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Thread: Anyone have an MPA?

  1. #1

    Anyone have an MPA?

    Hello all. Quick question? Is anyone here currently employed in a planning role with a Masters in Public Admin? Does anyone know someone who does? I've been accepted into an MPA program with a specialization in public management with minor emphasis on financing and planning. I also have a bachelor's in Urban Studies and Planning and previous experience as an Intern for a county planning department. The bachelor's and internship have resulted in multiple rejections for even associate planning jobs. Mainly due to the fact that my internship was limited to 6 months, and most departments are looking for master's degrees. Most job postings I see, at least here in So Cal say "Bachelors degree required (Masters preferred) with 1-2 years professional planning experience with increasing responsibility. I'm currently attempting to see if any local planning or public departments or even consulting firms would take me as an intern as an MPA student. I do know of a handful of planners with MPA's, but I'm curious to see how common it actually is.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I know a number of MPAs who do planning. More often than not though, MPAs tend to work in other departments besides planning. It's not because they're unqualified to work as planners, it's just that planning isn't something most of them gravitate toward. If they gravitated toward planning, they probably would have gotten a planning degree instead.

    There's a lot of overlap between planning and MPA degrees. MPAs just lean more heavily toward the business side of things.

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I'm a Director of Planning with a MPA. I chose the MPA route because I thought it would round me out more to advance in the public sector, as it addressed issues like public finance/budgeting, personnel, etc. I had a positive experience going this route.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    I know many working planners who have an MPA. I doubt planning is the profession that most MPA graduates work towards, but it does qualify under the requirements of “a degree in planning or a related field.” The degree will help you qualify to be an intern, provided that the department can accommodate an intern. It will probably also help later in your career since the degree provides a fairly well rounded education.

    As an FYI, the job market has been tough; many of the applicants for entry level planning positions have several years of experience working as an intern and some applicants are gainfully employed planners who are looking for a better job. In the current market, you will need more experience under your belt to really stand out for a full-time job. The same is true for those with a master’s degree. I noticed you mentioned you were rejected from several associate planning jobs you had applied to. Those are usually not entry-level jobs and would probably explain the rejections. Just some food for thought though. Goodluck!
    Last edited by dw914er; 06 Dec 2012 at 5:22 PM.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  5. #5
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I have an MPA and I'm working as a planning director. I should add on that I also have a planning undergrad. I took the MPA becuase I didn't have the opportunity to go to a different college for a master's in planning and didn't think it would help have an undergrad and master's from the same college in the same field. I also thought the MPA program would give me a broader base for all the fun we have to face as planners and help lead me to a management position. It's working for me.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    I'm a planning director with an MPA. I took as many planning related courses as I could within the MPA program and outside as allowed.

  7. #7
    Great replies folks, thank you so much. My real problem is I only have had a 6 month internship with a County planning department during my undergrad, and that's simply not enough to even secure an interview for entry-level positions. I hope to be able to intern again, or even apply for actual positions during my MPA, but I'm really just trying to land with any public department. I know an MPA currently working with Santa Monica finance. My real concern however, is that most MPA's are mid-career professionals. As someone still trying to break-in (other than my years working for a city in their library) is an MPA worth it? Like I said, I'm angling for internships, and I'm certainly willing to take any unpaid. I remember when scouting around before, most departments don't have organized internship programs, but are seemingly willing to take students in for extra-help/ volunteer positions. Would it behoove me to pursue these? Ultimately, I'm torn between doing this MPA, pursuing a second bachelor's in something else, pursuing a trade, or simply moving and pursuing any job I can snag. Southern California is certainly limited in terms of job prospects.

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I have a few recommendations for you:
    1. Broaden the geography you are conducting your job search in. Limiting yourself to SoCal is limiting yourself to one of the most competitive planning job markets--you have tons of recent grads to compete against as well as huge numbers of desperate laid off planners with years of experience. I would recommend looking nationwide if you can, and be willing to go to places that maybe aren't glamorous (like rural areas of the Great Plains) and the sunbelt region where jobs are a bit more available. It is a bit harsh, but beggars really can't be choosers... if you can stretch your job search geography, your opportunities will increase exponentially. If you love SoCal, set a long-term career goal to work your way back. Heck, you might find a part of the country you like even better!
    2. Focus on getting additional internship experience. Experience is increasingly a deciding factor for securing permenent employment. It kind of goes to the old saying that it is easier to find a job when you already have one.
    3. Decent MPA programs are portable, relatively easy to find in any region, and are also often designed with schedules compatible with working professionals. Focus on finding a job or internship somewhere... anywhere... and then seek out a MPA program to boost your educational qualifications. In fact, many public sector employers have tuition assistance programs once you've worked there for a year in full-time capacity.
    4. Don't get a second bachelors. I really don't think that helps anybody unless you are making a radical change in career paths. It generally is not worth the money, IMHO.
    5. Not planning related, but I encourage anybody that has a trade interest to pursue it. You can have a great career working in skilled trades. A buddy of mine from high school went that route and now owns his own HVAC business. He makes more money than I do. If you have an interest in trades and in planning, I might suggest looking toward becoming a building official/inspector, or going for something else entirely and make planning a hobby (i.e. work at something else, but consider serving on a city board/commission or perhaps volunteering assistance to a community development non-profit).

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9
    Thanks for the advice. I actually am willing to move anywhere, I do have a cushion of savings. The MPA program I've been accepted to is on-line based, so I can actually take that with me. As far as internships are concerned, it's my understanding that departments and businesses don't tend to take people off the street, since there are labor laws involved. Usually though, one could make the case that a student may be working for both academic credit and experience in a career. I actually essentially get free tuition at the state level, private schools excluded, through a military fee waiver, so if I were accepted into a second bachelor's, it would be at minimal cost to myself. Though, given my exact location it would entail moving while going to school full-time. For my previous under grad degree, I was able to commute. However, the school's that would accept the fee waiver and a second bachelor's in say engineering, are all out of my area.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I have a bachelor's in public admin as well as a MCRP and masters of public policy. I work in community development which straddles both planning and the public admin/policy fields. It's a good hybrid for me and I work at a non-profit CDC. Many larger munis have community development or economic development departments apart from planning.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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