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Thread: What does UC Berkeley mean by this:

  1. #1
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    What does UC Berkeley mean by this:

    From their PhD admissions page... this is straightforward: "Most doctoral students enter the program with a master's degree in planning or a related field."

    But I'm wondering about the next sentence here:

    "The Master of City Planning is regarded as a terminal professional degree, and is not comparable to mid-study Master of Arts or Master of Science degrees offered in anticipation of the doctorate."

    Coming from a Public Policy (MA) background, I am trying to break into the world of urban planning and policy, but don't know if the next step should just be applications to PhD programs, or if I would benefit more from a MUP.

    Is the MUP not considered beneficial for a PhD in Planning?

    I recognize that I need some relevant background in the field, but am not sure where, or what to apply to.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    I think what they are saying there is that MCP/MURP/MUP are the terminal degrees for planning professionals whereas MA and MS degrees are mid-level qualifying degrees falling between a BA/BS and a PhD. In essence, you generally need an MA or MS in a certain field to pursue a PhD in that field. This is not the case for planning PhD programs, which admit many people with MA Geog, MPP, MPA, MLArch, MSESci and other related degrees. Certainly having an MUP is beneficial for a PhD in planning, but depending on what you are studying for your dissertation may not be of more benefit than an MA in Sociology or an MPA.

    If you want to "break into the world" of planning, a PhD probably isn't your best bet unless you intend to pursue a career in academia or maybe consulting. A less expensive option is looking for an entry level planning internship or job with your MPP to determine if it's a field you are truly interested in pursuing.

    In terms of working as a planning professional, a PhD is not likely to give you a leg up on those with MCP degrees. In fact, the level of specific study required for a PhD will likely result in you having a less thorough general understanding of planning issues/concepts than a 2 year MCP degree. PhDs can be a handicap as well as some professional planning firms and agencies will quickly take an MCP (or even an MPP/MPA) with practical skills and experience over someone who has experienced the field exclusively in the sometimes esoteric academic realm.

    Essentially it depends on what you want to do. If you want to investigate some planning-related issue at the PhD level and go on to academia, I'd say go for it. Otherwise, think long and hard before investing money and 3-4 years of your life getting a PhD as an entry to the profession.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  3. #3
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    Thank you for the quick reply.

    Ultimately, I want the academic position to study TOD and alternative sources of financing for public transit.

    I have been on a round of 'information interviews' of a few planning consultants, and many think that complimenting the strengths of my policy background with that of some urban planning credentials would go a long way towards achieving my goals.

    I don't disagree. I want the practical side as well, and feel it would make me a better teacher. And I am aware of my drawbacks as a candidate at this point, especially considering many PhD programs look favourably on practical experience.

    Pretty much I worry I am caught between two disciplines here, hence the 'break into planning' part. Cannot get a planning internship to get into a planning PhD without prior planning credentials.

    Also, it seems as though in a PhD program you would end up taking many of the same classes as the MUP students, so I am wondering if that would make the MUP redundant for my purposes...

    But again, thank you for your take on that, and sorry for the rant. haha.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    IMHO, if academia is really your goal then going into an appropriate planning PhD program might be the right step for you. Considering you have a well-defined research interest and a relevant masters degree and you've done your due diligence in terms of researching the discipline, an MCP may indeed be a step sideways (or is it diagonal? something like that). I've interacted with planning PhDs who made the leap from diverse backgrounds like natural resources and public policy into planning and have since landed university positions.

    Your most important consideration is probably to identify PhD programs with the faculty and resources to fulfill your research focus... and I'm guessing that you've already done that. In different economic circumstances, most Cyburbians would probably recommend that you get relevant work experience, but planners are taking whatever they can get right now and the chances of you landing a position directly involving TOD are slim at best.

    The best advice I can give is to cast a wide enough net in your school applications to increase your odds of landing a GTA position. Debt always sucks but the current state of the economy makes it especially risky. Whatever you choose to do, best of luck.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by higgicd View post
    Thank you for the quick reply.

    Ultimately, I want the academic position to study TOD and alternative sources of financing for public transit.

    I have been on a round of 'information interviews' of a few planning consultants, and many think that complimenting the strengths of my policy background with that of some urban planning credentials would go a long way towards achieving my goals.

    I don't disagree. I want the practical side as well, and feel it would make me a better teacher. And I am aware of my drawbacks as a candidate at this point, especially considering many PhD programs look favourably on practical experience.

    Pretty much I worry I am caught between two disciplines here, hence the 'break into planning' part. Cannot get a planning internship to get into a planning PhD without prior planning credentials.

    Also, it seems as though in a PhD program you would end up taking many of the same classes as the MUP students, so I am wondering if that would make the MUP redundant for my purposes...

    But again, thank you for your take on that, and sorry for the rant. haha.
    I think having the practical experience would making teaching it even more enjoyable. A lot of urban planning lecturers, and even some professors, come with background beyond that of a research environment. Some are simply good journalistic observers. Others are sociologists, or demographers. Many others are practicing consultants. One of my favorite and best teacher I had in grad school was Paul Crawford. He had a public and private sector background, but ultimately ended up writing the handbook for form-based codes.

    My B.A. was in Public Policy, and my thesis was on TOD efforts of the Gold Line in Los Angeles. That led me to get my MCRP in Planning... and today, I enjoy my work as a planner, working on real TOD issues at the city I work for, among a variety of other assignments. Urban planning is a broad and diverse field, and I would take advantage of that variety for a long-lasting and meaningful career.

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