We're all familiar with the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers on job growth in the planning field. US News bases their reports on these numbers, as well as nearly all other sources on job prospects. In other words, this is the strongest, most authoritative information we have on how many jobs there might be for planners in the future.
A while ago, after doing some brief research on how these numbers are derived, I posted about how these statistics are basically a combination of historic growth with vague, anonymous tweaks by BLS economists, most likely just adjustments based on overall economic downturn. Most of the BLS data is qualitative, as they talk about how more people are moving to cities, and therefore there will be an increased need for planners, etc. Rather than debate these assumptions, this post assumes that the BLS data is relatively correct in predicting future planning employment.
Now that I have that out of the way, I'll get into the meat of the matter: The BLS data, and therefore 99% of the data on future planning employment, does not give any idea of how competitive those jobs will be to obtain. What does it matter if there will be 6,500 more planning jobs in 2020 if there are tens of thousands of hopeful planners trying to get them? Well, based on my calculations, with data derived from the 2011 Guide to Undergraduate and Graduate Education in Urban and Regional Planning (produced by The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning), there may be 25,308 more planner graduates by 2020.
That's 6,500 more jobs for 25,308 people, or about 1 job for every 4 graduates. This is the cumulative total of 9 graduating classes from 2011 to 2020.
That's the basic result of my analysis. Simple, but the implications, I believe, are tremendous. There are many sources that give false information on the demand for planners. (Example: http://www.acsp.org/education_guide/careers) And because demand doesn't mean anything unless you factor in supply. As shown here, the supply far outweighs any purported demand for planners.
So who, among those who should be doing so, are giving an accurate picture of this? The planning programs and their professors aren't. Their jobs depend on your tuition money. What about APA? Their jobs depend on you trusting that their career development offerings will pay off. What about the ACSP? Read page 8 of this report: http://www.acsp.org/sites/default/fi..._PROOF%231.pdf. If you still haven't got the picture, every institution who has the responsibility to disclose this information is misleading you. Why?
Because they all want your money.
The following explains how I got those numbers: Basically, I added all of the degrees granted from all of the undergraduate and graduate programs listed in the above publication. This does not count any PhD programs, so this assumes PhDs will not be competing with undergrads and grads for the estimated 6,500 more jobs, even though the BLS demand estimate includes academic jobs. It also does not count any majors that were strictly "Urban Affairs" or "Historic Preservation." Also, while listed in my spreadsheet, I do not count non-US planning schools, assuming that graduates from McGill and Toronto and UBC only compete for Canadian positions. In addition, this does not include any geography-only or community development-only programs, which produce considerable numbers of people who compete for planning jobs. Finally, I cannot include the number of graduates where schools do not report it. There are at least 6 cases where this is so. Therefore, given these facts, 25,308 more planning graduates is a reasonably conservative number.
However, there are a number of assumptions that I'm making, and they are as follows:
Assumption 1. That all those who receive a planning degree (whether undergrad or grad) join the workforce and start competing for planning jobs. Based on anecdotal evidence, I think most look for planning work, for some length of time. Some of course go off on parent-paid trips abroad, go to grad school for something completely different, get non-planning jobs, or go retrain for something else. Many, of course, show up at Cyburbia forums asking about how to get a planning job.
Assumption 2. That there is no double counting between people who get an undergrad planning degree and then follow up with a graduate planning degree. Given that most of the data is from a single school graduating season, I think the number of double-counts is very minimal. Also, even if you eliminate all undergrads, there would still be 17,100 new planners by 2020.
Assumption 3. Where data for degrees granted spans multiple graduating seasons, an average over those years represents future graduating numbers. If you look at my spreadsheet, the number of these cases is in the minority, so I don't think this is a significant source of skewing. But it is possible, of course.
Assumption 4. That the data from this publication is accurate.
If anyone else has any thoughts about how relevant this data is, I'd like to hear them. I think this is a very important aspect of what our future will continue to look like, and what planner-prospects need to know about before they jump into a program.
Here is my spreadsheet in PDF: http://www.pdf-archive.com/2012/06/2...grees-granted/
If anyone want the Excel spreadsheet, let me know and I can email it.