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Thread: MA in geography or urban planning?

  1. #1
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    MA in geography or urban planning?

    I feel like there may be a variation of this post question somewhere, but I couldn't find it in the archives. I am in the midst of applying for graduate school beginning in fall 2011, and am applying for programs in both Geography as well as Urban Planning.
    Thanks in large part to this forum, I've become pretty timid about pursuing an MUP, but still feel the urge to apply because that's where my passion lies. Considering the economic state we're in, do you think that earning a Geography degree might lead to better job prospects than an MUP? My assumption is that an MA in Geography would provide me with more options in my job pursuits, but at the cost of making me less of a specialist in a particular field.
    Do any Geography graduates have any insight on this? Have you found the job outlook for those with your background being greater thanks to the flexibility of your degree?
    As much as I love planning, city budget cuts and the collapse of the housing industry has diminished my interest. Bottom line - I want a job when I get out of school.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    The question is what do you want to do with your degree? An MA in Geography will probably lead you to either a GIS position or academia. A planning degree can do both of those plus more. Geography is a liberal arts degree while planning is a professional degree.

    I had a Geography undergrad and simply chose to get a Masters in planning because the job prospects are better in the planning field. I look at planning to be a professional application of Geography. Sure, the job prospects are kind of bleak now but it doesn't mean they will be by the time you graduate.

  3. #3
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    Either way, the planning profession won't be healed by 2013 when you get out. Congress is still slashing even more discretionary programs (including transportation, infrastructure, CDBGs, etc.). I just read this week that they are also considering eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction, which means fewer people will want to take out mortgages (and will impact new construction).

    Even if you don't work directly in housing, construction, or land use planning, I think these changes will still have a ripple effect on every type of planning, if not immediately then within the next few years. I don't think we will be recovering for at least 3-4 more years, and that number might increase even more as long as state and local governments go through the painful process of balancing their checkbooks.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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    Cyburbian Kingmak's avatar
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    Well going into a planning program and a geography program are different. A planning program will give you more hands on experience as you'll more than likely do a practicum rather than a thesis. As for geography, depending on the program you go into, you'll write a thesis or a comprehensive exam. Now, I guess it depends on how a firm values research over experience, and what exactly you were researching.

    As for me, I'm currently at Ohio University in its Environmental Studies MS program. I chose OU because this program has many different tracks and specializations. I'm in the Planning and Policy track, and am still able to take a curriculum very similar to planning programs. The thing though in this program, you can write a thesis, take an exam, or do a leadership practicum where you work on a project for a company or NGO. Its all about how you tailor it. I'm planning on working with the city of Athens to develop a Green Infrastructure plan.

    So to wrap it up, if you want to do geography, look at your graduation requirement (i.e. thesis, exam, practicum) and if you want to get into the planning field, specialize in an area of planning that needs work. Planning grads will get the benefit of the doubt unless you have a higher degree in focus in that area.

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    Thanks for the input everyone.
    The program that I might go for is in Geography & Environmental Studies. It is only 3 semesters worth of work, so I think I may pursue a second masters afterwards in Urban Planning with an emphasis in Environmental Policy & Planning. Why not, right? The worse the economy, the more graduate degrees I'll have under my belt (just kidding).
    Kingmak - your pursuits sound like something I would be into. Good luck with your studies.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by foodstamps View post
    Thanks for the input everyone.
    The program that I might go for is in Geography & Environmental Studies. It is only 3 semesters worth of work, so I think I may pursue a second masters afterwards in Urban Planning with an emphasis in Environmental Policy & Planning. Why not, right? The worse the economy, the more graduate degrees I'll have under my belt (just kidding).
    Kingmak - your pursuits sound like something I would be into. Good luck with your studies.
    Sounds like a good idea. There are plenty of Masters in Geography programs that have planning foci. The only big difference is that you would have to prractice planning full time for one additional year to apply for the AICP exam.

    Make sure the program is affordable. I personally recommend a state program. You are pursuing one masters right after another rather than in tandem with a dual degree. Do you know how long it would take to do the MUP? 3.5 - 4 years of graduate school is alot, but you might luck out and gradaute with more favorable economic conditions.

    Make sure you earn as many internships and related jobs as soon as you can. Don't think that internships are limited to the summer or that you can only do one internship at a time. During my senior year in collge I juggled a full course and studio load with 2-3 planning internships, and that was during the year.

    You still have to prepare for the worst case scenario and don't assume that the economy will be that great when you graduate. I'm not a pessimist but I do think we all need to be prepared. Regardless of the economy graduating planning students face enormous odds to land the first job. Too many students wait to the last semester to take on internships or to organize their class and internship projects. Start doing from day 1 and read the other posts on here. Hopefully THAT will help you more than debating the merits of a geography or planning program.

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

    Family Guy

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