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Thread: MPA or MURP?

  1. #1
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    MPA or MURP?

    Hello,

    I am an undergraduate student who will be graduating with a B.S. in City and Regional Planning, a Minor in Environmental Studies, and a certificate in GIS in April. I am in the process of finishing up my graduate school applications and I am currrently having an issue deciding which way to go with my graduate study.

    1) I have had three internships in both the private and public sector with another possible internship this summer working on a BRT project.

    2) I originally was only looking at MURP programs, however, in light of how terrible the economy still is, I am looking at diversifying my background and education. The MPA came into mind as prior to enrolling in my undergraduate school, I looked at public administration as an option because I was interested in city management and/or being a parks and rec director.

    3) My understanding is that smaller municipalities and even larger towns that do not have planning departments usually have the city manager or assistant city manager doing zoning administration and planning work.

    4) I do not want to over-specialize and educate myself out of other fields.

    5) For every job posting I have seen, public administration is almost always listed as one of the required degrees, along with planning, geography, etc.

    6) The MPA programs I am looking at have an emphasis in urban planning and policy as well as city management etc.

    7) I have met several planners who have obtained only public administration degrees and no formal planning education.

    8) From my own research an MPA seems to be very marketable for a variety of careers.

    Any suggestions or others that have done this? I love planning but the job prospects are scaring me away from a MURP. I would rather not be stuck unemployed with graduate school debt.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by demhem View post
    Hello,

    I am an undergraduate student who will be graduating with a B.S. in City and Regional Planning, a Minor in Environmental Studies, and a certificate in GIS in April. I am in the process of finishing up my graduate school applications and I am currrently having an issue deciding which way to go with my graduate study.

    1) I have had three internships in both the private and public sector with another possible internship this summer working on a BRT project.

    2) I originally was only looking at MURP programs, however, in light of how terrible the economy still is, I am looking at diversifying my background and education. The MPA came into mind as prior to enrolling in my undergraduate school, I looked at public administration as an option because I was interested in city management and/or being a parks and rec director.

    3) My understanding is that smaller municipalities and even larger towns that do not have planning departments usually have the city manager or assistant city manager doing zoning administration and planning work.

    4) I do not want to over-specialize and educate myself out of other fields.

    5) For every job posting I have seen, public administration is almost always listed as one of the required degrees, along with planning, geography, etc.

    6) The MPA programs I am looking at have an emphasis in urban planning and policy as well as city management etc.

    7) I have met several planners who have obtained only public administration degrees and no formal planning education.

    8) From my own research an MPA seems to be very marketable for a variety of careers.

    Any suggestions or others that have done this? I love planning but the job prospects are scaring me away from a MURP. I would rather not be stuck unemployed with graduate school debt.
    Outstanding thought process, IMHO. I have quite often wondered whether I should have gone that direction, especially after working in seminars/symposia/workshops with the MPA-types. Specializing in policy will never be a bad thing either - we will need much more policy as human population increases and weather goes more chaotic making people migrate.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    I tend to agree - with undergrad in planning, an MPA will just expand opportunities for you.

    However, just a word of caution. In my MURP program, we had to take like 2-3 MPA courses. Boooooooorrrrrrriiiiiinnnnngggg.

    Was much more fun playing with magic markers in my planning classes, and/or showing the undergrads how to use magic markers.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Columbus, Oh
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    From what I've seen, both of those degrees generally lead you to the same place.

    At my current internship (housing non profit, if that matters) we have both MPAs and MURPs doing the same thing. Plus, a good number of people with degrees in completely different fields. Before I went back to grad school I worked in state level government, and management was mostly MBAs. Same as you stated, most planning/policy jobs except degrees in either field (and often business degrees are thrown in there too).

    If you are only concerned about the job you would want after graduating, then it probably won't matter which one you do. All government jobs have the option of meeting the requirements through experience instead of education, anyhow. So, if you go the MPA route and happen to see a planning job that bizarrely only asks for a planning degree, there will probably be a "or three years of relevant work experience" section in which your internships will save you.

    From an educational standpoint, I would tell you to do the MPA. If my program is any indication, there isn't much a masters will teach you that you didn't learn in undergrad. Technical skills may be the exception (autocad). My program is basically a hodge-podge of half topics, meant to meet all the APA requirements (and my program is one of the more highly ranked ones). My undergrad is in psychology, so it's not too boring for me (except the social planning stuff, which is remedial psych) but the people with planning backgrounds aren't being challenged much with coursework. The learning is mostly done in internships. The benefits to the MCRP over the bachelors (for someone already with a planning degree) are that you need 1 year less work experience for the AICP exam (not worth it) and more employment doors open up with a masters. But that master's doesn't have to be in planning.

    That's just my two cents, though. Honestly, if I were you I'd apply to both programs and see which one gives me better funding! You can always take classes in the other program or even dual degree. At my school, you can complete the dual in the same 2 years.

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