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Thread: Thinking about applying for MURP programs this fall, but a few caveats...

  1. #1
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    Thinking about applying for MURP programs this fall, but a few caveats...

    Hi all!

    Background: I've been a civil engineer (water resources/utilities) for a few years now and am tired of it. I've always been interested in planning and development, but a more targeted interest in urban planning didn't quite blossom until a few years ago. But by then, I already had my BS (chemical engineering) and MS (civil engineering - but really was water chemistry/microbiology research). I've been trying to finagle my way into planning, but the most I'd really get would be environmental planning/water resources, and that's not my ideal setup. Plus, the job market where I am is basically non-existent. So I've decided to fully pursue planning via grad school, probably concentrating in transportation or land use.

    The catch is that my wife will be finishing up medical school next year and will be applying for residencies. If you're unfamiliar with that process, it's apply -> interview -> rank your choices. At the same time, the programs rank the students they interviewed. At the end, everything is processed based on the rankings of every student and every program, and finally you're matched with a program. You might not end up with your #1 or #2 choice, but as long as you don't shoot too high, you'll likely Match. Match Day is the second or third Friday in March. Rankings have to be sent in by the third week of February. Most MURP programs look like they'll notify you of acceptance by the middle of March, so I wouldn't know my fate until she locks in her rankings.

    So I won't find out where I'm accepted/financial aid offers until she finds out her placement (or at least after she ranks). I've got my list down to four (GT, UIC, Rutgers, VT), and wouldn't mind applying to all four to cover my bases. I had 162/165/4.0 V/Q/W GRE scores, 4.0 undergrad, 3.8 grad GPAs. I'm not too worried about getting in, but moreso about financial aid. We're already in a good deal of debt (thanks, med school!). I also don't want to wait a year or so to gain residency in our new state. Hypothetically, how rude would it be to apply to these places, not get a good offer from the school in the place where my wife matches, and reapply the next year with in-state status? That's obviously not the road I'd ideally go down, but I'd like to mitigate both cost and time as much as possible (don't we all!). The main issue is that we're restricted by the Match, but her rankings will be influenced by my preference of grad schools.

    tl;dr - How generous are GT, UIC, Rutgers, and VT with financial aid? I actually qualify for in-state tuition at GT through the Academic Common Market, so that option is already accounted-for.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I went to GT grad school for Public Policy (after going to GT undergrad for materials engineering) and got an assistanceship to cover my full cost of out-of-state tuition + an additional small stipend. I can't speak specifically for the MURP program, but in general, GT has a ton of options for assistanceships. Assuming you get accepted, which won't be an issue, they should be able to let you know about the assistance when they send your acceptance letter. The others I can't speak for, though.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I think your background fits better with trans planning than land use (unless you're talking grading/drainage plan approval) and I (also) think that you don't need to get a grad degree to make that switch - maybe consider a public policy/trans sustainability certificate instead. But my question to you is: are you sure you want to go to planning??? Coming from engineering it's a step down in pay, respect, and career prospects. Don't get me wrong, planning is great but it's a social science at best and at worst an exercise in politics. Which means you won't be as involved in the physical design of projects. Consider that planners aren't even taught how to read specs or engineering/architectural/landscape plans. Instead they learn about social problems, codes/ordinances/law, some survey/GIS stuff, and really soft (conceptual) design skills. Your engineering degree holds much, much more weight than a planning degree and I have no doubt that with a little (I mean little) polishing you could make the switch to trans planning. Just my thought.

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    Cyburbian
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    ^ it's true in one sense - depending on how competitive the job market is in wherever you are looking, if you have a background in either architecture or civil engineering, it's not so difficult to apply to planner jobs. Planning is really mostly just having strong writing and communication skills, with a passion for advocacy and storytelling.

    However, due to strict licensing requirements and specialized technical training, a planner cannot ever apply for an architect or engineering job.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the responses!

    Quote Originally posted by mercdude View post
    ...Don't get me wrong, planning is great but it's a social science at best and at worst an exercise in politics. Which means you won't be as involved in the physical design of projects. Consider that planners aren't even taught how to read specs or engineering/architectural/landscape plans. Instead they learn about social problems, codes/ordinances/law, some survey/GIS stuff, and really soft (conceptual) design skills...
    See, that's a big, big plus to me. If I never have to draw up another set of specs/details again, I'll be ecstatic. I'm much more geared towards the planning side of things, for sure. I'm only in this job to support us while my wife is in school

    I'm not a drafter and was never trained in design (I know enough CAD to be dangerous). And my civil engineering education amounted to water chemistry, microbiology, wetlands, etc. - never actual engineering work. I was in a PhD program, mainly because more school = delaying the real world. I didn't have any idea about what to do with my life, so I figured I'd give myself five more years to figure it out. That is, until we moved when my wife got into med school elsewhere and I just stopped at a Masters. Now that she'll be graduating, I'll have the flexibility to go back to school for something I truly care about. I could try and get a planning job outright or a certificate to help, but if we can be financially stable while I get a comprehensive training/education, then I definitely don't mind taking a couple of years to go back to school.

    I'd much rather sacrifice a couple of years to be well-prepared for a career that I can pe passionate about, despite a lower salary, reputation, etc., than continue to get entrenched in a sector that I couldn't care less about. Life's too short for that (IMO).

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Another thing to consider: having a double master is sorta like having a professional extra hole in your head. It's casts the light that you are a perennial student and would not be content in a real job. Trust me, I have two master degrees and every single day I deal with this stereotype and if I were to do it over again I'd just have gotten some certificates. At some points I took my 2nd master off my resume in order to get job interviews. IMO Certs give you street cred, don't break the bank, and let you fly under the workplace radar.

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    Quote Originally posted by mercdude View post
    Another thing to consider: having a double master is sorta like having a professional extra hole in your head. It's casts the light that you are a perennial student and would not be content in a real job. Trust me, I have two master degrees and every single day I deal with this stereotype and if I were to do it over again I'd just have gotten some certificates. At some points I took my 2nd master off my resume in order to get job interviews. IMO Certs give you street cred, don't break the bank, and let you fly under the workplace radar.
    Huh, I never really thought about it from the employer angle. I did want to avoid the perpetual student persona, to be sure, despite the fact that I have been out of school for a few years.

    I know it depends on the market and what I actually want to do with them, but would you say that a couple of certificates would be sufficient?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Like I said before, I can see a transition to trans planning fairly easily - land use planning not as easily. For true dyed in the wool land use planning, you probably need to totally reboot with a MCP/MRP, etc (architecture is also a good discipline but far too much work) and then hope you get a good internship while in grad school that leads to a professional job.

    Having a civil background would help with trans planning (which is more organized around infrastructure planning than subdivision review, master planning, permitting, etc.) and then I'd say get one graduate cert ($3-5k) in trans planning and call it a day. You won't get more prepared than that. Well, that's my opinion anyways.

  9. #9
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    I applied out of state to Rutgers and got a full tuition waiver and so did one of my friends. I'm in state for UIC and got about 10,000 per year.

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