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Thread: Already have bachelor's + experience. Is master's worth it?

  1. #1
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    Already have bachelor's + experience. Is master's worth it?

    Hello, I am brand new to this site and looking for advice.

    I am trying to decide if I should pursue a Master's in Urban Planning. But I wonder if there's any value in it. I have a Bachelor's in Urban Planning and have worked in the planning field, for the same employer, for my entire career - 12 years.

    My career progress has been slower than I'd like. I'm essentially at the same pay grade-level, as when I started. I'll admit, my career hasn't been the highest priority in my life since college. But that's now changing.

    I'm focused on advancement and I'm wondering how I can best help myself?

    I welcome any thoughts .....

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Yes, and especially now. Consider that when you look at another job, there are now potentially hundreds of applicants, many with 12 years of experience and a bachelor's degree. Many have more than that. A masters is one of the criteria that will be used to screen applicants.
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  3. #3
    I agree with Cardinal. You have extensive experience as a planner, so one thing to consider is to specialize in an area that interests you but different than what you currently do day to day. It will make you more marketable and you will get a lot more out of the master's program.

    I had a roommate that worked as a planner for ~5 years. He went to grad school as the economy turned bad and choose to specialize in the same area he worked as a planner. He was frustrated with the curriculum at times because it wasn't 'real world,' and he was not learning anything new except in coursework outside his specialty.

    It might even be worth it to take a peak into other masters programs. For example, a masters in public administration could be excellent for career advancement in government.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    If you can afford it, I'd say go for the Master's now. It's just one of those fields where you kind of need a Master's to advance. I'm five months out of college with a bachelor's + 5 years experience, and it's very hard to find a job. In many cases, In this competitive economy, I imagine I am being passed over in favor of those with Masters + experience.

    Unfortunately, I can't afford to do the Master's right now and I want to land a full-time job to get more experience, more money, and more assurance that this is what I want to go to grad school for.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Most of the comments place the importance of obtaining a Masters Degree with adding a new top line to one's resume. Two years of class work and a thesis while working a day job needs to be worth more just another line on one's resume.

    Before pursuing a Masters Degree you should determine what will it add to my professional knowledge and skills? Will it make me a better and more valuable professional? Will it make me a better manager or department head? Will it add new skills and knowledge that I don't have right now such as urban design or transportation planning?

    After 10 years or more of professional experience, a Masters Degree really needs to add something to a professional's skills and knowledge base to be worth the work and effort. If your going to pursue it, find a program that will truly add to your career.

  6. #6
    As the above poster said, it should be more than just added job security. There are all sorts of idiots who get a cheap masters degree just for the prestige, or to look good. Real learners create more value from a degree than simply a bigger resume.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Since you already have solid planning experience, I would not pursue a graduate degree in planning. If you are intent on getting a Master's degree I would do something like Public Administration, Civil Engineering, Landscape Architecture, etc. No reason to duplicate what you've already learned by putting yourself through a graduate urban planning program.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I tend to agree with c-chip and rageman. I think your 12 years of work experience are more valuable than a master's degree. If you're in the same jurisdiction where you started, it's time to move on and emphasize your experience in the job search. There are opportunities out there.

    But I could be wrong.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    I tend to agree with c-chip and rageman. I think your 12 years of work experience are more valuable than a master's degree. If you're in the same jurisdiction where you started, it's time to move on and emphasize your experience in the job search. There are opportunities out there.

    But I could be wrong.
    This makes a lot of sense to me. If your stagnant work situation is the problem, there are other options. A master's should not be viewed as simply a ticket to a promotion or a better job but rather an opportunity to more fully explore your interests.

    If your goal is "advancement," it may behoove you to start exploring other employment options. Some companies - especially planning consulting firms - may even be willing to help you pay for a master's degree if that's ultimately what you want to do. In the meantime, why not take a grad-level class or two to test the waters and see if it's the direction you want to take right now?

    I'm also curious if you've expressed any of these thoughts to your current employer/supervisor. Are there opportunities for advancement at your current workplace or will there be in the short term? Sometimes a tactful conversation can go a long way toward finding a more satisfying role.
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  10. #10
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    Everyone - thank you for your suggestions. I am going to start exploring just what type of Master's degree is best suited for me. Something that will add value to my career goals. Thanks again!

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