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Thread: Do entry level jobs exist for non-master's holders?

  1. #1

    Do entry level jobs exist for non-master's holders?

    Very new to planning and any advice about how to break into the field is really appreciated. I just finished my bachelors in geography at the University of Washington in December and had been planning on applying to their mup program to begin my education. Felt I was very well qualified for the program other than my lack of experience. Took as many classes in related areas as an undergrad as I could, but it is no bachelors in planning (alas!). I just assumed that the two years of debt was the admission price to this career.

    I spent about 6 months trying to find an internship in the area, and the near universal response was incredulity, that internships were gone, and that I was competing with people who had been in the field for years, who were laid off, etc. I eventually had to take an unrelated job to pay the bills but still thought I wouldn't have much of a problem getting in.

    So of course, I didn't get in. If I weren't married, and if I weren't already 28, I would love to join peacecorps or even the navy to gain some experience. But as it is I'm here while husband completes his PhD, hence the reason I only applied to this program.

    I'm still driven to make this my career, and I plan on taking some GIS classes and continuing to look for an internship. So my question is this: Is a master's degree in planning a necessity to work in the public sector? or rather, do any jobs exist that I will only need a bachelor's (not in planning) for? Or, do these jobs exist and are being taken by imminently more experienced planners in this economy, and should I expect that this will be the situation for years to come, so
    just suck it up and apply again next year?

    Any other advice about this would be great.

  2. #2
    Bad time to break into the field, but yes, there are entry level jobs for BS-holders. It will be more competitive though, and you might be going up against some with masters and experience as well. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mrs. blonde View post
    I spent about 6 months trying to find an internship in the area, and the near universal response was incredulity, that internships were gone, and that I was competing with people who had been in the field for years, who were laid off, etc. I eventually had to take an unrelated job to pay the bills but still thought I wouldn't have much of a problem getting in.
    Sadly, choc. chip is right. It's a bad time to try to get into the field. The municipal budgets are drying up (i.e. layoffs) and budgets for consultants are drying up too. Competition for the available jobs is tough. Alot of "over-qualified" people are applying for jobs they'd never have looked twice at 3 years ago.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    When did you start looking for internships? During college or after graduation?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
    Started when I was still in school and now that I'm out, I'm finding it hard to find any internships that aren't exclusively for students.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    You are also in Seattle. EVERYONE (planners, architects, landscape architects) wants to work there, including people who flock to the city without a job in hand (always risky).

    Look into MUP programs while your husband is in school.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  7. #7
    Thanks guys!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    Quote Originally posted by mrs. blonde View post
    Thanks guys!
    I detect a bit of sarchasm in this response (Just kidding...how could I? these are just digital representations of english alphabet letters)

    Branch out: (Surveyors office, engineers office, soil consultants office, real estate office, title company office, commercial or residential real estate sales offices, assessor/appraisers office, condominium representative...)

    Get absolutely any employment possible with any of these and many other allied fields of interest.

    Alternate: Parks maintenance position, geo-tech laborer, flood control district grunt, waste water treatment grunt, water department grunt, utility worker grunt, Health Department position, code enforcement of any kind at any level, economic development council, downtown development authority, economic development corporation, model, actress.....(the last two were just thrown in to see if you read this...)

    All of the above provide at least a foot in the door to some allied field in and around planning.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    No sarcasm! I've given it up; not helpful. I really am thankful for any advice about it.

    Wastewater grunt? Parks maintenance? These are the only jobs I am seeing, and I was wondering if it would be possible to work up from there, so thanks for that.

    Found a great sounding jobcorps position on apa site bit unfortunately it would mean working for $1500 a month for 11 months. Maybe I could do that for three but not much longer. Wish I could afford to take stuff like this, and I'm keenly aware of the irony of needing to be wealthy so that I can work for free in order to break into a field which is concerned a great deal with equality.

    Thanks again!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    have you seriously considered walking into agencies/private firms and seeing if they have "unpaid" internships for 24 hours or so a week? This is a good way to put experience on your resume. In the meantime you could get another part time gig like retail/food service, etc that at least gives you some cash. I know it may not be what you want to hear, but it is a start.

    You can begin your search by setting up informal interviews with agencies/firms in the area, and have ready a list of skills.

    I only have my BS, however I have 6+ years of experience. I recently landed a job in the public sector that is a step back for me in the progress ladder, however due to economic circumstances (such as facing a probable layoff) I accepted the position. CC/Chet hit the nail in the head: entry level positions are harder to get because folks with experience are applying. It is an employer's market. You have to learn to market your skills.

    Good luck.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  11. #11
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    Check Rural Areas

    If you are willing to move and live in small towns or rural areas, those would be great places to check, and could possibly get paid to do a job rather than a straight internship. There is a fair amount of Planners that aren't interested in these areas, because they want to work on big or specialty projects that aren't going to happen in small towns. But you can get a lot of great experience on different things in small towns, rural areas.

  12. #12
    RE unpaid internships; I have realized that this will have to be my way in. I plan on it. Unfortunately I am married (ha!) so I won't be moving far away until husband finds his first post-PhD job, but I will be sure to keep a lookout for positions around here! Really, thanks y'all!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Does your husband have an absolute definte time when he will be done with his PhD? Before I was born, my dad was working on his PhD in American History while my mom was the breadwinner working as a social worker. Since you don't have a family yet and there might be a tad more flexibility, are you two willing to have a distance relationship to allow you to relocate for work? It may be a very long time before anything planning related sprouts up without having to relocate.

    I took on a number of internships in college, starting with GIS positions that no one really wanted working for the state geological survey and then the state water survey. These were not planning-specific although they had to deal with land in different ways. I built up my portfolio from this work, and it eventually led to more planning internships, where I expanded the portfolio even more. Eventually, I landed my first gig in the private sector and now work midlevel at a different firm in another state, where do I GIS and a bunch of other planning "stuff".
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  14. #14
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    On the topic of internships: I'm seeing a LOT of unpaid internships out there. I think agencies are trying to attract free talent to do things they would have hired a full-time person or outside consultant to do if they still had cash. The plus side for the person just starting out, if they can afford to live without an income, is more meaningful work at the internship level. For instance, the City of Palo Alto had an internship titled something like "High Speed Rail Coordinator" to help the planning department deal with a proposed bullet train route through town.

    I've also seen some paid internships that fit the same profile, but for more advanced work. The Metropolitan Transit Authority in San Francisco had a number of transportation planner internships awhile back that paid $25/hour.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    believe it or not, a lack of experience can be a plus. you would be cheap labor compared with those with experience and advanced degrees. so if you get an interview and they ask about salary, let them know that you expect the very bottom of the salary range.

  16. #16
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mrs. blonde View post
    No sarcasm! I've given it up; not helpful. I really am thankful for any advice about it.

    Wastewater grunt? Parks maintenance? These are the only jobs I am seeing, and I was wondering if it would be possible to work up from there, so thanks for that.


    Thanks again!
    If you are wondering how to manipulate those types of jobs into a planning job, you should highlight your understanding of planning processes and issues (platting, easements, etc.). These departments have to comment on every plat that comes through a city, and I would think they would love an opportunity to get someone that better understands and can run that often neglected part of their department's responsibilities. You can also mention that the administrative/problem-solving side of planning gives you the skills & knowledge to be constantly looking for ways to improve processes, particularly important since municipalities are looking for any possible cost savings.

    As far as internships go, you may be stuck with an unpaid position. You might get lucky with a surveying or engineering firm that will use you like an intern while you perhaps fill a paid helper role of some kind (such as assisting with field surveys, etc.).

    "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)

  17. #17
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    I can relate, I am in your same position. I graduated with a Bachelor's in urban planning from the University at Albany in New York in 2009 and have been consistently looking for any work in any planning related field since February 2009. I have taken every piece of advice posted on this thread and applied for jobs both public and private from San Diego to Maine and Seattle to Miami and everywhere in-between. I graduated with a decent GPA and have glowing letters of recommendation from my professors and bosses where I interned. At this point I would be willing to work for minimum wage if I could just get the experience, but after sending hundreds if not thousands of resumes I have yet to get a single phone interview. With my level of college debt I now have to work in a call center getting verbally abused five days a week and work security the other two to attempt to feed my family and pay my student loans. It just sucks that we live in a day and age where the worst financial decision I ever made was to get a Bachelor's degree. Sorry to vent but it just sucks.

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