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Thread: Urban Studies redundant?

  1. #1
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    Urban Studies redundant?

    I'm a freshman in college right now trying to figure out my major. As a career I'm pretty set on planning and I'm fairly certain I'll go to Planning grad school. My question is what major should I pursue for undergrad. I am most interested in Urban Studies but will that be redundant if I plan to go to planning school anyway? Would it be smarter to pursue other interests in Political Science or Econ so that when it comes time for employment, I appear more rounded? Does an Urban Studies bachelors and Urban Planning masters appear too urban-centric?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Urban Studies is a multi-disciplinary program. I co-majored in it. The nice thing about it was the ability to take classes from lots of different departments and have it count towards my degree. I had classes in population from the sociology department, urban anthropology, industrial psychology, public policy, and of course a large amount of economic and geography courses.

    Grad school was a breeze for me, so much so that I became bored of it. If I had to do grad school over again would go into Public Administration.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I would agree with DetroitPlanner. Its a broad field and what you end up studying within it as an undergrad may be pretty different from graduate school. With more than half the population of the entire globe living in urban areas, I would think there is plenty to look at that is outside of conventional planning territory. And even within planning, there si a huge range of sub-disciplines - from policy to zoning to public health and housing.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Study what you love! Graduate planning programs attract all kinds of undergrad majors. There would be redundancy in pursuing both a bachelors and masters in planning, but the curriculum for urban studies is probably different and flexible enough that there would not be much overlap

    On a side note, consider an undergrad major in a field that interests you but would lead to a completely different field than planning. This is a good idea because the job market for planners is still very weak right now, so it would be nice to have a plan B in case planning doesn't work out.
    The content contrarian

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I'm an advocate of broad, multi-disciplinary undergrad majors over narrow ones. Grad school is for specialization.

    I would add some tech courses. The only time that knowing SPSS, EXCEL, Word, and/or GIS ever hurt anybody is when somebody doesn't have these. If you're good at languages, improving the one(s) you already know or adding another one is good, too.
    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

  6. #6

    study a field you find interesting

    OfficialPlanner is right on. I got a bachelor's in anthropology. After an elective in urban planning in my junior year I knew I wanted to go into this field, but my school didn't offer an undergrad major at the time. I focused my electives and projects/papers on urban studies/planning and it worked out well for me. I'd say go with an general area you're interested in. Architecture, economics, business, and pretty much any social science are good base degrees, depending on your point of interest and having a different perspective than the rest can do you well. A masters in urban planning and/or policy is almost required to get a job as a planner, but pick an undergrad major you find most interesting and go from there. More importantly get an internship or volunteer in the type of organization you'd like to be a part of and it will help in the long run. Remember whatever it say on you sheep's skin (undergrad OR graduate) most people these days go through several careers. Some foresight in how to they fit together is a bonus.
    That said, technical skills in software (and language) as Linda_D describes is a good thing too.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    I majored in urban studies before going on to get a masters in planning. I have to agree with DetroitPlanner and wahday. Urban Studies in indterdisciplinary by nature. I took maybe 15 to 18 credits within my program but then had to take either 12 to 15 credits in another major to specialize. I had enough free electives that I essentially created a second specialization in geography and took maybe 15 credits worth of geography classes. I liked geography so much that I actually looked into staying an additional year and earning a second bachelors degree in geography. I was lucky enough to have been admitted with funding to a graduate program in planning so I decided not stay the additional year but at least it was an option. I found my background in urban studies gave me a leg up over many students in my planning program because I had taken undergraduate courses in many of the same topics my graduate classes covered.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Ultimately, only you know what's in your heart. However, here's a comment or two.

    If you get the BA in urban studies and focus on planning now, you can figure out whether or not you really want to pursue it at the master's level. However, even if you don't, you'll still have a relatively usable BA in urban studies.

    If you get the BA in poli sci, and then enroll in an MUP program and then decide not to finish you're on the hook and stuck with a BA in political science.

    That's the way I'd look at it.

    Also worth considering is the portion of the urban studies program devoted specifically to urban planning and GIS. I'd take those courses before the one that examines the portrayal of the city in German expressionist cinema.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crummmountain View post
    Also worth considering is the portion of the urban studies program devoted specifically to urban planning and GIS. I'd take those courses before the one that examines the portrayal of the city in German expressionist cinema.
    I wish I went to your school. I had to take about a dozen or so credits of humanities. Add that on top of the art couses I took when I studied architecture that did not transfer, I was de-humanitized!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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