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Thread: Bachelors + Experience > Masters?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Bachelors + Experience > Masters?

    Hi all,

    I have an interview next week for an assistant transportation planning position. You could characterize this is an "entry-level" job-- a minimum of a Bachelor degree with a year of experience in planning or a relevant field.

    I have a Bachelors in planning (non-accredited) and geography and nearly two years of transit planning experience. During my time in school, I also worked on numerous planning projects with staff from a variety of municipal planning agencies, one of which actually happens to be this prospective employer. However, I know there's a good bet I'll likely be going up against quality applicants with graduate degrees (possibly in planning).

    What's the best approach I can take to sell myself and prove to the interviewers that my work experience + undergrad degree will trump other candidates with graduate experience?

  2. #2
    You've already been working as a professional. Your work is proven and measurable. You are a known quantity to your past/current employer. You've had time to polish and tailor your skills in a professional setting, You have a good work ethic, and have built solid relationships. No one fresh out of school without real full-time work experience can say those things.

    Also, I too, have a BS in Planning, and one could strongly argue that the BS provides a better foundation in planning than does the Masters program, since the undergrads are getting MUCH more time to spend on design and community labs over a four year period, whereas the grad students have only two years and spend more time on policy/admin theorizing. (This is at Cal Poly, SLO). So maybe there's something that you can say to that effect. The main difference between undergrads and grads is maturity due to age and experience. So emphasize your professionalism, maturity, and strength of academic background.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    You've already been working as a professional. Your work is proven and measurable. You are a known quantity to your past/current employer. You've had time to polish and tailor your skills in a professional setting, You have a good work ethic, and have built solid relationships. No one fresh out of school without real full-time work experience can say those things.
    Can't say it better than that.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Removing this post.

  5. #5
    Since you have done some work with this prospective employer in the past, you may already have a good idea about the culture of the organization and the planning work they do. That is a great advantage. During the interview, try to highlight your past job duties and other relevant experience that are directly transferable to the new position. There is really no point in worrying about the other applicants since that's something you have no control over. Don't worry too much about not having an advanced degree - other applicants may have an advanced degree but minimal experience and knowledge about what the day-to-day work entails.

    As for planning accreditation, its only a factor when determining the length of time you must work in planning before being eligible to apply to sit the AICP test (unless they are hiring managers out there that will admit to looking up the PAB-approved programs list for a litmus test). As long as the university itself is accredited and reputable, it should not be a problem.

    Good luck!

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    You've already been working as a professional. Your work is proven and measurable. You are a known quantity to your past/current employer. You've had time to polish and tailor your skills in a professional setting, You have a good work ethic, and have built solid relationships. No one fresh out of school without real full-time work experience can say those things.
    ...
    The main difference between undergrads and grads is maturity due to age and experience. So emphasize your professionalism, maturity, and strength of academic background.
    Sage advice from CC.
    The content contrarian

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Great advice, guys. That's kind of what I'm hearing from others in the industry.

    As far as references go, however, what's the kind of balance I should be going for? Half professional/half academic? Or does it matter less since references are usually checked for the top candidate?

  7. #7
    I don't think academic references are relevant unless a) you have no experience, or b) you're applying for an academic position. Since neither of these apear to apply to you, I would stick to professional work references.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I think you're selling yourself short. Don't worry so much. When it comes down to it, its not the degree being from an accredited school that sells you, it is you! You have experience, you have an education in relevant fields for planning.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I think you're selling yourself short. Don't worry so much. When it comes down to it, its not the degree being from an accredited school that sells you, it is you! You have experience, you have an education in relevant fields for planning.
    The school and program's reputation trumps any accreditation of the program itself. And your reputation trumps everything else. The only people who have any idea which programs are accredited in their state are planning students, professors, and APA. No one else gives a rat's ass.

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