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Thread: Concerns regarding quantitative analysis and math in urban planning

  1. #1

    Concerns regarding quantitative analysis and math in urban planning

    Hey everyone,

    I've recently been considering on whether or not I should pursue a master's in urban planning and starting a career in that field. However, as I've been reading up on threads and websites about urban planning, I've noticed that an emphasis in quantitative analysis/ math keeps on popping up every now and then. I admit that my own quantitative/math abilities are a lot weaker than my writing abilities. The only math class that I took in college was an intro class to Statistics that was required for my Sociology degree (I did get an A- though, but only after studying really hard and getting a little bit of extra credit) and doing a bit of stats on a research project in another Sociology class.

    Should my weakness in my mathematical aptitude be of concern in my consideration to pursue a career in urban planning?

    FYI a bit on my background: Graduated with a BA in Sociology from a school in So Cal and just recently worked on a political campaign for a year in the Midwest as a researcher. Currently back in So Cal and planning my next step career-wise.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Nope

    Not a concern at all....unless you plan on being a transportation planner. They do weird and mystical things with numbers

    Just bone up at the Khan Academy before taking Methods I & II or whatever they call it these days.
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Not a concern at all....unless you plan on being a transportation planner. They do weird and mystical things with numbers

    Just bone up at the Khan Academy before taking Methods I & II or whatever they call it these days.
    Got it, thanks The One!

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    It's pretty much statistics unless you are doing transportation planning/engineering. I am not a math person at all, but I did fine.
    "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

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    not really

    If you end up in research or Economic Development (or transportation), you might have to analyze datasets of information and find trends / use Excel to find a story of regional trends. But most public sector planning skills have little quant.

    However, in grad school, you will likely have to take a Stats class and a GIS class and/or a methods class. Do yourself a favor and don't try to skip out of them. It's really good to know that tools exist and how they work (what are their limits/what can they do), even if you might not necessarily be the one using them.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by akshali2000 View post
    If you end up in research or Economic Development (or transportation), you might have to analyze datasets of information and find trends / use Excel to find a story of regional trends. But most public sector planning skills have little quant.

    However, in grad school, you will likely have to take a Stats class and a GIS class and/or a methods class. Do yourself a favor and don't try to skip out of them. It's really good to know that tools exist and how they work (what are their limits/what can they do), even if you might not necessarily be the one using them.
    Awesome, thanks! Yep I definitely won't skip the stats and GIS classes. I've been looking at planning job descriptions, and it looks like having a basic competency in GIS is mandatory.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jmun View post
    Awesome, thanks! Yep I definitely won't skip the stats and GIS classes. I've been looking at planning job descriptions, and it looks like having a basic competency in GIS is mandatory.
    Nowadays, to get your foot in the door, yeah - GIS and Adobe Creative Suite are popping up on a lot more entry level job descriptions. I would say the latter is easier to pick up if you have at least some graphic design sense. GIS is something you should definitely take a class in rather than try to "pick up" though. It's a complex tool and doing so will give you work samples as well. If you can combine that class with a Stats class and/or Graphic Communications class, it might help you put together a really solid final project (either take them together or back to back).

    I will say that knowing how to navigate the US Census/ACS website and analyze demographic data is super important on the job, no matter what sector or specialization you are in. Bonus points if you are able to seamlessly navigate between the three: Find the right data to download, analyze in Excel, bring into GIS to create a map out of it, run some geographic analysis, pretty up your map in Illustrator, and then put together a well-written and clean looking report in InDesign. Golden

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I think you'll be fine. Planning is a lot more qualitative than quantitative IMO and the few times you have to compute things such as averages or ratios, you'll be asked to limit yourself to easy to understand concepts anyways because not everyone in your audience understands hard math. Don't be scared of GIS either, it's very fun if you like being creative and analytical at the same time.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    No math needed!

    In four years I haven't done any math beyond arithmetic (at a public agency). There are some folks doing some really amazing statistical analysis but I have never seen any advanced math be expected. Honestly, I think that it would benefit the profession to see more quantitative analysis performed as it would lend more legitimacy to our work.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Definitely don't go with a MPA then - as I recall, I had to take 2 advanced stats courses (regression analysis by hand anyone?). Interestingly, that dove-tailed into the GIS class I took as an elective. And since then I've never had to do any stats or GIS work (sadly), professionally - okay okay, there was that stent as a regional planner that had me do lots of GIS and census info analysis. But nowadays it's almost exclusively policy and/or environmental coordination work, but I think that depends on your career track.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    If you can use Excel and SPSS and maybe a little bit of R, than you'll be fine for whatever Research Methods course you need to take.

    I have to do one very soon for my MUP, its all on the computer now, no written math thank god.

    If you want to be a transportation planner, I will echo others sentiment, quantitative aptitude is essential. if not, just know how to keep track of numbers no need to be a whiz kid.

    LEARN GIS! I cannot stress it enough. ArcMap specifically. It is so useful, annoying with the learning curve but worth it once you get it.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Yeah, but a lot of GIS work gets done by consultants. It's an amazing tool, for sure, but it's not always utilized especially in larger agencies. So don't think you'll get asked to show your mapping work all that often.

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