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Thread: Do I need to be an engineer to be a successful transportation planner?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Do I need to be an engineer to be a successful transportation planner?

    I'm wondering because I see some private sector senior position in transportation planning require a PE. So is there a "glass ceiling" for planners who aren't engineers in private sector or public sector transportation planning?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    No. While there are a lot of engineers in Transportation Planning, there are a lot of other parts of the discipline that involve accounting, economics, land use, policy, environmental, or public participation. Not all people who are engineers have the skills sets needed to become writers or deal with the public.

    Chances are what you are seeing is an advertisement for a position where some of the skill sets associated with engineers are beneficial. It could also be a way of trying to recruit someone who is an engineer who does not just want to measure what size i-beam you would need for a particular load.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian southern_yank's avatar
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    No. State and local DOTs need more planners - people who can think creatively and beyond reactive capacity expansions based on traffic models.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by southern_yank View post
    No. State and local DOTs need more planners - people who can think creatively and beyond reactive capacity expansions based on traffic models.
    But are they actually hiring more planners?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DrGrant View post
    But are they actually hiring more planners?
    They are in NC, although I think the planners are second class to the engineers from what I hear.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  6. #6
    Cyburbian transguy's avatar
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    I think it highly depends on where you work and what type of transportation planning you want to do. If you want to get involved in roads, you need to be an engineer. It seems like planners have been relegated to the non-motorized side of the equation. However, engineers are seeing that there is now money to be made in non-motorized transportation; not good news for planners in my area.

    I had a meeting with a management level individual that I have a pretty good relationship with. Basically her advice to me was to either change my focus or to move. Not great news, but it was honest.
    Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    [QUOTE=transguy;568528]It seems like planners have been relegated to the non-motorized side of the equation./QUOTE]

    I am fortunate enough to be learning more about road design as a planner (no engineering degreee) but it consists almost entirely with Microstation work for the engineers.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by transguy View post
    I think it highly depends on where you work and what type of transportation planning you want to do. If you want to get involved in roads, you need to be an engineer. It seems like planners have been relegated to the non-motorized side of the equation. However, engineers are seeing that there is now money to be made in non-motorized transportation; not good news for planners in my area.

    I had a meeting with a management level individual that I have a pretty good relationship with. Basically her advice to me was to either change my focus or to move. Not great news, but it was honest.
    BUMP

    Thanks for the advice. I've come back to this post after starting down the public transportation planning path and I'm worried about how far I can "move up the ladder" without being an engineer.

    Transguy could you maybe elaborate on what management told you? Feel free to PM me.

    Any idea what it's like in the private sector?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian LTKS's avatar
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    I'm a "transportation planner", but definitely feel like I don't get all the experiences I should to move forward in the industry. I've got a masters in urban planning, and my previous work has been with land use planning. My current position is at an engineering firm, and as such, my boss gives a lot of the more technical work to the engineers, and the non-technical stuff to the planners. For example, trip generation, traffic studies, etc. all go to them. But when I look at other job descriptions classified as a planner, I should have the experience of that other work. Unfortunately, I've repeatedly asked to work on those projects, but never get it. I think that it might be a case where if he did, there may not be enough work to go around to the engineers, but still, it is frustrating.

    I think any position where you are employed by, or work closely with, engineers you'll find that you are working at full capacity, if that makes sense. I feel like it makes me feel very pigeon-holed and not diverse, and I'm struggling to get out of this.

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