• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

For All You Grad Grads Out There...

CAPlanner1

Member
Messages
20
Points
2
Hullo Throbbing Brain,

A question/request for all y'all who have obtained your masters degrees in Urban Planning (or similar)... I am to begin graduate classes in a handful of months and wonder if you could tell me a bit about your experiences. What kind of courses did you take? Were they difficult? Which did you enjoy the most and least? And was there a lot of math involved? (I'm borderline inept where math is concerned :-\ )

While certainly every school (and curiculum) is different, and accordingly no two experiences the same, I'm sure general studies and work loads roughly coincide and I'd hoped that the mighty Throbbing Brain could give me a better idea of what (wonders and horrors) await me!

Thank you in advance, and I look forward to reading your responses!

And a P.S. - my sincere thanks and compliments to all who have so dutifully posted throughout this board; providing invaluable information to planning
"newbies" such as myself. I've spent a whole messa time surfing through posts from way back, and I think I've learned more about our chosen field here than in 2 years of undergrad work!
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,487
Points
41
Just as with your undergrad, you'll have core (required) classes and elective classes. To the extent that you have a sense of what interests you, follow that headingwith your electives.

At Ball State I was encouraged to explore areas of interest with "independent projects", sort of mini-thesis classes. It was a semi-structured/self-directed program that suited me very well. The volume of reading was a big step up from what I experienced as an undergrad -- in part because i chose to go a little deeper than what was required, and in part because it was expected in the curriculum.

Be thinking about your thesis topic NOW. It took me an extra year to complete my thesis (one semester was as a grad asst., saving me money) A few hours here and there and I think I could have finished in two years -- but I did finish it and am glad that I did. I could not have done it and worked full-time.

Good luck. PM me if you have any specific questions.
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,289
Points
30
Adjunct

CAPlanner1

The classes I enjoyed the most were with adjunct faculty members brought in from the "real world". This is the biggest advice I would give to anyone looking for a good planning education. The required classes provided a great foundation and were largely a requirement of the Planning Accreditation Board placed on every accredited program. As for math :-c , you can't escape it, but you can focus on statistics (the fun math / aka. fuzzy math ;-) ). The study that demands math the most is transportation planning. We had some of the best land use attorney's in the state teaching our planning law, growth management and environmental law classes.
 

vaughan

Cyburbian
Messages
335
Points
11
I'm five days away from beginning my first job as a real live post-graduate school planner. Again, while everyone has a different take on their grad experiences, here's mine:

GET AS MUCH OUT-OF-CLASSROOM-EXPERIENCE AS YOU CAN! That is the most important piece of info that I can give you. Graduate school offers you the opportunity to spend two solid years (give or take) thinking about planning and you can get a ton out of it, but nothing- i repeat, nothing- will match time that you can spend out of the classroom. The classes were, for me, a breeze. Its the people you meet who are doing the work that will help you the most.

I have been very lucky with the two internships that I have had these past couple of years- for the first, i was able to drive around the 20 counties surrounding Yellowstone National Park, interviewing as many planners, planning board members, community development leaders, and others as i could (I later turned that into my thesis). The second was interning in our city-county planning office this semester. Both experiences taught me more about planning than any of my classes (though the classwork helped). So- get out. Intern. Talk to people. You'll learn more.

Another way that i really took advantage of my time here has been to attend as many city and county planning board meetings as I could. Its one of the best ways to see how things work, to get a real understanding of your local issues, and to get ideas for potential thesis projects. Again, for me, it was very valuable time.

Also, one of the most rewarding things that I did while in the program here was to get out of the department and get to know other faculty that are on the fringes of planning. Economics people, natural resource people, GIS people, and others all have great insight and interest in urban/regional/rural/environmental planning. I got to know them to great reward.

As far as math goes- I agree with the others that most of what you will do will be stats. That really isn't that bad, personally, and I'm no math whiz (got an english and anthropology undergrad). It seemed that, for myself, my brain began getting used thinking analytically the longer I stayed in the program. You definitely begin using different parts of your brain. By now, as I end this program, I'm actually crossing my legs differently and sleeping on the opposite side every night. New brain activity? Who knows, but kinda funny to think about.

I guess that, for me, the best part about getting a master's degree in a very small program was that it forced me to get out of the department and get to know people who are really doing the work.

I certainly feel like I got a lot out of my graduate experience, but it was because I made it happen, not because I just attended class and had things taught at me. I'd recommend the same.
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
25,803
Points
61
The One said:
We had some of the best land use attorney's in the state teaching our planning law, growth management and environmental law classes.
OT
Did you go to UCD?
Did you have McNeish for Planning Law ?
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,175
Points
51
I decided to work for two years before I get my Masters. I was lucky enough to get a job, then after a year, I had enough experence to get a good job that will also pay for Grad School.

Next Winter, I am going to look into going to WMU for a Masters in Planning.
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,289
Points
30
JNA Check your E-Mail

JNA said:
OT
Did you go to UCD?
Did you have McNeish for Planning Law ?

Yes, I did go to the University of Colorado at Denver :-D . McNeish was very good and so were the three other attorney's that tought three other classes I took :-} .
 

CAPlanner1

Member
Messages
20
Points
2
vaughan said:
I'm five days away from beginning my first job as a real live post-graduate school planner. Again, while everyone has a different take on their grad experiences, here's mine:

GET AS MUCH OUT-OF-CLASSROOM-EXPERIENCE AS YOU CAN! That is the most important piece of info that I can give you. Graduate school offers you the opportunity to spend two solid years (give or take) thinking about planning and you can get a ton out of it, but nothing- i repeat, nothing- will match time that you can spend out of the classroom. The classes were, for me, a breeze. Its the people you meet who are doing the work that will help you the most.

I have been very lucky with the two internships that I have had these past couple of years- for the first, i was able to drive around the 20 counties surrounding Yellowstone National Park, interviewing as many planners, planning board members, community development leaders, and others as i could (I later turned that into my thesis). The second was interning in our city-county planning office this semester. Both experiences taught me more about planning than any of my classes (though the classwork helped). So- get out. Intern. Talk to people. You'll learn more.

Another way that i really took advantage of my time here has been to attend as many city and county planning board meetings as I could. Its one of the best ways to see how things work, to get a real understanding of your local issues, and to get ideas for potential thesis projects. Again, for me, it was very valuable time.

Also, one of the most rewarding things that I did while in the program here was to get out of the department and get to know other faculty that are on the fringes of planning. Economics people, natural resource people, GIS people, and others all have great insight and interest in urban/regional/rural/environmental planning. I got to know them to great reward.

As far as math goes- I agree with the others that most of what you will do will be stats. That really isn't that bad, personally, and I'm no math whiz (got an english and anthropology undergrad). It seemed that, for myself, my brain began getting used thinking analytically the longer I stayed in the program. You definitely begin using different parts of your brain. By now, as I end this program, I'm actually crossing my legs differently and sleeping on the opposite side every night. New brain activity? Who knows, but kinda funny to think about.

I guess that, for me, the best part about getting a master's degree in a very small program was that it forced me to get out of the department and get to know people who are really doing the work.

I certainly feel like I got a lot out of my graduate experience, but it was because I made it happen, not because I just attended class and had things taught at me. I'd recommend the same.
Thanks to all for the solid (and thorough!) advice. And my congratulations to you Vaughan on your upcoming graduation! :-D
 

amylea

Member
Messages
13
Points
1
Quote:
Originally posted by vaughan
I'm five days away from beginning my first job as a real live post-graduate school planner. Again, while everyone has a different take on their grad experiences, here's mine:

GET AS MUCH OUT-OF-CLASSROOM-EXPERIENCE AS YOU CAN! That is the most important piece of info that I can give you

I couldn't agree more...having been out of grad school 2 years now I can honestly say the thing that has helped me the most in may career is most definately my internship. If you are anticipating a graduate assistantship try for one with a planning organization.. I got stuck teaching an honors geography class for my first month at grad school and was able to convince the department head that I had no desire to end up in academia therefore I needed to be out there in the real world.

As far as classes.. no doubt you will be required to take all the fun basics...theory, statistics,etc. Don't worry about the math, i too am not a math genius and my best classes in grad school were statistics and forecasting...

Graduate school was a great time in my life. I was never really into school prior to going and I learned that if I got to focus on what I was actually interested in and not take random electives I enjoyed it. I think some of the most important thing you learn in grad school you don't learn in a book.. multitasking and working in a cooperative environment. Those things are essential as a planner.

Good luck in school..enjoy it and make the best of it!!! :)
 
Top