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Thread: Career advice sought grad school/other ?

  1. #1

    Career advice sought grad school/other ?

    I graduated in 2010 with an undergraduate planning degree from one of the top planning schools in the country. After close to a year of looking for jobs I had had no interviews, so I contacted a nonprofit and started an unpaid internship at a Main Street organization in my hometown. Most of my academic work involved my hometown and I had always wanted to be involved in planning and development there, mostly because my interest in the field has come from the mistakes, disasters, and tragedies that have taken place there. My senior thesis looked at my neighborhood which over the past 50 years, urban renewal and then rampant land speculation (spawned by upzoning) destroyed. Then I looked at all(684) of the property records in the area to track ownership throughout the area as it concerns speculation(21 speculators own 60% of area). The same project found over 75% of the areaís properties to be vacant land.

    The hope that the internship would lead to a paid position there or somewhere related never materialized, after close to year and a half I amicably left it. I have had four interviews in the past year, including one in my town for what seemed like a perfect first job involving redevelopment which after feeling I had aced the interview and was confident I would get the job, I was not chosen for it. I have been working a completely unrelated job, that doesnít even require a high school diploma, for a year and a half, it has given me no transferable skills whatsoever. Should I go back to school and get a masterís in either Urban Planning or Real Estate Development? I have heard many people on this board recommend to not get a masterís in planning if you have a bachelorís. The prospect of having that much debt does scare me because I could come out of this at 27 with debt and still have the same job prospects as I did when I went into this. My interest is in redevelopment.

    Its getting to the point in the year that its soon going to be too late to take the GRE and apply for schools and I donít know what road I should take. Sorry for the life story.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Honestly I'd start applying to schools now since you'll have a fallback if you're unable to find a job in the next 6 months. If you find a job in the meantime, you'll just be out the cost of the application fees and GRE.

    As for which degree, that's a bit tougher. Personally I'd look for an urban planning program where you can take real estate development coursework. I'm pretty confident you'd be able to direct your studies in way so that you would be able to significantly expand on what you learned in undergrad.

    The reason I'm leery about suggesting a MRED program is due to cost. At least where I went to school, it was easily the most expensive program on campus. Despite being a public school, the program charged a flat amount regardless of residency. Students in that program flew all over the country attending conferences and doing various projects; all of which was included in the price of tuition. The logic behind charging so much for the program was essentially that people in real estate development could easily make enough money to pay off that amount of debt. By contrast our planning program was one of the most affordable in the country and we could take any MRED classes we wanted as electives.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Kingmak's avatar
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    Check the job board for the planning tech job if you just want to get in...and not unpaid.
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hygeia View post
    I graduated in 2010 with an undergraduate planning degree from one of the top planning schools in the country. After close to a year of looking for jobs I had had no interviews, so I contacted a nonprofit and started an unpaid internship at a Main Street organization in my hometown. Most of my academic work involved my hometown and I had always wanted to be involved in planning and development there, mostly because my interest in the field has come from the mistakes, disasters, and tragedies that have taken place there. My senior thesis looked at my neighborhood which over the past 50 years, urban renewal and then rampant land speculation (spawned by upzoning) destroyed. Then I looked at all(684) of the property records in the area to track ownership throughout the area as it concerns speculation(21 speculators own 60% of area). The same project found over 75% of the areaís properties to be vacant land.
    ...
    Its getting to the point in the year that its soon going to be too late to take the GRE and apply for schools and I donít know what road I should take. Sorry for the life story.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    Thank you.
    Its a common refrain on this board. And you likely will have a better shot with a grad degree if you actually want to do planning. But it is going to take several more years to clear the real estate doldrums and start building in earnest again. Like it or not - planning needs construction. No construction, no planning. I'd be concerned about 4 more years of obstruction at the federal level and continued ill-advised austerity at the local level when wondering whether there will be work when I'm done with school. Not to mention 4 years' worth of college grads as competition, and X number of planners looking for work...
    -------
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Expand your geographic area, knock on doors, work the room, and pound the pavement. I think there is a lot more you can do yet before going back to school. I know the market is very hard and interviews don't come easily, but four seems far too few to already be thinking about a career change or more school.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    So you have an undegrad degree in planning, now I ask, why would you want another 2 year master's degree on top of that? It seems excessive and a waste your time and money, considering you already did 4 or so years getting a BA/BS in this subject. I am with nick, keep pounding, but if you do consider school, than seriously consider something different than planning to add value or enhance your original degree. Also you may need to expand your net as stated before. Good luck.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Raf View post
    So you have an undegrad degree in planning, now I ask, why would you want another 2 year master's degree on top of that? It seems excessive and a waste your time and money, considering you already did 4 or so years getting a BA/BS in this subject. I am with nick, keep pounding, but if you do consider school, than seriously consider something different than planning to add value or enhance your original degree. Also you may need to expand your net as stated before. Good luck.
    I agree.

    And there really is no single path to take when it comes to securing meaningful employment. What works for one person is not going to work for another. Everyone's situations are so unique.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  8. #8
    Say you like to gamble. You're playing a game with a slim chance of winning. You lose all your money. Now you have a choice. You can go borrow more money and play the same game, or you can go play another game with a greater chance of success. Which do you choose?

    The difference in odds of success between a bachelors or masters in planning is negligible. Why would you spend tens of thousands of dollars more to basically learn the same exact stuff you learned getting your bachelors? If you must get another degree, get it an MBA or something. Then you can still be a good candidate for planning jobs AND explore other career options.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Say you like to gamble. You're playing a game with a slim chance of winning. You lose all your money. Now you have a choice. You can go borrow more money and play the same game, or you can go play another game with a greater chance of success. Which do you choose?

    The difference in odds of success between a bachelors or masters in planning is negligible. Why would you spend tens of thousands of dollars more to basically learn the same exact stuff you learned getting your bachelors? If you must get another degree, get it an MBA or something. Then you can still be a good candidate for planning jobs AND explore other career options.
    To be fair, he also asked about RE Development. If you are gregarious and sharp and can network and sell and are an extrovert, then that's a better choice than MUP. A couple of my friends from grad school are like that and making good money, even now. Not to mention being that much more interesting to the opposite sex.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    To be fair, he also asked about RE Development... Not to mention being that much more interesting to the opposite sex.
    Dude.. so your saying Degree+RE Development= good sex.. man...where were you like 10 years ago..
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  11. #11
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    Cost vs. Benefit of Going Back to School

    I agree that going back to school is not necessarily the best option for you in this case. It can be a huge financial investment, but it CAN be beneficial.

    I added professional designations a few years back to give myself more credibility with clients, and it has helped (though this is not the same monetary investment as taking on a master's degree program).

    If you are favoring the option of going back to school simply because you are not getting interviews, I think that is a bad choice. Job searching can be a full-time job, so just keep pushing. Now, if you are looking to be more competitive down the road, consider getting your master's degree once you have been established in the industry for a few years. Otherwise, think about just doing some certification courses, which requires less of a monetary and time commitment.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    You will see some people saying that a graduate degree is not going to offer much more than a bachelor's degree. The majority here, I believe, will tell you differently. It is only some help in landing that first job, where prior related experience will count for more. In the long run, however, it tends to make a substantial difference. If the economy is in poor shape and there are few planning jobs at the moment, why not use the next couple years to get your degree? The alternative may be to continue working your dead-end, low-skilled, low-wage job. Is that going to help you? Fewer than half of recent college graduates have found regular employment in their field over the last couple years, so it is not something you have done wrong.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    It's pretty much a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. A masters won't ensure you'll be able to break into the field but you'll have a much easier time than someone without.

    As for people saying a planning masters with a planning undergrad degree is redundant; I would have to disagree. There will of course be some overlap but you'll be able to take things to a higher level in graduate school which is something most employers recognize. Also it's completely up to you as to whether you want to study the same things you did in undergrad or whether you want to expand into other areas of planning.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    You will see some people saying that a graduate degree is not going to offer much more than a bachelor's degree.
    I think this argument mainly stems from those of us with just a bachelor's degree that have been gainfully employed through the recession. I am almost 10 years into this profession and the chances of me going back to get my master's degree is slim to none. I want to go back, but at this point, married, kids, etc, it is just not practical.

    I stand by my comments simply due to the OP's statement. Concerns over cost and debt. Already an undergrad degree in planning, and only 4 interviews and wants to give up.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Go to graduate school for urban planning...study how local govenrments finance themselves, study economic development and regional employment patterns, study the housing bubble and mortgage crisis, study community development and patterns of economic and social decline and achieve a thorough understanding of what leads communities and economies to fail and opportunities to dwindle.

    Learn NOTHING about the future prospects of employment for urban planners.

    I don't recall what your bachelor's was in (was it planning?), but I would try to leverage whatever science courses you have and maybe go back to school for a STEM degree.

    Off topic...

    Incidentally, this leads me to a bigger challenge that I think is going to affect higher education in the country in the coming decade: the need to retrain college graduates with BAs to be able to find real jobs and match them up with what will be growing demand in STEM fields.
    Specifically, I think this could be as easy as lifting the limitations for receiving financial aid for second bachelor's degrees. I think that's a viable solution for a lot of smart people who can conceivably be retrained with marketable skills within 1-2 years by transferring BAs into degrees in engineering, chemistry, environmental science, physics, biology, etc. Because most people needing to be re-trained are likely to be independent adults who are not gainfully employed, financial aid grants are really the only way to make that happen.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crummmountain View post
    Go to graduate school for urban planning...study how local govenrments finance themselves, study economic development and regional employment patterns, study the housing bubble and mortgage crisis, study community development and patterns of economic and social decline and achieve a thorough understanding of what leads communities and economies to fail and opportunities to dwindle.

    Learn NOTHING about the future prospects of employment for urban planners.

    I don't recall what your bachelor's was in (was it planning?), but I would try to leverage whatever science courses you have and maybe go back to school for a STEM degree.
    Crumm... You have been posting quite a bit of bitterness as a recent grad unable to find a job. The problem is, it is not just you. I just came out of an application session for a position available. I was appalled at the applications we received. Typos, non reviewing of application, half-assed resumes. Out of 40 applicants, tossed half for no experience, and the other half came down to presentation, work experience, etc.

    Looking for a job is a full time job in of itself. Yes there are less positions out there and very competitive, but one must rise to the challenge to get your foot in the door and be just as competitive and knock it out of the park. This isn't 2005 where planners were handed out jobs like stock options.

    Good luck.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    This is my third planning job. I currently work as a mid-level/senior planner doing mostly site design work (my passion). I have lost my job 3 times in 3 states. The last one wasn't even in planning. There have been plenty of weird curve balls and several times I have seriously considered leaving planning altogether. I'm not saying to stick it out and stay in planning. I could have easily ended up working a minimum wage job right now, but for once I was just in the right place at the right time. Bottom line, no one knows what this profession will have in store for you. You get that first planning interview on interview 5 or interview for 15 jobs over the next year and decide to leave for somewhere else. It is still very unpredictable and unstable. I DO think you need to hit the pavement harder for interviews.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by Raf View post
    Crumm... You have been posting quite a bit of bitterness as a recent grad unable to find a job. The problem is, it is not just you. I just came out of an application session for a position available. I was appalled at the applications we received. Typos, non reviewing of application, half-assed resumes. Out of 40 applicants, tossed half for no experience, and the other half came down to presentation, work experience, etc.

    Looking for a job is a full time job in of itself. Yes there are less positions out there and very competitive, but one must rise to the challenge to get your foot in the door and be just as competitive and knock it out of the park. This isn't 2005 where planners were handed out jobs like stock options.

    Good luck.
    Only 40 applications? I assume you guys didn't post it on CalAPA.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Only 40 applications? I assume you guys didn't post it on CalAPA.
    Yea.. that costs money, plus it is part time work
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crummmountain View post
    Go to graduate school for urban planning...study how local govenrments finance themselves, study economic development and regional employment patterns, study the housing bubble and mortgage crisis, study community development and patterns of economic and social decline and achieve a thorough understanding of what leads communities and economies to fail and opportunities to dwindle.

    Learn NOTHING about the future prospects of employment for urban planners.

    I don't recall what your bachelor's was in (was it planning?), but I would try to leverage whatever science courses you have and maybe go back to school for a STEM degree.

    Off topic...

    Incidentally, this leads me to a bigger challenge that I think is going to affect higher education in the country in the coming decade: the need to retrain college graduates with BAs to be able to find real jobs and match them up with what will be growing demand in STEM fields.
    Specifically, I think this could be as easy as lifting the limitations for receiving financial aid for second bachelor's degrees. I think that's a viable solution for a lot of smart people who can conceivably be retrained with marketable skills within 1-2 years by transferring BAs into degrees in engineering, chemistry, environmental science, physics, biology, etc. Because most people needing to be re-trained are likely to be independent adults who are not gainfully employed, financial aid grants are really the only way to make that happen.
    I'm NOT a planner by either education or employment, but this post prompted me to stick my nose into this discussion. I'm an historian by training and avocation but about 30 years ago, tired of working for low wages and dismal future prospects, I changed careers and transitioned into IT (data processing/computer programming), so I essentially made the switch from liberal arts to STEM long ago. I am currently employed as computer programmer/analyst at a public community college in NYS. With that background, here are my points:
    • Yes, there are lots of tech jobs available in the US, even in areas like here in the western Southern Tier of NYS where poverty levels have long been significantly higher than in most of the Northeast/Midwest/Great Lakes. Pursuing a degree just to get a job when you don't necessarily feel a calling to that field, however, is stupider than pursuing an esoteric liberal arts degree without any regard to likely job prospects. Not everyone is suited to being an engineer or a computer programmer or a nurse.
    • Getting a BS in math, biology, environmental science, computer science or any of the other sciences does NOT automatically make you employable. You still need some kind of work experience in your field (internships or summer jobs). You still need to have a career focus. Some science/technology/math programs are geared to the expectation that students will go on to graduate school, too.
    • Many tech jobs do NOT require BAs, and consequently, the wage scale is less than for most professions requiring BAs. The three most successful tech programs at my college are: nursing, OTA (occupational therapy assistant), and welding. The graduates of these three programs generally field multiple job offers. The welding program isn't even a AS degree but a certificate program (generally less than 2 years), and many welders leave part way through the program because they get full-time job offers. Entry level nurses make excellent money once they pass their state licensing exam, but OTAs and welders make decent but NOT big money.
    • Independent adults who are NOT "gainfully employed" because job prospects in their field stink need an attitude adjustment NOT financial grants to get second bachelor degrees. Sorry to sound hard-hearted, but financial aid grants are for people who are truly needy who are trying to take the first step up the economic ladder, NOT for people who ignored building up marketable job skills while in college and now won't take jobs that they think are "beneath them". There is always the option of joining the military and serving your country while earning educational benefits. Your "solution" simply smacks of an unwarranted sense of entitlement.
    • Once they have full time jobs, then these individuals who are smart but lacking in marketable job skills can investigate taking a few courses at their local community colleges to enhance their skills sets. Credit free courses in computer skills/software like EXCEL cost much less than regular courses BTW.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Crumm... You have been posting quite a bit of bitterness as a recent grad unable to find a job. The problem is, it is not just you. I just came out of an application session for a position available. I was appalled at the applications we received. Typos, non reviewing of application, half-assed resumes. Out of 40 applicants, tossed half for no experience, and the other half came down to presentation, work experience, etc.

    Looking for a job is a full time job in of itself. Yes there are less positions out there and very competitive, but one must rise to the challenge to get your foot in the door and be just as competitive and knock it out of the park. This isn't 2005 where planners were handed out jobs like stock options.
    I have BA in Planning/Geography (2006) and an MRP (2009). I'm going to be bitter for a while. Deal with it.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    ēIndependent adults who are NOT "gainfully employed" because job prospects in their field stink need an attitude adjustment NOT financial grants to get second bachelor degrees. Sorry to sound hard-hearted, but financial aid grants are for people who are truly needy who are trying to take the first step up the economic ladder, NOT for people who ignored building up marketable job skills while in college and now won't take jobs that they think are "beneath them". There is always the option of joining the military and serving your country while earning educational benefits. Your "solution" simply smacks of an unwarranted sense of entitlement.
    Expecting a reasonable return on time and effort devoted to obtaining the skill set relevant to a particular profession is not the same as a sense of entitlement.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crummmountain View post
    Expecting a reasonable return on time and effort devoted to obtaining the skill set relevant to a particular profession is not the same as a sense of entitlement.
    Expecting to get financial aid grants to get a second bachelor's degree because you trained for a profession that has limited prospects at present is definitely having a sense of entitlement. We have students at my community college who eat at the local soup kitchen because their families are so poor. They are the first members of their families to get a high school diploma or GED, and nobody in their family has ever even thought about going to college before.

    I'm sorry if I'm lacking in sympathy for embittered students who picked the "wrong major" and now want "somebody" to fix it for them. There is no fix. While this might be the first economic recession in your lifetime, it's NOT the first one that many older people have lived through. Get off your butt and find a job, even if it's something you think is beneath your dignity, and move on. I suspect your bitterness shows through when you do get interviews.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crummmountain View post
    Expecting a reasonable return on time and effort devoted to obtaining the skill set relevant to a particular profession is not the same as a sense of entitlement.
    The only reasonable rate of return you should always expect is the time, effort, and diligence it takes to find a job. A degree does not guarantee a job. Do you think someone who trains to be a firefighter, goes to school, academy, than volunteers at a local department but still can't find a job is going to say "hey man, i got trained, got service, where's my job?" That is entitlement. Call it what you want. This notion of "reasonable return" shouldn't play into how quickly you get a job. A "real" university doesn't do job placement. It connects you to a) educate you about a subject and b) provides you at least some initial networking skills (i.e. professors) to begin to connect to the profession. I don't know your job history, approach to finding a job, or whether your net is just a handful of states, but until the construction industry and lending begins to pick up steam, expect more of the same for a few more years. Being Bitter, feeling entitled does not get you a job.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Linda and Raf: What can I say? If I was old and bitter I wouldn't take crap from people who are young and bitter, either.

    But I will maintain that financial aid awards to those with the right academic qualifications willing to re-matriculate in STEM programs that leverage their previous educational background is a good idea. It seems obvious that we would all prefer more people working in high skill, high salary positions in advanced fields rather than working a McJob simply because we believe that enough people haven't paid their dues or whatever. Obviously this shouldn't be at the expense of anyone receiving aid to complete a first bachelor's degree...so I have no idea what the point is of bringing up soup kitchens.

    I will also continue to urge younger aspiring planners to heavily rethink their future plans, as planning is mainly a dead-end that leads to having no job and being accused of having a sense of entitlement by people who have no idea who you are or what you've done.

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