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Anyone with an undergrad in planning on here?

glutton

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433
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I know most people only discover planning at the Master's level, but there are also a number of PAB accredited undergrad programs. Did anyone graduate from an accredited planning UNDERGRAD program (Bachelor's)? What did you think of it? I did both undergrad (in Iowa) and grad planning school somewhere else (in NY) and didn't feel the undergrad one was that beneficial other than getting a leg up to apply to graduate school. But I also wasn't looking to stay in the state or the region, which was probably a factor in that feeling.

If I could go back, I'd definitely have majored in something more technical (like civil engineering or landscape architecture) in undergrad instead and added a planning minor, worked for a year or two in that field, and then gone to graduate school in planning rather than getting the same degree twice.

Curious to know about others who did planning undergrad and what your experience was both in school and job-searching after? I know on the coasts, an undergrad planning will only land you a 1 year internship and/or planning technician position, then you work your way to Planner 1 and later Planner 2 after that. If you do "urban studies" or something non-accredited in undergrad, that usually leads to an entry level gig at a non-profit or something that is planning allied but not actually planning. With a PAB-accredited master's, my experience was that you can jump straight into a Planner 2 at a municipality or consulting firm.
 
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DVD

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I did undergrad planning at Arizona State. I got me my first job so I can't complain, but it was a lot of theoretical stuff. My masters is public admin and that was a lot more hands on situational education. I think I was lucky, it was a good market back in 2006 and planners were in demand.
 

Hink

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Undergrad at Ball State in planning. I went straight to grad school though, so it is tough to say whether or not my job prospects were impacted or not. My grad program was much, much easier than my undergrad program.
 

Dan

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When I was going to school, it seemed like most undergraduate planning programs were partnered with a geography program. I went to Buffalo State College (SUNY), and got a BS in Urban and Regional Planning. The program wasn't accredited. The University at Buffalo (also SUNY) offered a graduate planning program, but not a BS/BA. They did offer an undergraduate program in urban and environmental design, though. If I had to do things over, I probably would have gone to UB for urban/environmental design, with a minor in architecture or geography.

I worked a few years before going back to grad school . In that short time, the job market changed dramatically, and most of the planning job openings I saw now asked for an MUP. A BS plus experience wouldn't cut it anymore. (Seems like a lot of older planners I've worked with don't have planning degrees. They somehow migrated to planning or just found themselves doing more planning-related work.)
 

NHPlanner

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Undergrad (BUPD and BD degrees from Ball State). 22 years in the profession (progressing from entry level to department head in 3 different communities), not having a masters has never been an obstacle for me.
 

RandomPlanner

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When I was going to school, it seemed like most undergraduate planning programs were partnered with a geography program. I went to Buffalo State College (SUNY), and got a BS in Urban and Regional Planning. The program wasn't accredited. The University at Buffalo (also SUNY) offered a graduate planning program, but not a BS/BA. They did offer an undergraduate program in urban and environmental design, though. If I had to do things over, I probably would have gone to UB for urban/environmental design, with a minor in architecture or geography.

I worked a few years before going back to grad school . In that short time, the job market changed dramatically, and most of the planning job openings I saw now asked for an MUP. A BS plus experience wouldn't cut it anymore. (Seems like a lot of older planners I've worked with don't have planning degrees. They somehow migrated to planning or just found themselves doing more planning-related work.)
I did the Environmental Design/ Architecture undergrad at UB. Worked for 8 years in planning and went back to grad school. I've been in planning now about 17 years.
 
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I am in Washington State and am currently getting my direct transfer from a community college and am hoping to get into a bachelors PAB program at Western Washington University. I’m going into Architecture (M.Arch) for grad school. I figured Urban Planning will give me a good perspective about architectural needs. I would have done Architecure first as a B.Arch, but the university closest to me doesn’t have that. (I’m 33 and have a fiancé and his 2 kids so we are where we are for right now.)

The program at WWU is in the Huxley School of the Environment and so it has a big emphasis on that, or at least I hope.

Technically, no, I don’t have an undergrad Urban Planning degree. But I am one of the few that is going that route. I probably wouldn’t though if it wasn’t accredited through the PAB, because I plan to be licensed before doing Architecture school. But we’ll see how it works out.
 

nrschmid

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BA in Urban Planning. I've been working 14 years now as a planner, the last 7 have been designing subdivisions and town centers as a physical land planner. It's such a specialized area of site design that a very strong design portfolio is required. Most designers have had a background in landscape architecture. It's been an uphill battle moving up the corporate ladder without a Masters in Urban Planning. It became easier after I earned my PMP (Project Management Professional) credential, in addition to AICP.

I'm planning on going back to school part time next year to pursue a Masters in Real Estate Development (MSRED) or a Masters in Finance with a Real Estate Specialization. I will probably also do a certification in construction management sometime down the road. I want to move entirely into the developer side of the business and take on a project manager role (not just planning but the whole thing) including calling the shots for home builders, architects, engineers, etc. If I'm lucky I can complete a 2 year graduate program in 4 to 5 years while working full time as a planning manager.
 

glutton

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433
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Undergrad at Ball State in planning. I went straight to grad school though, so it is tough to say whether or not my job prospects were impacted or not. My grad program was much, much easier than my undergrad program.
Interesting, how come it was easier? Was it because you took an accelerated path (5 year program)?
 

Hink

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Interesting, how come it was easier? Was it because you took an accelerated path (5 year program)?
My undergrad was 4 years and my master's was 2 years. Everything I "learned" in my master's program I already learned in my undergrad. Turns out planning history is the same. ;) Lots of overlap really. My master's program is now better (from what I understand), but when I was there, it was really a pretty basic, less than unique program. I would suggest to any master's program that they should focus more on "real life" planning, and less on planning history and planning theory. Adjunct professors who live and work in the real world are WAY more valuable than someone who has worked in an academic setting for the last 20 years.
 

Planit

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Undergrad was 4.5 years but with 2 degrees, one in geography and the other in planning. Worked for 10 years and then did grad school (while continuing to work) in 2.5 years with a degree in architecture/urban design.

Undergrad was standard theory, history, etc. Grad work was very project based along with the few core theory requirements. I actually got credit for one independent study class for a project I was doing at work (sweet!).
 

Clange000

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I graduated from Western Washington University in Environmental Studies: Urban Planning and Policy. It was not accredited at the time I graduated but the program is now accredited.
Got an internship during school with a local county jurisdiction doing rural planning. Did that for almost 6 years and landed a job with city of about 100,000 as a Planner. Masters is in Public Administration which I got while working full time in planning, I didn’t see a need getting more planning theory again for 2 years in a Masters program.
 

glutton

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433
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11
Undergrad was 4.5 years but with 2 degrees, one in geography and the other in planning. Worked for 10 years and then did grad school (while continuing to work) in 2.5 years with a degree in architecture/urban design.
Cool that you got to have a mix of something broad (planning) and something technical (design)! I think that's the way to do it and if I could go back I would do definitely have a mix of theoretical and technical for my undergrad and grad choices. Were you able to do studios in the evening while working? From my experience, architecture and urban design school is usually catered to at the undergraduate level more because of the intense amount of time needed for studio classes.
 

Planit

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Cool that you got to have a mix of something broad (planning) and something technical (design)! I think that's the way to do it and if I could go back I would do definitely have a mix of theoretical and technical for my undergrad and grad choices. Were you able to do studios in the evening while working? From my experience, architecture and urban design school is usually catered to at the undergraduate level more because of the intense amount of time needed for studio classes.
Yes. Studios were a mix of evening, Saturday or take-home projects. The mix of our class was 60% students / 40% professionals. The lead professor would mix up the groups on purpose on some projects, but then on a couple others group the professionals together. He was very astute to understand that program needed to be geared to both groups.
 

glutton

Cyburbian
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433
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11
Yes. Studios were a mix of evening, Saturday or take-home projects. The mix of our class was 60% students / 40% professionals. The lead professor would mix up the groups on purpose on some projects, but then on a couple others group the professionals together. He was very astute to understand that program needed to be geared to both groups.
very cool!
 

Ja_tompkins

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My undergrad was 4 years and my master's was 2 years. Everything I "learned" in my master's program I already learned in my undergrad. Turns out planning history is the same. ;) Lots of overlap really. My master's program is now better (from what I understand), but when I was there, it was really a pretty basic, less than unique program. I would suggest to any master's program that they should focus more on "real life" planning, and less on planning history and planning theory. Adjunct professors who live and work in the real world are WAY more valuable than someone who has worked in an academic setting for the last 20 years.
I am currently an undergrad at BSU — chirp, chirp!
Just wondering — where did you go for your masters? Currently looking at UPenn but afraid it’s too ambitious for a kid out of Indiana
 

Hink

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I am currently an undergrad at BSU — chirp, chirp!
Just wondering — where did you go for your masters? Currently looking at UPenn but afraid it’s too ambitious for a kid out of Indiana
Honestly, Ball State prepared a number of us with a great foundation. I certainly wouldn't rule out UPenn, but the real question is why. I did the mentor thing for Ball State students and my honest advise is really simple. Figure out what you want to get out of your career first. UPenn will be crazy pricey. Not just the education price, but the housing and food and transportation, etc. If you want to go to UPenn, then apply and go. I would just caution you if you want to come back to Indiana, or Ohio, or Michigan a UPenn degree isn't necessary. The expense of that education isn't necessary.

Do you want to go public sector? (Pick the cheapest school you can). Do you want to go private and work in urban design? (UMich or UPenn or another more prestigious program). Or maybe economic development? (UNC, UIC, UM-Amhurst, etc.). Do you want to work for a non-profit supporting dog shelter development? (Beats me...)

The answer to those questions will tell you much more than if you can or can't go to UPenn. As someone who wanted to work in the public sector in Ohio, I knew that there were a number of schools I wanted to go to. Ohio State won for me. I can't say it was the best program at the time. My understanding is that it is much better now. I am not trying to bash them at all, I just don't think they taught me much that Ball State didn't already. Maybe that was because Ball State was that good. I don't really have experience at another college so I can't say.

The take away? Pick a school that furthers your goals as a professional planner. I would pick a school that can achieve that with the lowest amount of debt possible. The last two hires I made - one graduated from UVA and the other from Ohio State. Both people are well educated and very capable. I would guess the Ohio State degree was much cheaper. They both got roughly the same jobs.

Good luck!
 

luckless pedestrian

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Undergrad in Environmental Studies from SUNY ESF - it's their version of a liberal arts/planning undergrad degree - it's housing in the School of Landscape Architecture so that's the bent - but you choose your areas of focus and mine were law and economics and then I kind of fell into planning from there. Had planned on a graduate degree or law school but ran off and got married instead and I didn't go back. It hasn't hurt me too much not to have gone back but I still wish I had, or at least, gone to law school lol...
 

glutton

Cyburbian
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433
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11
Figure out what you want to get out of your career first. UPenn will be crazy pricey. Not just the education price, but the housing and food and transportation, etc. If you want to go to UPenn, then apply and go. I would just caution you if you want to come back to Indiana, or Ohio, or Michigan a UPenn degree isn't necessary. The expense of that education isn't necessary.

Do you want to go public sector? (Pick the cheapest school you can). Do you want to go private and work in urban design? (UMich or UPenn or another more prestigious program). Or maybe economic development? (UNC, UIC, UM-Amhurst, etc.). Do you want to work for a non-profit supporting dog shelter development? (Beats me...)

The take away? Pick a school that furthers your goals as a professional planner. I would pick a school that can achieve that with the lowest amount of debt possible.
@Ja_tompkins: I second what @Hink said with the caveat that in addition to looking at what type of planning or what sector you want to work in, think about geography. I also did my undergrad in planning from a midwestern state program for cheap. But I wanted more career options after that, so one of the schools I applied to was Penn. For starters, don't not apply out of fear you'll be too 'small town' for the program. Schools really do look for a well rounded class and that includes rural, small town, and out of state folks. I was waitlisted at Penn and later got in :). However, I decided not to accept / enroll due to the high cost, even after negotiating with the dean on financial aid/scholarships (yes apparently you can do that at some schools). That being said, I didn't know where geographically I wanted to work and wanted to keep my options open to everything. If your goal for repeating planning in master's is to be able to move out of the midwest into larger coastal markets (and to learn urban design), then go to Penn. The networking options are real, but they come at a pretty high price.

That being said, that doesn't mean you can't go to BSU or OSU and get a similar education for a fraction of the price and still end up working across the country in a big city like NYC, BUT it is a lot harder to get your foot in the door. To be honest, if you want to take this route, it can become more dependent on luck, opportunity, and small incremental career steps or prior experience in a big city (for example, keeping in touch with connections you formed from a summer interning on the coast during undergrad). For me personally, I did my undergrad for dirt cheap in a small midwestern state so I could splurge on my master's from a stronger program; my thinking was that where you do your terminal degree matters more, plus paying for 2 years of higher tuition is cheaper than paying for 4 years of the same. But some people do it the opposite. For example, a colleague of mine went to an expensive private undergrad but then Ohio State for her planning masters because she is from there and I assume got in-state tuition. She ended up getting a job across the country, but she had also worked previously on the West Coast before grad school, so it's really a tossup. :shrug:

Just be sure to consider:
A) what sector you want to work in​
B) where you want to live and work after graduation​
C) how much debt you want to get into for your entire undergrad+graduate education, not just your master's and​
D) how much versatility or name recognition you want.​
And obviously, make sure the program is a right fit for you class size wise, concentration wise, and campus wise. If you're considering urban design, then Penn or Michigan are both strong choices. But BSU has a really good Master of Urban Design 1 year program as well that offers a lot of scholarship/apprentice funding (at least it did when I applied).
 
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Ja_tompkins

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@Ja_tompkins: I second what @Hink said with the caveat that in addition to looking at what type of planning or what sector you want to work in, think about geography. I also did my undergrad in planning from a midwestern state program for cheap. But I wanted more career options after that, so one of the schools I applied to was Penn. For starters, don't not apply out of fear you'll be too 'small town' for the program. Schools really do look for a well rounded class and that includes rural, small town, and out of state folks. I was waitlisted at Penn and later got in :). However, I decided not to accept / enroll due to the high cost, even after negotiating with the dean on financial aid/scholarships (yes apparently you can do that at some schools). That being said, I didn't know where geographically I wanted to work and wanted to keep my options open to everything. If your goal for repeating planning in master's is to be able to move out of the midwest into larger coastal markets (and to learn urban design), then go to Penn. The networking options are real, but they come at a pretty high price.

That being said, that doesn't mean you can't go to BSU or OSU and get a similar education for a fraction of the price and still end up working across the country in a big city like NYC, BUT it is a lot harder to get your foot in the door. To be honest, if you want to take this route, it can become more dependent on luck, opportunity, and small incremental career steps or prior experience in a big city (for example, keeping in touch with connections you formed from a summer interning on the coast during undergrad). For me personally, I did my undergrad for dirt cheap in a small midwestern state so I could splurge on my master's from a stronger program; my thinking was that where you do your terminal degree matters more, plus paying for 2 years of higher tuition is cheaper than paying for 4 years of the same. But some people do it the opposite. For example, a colleague of mine went to an expensive private undergrad but then Ohio State for her planning masters because she is from there and I assume got in-state tuition. She ended up getting a job across the country, but she had also worked previously on the West Coast before grad school, so it's really a tossup. :shrug:

Just be sure to consider:
A) what sector you want to work in​
B) where you want to live and work after graduation​
C) how much debt you want to get into for your entire undergrad+graduate education, not just your master's and​
D) how much versatility or name recognition you want.​
And obviously, make sure the program is a right fit for you class size wise, concentration wise, and campus wise. If you're considering urban design, then Penn or Michigan are both strong choices. But BSU has a really good Master of Urban Design 1 year program as well that offers a lot of scholarship/apprentice funding (at least it did when I applied).
Thank you both so much for the response.

Really - my thought with going to a program like Ball State (which I love, by the way) was to save money to propel me toward a grad program on one of the coasts. I am more interested in the urban design/smart cities aspect of the field and see a huge opportunity for advancing those interests at a school such as Penn.

The costs inhibit my desire a bit, but as mentioned in the replies, I’d really like to get my foot in the door in a major market and not rely on luck, which I what I think would happen if I stayed at BSU for my masters. That’s the main draw to Penn...connection with NYC and DC.

But, still, the cost...

You said you were waitlisted at Penn. Is it crude to ask your academic qualifications?

Right now my GPA is 3.93 and I serve with CNU Midwest. I’m afraid that is not enough to get into an Ivy if I did decide to go that route.
 
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glutton

Cyburbian
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433
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@Ja_tompkins : 3.9?! Dude you should totally go for it based on the thought process you described above. I had a 3.5, which was probably why I was borderline. You should have no problem. Most planning schools (even the fancy ones) care more about your essay and experiences that led you to want to pursue planning, anyway. This could be work or academic experiences, but could also be personal experiences like lived experiences or volunteering. While I would highly encourage you to get a year of local experience working in some (or honestly any) planning related capacity under your belt before going to grad school, it doesn’t hurt to apply at all! Go for it :).
 
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Ja_tompkins

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@Ja_tompkins : 3.9?! Dude you should totally go for it based on the thought process you described above. I had a 3.5, which was probably why I was borderline. You should have no problem. Most planning schools (even the fancy ones) care more about your essay and experiences that led you to want to pursue planning, anyway. This could be work or academic experiences, but could also be personal experiences like lived experiences or volunteering. While I would highly encourage you to get a year of local experience working in some/honestly any planning related capacity (or under your belt before going to grad school, it doesn’t hurt to apply at all! Go for it :).
Honestly, needed this today. Thank you so much!
 
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