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Thread: Considering urban planning

  1. #1
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    Considering urban planning

    Currently deferred from an Architecture degree due to loss of enjoyment and now I am considering Urban Planning. I just have no idea whether I should study Urban Planning or not. What are the job opportunities like now and in the future. Also what is the pay like? Can you flip into any other jobs apart from Urban Planning via the Urban Planning degree? I have a diverse range of interests, Urban Planning being one, and this is why I am quite unsettled at the moment while looking at all different degrees. Another degree I am seriously considering is the Bachelor of Agriculture.
    I currently have a Diploma in Arts so it knocks off one year from a Bachelor of Arts. If I go for Urban Planning should I finish my BA and do a masters, or should I just apply right now for a Bachelor of Urban Planning. Both routes would take the same time to complete give or take half a year. I am just miffed with all the opportunities.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    The options at the local government level are fairly limited today. Although, I've heard that architects have the roughest time finding a job today because of the decline in the construction industry. If you are interested in urban planning, I am sure it would help to have another person with a design background in our profession. Just make sure the design you learn is balanced with good policy (smart growth) and financial sense (real estate economics).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AP1 View post
    What are the job opportunities like now and in the future. Also what is the pay like?
    .
    There are about a brazillion threads on these very topics on this site. Nonetheless, there are probably 150-200 applicants for every advert, including internships now. In the future all these job seekers are in front of you, in a crazy world where austerity means no hiring in governments, and maybe there will be some private firms picking up the slack. If you have to ask about the pay, you may want to think some more.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  4. #4
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    Yes I am aware of the lack of jobs. However, I am in Australia and I heard that there has a shortage of Urban Planners here, but yet when I come on this forum I am hit with the shortage of Urban Planning jobs, at least in the US anyway. Also, the unis are picking it up and saying there has a shortage in Urban Planning as well. So I am hearing contrasting advice, that there has a shortage of jobs yet an abundance of jobs. It just seems like the perfect career for me, and I thought some people might of made it big, that is all.
    So the profession is tightly tied into government then, and there only has an extremely limited amount of private jobs open?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Your best bet would be to srearch the forum for Australia, then finding those discussing the issues and contacting them directly. If there is some kind of reason why Australia is insulated from what is going on in the rest of the world, they will be able to give you better advice.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    I doubt you will find in planning what you didn't find in architecture.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I doubt you will find in planning what you didn't find in architecture.


    Just a friendly jibe, CC. Please do not take offense

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post

    Just a friendly jibe, CC. Please do not take offense
    Lol... I think I have some years before I get as codgerly as the gipper.

    But on a more serious note, I think the OP should try to analyze his disaffection with architecture before he jumps into planning, or any other field. Lots of people have done the same and realized what they really wanted was something way, way different. It is doubtful that if he is so unhappy with architecture that planning could be the answer. The fields can suck in very similar ways.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I doubt you will find in planning what you didn't find in architecture.
    Employment, for one thing. The situation for architects is still unbearably dismal. For planners, less dismal. I have degrees in both.. but have only ever practiced as a planner/urban designer. I'm a lot happier for it. I find what I do (and I've mostly worked at big design firms) to be more varied and interesting than the experience of my practicing architect friends. My big problem now is licensure. I have my AICP and several local licenses, but I kind of regret not pursuing NCARB licensing. Starting down that road now, at midcareer, and it's going to be a long hard road...

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Employment, for one thing. The situation for architects is still unbearably dismal. For planners, less dismal. I have degrees in both.. but have only ever practiced as a planner/urban designer. I'm a lot happier for it. I find what I do (and I've mostly worked at big design firms) to be more varied and interesting than the experience of my practicing architect friends. My big problem now is licensure. I have my AICP and several local licenses, but I kind of regret not pursuing NCARB licensing. Starting down that road now, at midcareer, and it's going to be a long hard road...
    The OP is considering a jump from architecture to planning, and isn't already vested in planning like you are. If I was caught in an industry that had dismal prospects, my first thought wouldn't be to spend so much time and resources only to get into an industry with slightly less dismal prospects.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    The OP is considering a jump from architecture to planning, and isn't already vested in planning like you are. If I was caught in an industry that had dismal prospects, my first thought wouldn't be to spend so much time and resources only to get into an industry with slightly less dismal prospects.
    I think one has to look at the long haul. Every indication is that we will need more not fewer planners in the future, but these planners will have to have different skills.. We will have to be technical. General policy skills will likely be less important. More of us will work in the private sector. But I think that the future is quite bright for the planning profession.

    Something like two to three billion people will be moving into cities around the world over the next 40 years. In this country alone, our cities will add another 100 to 150 million by 2050. That's a lot of planning that needs to be done.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    I think one has to look at the long haul. Every indication is that we will need more not fewer planners in the future, but these planners will have to have different skills.
    I don't disagree with what you're saying but the long haul is a gamble as well. If you're unable to find a relevant job now, you may be at a distinct disadvantage against new graduates when the economy actually improves. Technical skills in particular, if you haven't used them in a while, become less valuable to potential employers. Though if you're able to weather the storm in something relevant to planning, you'll probably be fine when things finally improve.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Though if you're able to weather the storm in something relevant to planning, you'll probably be fine when things finally improve.
    You're right, but I was looking at it this way. If AP1 is considering planning school, the earliest she'd be applying for is admission to a graduate planning program that begins in September 2013. She'll finish her degree in 2015. We know the long term outlook for planning is good. Architecture, on the other hand, is going through some structural adjustments as an industry that planning isn't really (apart from the loss in many municipal jobs due to budget cuts, hurting those already employed in them.. but, seriously, how many recent grads from planning wound up in traditonal municipal roles anyway? 3 in my mid-2000s graduating class of 40 did - I went back for my master's mid-career event though I was already working in the industry for some time), so that we really can't say what the demand for architects will be in 3-4 years.

    By the way, I keep in touch as an alum to help with career development options, and it seems to me that most new grads are, in fact, finding employment in the industry. Now, their title might be GIS Analyst or Junior Transportation Modeller or Program Assistant, instead of Senior Poobah or whatever it is they might've erroneously thought a master's degree would catapult them into, but they are working and getting experience in their industry of choice, presumably doing what they want to do.

    It's a pretty good guess that she'll be OK in planning.. at least no greater risk than any other career decision she might make. The concern is for those who've graduated over the last few years, not for those who might choose to enter the field in the future and who are prepared to work hard to acquire the right skills they will need to be employable.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    I think one has to look at the long haul. Every indication is that we will need more not fewer planners in the future, but these planners will have to have different skills.. ...Something like two to three billion people will be moving into cities around the world over the next 40 years. In this country alone, our cities will add another 100 to 150 million by 2050. That's a lot of planning that needs to be done.
    I don't see this fact pattern as leading to more not fewer planners in the future especially if we continue to race past The Gilded Age into even more concentrated wealth. Continuing the wealth concentration means fewer people making decisions, and we all know that automated planning via software/hardware is not far around the corner. Jus' sayin'.
    -------
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  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    I don't see this fact pattern as leading to more not fewer planners in the future especially if we continue to race past The Gilded Age into even more concentrated wealth. Continuing the wealth concentration means fewer people making decisions, and we all know that automated planning via software/hardware is not far around the corner. Jus' sayin'.
    I still don't see the relationship between our country's inequality problem and the demand for planners. If developers had more buildings to build or more freedom to build them, then they'll need more planners (and probably more architects too). Now.. maybe that'll be planning work that gets done with less attention to the public interest than we'd like there to be, but that is neither here nor there. You can't get any more unequal, centralized and un-democratic than China, and all of us get calls every week from headhunters there looking to hire us for their stuff. I agree with you, things don't bode well for those of us who care about liberty and justice for all, but that doesn't mean any less of a need for planners. Even non-democracies with vast hoards of unemployed oppressed need planners Afterall, the 1% need planners too.

    As for "automated planning," I don't see myself getting replaced anytime soon. IT can help us.. not replace us, yet. All the increasing importance of ITS means is that we need to broaden and deepen our skillsets to include technology expertise. To get and hold a physical planning job within 10 years will require the ability to write scripts (like VB, Python, etc) for various parametric tools like ArcMap, Grasshopper, PASW/SPSS, Revit, etc, as well as probably basic SQL skills, just like computer programmers and most engineers (and those few architects who remain successfully employed) do today.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 11 May 2012 at 5:33 PM.

  16. #16
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    Age is one of the reasons why I am considering hopping from architecture to planning. I can get a bachelor of Arts and a MUP in 3 years, whereas if I become an Architect it will be 5 years of uni and two years of internship. I just turned 22, and do not come from a wealthy family. Architecture is also not a protected profession here as in the US. Anyone can design a building, I can design and build one right now without an Architects stamp. Only thing is I can not use the title of Architect.
    If I do pursue Urban Planning I do want to get into Urban Design, and I definitely want to get into a private firm. Yes, I am competitive and would like to make some money in the future. I am scared of being pigeon holed into a government role which requires no creativity as well.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by AP1 View post
    Age is one of the reasons why I am considering hopping from architecture to planning. I can get a bachelor of Arts and a MUP in 3 years, whereas if I become an Architect it will be 5 years of uni and two years of internship. I just turned 22, and do not come from a wealthy family. Architecture is also not a protected profession here as in the US. Anyone can design a building, I can design and build one right now without an Architects stamp. Only thing is I can not use the title of Architect.
    If I do pursue Urban Planning I do want to get into Urban Design, and I definitely want to get into a private firm. Yes, I am competitive and would like to make some money in the future. I am scared of being pigeon holed into a government role which requires no creativity as well.

    You're just not making any sense. Neither architecture nor urban design is going to make you rich. Ever. An MUP comes with the very high distinction of being qualified to mop the floors at a random government agency (Mop UP). Even if you get a job at a design firm you're going to be sitting in front of a computer doing Autocad for $12 an hour. For $2 more, you can work at In-N-Out Burger, with benefits mind you, no MUP required and more job security (you'll still be mopping, though).

    And let me get this straight, your'e 22, most definitely unencumbered by family of your own, and thinking in terms of such weighty matters as the difference between 3 and 5 years? Give me a break. If architecture is what you want to do, do it, regardless of the longer gestational period. Doing something you want to do less because it means spending less time being able to do it doesn't make sense. It's as stupid as it sounds. Are you stupid? Ask yourself that question honestly.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by AP1 View post
    I am scared of being pigeon holed into a government role which requires no creativity as well.
    Honestly you'll encounter this no matter where you go. Until you get to the point where you're in the lead, you're not going to be able to exhibit much creativity. You're always going to have someone telling you what to do, be it a boss or a client. Just as you move up, you'll have more opportunities to show off your creativity. This applies to government roles as well.

    The issue I see with urban design is you're going to need a strong portfolio which is something you're not going to get in a lot of planning programs. Also as far as I know, most urban designers are not planners but rather architects or landscape architects. Some may have some planning degrees but that would be on top of whatever design background they may have.

    Honestly sounds to me you'd be better served with a landscape architecture degree if urban design is your passion. Just recognize that architects and landscape architects are more at the whim of the economy than even planners. They may make slightly more than planners on average but are more susceptible to layoffs during downturns.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    My advice to those considering urban planning is - don't. Halfway into 2012, the field's job market continues to underperform relative the rest of the (supposed) economic recovery. I live in a metro area with 19 million people and can count the number of advertised generalist planning positions on one hand. Not good.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post

    Honestly sounds to me you'd be better served with a landscape architecture degree if urban design is your passion. Just recognize that architects and landscape architects are more at the whim of the economy than even planners. They may make slightly more than planners on average but are more susceptible to layoffs during downturns.
    I see planning as being only occasionally creative. I agree that if you must be creative then go into another profession, although I will say that the LArch is more interested in site planning than actual plant material and the plants' size and needs, which is a detriment all the way around. The LArch profession doesn't seem to care about plant health or infrastructure conflicts any more, save for a few programs. So choose carefully.
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  21. #21
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    My advice to those considering urban planning is - don't. Halfway into 2012, the field's job market continues to underperform relative the rest of the (supposed) economic recovery. I live in a metro area with 19 million people and can count the number of advertised generalist planning positions on one hand. Not good.
    Local budgets usually reflect economic conditions that are a few years behind the nation's economy in general. While other economic sectors recover, governments will still be cutting staff for the next few years, even those cities, towns and counties that might seem to have weathered the recession well.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Pick a field you like and go for it. If it interests you and you want a degree in the field, then do it. I understand the ultimate goal is to find a job, but NO ONE here knows what the job market will look like in two weeks, let alone two years. It's all conjecture.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Local budgets usually reflect economic conditions that are a few years behind the nation's economy in general. While other economic sectors recover, governments will still be cutting staff for the next few years
    Sad but true. In my metro area the economy is picking up but local governments are still laying off people right now, and everyone is still told that there is a strict hiring freeze. Planners have been disappearing in droves.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    The state of architecture is sad. Nobody I know with an architecture degree is actually doing architecture. A few are doing planning. Others are doing IT!

    Very sad considering it seems like it could be a very fulfilling field if you got the right breaks.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Every indication is that we will need more not fewer planners in the future, but these planners will have to have different skills.. We will have to be technical. General policy skills will likely be less important. More of us will work in the private sector. But I think that the future is quite bright for the planning profession.
    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    I live in a metro area with 19 million people and can count the number of advertised generalist planning positions on one hand. Not good.
    I agree with Cismontane completely, but would add that being politically savvy and highly creatively talented are also important characteristics for post-recession planners. One thing I’ve noticed now that I’m back at Cyburbia (after taking a hiatus for no particular reason), is that the majority of people that are down on the prospects of the profession tend to be public sector generalist planners (at least that’s how it appears to me). Unfortunately, the prospects for that specific role are in fact grim…because, I believe, the nature of planning is shifting toward more specialization and larger roles for consultants.

    I also get the impression that a lot of people here answer the question: “what are the job prospects if I get a planning degree” with the assumption that the only job possibility is generalist planner, and ignore GIS analyst, public involvement specialist, trail planner, NEPA specialist, and a host of other job titles that can be had with a planning degree, the right skill set, and good networking. Planning is such a broad profession that its suprising to me that people lump all the different aspects together as sharing the same job outlook. This point may not apply as much to this thread, but is just a general observation.

    I’m not sure how well this applies to a career in Australia, but my suggestion to the OP is to go for planning and try to do a dual-degree in urban design (or take design classes)…but ONLY if she (he?) has a certain level of charisma, is talented from a design point of view, and has entrepreneurial characteristics. I’d also suggest getting some knowledge of business and plan to enter the private sector, which gives you the opportunity to work on projects in multiple cities rather than being stuck in one municipality subject to the ebb and flow of its development.

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