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Thread: Concern about entering the field

  1. #1
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    Concern about entering the field

    Hi,

    I am planning to transfer from a community college to a four-year university in the Fall as an Urban Planning major. I have heard many excellent things about the field, that the market is growing and the salary is good, but am starting to have doubts after speaking to a family friend who was ready to pursue a Masters in urban planning but subsequently dropped the idea. He told me that there are not many jobs in the field and the pay is not very good, which contradicts what I have read about it on reliable websites such as the Department of Labor. He is an older gentlemen, probably in his fifties, and considered studying urban planning many years ago.

    At this point in time it is too late to change my major unless I am willing to spend several additional years in school. I am probably giving his advice too much weight and am sure there is nothing to worry about, but I would appreciate any assurance from the members of this board.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Well I hate to give you bad news but I am afraid your friend is correct. There are a ton of threads in the career development and advice forums here that will give you a pretty bleak picture of the current state of planning. At this point in the economy any field that is dependent on construction (architecture, planning, certain engineering fields) are all in pretty bad shape. Department of Labor data is not a very reliable source either (again, see previous threads). And the average salary is not very good when you compare to fields like accounting. I think U.S. News and World Report says planners make an average of 70k? No, no that is just not the case. I honestly think they pulled that number out of a hat...

    That being said, planning is a field that is suffering, but I personally do not feel that all hope is lost. Whenever construction projects begin to gain some momentum, there will have to be a lot of new hiring from municipalities that are currently going through budget cuts. If you're transferring to college now, does that mean it's going to be at least another 2 years until you graduate? A lot of planners here are hopefull that construction will start up again by that time, but no one really knows if that will be the case.

    I apologize if this news is bleak, but better to be aware of all the realities now then before you start taking out loans and acquiring all kinds of debt. Even if the economy does improve, years down the road there will always be another crash, and then the game of musical chairs (except this time if you lose you're unemployed) starts all over again. If you don't really know what planning is, try networking and setting up an informational interview with someone from a planning department first. I have stuck with the field because I love the work, but I could have just as easily gotten a business degree and made much more money in a much more stable job market. If you don't really know what planning is, please do yourself a favor and do some research before you make a big decision.

    Good luck with whatever decision you make...
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I don't want to be as grim as Homer painted it for one reason. You still have 4+ years of school which will make you an entry level planner in 4-5 years. I hope to God we have turned things around in 4-6 years. Also, the entry level planners and those graduating this year should have 4-5 more years experience than you and you won't be competing (hopefully) for the same jobs. We will always need the next class of planners graduating and taking the entry level jobs as we matriculate upward in our career. I will say I think in 4-5 years entry level planners will have it easier than they do now. But we can revisit this thread then and see if my crystal ball works.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Add some practical courses

    College (undergrad) is really not voc-ed where you learn exactly how to perform a certain job. Use this forum and other planning sites to develop interests in tangential fields, then take some coursework pertaining to that work.

    As an example, real estate is never going to go away. A class that relates to business siting and acquisition would help you land a job at a national chain, retail development, cell towers, etc. People will always need a place to live; look into classes on housing. (Not how to design a bathroom, but how to redevelop a brownfield or how to plan for barrier-free living.)

    You could also declare a minor in English or basket-weaving or whatever might be the next hot opportunity in a couple years. Three examples ripped from local headlines: Retrofitting garages for e-car plugs. Single-stream recycling and how to set up a rewards program for participants. Emergency financial management of municipalities in receivership.

    HTH

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with what the other posters are saying - that you need to look medium term for the career prospects in the field, because this downturn hopefully won't last fore-ever and the U.S. population continues to grow.

    I also believe while traditional development-related planning may be slow, there are other niche fields seeing new opportunities (bicycle/ped planning; regional sustainability planning [tied to the new direction at HUD, but with politics as volatileas they are who knows if HUD will exist when you graudate!]; housing and energy retrofit; food systems planning, environmental planning and response to climate change, historic preservation and revitalization, as well as transportation planning, telecomm etc.) While these niche fields may not make up for the significant losses in the core planning areas, I think they provide new and interesting opportunities. As for good salary, you can be the judge of that - I think you've seen the stats. I could think of worse ways to make $50,000 - $60,000.

    And that your undergrad education can give you good grounding that could lead you into a number of fields.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    I hope to [...] we have turned things around in 4-6 years.
    I will say I think in 4-5 years entry level planners will have it easier than they do now. But we can revisit this thread then and see if my crystal ball works.
    Our economy has large, long-term structural problems. Our current crop of...erm..."leaders" is not addressing them either. IMHO health care is the way to go to make money in the future. Our country has oodles of obese people and more than that leading unhealthy lifestyles.

    The direction our country is going in - growing inequality and bifurcated society - doesn't bode well for having the luxury of choosing a career that you enjoy. Those days are gone.

    Quote Originally posted by docwatson View post
    ...
    While these niche fields may not make up for the significant losses in the core planning areas, I think they provide new and interesting opportunities. As for good salary, you can be the judge of that - I think you've seen the stats. I could think of worse ways to make $50,000 - $60,000.

    And that your undergrad education can give you good grounding that could lead you into a number of fields.
    Yes, undergrad planning and hopefully actually landing a job will prepare you well for the career change.

  7. #7

    Environmental or Transportation?

    Which field is better off in this economy?

    Would you need a background in Civil Engineer to really succeed in transportation?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by manoverde84 View post
    Which field is better off in this economy?

    Would you need a background in Civil Engineer to really succeed in transportation?
    You have a thread already for your concerns. Several, actually. Hijacking this thread will not change reality. Thaaaaanks!!!!!!!

  9. #9


    sorry

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by manoverde84 View post
    Which field is better off in this economy?

    Would you need a background in Civil Engineer to really succeed in transportation?
    Civil engineering is a whole 'nuther animal from the social sciences of urban planning. The former: crystalline structures of concrete, tensile strength of metals used in bridges. The latter: what will happen is we close or open this street/bridge/raw land field.

    As previously stated, "this economy" will have evolved by the time you graduate. And you can always pick up professional development as things evolve further. As an example, when I was in planning school, we used ink pens and paper to draw site plans. And rub-off lettering for headlines and titles.

    HTH

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