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Thread: Entry level career development w/o masters

  1. #1
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    Entry level career development w/o masters

    Hello everyone,

    I was wondering if anyone would have any advice for skills or certifications apart from a masters that I could pursue. Namely, any free online courses or reasonably affordable certifications that would be useful in the profession or look favorable to employers.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Hard to say without knowing your existing educational background. A GIS certificate is what stands out to me though.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Hard to say without knowing your existing educational background. A GIS certificate is what stands out to me though.
    Why does everyone rely on a GIS certificate? Nothing to really hang your hat on personally. What's your work experience/internship experience? What's in your portofio? Those begin to set you apart.

    **Beats Chest**

    Experience trumpts degrees/certificates

    **Beats Chest**
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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Why does everyone rely on a GIS certificate? Nothing to really hang your hat on personally.
    I can't disagree. It just depends on your education background though. If you've had GIS experience in some capacity, a certificate probably isn't worth it. If not though, it could potentially help you break in if your prior degree isn't all that relevant.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Most Planning Directors (your likely supervisors) are looking for GIS experience. Larger agencies have people dedicated to GIS, but many of the typical agencies will require entry level planners to do a lot of GIS.

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    I agree that GIS experience is very important in staying on the planning track. However, realize that GIS by itself may in fact be a career dead end. I worked for about 3 years in the GIS field for major tech companies in the Bay Area, only to find that generally only contract jobs were available. Most companies are not interested in simply GIS skills outside of their core competencies; they're interested in software programmers and data analysts who happen to have GIS experience. Is this you? Unless you're a true genius in GIS and you have a knockout arsenal of coding/software engineering skills to boot, it is unlikely that most private-sector companies will want to hire you specifically for GIS. Not to knock the GIS field, only to emphasize that GIS is a necessary but not sufficient skillset to land most jobs, either in public-sector planning or planning-adjacent fields of the private sector.

    If planning is what you really want to do, I would focus on enhancing other skills in addition to GIS. Much of planning involves persuasion, public outreach, and preparing high-quality presentations. An entry-level sales or business-development position may be a useful leg up in addition to GIS. You might investigate your city's local environmental services or clean-tech industries (solar/biofuel/etc.) for leads in this area. In addition, you'll need a solid design skillset here, so I'd pay attention to any jobs that involve editing or graphic design.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Raf View post
    Why does everyone rely on a GIS certificate? Nothing to really hang your hat on personally. What's your work experience/internship experience? What's in your portofio? Those begin to set you apart.

    **Beats Chest**

    Experience trumpts degrees/certificates

    **Beats Chest**
    I'll have to agree with Raf, but I'm not much of a chest beater. A good internship goes a long way to getting hired. A GIS certificate can help get you hired, but then you might get stuck as the GIS guy and end up with little planning experience. No offense to the GIS techs out there, but it seems harder to climb past the tech level. You become more of a tool and less of an employee and nobody wants that. You could always look into a public participation cert, a flood plain management cert, but those still don't beat a good internship.

    **Beats Raf's Chest**
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Levi07 View post
    Hello everyone,

    I was wondering if anyone would have any advice for skills or certifications apart from a masters that I could pursue. Namely, any free online courses or reasonably affordable certifications that would be useful in the profession or look favorable to employers.
    Have you interned before? Practical experience will typically look more favorable than a bunch of random online classes.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    A GIS certificate is something you get while in college as a resource to help you land the first job. Once you have a planning position it is time to pursue something else that will take you to the next level.

    You will not find any free programs out there. We have had many threads on this topic, but:

    AICP, despite its problems, is the only national planning certification.
    The International Economic Development Council has an economic development certification, CEcD.
    The National Development Council offers certifications in housing and in economic development finance, HDFP and EDFP.
    There is LEED, but I am increasingly getting a sense that it may be somewhat of a fad.
    Other organizations have certifications that may mean less. For example, the National Charette Institute.
    There is talk of developing a certification in downtown revitalization, and I am involved in developing a state program that may be a model for this. It is still a few years off, though.

    Another angle is to become something of a subject matter expert. Pick a good topic and then present at a couple different forums. There is no certificate to hang on your wall, but 1) you may be presenting to your next employers, and 2) if you pick the right topic, you could be positioning yourself to be a very attractive candidate the next time you send somebody a resume.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian jwhitty's avatar
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    No masters, no weak links/network, no research projects...

    There is always the domestic Peace Corps:

    http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps

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