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Grad / masters 🎓 Competitive for Masters in Urban Planning? + other advice?

J.A.R.V.I.S.

Member
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Hey everyone, I've been considering an MUP/MURP/MCP (whichever the school prefers) for a while now and keep coming back to it as a goal. Alternatively, I've considered MPP programs, and MPA programs, as well as the combination of both. I'll be graduating in 2022, and plan to take a couple of years between graduation and matriculation.

Undergraduate major: Political Science & Public Policy @ a small no-name public university.
Relevant Coursework: I've taken quite a few policy courses with some low-level economics coursework, I have a little knowledge of GIS (enough to have done a few projects with it), and some brief experience with R and Python.
Undergraduate GPA: Somewhere between a 3.6 and a 3.7, since I still have a few classes before graduation, I'm in the honors fraternity and have made the dean's list every semester but in Spring 2020 when classes went P/F. GPA is being brought down by low transfer grades.
GRE: Haven't taken it yet.
Work Experience: I've been working for the state government, not related to planning at all, for 3 years currently. Will be 6-7 by the time I start grad school. I know how the public sector works, even though I'm not in the field. I know the conflicts between the union and the management team and I know that the managers coming from the private sector have lists of changes unable to be implemented. I assume these still apply for planning/policy positions. We just don't deal with the public at all where I'm at.
Internship Experience: Being a poli sci/pub pol student, I have a lot of stereotypical experience (Political campaign, Worked for Senator, Worked for county's political party chapter). But I also interned for a local non-profit and digitized their mapping system into a usable GIS map for their website. And I interned for a local development firm that does LIHTC projects as well as historical revitalization.

Why planning?
Well, I'm overly interested in housing policy and issues surrounding homelessness and affordable, equitable housing. So, I'd like to focus on housing/community development, but I'd also be open to economic development. Coming from public policy, I'm really interested in how we make this happen. I know it's largely done by those in political power but I have no interest in working in practical politics, I have enough friends interested in that. I don't believe I'm disillusioned as to what is/isn't possible from the public sector, it's just where I believe I'd like to work long-term.

The only thing I'm having trouble with is deciding between a policy degree/job focusing on social policy, or planning focusing on community development. I don't know which provides better prospects/stability for the future, though I think they're related enough to possibly be interchangeable? I don't know for sure. I'm still looking at programs to apply to, so any suggestions that seem to match my background/interests are appreciated. I'm also considering applying to a mixture of MPP and MUP programs.

Honestly, any advice/criticism/critique is appreciated about my prospects, the field, my disillusionment, etc.
 
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IMO it sounds like you're well positioned for three next steps:
  1. Work for an affordable housing developer. Exciting work (except those LIHTeC applications) and a lot of project management learning to be had. This experience will allow you to move in ANY direction in the future.
  2. Work for a housing/land use policy advocacy group. These vary wildly in focus, depending on where you live, but every metro area seems to have private policy groups. This will give you great network connections in public and political sectors.
  3. Masters Degree - Cannot go wrong with an advanced degree. Make sure the school you attend, 1) feeds into the area you want to live/work, 2) has the housing emphasis you are seeking, and 3) has a strong alumni network.
Good luck!
 

J.A.R.V.I.S.

Member
Messages
2
Points
0
IMO it sounds like you're well positioned for three next steps:
  1. Work for an affordable housing developer. Exciting work (except those LIHTeC applications) and a lot of project management learning to be had. This experience will allow you to move in ANY direction in the future.
  2. Work for a housing/land use policy advocacy group. These vary wildly in focus, depending on where you live, but every metro area seems to have private policy groups. This will give you great network connections in public and political sectors.
  3. Masters Degree - Cannot go wrong with an advanced degree. Make sure the school you attend, 1) feeds into the area you want to live/work, 2) has the housing emphasis you are seeking, and 3) has a strong alumni network.
Good luck!
Hey -- thanks! I'm in a pretty rural area so not sure about the advocacy groups, I haven't seen too much on that front in my area. Even in my city's office of planning and economic development, there are no urban planners, or opportunities to get involved. My undergrad university has also been pretty unhelpful for my interests and their suggestions. I might have to go to step 3 and find myself a good program with a strong alumni network. I really appreciate your feedback though, it's reassuring I'm on the right path.
 

UrbanUnPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
47
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I'd look at the Incremental Development Alliance or similar small-scale developer resources if I were in your shoes -- getting in at the "ground floor" of residential development (even market-rate stuff) would be good for getting your feet wet with the finances of making things go, and also would be a good chance to put your internship experience to good use.
 
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I'm in a pretty rural area so not sure about the advocacy groups, I haven't seen too much on that front in my area.
Yes, that's the disadvantage of rural communities - limited opportunities. Cheap housing though.

Even in my city's office of planning and economic development, there are no urban planners, or opportunities to get involved
Yikes! That is country!

Not sure what region your currently in but if your considering the west coast, I can recommend a few good grad programs. Whatever choice you make just remember to stay flexible to change and new opportunities that WILL come your way.
 
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