsey, DOBERMAN. He has a lot of great financial advice. It would be a dream to be debt free one day; but I know that in order to become debt free, you have to have a decent income first.

    DVDNEAL, Going to graduate school is an option if I don't find a job immediately; yet I feel like going to graduate school, because there is no work available, is only delaying the inevitable. Employers want experience first, credentials come later. However, the catch 22 is that you usually can't get into the door without the credentials. I guess this is why internships are so important, huh?

    Anyway, you all have been very helpful. Hopefully, a planning position will be waiting on me upon graduation. Nevertheless, I have my back-up plan ready, just in case.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    year off

    Hi there,

    I was in your same boat when I graduated college in 2012 with a BS in CRP (has it been two years already?!) - very indecisive and open. What I did was take a year off and apply to anything and everything I could get my hands on, including internships, one year fellowships, jobs, grad schools, and scholarships. Believe me, all of this can become a full time job in itself.

    I would recommend interning near your hometown or wherever you go to school to learn the ropes and pay the bills. In that time, figure out your life and what you want, research grad schools, go to open houses, ask around, attend all those networking events you never had time for during school, make contacts, go on informational interviews with planners from all fields - public, private, non-profit, academic - and see what it is you really want. It will put you so much ahead of the game when you do enter grad school. Also think about what you a) already know about planning through college and experience, and b) what aspects you want to delve more into that you didn't get to in undergrad (real estate, historic preservation, transportation, housing, sustainability, food systems, tech, etc.)

    There are two ways to spend a year off if you're not at a full time "professional" job - bounce around between internships (what I did) or apply for a fellowship like Fulbright, Luce, UDream, AmeriCorps VISTA (what I wish I did). It'll help you sort things out and make a great grad school essay - besides, when else would you ever have the chance in your life to do something like that for a year? A lot of these deadlines are right now though, so if you want to do it, you have to be on top of that sort of stuff. Contact your university's fellowship office.

    Hope that helps and that I wasn't too late in replying! All the best,
    ~ a second year graduate planning student at Cornell

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