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Thread: What should I do to prepare for a career in urban planning?

  1. #1
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    What should I do to prepare for a career in urban planning?

    Hi there. My first post! Whoohoo

    I'll start with a little background info of mine. I recently graduated from college with a BA in linguistics and a minor in Global Studies. As expected, BA in ling landed me no jobs. Due to a past psychological condition, my GPA isn't steller.. at around 3.2 . I plan to work as an ESL teacher for a while before going for a Master in Urban Planning. I don't want to go to a school that no one knows - I aim for one of those in top 20s, for example, UPenn and Berkeley.

    There are many problems with this plan.

    1. Bad grades. Failed the only econ course I've ever taken. What can I do to fix this??
    2. I have very little background in Urban Planning. My minor involves some modern discourse on modern, multi-lateral political/cultural/capital flow, hegemony and different models of Globalization. (Remotely related?)
    3. I need money (Who doesn't? soluble problem once I start working)

    I thought about going to night/adult school to fix my grades, but the choices are limited, not to mention the additional time and money. I have read something about what urban planners do, and I heard most of the myth-busters about UP, so I think I know what I am headed for. The hard part is, how do I get there?

    I understand this is leaning more towards career advice but I have done a ton of research of what planners do and I am very serious and sincere about this. Please advise!!

    Thank you all.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Why is it so important to you to go to a "top 20" school?

    Assuming you could get in with that GPA, all a "top 20" school would do for you is give you a huge mountain of debt. And for what advantage?

    Are you more employable if you go to a top 20 school? No.

    Will you make more money with a degree from a top 20 school? No.

    Will the education be better at a top 20 school? Perhaps, but only at the margins.

    My recommendation, rather than looking merely for a "top 20 school" would be to look for an accredited planning program from ANY school that would have you.

    Just my $0.02.

    Edit: And if you plan on staying in California, I'd recommend going for your Masters in California. You don't have undergraduate education in planning, and if you want to work in CA you'll need to understand CEQA - and only CA schools would teach you anything of substance about CEQA.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    I (non top 20, in-state tuition & accredited.grad) agree with tarf12345678 points.

    If you can try to find some volunteer work to show your interest before you apply.

    Start reading - search the threads for books
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  4. #4
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    Reconsidered

    Thanks for the advice! I narrowed down my target to all the accredited schools in CA,for the lower tuition, and actually, CA is a bustling market due to constant expansion and the high pop count. And they have the foci (Transportation +/ Environmental Protection) I am looking for.

    Plan for now:

    1. Brush up on URP history and theories
    2. Teach some kids. Earn some money.
    3. study my a$$ off for GRE. Aiming for 1300+
    4. Volunteer?

    Gonna have to whip up a sob story for my less-than-perfect grades..., no?

    The biggest problem is going to be recommendations. I can't think of anyone whom I worked with in this field. And I haven't exactly been the perfect student in any class or worked on a project with a professor. Sigh. Do I HAVE to go back to school for that?

  5. #5
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    I had similar grades, but worked for five years in between undergrad and grad so I was able to get good recs from bosses. So maybe volunteering and working for a little bit would help you with that. Maybe look for work at a city doing anything to get some sort of related experience. I wouldn't worry about not knowing anything about planning -- I studied computers for my bachelors and a "top" school let me in.

    If you want to work in the IE, agree you should go to a CA program. Cal Poly Pomona is close to where you live and is a good program with not too many expenses. UCLA and USC are good (the latter with a scholarship can be affordable), and SDSU is another option for staying in So Cal. And of course, Cal would be another "top" program.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AHM View post
    If you want to work in the IE, agree you should go to a CA program. Cal Poly Pomona is close to where you live and is a good program with not too many expenses. UCLA and USC are good (the latter with a scholarship can be affordable), and SDSU is another option for staying in So Cal. And of course, Cal would be another "top" program.

    Add UCI to that list... another accredited program in So. Cal. Similar to UCLA in terms of expense.

    Also, SDSU isn't accredited.

    Full list of accredited programs is here: http://www.planningaccreditationboar...ndex.php?id=30

    Finally, going to an accredited school is preferential, but not necessarily essential. It doesn't affect employment chances really. I think the main reason it's recommended is so you can go for your AICP with less work experience. I'm not really aware of any other advantage per se of an accredited program (other, perhaps, than the quality of the curriculum... one has to wonder why certain programs aren't accredited after all).
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