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Thread: Environmental planning, career wise....

  1. #1

    Environmental planning, career wise....

    I have heard that the Environmental Planning job market is a little better than the Urban Regional Planner one right now.

    Is this true? What are employers looking for in an Environmental Planner? Strong science background? GIS?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Didn't we already discuss this at length?

    There are jobs that require environmental planning skills but are not necessarily labeled as planning positions. Some of these are found in corporations, separate from public sector, consulting, or non-for-profit. They usually require extensive experience with NEPA, CEQA if you are in California, etc.

    A good chunk of environmental planning, though not all of it, deals with the formation of Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Assessments, Categorical Exclusions, and Findings of No-Significant Impact. If you are an environmental planner with no hard-science background chances are your major contributions to these reports is socioeconomic, land use, right-of-way, cultural resources, geology and environmental justice.

    If you have a hard-science background (biology, ecology, natural resources, zoology) you are more likely to be aiding ion these reports delineating wetlands, identifying existing habitats and local ecology, threatened and endangered species, hazardous waste, water (hydrology, groundwater, waste water, surface water), secondary and cumulative impacts, and the complicating permitting process. However, it is not set in stone. At my last job I conducted almost all of the analysis for an entire EA and I don't have a sciences background (I taught myself the basics through manuals).

    There are many aspects of environmental planning that have nothing to do with the regulatory side. Landscape urbanism, ecological planning, habitat management are also areas to consider.

    Bottom line, I think environmental analysis skills are found in many different job titles and can be found in more types of non-planning roles. You just have to do far more digging away from APA, USGBC-LEED, ULI job markets.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  3. #3

    thanks...

    If I decide on the Penn program I would gear the degree to focus on a hard science background with courses in hydrology, environmental chemistry, wetlands, environmental geology, etc. Then I would attach the GIS specialization certificate they offer at the design school too.

    Coupled with a BA in Economics and Government, I am hoping that it would be a big push out there.

    At this point, I am just focusing on a job rather than a lucrative field.

    With all that I listed above, can landing a job in this turbulent market be possible?

    What you described above is up my alley. All I do at my current job is research and write reports. It's all I've known as a nerdy wannabe policy wonk in undergrad.

    I could ditch the Environmental Studies program and opt for the next program Penn offers in Applied Geoscience, but that seems like a science overkill with courses that far exceed my puny science understanding like geophysics, geo-computations, geo-technics and engineering geology.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Again, why Penn if you live in Texas? Do you want to work in Philly? Penn is an expensive Ivy League school, and you said you don't care about the money so much as finding opportunity. If you ARE considering an Ivy League do it for something far more lucrative, not planning.

    I think you are missing another key point. It sounds like you (and a few others on here over the years) plan education like a bartender: 2 classes here, an internship there and always bitters, bitters, BITTERS

    We can't perfect the right cocktail of brains and brawn that will lead to your desired result. Heck, the past two job offers practically landed in my lap as I considered leaving planning altogether. I did some urban design work for an event on Saturday, casually chatted with a planner at the CNU booth and tomorrow I have a face-to-face interview for some sort of planning-related job with her dad. Granted I kept a couple of digital portfolios in my cargo shorts for this type of occasion. Sometimes you just fall face first into your next opportunity (which reminds me I need to tie my shoes).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Honestly, sounds like you are just building a case for Penn in your mind to justify going to an Ivy league. We have repeatedly given you advice on the subject in at least 2 different forums.

    I stated in an early forum to just sit down and write what you see yourself doing 5 years from now. Don't think about pay/job/whatever.

    From there, start making your decision.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  6. #6

    justifying Penn only if....

    ...I get rejected from the other programs I am applying to.

    I have deferred the Penn program I was accepted to for a year. So that gives me a year to apply to some Texas schools.

    Penn is safety school as weird as that sounds.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    An Ivy League as a safety school AND it is across the country? That really doesn't make any sense. I would seriously take Raf's advice and find out what you to do in 5-10 years. Search previous posts on here about setting up informational interviews with practicing professionals in your area before you even consider enrolling in any program.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  8. #8

    As far as fields....

    Between Environmental and Transportation.

    I keep hearing that both are great, but that without a Civil Engineering background, transportation might be a little harder to break into.

    I really like Environmental, but is transportation more of a lucrative field to go into in this bad economy.

    or are all fields being effected the same?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Transportation planning is tied one way or another to government funding (federal, state, and sometimes regional). Just last week Obama had to drastically scale money for high speed rail. He also was under fire last year for funding for a long range transportation plan (the equivalent of TEA-21) because the country confused it with stimulus money. Long story short, the general public and lawmakers are not looking too favorably on spending money on alot of infrastructure (including transit, transportation plans, etc.). Consultants work in transportation plans as well, but again the funding is usually from the public sector. There are a few exceptions. Yes, many transportation planners usually have an engineering background. I was able to do transportation planning work with a BUP but only because I built up my experience and credibility working for years in many other types of planning first. Forget what you hear about the "need" for infrastructure, rail, transit, bike paths, etc. There is little to no money to fufill that need. If you are okay with that, great, just don't expect to make a ton of money. I would also not consider green energy: it's a catchphrase. If you are in it for the money, I would go into natural gas or petrochemicals.

    I think there are more opportunities that require environmental planning skills outside of the planning realm of public sector, private sector, and non-for-profit. Again, you could find corporations requiring environmental planning skills but they are not considered planner positions. I think it's much more difficult to find transportation planning jobs working under corporations. There may be transportation positions in these global corporations but they are more likely to the transport of goods and materials, trade, commerce, etc. You could feasibly make over 6 figures working in some arcane areas of NEPA but probably not as a planner. These are the "experts" in a given niche: hazardous waste, threatened and endangered species, wetlands, floodplains, geology, hydrology, archaeology. However, you would have to have impeccable credentials, at least one masters if not more, and possibly a doctorate as well as years and years working in your given niche. Again, these professionals make good money doing NEPA because they can identify special issues that almost no one else can point out. Many of these people worked separate unrelated careers working hazardous waste, ecology, geology, mining for a long time and are hired by corporations to identify, assess, and mitigate impacts on proposed improvements. I don't think you could make the same money as someone with a planning degree doing planning analysis through NEPA projects. These "well-paying" expert jobs are not easy to find. You have to build up another career first THEN lend your expertise In this regard it parallels the legitimacy of expert witness' role in litigation.

    Planner's typical contributions to NEPA projects (either officially as a planner or indirectly) are usually land use, socioeconomic, cultural and historic resources, ROW, 4(f) and 6(f) lands, etc. There are exceptions, and environmental planning also covers non-NEPA projects. However the planning impacts from a proposed project (such as a road realignment, closing a mine, building a subdivision) is not going to be as serious (or poses the same level of liability on the developer/corporation) as the more serious, hard-science issues as those mentioned above. Again, if you want to make money doing "environmental planning" it could possibly come from working in a completely different non-planning field and building your credibility over time as a scientist/engineer. Then again, these people don't pursue hydrology, hazardous waste, etc. because they want to make tons of money doing NEPA. Even the most highly-paid NEPA experts don't make nearly the same money as an expert witness for medical malpractice, pharmaceuticals, etc.

    But you also said you weren't interested in money. You have said everything from "I just want a job" to "I want something lucrative." I have to stop scratching my head on this one, my head is starting to bleed.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  10. #10

    I really just want something in the middle...

    I've accepted the fact that planning is in a slump.

    I just figured I would jump into the best of what it has to offer so far.

    Transportation or Environmental is what I hear are strongest so far.

    I wouldn't even stay in the country, but move to either Chile or the Dominican Republic, as my mom is from the former and my dad the latter. I could get dual citizenship and move to either to get international experience.

    Chile I hear is going pretty strong. I hear Latin America is strong too.

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