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Thread: Environmental science or environmental planning

  1. #1
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    Environmental science or environmental planning

    Hello,

    I welcome comments from seasoned planners and students alike, your thoughts/suggestions very much appreciated.

    So I have two options
    1. Graduate with BSc (Bach Environmental Science) in 1.5 yr (Dec 2011) then do MUP
    2. Graduate with BPl (Bach Environmental Planning) in 2.5 yr (Dec 2012) then do MUP/MUD

    Which will make me more employable (after completing Masters?) Is there a big difference, if not should I just go for the shorter option?

    I don't know which route to choose because:

    a) I am interested in Environmental Planning and Urban Design - two very different fields! I know. With BSc I may never be able to get into Urban Design. With BPl. I can do a MUP/MUD (as I will have completed studios in BPl)

    b) My goal is to open my open consulting firm in 7-10 years. There aren't many established urb.planning firms in my hometown/region, I feel confident I could do well in this sector. What is, in your opinion the best education course for this career path?

    c) I am already 25 years old, I do not have much time to waste

    Hope this is clear- let me know if I need to clarify anything

  2. #2
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I would say if your goal is to open your own firm than go for the option that gives you the most studio time (the BPI). School is not only a chance to learn, but a lifelong networking opportunity for your future firm. Best of Luck!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by afrurbanist View post
    c) I am already 25 years old, I do not have much time to waste
    I really don't have much to say other than this is so wrong. At 25 you still have your whole career ahead of you. You have plenty of time to figure out what is best for you.

    If you are wanting to open up your own firm, you are on a path to a hard future. Lots of work to get there - it isn't impossible, but it will be tough. You have to fight to get clients more than an established group. Honestly, go with what you like best. If you don't feel that you are rounded out enough, go back for more education afterwards or take night classes. Today you are get a one year master's in Urban Design, so honestly you could go anyway you want and it would only take another year to get the UD part.

    Good luck!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Are you planning on school and business in Africa, the United States, or elsewhere?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
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    Hey thank you for your responses...

    beach_bum will definitely consider that.

    Hink_Planner- you're right, at 25 I do have a whole career ahead of me. Just want to make the best most time and cost-effective decision.

    Nrshmid - I am studying in Canada then will possibly pursue Masters in UK/Canada/US maybe even in Singapore.

    Ideally, I would like to have a few years working experience somewhere (Anywhere North America/Europe/Asia) outside of Africa. But thereafter I would almost certainly re-locate to East Africa (or possibly west Africa) to work and hopefully start a firm.

    In your opinion, how should this affect my decision?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    While I know that environmental planning and all that it entails is an important and worthy cause, it's never been something that really interested me so I never put much thought into it. But based on my limited knowledge of the field, I would think that starting with the Environmental Science degree and moving forward from there might be a bit easier.

    I generally see more openings and opportunities for folks that have more of the science background and technical skills whether it is with planning departments, engineering firms, municipal offices, or private environmental assessment firms. With the science background, I would think you would be more qualified to work in the actual remediation field (at least right out of school) as opposed to somebody with more of a planning background.

    Is it possible to get the BS in environmental science and a minor or some sort of concentration in planning at the schools you are looking at?

    But like I said above, I am not as familiar with the environmental side of things so my opinion may not be as informed as others on here.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by afrurbanist View post
    Nrshmid - I am studying in Canada then will possibly pursue Masters in UK/Canada/US maybe even in Singapore.

    Ideally, I would like to have a few years working experience somewhere (Anywhere North America/Europe/Asia) outside of Africa. But thereafter I would almost certainly re-locate to East Africa (or possibly west Africa) to work and hopefully start a firm.

    In your opinion, how should this affect my decision?
    I don't have any experience working in planning outside of the United States. In college, almost all of the foreign graduate students focused in international planning, environmental justice, community planning, or economic development. Any of them that studied environmental planning worked in the US after school. UIUC is not a design-heavy program.

    However, if you are planning on starting your own firm down the road, I would really spend more time earning private sector plannig internsthips. Yes, you can learn alot interning in public sector internships here, but local and provincial governments overseas are very different. You can learn more about how planning firms operate and bring in accounts (which are still very different than most businesses).

    7-10 years full time planning experience (not internships) is a reachable goal to build credibility as a planner. Be aware that even with this experience, you will probably take a huge hit going out on your own for the first time. Diversifying your income stream by earning experience in more than speciality (environmental and urban design) also helps. However, with so much competition these days, you may also want to consider a more generalized planning degree (or possibly an economics, ED, MPA, MPP) and take as many courses in as many different areas of planning. Focus on earning different internships in different areas of planning. I earned several internships in college this way: one was for the state geological survey, one was for the state water survey, one was for the Army Corps of Engineers, one was for a transportation planning internship for a city council, one was for a park district, one was for a regional planning commission, one was a for a forest preserve district, one was for the state treasurer, and one was ongoing contract work doing Sketchup illustration and AutoCAD work. Over several years, I combined these projects with class projects to put together a portfolio. My current and last jobs have been in the private sector where I continue to build experience in many different areas of planning simultaneously. When work in one area dries up, I shift my efforts into another speciality.

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  8. #8
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    Nrshmid.. Thanks,for taking the time to share your thoughts.. ...
    but would you recommend environmental planning or environmental science???

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    WSU MUP Student .. Youve raised a good point.. probably more employable with a science degree... the only thing is that I'm not keen on the type of jobs that will land me in an engineering firm The environmental planning jobs are way more interesting to me...

    Oh well you've provided some food for thought... thanks!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    You said in your original post you are ultimately interested in working in environmental planning. What do you see yourself doing?

    Environmental planning and environmental science are two unrelated fields. Environmental planning often, but not always, measures the impacts of proposed development. The developer, or agency, is proposing improvements to the land. This could be a subdivision, a road realignment, etc. Several alternatives will be proposed, including a course of no action. A desired alternative is often pre-determined, and the environmental planner will measure the impact(s) of the desired alternative on the environment. This may include research, testing, and analysis, on noise studies, hazardous materials, wetlands, flora and fauna, clean air and water, cultural and historic resources, public lands, socioeconomic impacts, agricultural resources, etc. These findings may include additional data and analysis from other experts. All of this information is prepared into a document called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will also include a considerable amount of public input. I am currently working on an smaller document called an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a 20 mile transportation corridor on the eastern side of the state. I am spending Thursday through Saturday working on the second half of a 6 day site inventory of this 20 mile corridor.

    Environmental science is a natural science, and has more in common with ecology, biology, zoology, botany, etc. I worked with several ecologists (and a Professional Wetland Scientist (PWS)) at my last job. Environmental scientists may work entirely in reseach institutions or consulting, with some working in local governmnet. At my last job, much of their work was delineating wetlands, preparing wetland planting plans, Tab 4 submittals with the Army Corps of Engineers, etc. On occasion they would help with individual components of environmental plans. They might provide input with noise studies, fish and wildlife, wetlands, and SUPERFUND/CERCLUS sites (dealing with hazardous materials).

    So basically the only thing the two fields have in common is the word environmental. Can you please elaborate on what you ultimately see yourself practicing.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Environmental planning and environmental science are two unrelated fields.
    As someone with a BS in envi sci who has worked professionally in environmental planning and environmental science, I have to respectfully disagree. Even if environmental planning were strictly review/process planning (NEPA, NEBA ESA, CEQA), I don't think you can argue that those jobs have nothing to do with environmental science. Considering the same environmental movement catalyzed the development of both environmental science and the regulations that drive environmental planning, calling the fields "unrelated" just isn't true. An environmental planner without a fundamental understanding of the science behind those regs and the review process itself, I would argue, is not an environmental planner. Many consulting firms may employ people without that background as environmental planners, but they are probably doing boilerplate cut and paste jobs that require neither planning skills nor scientific knowledge. The fact is, "environmental science" as a discipline is nearly as varied as planning. Folks doing jobs as disparate as on-site contamination mitigation and habitat corridor GIS mapping may rightly call themselves "environmental scientists."

    Environmental planning, too, inhabits a world beyond EAs and EISs. Land and habitat conservation planning, climate action planning, water resource planning, and many other niche fields could all be considered "environmental planning." People on Cyburbia often talk about the tedium of environmental planning as if the discipline was solely concerned with producing 300 page documents that no one reads. People in the natural resource management fields are increasingly realizing the value of planning skills as applicable to their discipline and I think we will continue to see growth in that area. Moreover, folks on the urban planning side are seeing more and more integration with the natural sciences in fields like urban ecology and urban forestry.

    As for the OPs question, it really comes down to a preference for environmental design or more science-oriented planning pursuits. Hard to say without more information as to what his/her interests and skills are.

    JMHO
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post

    Environmental planning and environmental science are two unrelated fields. Environmental planning often, but not always, measures the impacts of proposed development
    Well, you got me. I'm sorry for not elaborating on more of the second sentence in my last post. No, not all of environmental planning is about writing EISs, EAs, and etc. EP may include protecting threatended and endangered species, which requires planners to deal with entire habitats. EP may include establishing mitigation measures to preserve ecosystems (including endangered species), water supplies, limiting stormwater runoff, etc. Ecological risk assessment measures the risk of a particular impact on a part of the ecosystem, and might be considered a type of impact analysis. This work may require additional training in environmental sciences or a related background.

    Even in EISs and EAs, planners may play a secondary role, if at all. In the past two NEPA writing workshops I attended, I was the only the planner in attendance and most of the multi-day workshops delved far more detail into case studies and heavy analysis in biology, environmental science, ecology, hydrology, geology, mitigation / legal aspects, and environmental engineering: all very important components of NEPA writing.

    But, more importantly, the original poster would need to tell us what he/she wants to do regarding environmental work.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 21 Jul 2010 at 3:29 PM.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  13. #13
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    Hi nrschmid, kalimotxo
    Thanks for your comments. It seems the conversation has digressed somewhat into an equally interesting discussion about the role of environmental science in planning and usefulness of planning in environmental science.

    I'm quite aware of the differences between the two disciplines. I am on my way to completing a BSc in Environmental Science (in 1.5yrs).. but I also have the option of redirecting my studies to Environmental Planning, however it would take me an extra year to finish the BPl.

    The crux of my question Ė is it worthwhile to spend an extra year in school, just so that I can complete a Bachelor of Planning as opposed to a Bachelor of Science (Because I want to work in planning!) I am especially interested in Urban Design and Iím concerned that if I go with the BSc it may prove difficult to get the necessary qualifications in the future to do design work. However if I do the BPl (which includes some studio classes).. Iíll get more out of an MUP/MUD in the future
    (I know I wonít have the skill of an architect, but will be much better off than without)

    Is that clear?

    kalimotxo - you studied Env. Sci? What are you doing now? How does your BSc contribute to what you're doing...?

    Thanks everyone... you are helping a lot!, I need to make this decision by August 6!!

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    I would continue to work on the Environmental Science bachelors and then work towards an MUP. \More entry-level planning positions today require at least a graduate degree. Having two different degrees will provide different skill sets. Unless you are 200% certain you want to work in a ONE certain specialization, such as EP, TP, HP, I think you are better off working towards a generalized MUP and taking a variety of courses and then focusing the Masters Thesis on a subject of your choice.

    I am not a big supporter of MUDs. Yes, you will learn more about design than most MUPs, but it won't necessarily guarantee you for a role as an urban design upon graduation. The quality of each MUD program varies. MUDs are standalone degrees that are more affective as auxillary, or specialized graduate degrees, for those students with a design degree (BArch, BLA, etc.) or who are purusing an MArch, MLA, etc. I could see some benefit of working on an MUD and MUP to aide you as a planner. If you plan on working as a designer, you will be competiting against more and more workers fresh out of school with actual design degrees. It can be done with just an MUD but you will need a very strong portfolio, at least one solid internship (if not more), and a set of highly-refined design skills (see previous posts).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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