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Career Options without Planning Degree

mike5440

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
I am a midlife career-changer. My professional background is in sales (retail 😕!), and my degree is an associate's in liberal arts.

I am very interested in urban planning, but I lack experience or education in the field. I also feel that, at my age (late forties), it is impractical to go back to school for an extended period of time. I would, however, be willing to consider shorter-term retraining.

I realize it may be something of a long shot, but I was wondering if there might be any career options for a person like me in urban planning or a related profession. Possibilities that have occurred to me are a position in nonprofit advocacy, at a housing agency, or maybe something in real estate or property management.

Any suggestions anyone might have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!
 

mike5440

Member
Messages
7
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0
Thanks for all the great replies (I read through them, but got a message that some posts on the site had been deleted. If you still have them, please resend them. Thanks).

Real estate was possibly the first option I considered. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which needless to say has one of the hottest housing markets in the nation. It's so "hot," in fact, that I would consider what is going on to be essentially price gouging (a bio I saw for a realtor listed foreclosures as one of her "specialties"). I'm a Christian and, to be honest, have moral issues with pursuing a career in real estate in my area, for this and other reasons. I do wonder, however, if there might be other options in real estate (maybe on the commercial end?).

There are also of course a lot of high-tech companies in the area. It's probably another long shot, but is it possible that urban planning and technology might come together in some way that would provide a career opportunity? I know project management has been mentioned; I'm also thinking of things like GIS, etc.

Again, thanks for your help!
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
1,900
Points
14
Thanks for all the great replies (I read through them, but got a message that some posts on the site had been deleted. If you still have them, please resend them. Thanks).

Real estate was possibly the first option I considered. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which needless to say has one of the hottest housing markets in the nation. It's so "hot," in fact, that I would consider what is going on to be essentially price gouging (a bio I saw for a realtor listed foreclosures as one of her "specialties"). I'm a Christian and, to be honest, have moral issues with pursuing a career in real estate in my area, for this and other reasons. I do wonder, however, if there might be other options in real estate (maybe on the commercial end?).

There are also of course a lot of high-tech companies in the area. It's probably another long shot, but is it possible that urban planning and technology might come together in some way that would provide a career opportunity? I know project management has been mentioned; I'm also thinking of things like GIS, etc.

Again, thanks for your help!
I think you could get into real estate and do something ethical with it. Like I said, working with a non-profit housing agency or something like that is an allied profession, and having a real estate license could help you get your foot in that door. Plus, it would build on your current sales experience.

I worked as a financial crisis counselor during the mortgage crisis ten years ago, and I would also say that working with people who are underwater that are trying to get out of their mortgages really might not be that unethical in a lot of circumstances. I'm talking about short sales more than foreclosures, but helping people avoid foreclosure and being an intermediary with their lenders to help relieve them of a financial burden they can't support for whatever reason can be really helpful for a lot of people. It doesn't mean you want to prey on people in desperate situations, but I think you can help them have a sense of dignity through the process, and represent them well.

If that's something you're interested in, you could also look into being a housing counselor (there are certificates you can get for that). That's really well beyond anything related to urban planning, but it might be along the lines of something you would find meaningful and satisfying as a career.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
Not sure if I contributed to the moderators wiping out this thread, but I live bay area adjacent ;) and have some insight in the local planning climate. Shoot me a PM
 

Veloise

Cyburbian
Messages
5,481
Points
26
I'd suggested site acquisition for cell tower, wind, solar industries. Also, site acq for large chains looking for highway exit sites. I spent a decade doing zoning work, then project management for the wireless companies, as both a contractor and an employee.

One of the wiped comments entailed mercdude opining that you need a real estate license, etc. to do this work, which is not factually correct. The large companies have specialized departments for searching title and deed, interpreting legal descriptions, and the like. My contractors did the surveys and site plan illustrations. My site acq never bothered with a land appraisal; if we were willing to pay a lessor $1200/month for a tower site, we didn't care what the property was worth.
The first group of site acqs I worked with were personal friends of the company owner (along with his son, daughter, their friends...) and needless to say their level of expertise was fluid. ("What's a 'jurisdiction'?" one asked.)

HTH
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
One of the wiped comments entailed mercdude opining that you need a real estate license, etc. to do this work, which is not factually correct.
I think among the other things I said that leasing (not to be confused with other legal planning-esque instruments like licenses, agreements, or permits) is part of the real estate profession, not planning... which it is. :) But if I did say that (can't check now!), sorry for the confusion.
 

mike5440

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
I think site acquisition might be something for me to check into, esp. if a real estate license is not required (though I might consider getting one eventually anyway, if I go that route). I would also potentially be interested in a job that involves writing, maybe proposal writing or something similar.

I have considered housing or environmental advocacy as well, since both seem at least peripherally related to urban planning (e.g., there is a longstanding movement in the Bay Area to preserve the green belt that surrounds the urban center). Part of the problem in this area is that, given the extreme prices for housing, many jobs that might otherwise seem very appealing may not pay enough to be viable.

Thanks again, please let me know if anyone has further suggestions.
 

mike5440

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
Not sure if I contributed to the moderators wiping out this thread, but I live bay area adjacent ;) and have some insight in the local planning climate. Shoot me a PM
Thanks for the offer. Sorry, I'm new to the site, how do I send a PM? Thought I saw there is a minimum number of posts required first, not sure if that's correct.
 

Veloise

Cyburbian
Messages
5,481
Points
26
I just posed a code compliance inspector gig here in my fair city, excellent $$ for a HS graduate who can read the code manual. Might be a steppingstone into a regular planning gig.

One of our previous inspectors regularly appeared at the BZA meetings to provide testimony on various sign cases. It was great good fun to ask a rhetorical question just to get the staff's opinion into the public record. My fellow commissioners would attempt to "explain" things to me sotto voce, not understanding what was really going on.
 

mike5440

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
Yes I'm considering different options.

The possibility of technical writing for government manuals, reports etc. has been mentioned. I think proposal writing of some sort had also been suggested.

I'm not too far from the state capitol of Sacramento either. The point had been made that there might be opportunities at state agencies, if I were to relocate. Partly in that context, the possibility of lobbying work of some sort also occurred to me.
 

Veloise

Cyburbian
Messages
5,481
Points
26
Another idea: the posting I just shared in the Jobs thread... I was fondly recalling my first experience shopping at LIDL last year while in Amsterdam (they sell cycling shorts! helmets! panniers!) and wandered into their website. By golly, they have expanded to the US.
And whaddya know, they have openings for folks with a bachelors and a couple years experience and site plan public hearing presentation skills ... on the east coast.

Find a company based near you, and do some exploring. Might uncover some good opportunities through curiosity.
 

mike5440

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
I agree. One thing that seems to be true, is that there is frequently more variety in various occupations than a person might think. That's partly what motivated me to consider different paths one might take to get into the planning profession. I think that a person's age can be a factor too, even if not always a decisive one; for myself, I don't have 40 years to work my way up 😊.
 
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