Finally, you speak of being a bureaucrat as being a bad thing. I understand you're using it in the pejorative sense, but bureaucrats are necessary to keep government working. If you are an environmental or transportation planner (working for public agencies either directly or indirectly), the vast majority of your job is in support of bureaucracy. You do important things, but you probably don't do any planning.
I've lurked Cyburbia for a long time without contributing, and would like to take a moment to applaud the pessimism. This board has given me extraordinary insight into the difficulties faced by planners.
I knew the job market was bad, but my undergraduate professors never once hinted at exactly how bad things are. Bearing this in mind, I will being a MURP program this spring. I have little expectations for finding work as a planner after, but think this attitude is healthy and realistic. I'd be thrilled if I could land a job doing something even remotely related to planning, but if this doesn't work out I'll at least have taken a two year break from blue collar drudgery.
Like so many others, unpaid positions have eluded me without so much as an interview. Unable to gain experience, I view Cyburbia as the next best thing. It's almost like I'm getting to stand around the water cooler with a bunch of superiors. The opinions of working planners on the profession, sprawl, form based code, landscape urbanists, whatever, lends practical insight that can't be found many other places.
My M.O. is to have the lowest expectations of the future; however, I think planning is important and fascinating and would like to have the credentials to work in the field should the economy ever recover. I sincerely thank you all for keeping it real.
Interesting thread. It's hard for me to be anything other than pessimistic. Where I live, the state government recently fired its entire planning office. Every last planner was dismissed; that's more than 30 planners, for the record. The entire state planning office was scrapped, and no one is suggesting that it should come back. Add to that the fact that in the last year in the municipalities and counties in my state, there have been fewer than a dozen full-time planning positions advertised.
I wish things were better, and I wish I could be an optimist. I am optimistic that one day I can be more of an optimist. For now, though, I would not advise anyone to attempt to enter this profession without having a back-up plan.
When I graduated many moons ago, the job market also sucked. I lucked into an entry level job where I had done a non-planning related internship. I've been in the profession 23 years now. I've also moved 5 times.
Is the job market tough right now, yes. It's been my experience that the job market ebbs and flows. You need to diversify-learning to write and administer grants as an example. You also need a back up plan. Bottom line, you need to decide what is important and stick it out. Things will get better, but they will not be the same as the pre crash world.
When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Debt is normal . . . Be weird!
"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Threads like this are healthy. One of my college roommates just months before graduation told me that he never heard of urban planning before grad school, and didn't even like planning once he started studying it. Luckily, he did find a job (just before graduation) that was not planning-related but did utilize the skills he learnt in grad school.
Hopefully, prospective planning students find this thread and do a little research on what the job entails (hint: politics), job prospects, and how a masters in planning fits into ones overall career goals.
I applaud the fresh-out-of-grad-school-I'm-going-to-change-the-world types but no one said it was going to be easy.
The job market for planners, like the "recovery," has been uneven across the country. Most everyone is hurting. It's not just the planning profession. If my position were to be cut, I would probably go back to school for a second masters that would compliment my planning degree but would also open up more doors in the private sector (MBA, MPA, MSRED, Finance, or Economics).
After reading this thread, I agree with nrschmid's amended conclusion that planning is comatose. I think the only thing that will wake it up is a significant recovery in the economy (which includes a solution to the foreclosure crisis). Once land begins to be developed again on a normal scale, planning will again become relevant to all the areas that are now cutting back.
But I wonder about what kind of planning will become relevant again. I wonder if Building Information Modeling and similar technologies will make it easier to turn plan and design review into a computerized process that is easy to automate and outsource. I wonder if governments will become accustomed to outsourcing long range planning to consulting firms instead of performing these tasks in-house. I wonder if public facilitation will turn into collecting data through web and cellphone apps rather than through face-to-face public meetings. I also wonder if, in their mad scramble to tap any revenue source available during the Great Recession, architects and LAs will permanently invade planning's "space" and shift planning towards more design-oriented outcomes (and would this be good or bad).
In short, I wonder what technological and political changes will be affecting planning when it finally wakes from its comatose state?
My guess is that there will be more emphasis on multifamily housing. People with less money, a large stock of vacant single family homes, tighter lending rules, and the possible removal of home mortgage interest deduction all seem like a recipe for this country to move away from single family housing. I would hope this allows for more higher density development to occur.
What that means for planners, I have no idea. I do know multifamily developments don't yield as many construction jobs as single family though.
At least code enforcement positions will be in high demand..
I'll concur with Hill Dweller...the bread and butter of my 24 year job was development & building permit review. Haven't seen much of that in the last three years. Code Enforcement/Property Maint./Foreclosure Response on the otherhand currently keeps me employed.
Planning will get leaner and meaner. Some jurisdictions do have highly bureaucratic planning departments, where an addition to a house or a sign permit requires a public hearing. We can no longer afford to spend an excessive amount of time, money and energy on matters that are items that have marginal land use consequences. Planners are spending time on the essentials. Make sure the comp plan and zoning regulations are sound. Process development applications in accordance with the adopted plan and regulations. That's it. The recession has only exposed the bureaucracy that planning has been all along. That's not to say it's not important. It is. We can still be visionaries and facilitators. We just don't need 30 of them working for a mid-sized city.
I'm starting a new job on Monday. Moving up in the "planning profession". So the opportunities are out there for experienced planners to move around a bit. If one of my daughters told me they wanted to get a degree in "planning" tomorrow, I'd tell them there are cheaper and more rewarding ways to impact your community than by being a planner. I might even tell them if they wanted to seek a different profession, I may help pay for college.
The planning profession is littered with architects, LAs, and more recently, engineers.
Our profession is definitely changing, and not for the better in terms of generalist planners.
"I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"
I just came back from a personal visit to the Mays Business School at Texas A&M. As many of you know I am seriously considering a different profession. Like my friends and acquaintances down here, the faculty at the business school doesn't really know what planning is, and this is a second tier business school!! Even though I have several transferable skills that can apply to the business side, I was still the odd man out. I think we still have a very very very long way to showing how planning relates to other professions. I may even need to pursue a second masters on top of the MBA if I want to focus on the business side within the energy sector. Compared to finance, accounting, engineering, marketing, planning is still way out in left field. I'm now going to have to run triple time to just get back on track with the other school candidates, even though I have a few years of professional experience.
"This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
"M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."
Nrschmid, as someone also potentially looking to get out of the field, this is what I was afraid of. I dread the thought of more schooling and more debt being necessary in order to transition out of the field. Our profession has done a lousy job of getting the word out about what it is we do to the wider public.
Last edited by nrschmid; 28 Jul 2011 at 5:06 PM.
"This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
"M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."
One thing that has always had me relieved is the fact that I haven't gotten the masters yet. I think, for practical reasons, it is more than likely I will be going for an MBA or MPA at some point in the future. I would think that some fields in business would see the gain of a planning background. Real Estate for instance?
Haha, yes I know Real Estate is in bad shape right now . I will say one thing that I am very appreciative about in planning was how quickly I was able to get my feet wet. I have friends in architecture and engineering that are basically sealing their fate. They almost certainly HAVE to get a masters degree. The amount of work you have to put in to be an architect, only to get basically the same job outlook planners have right now? Frankly I'm glad I got out of architecture when I did.
At least by getting the planning undergrad I didn't get a degree as useless as History or English. I have given myself the chance to get some real world exposure without having to commit to a graduate degree. For that, I'd say planning has worked out quite well.
Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
Consider yourself lucky! You know, I'm not the type to whine or complain, I'm just looking to get my feet wet myself. It's a tough market, and I'm appreciative that this forum exists. It's nice to know that I'm not alone. It's tough to land an entry-level position out there, and even more so when you don't have internship experience.
My school advised against an internship and instead had us work with a city to develop a neighborhood plan. While it was a good experience, it has been challenging to capture its value on a resume. Additionally, landing an internship has been a challenge. I'm willing to relocate almost anywhere, but I can't do so for an unpaid internship. Also, I'm not sure that I feel comfortable committing to graduate school when I haven't had any practical experience in the field. So far, I've loved my class room training, but I'm unsure of how it will translate to the real world.
Bottom line: experienced planners, please have empathy for your future co-workers. We've got student loans coming due, and bleak job prospects. It's challenging to explain to family and significant others that the market is rough. Personally, my girlfriend works in the medical field and was able to find a job BEFORE she finished undergrad. She's got a plethora of experience now while the only experience that I've gained is how to create a cover letter and resume.
I'm praying things get better, but in the mean time, am thankful that this support network is available.
To all those hoping things get better: Haven't you got the idea yet? They're not going to get better. You need to do everything you can to get out of this field. Cut your losses and move on.
That's an idea, but the problem is that I actually want to work in this field. I love urban planning, and truly want to be a planner. Yes, I could run... but I'd likely end up doing something I don't have the same kind of passion for. So no, I won't run from the field.
-Work EXTREMELY HARD
And don't give up. You might end up in Backwoods, South Dakota for a while. But if you love this field then it will be worth it.
Some people can't understand why anyone would like this field and assumes that everyone has that view. Just keep at it. Something will work out.
A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams