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Planning as a career

portlandor80

Member
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1
Points
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I have noticed an incredible amount of unsatified planners on this website. I am planning on going to graduate school to obtain a MURP but I am unsure if this is the career I want to do. Planning on the surface seems great to me, and I enjoy the literature and topics. However, I have not worked in a planning office to see what the environment is like. I am unsure about the career because of the pay, and other reasons, including the venting in these fourms. I know the pay is lower than most want, but it's enough to comfortably get by isn't it? I know the cost of living varies from place to place in the US so it's difficult to go by just salaries. In addition, is the amount of venting on this site typical with most planners in the field or is this just a place where people are entitled to vent? I would have to say I was looking forward to becoming a planner until I noticed the low pay (6 years plus of education should earn more), and the amount of fustrated planners.

Is this typical throughout the field - the fustration/venting because of career and pay?

Any feedback is greatly appreciated since I need to decide before I enter graduate school if planning is for me.
 

vman68

Member
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6
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I agree that there are a lot of frustrated planners out there. The pay is not that great, especially for the amount of education involved. I think the venting is normal, and it will never disappear. There will always be that frustration with process, especially working for the public sector.

That being said. I wouldn't change my career for anything. I got my undergraduate in architecture, and then my graduate in city and regional planning, and I'm glad I did. I think my frustration came in finding that area of interest. For some people that area of interest might be historic preservation, or environment, or law, etc. I got into urban design because of my interest in architecture. I think what might help is to find that area of the planning field that is of interest to you, and look into it further. Many people get the impression that planning involves sitting in an office drawing site plans. However, the reality is that planners can truly be an asset just about anywhere, from research/analysis to policy-making decisions.

I don't mean to be the apologist or cheerleader for our profession. It can be very frustrating. However, planners seem to attract some of the more passionate people, and frustration is part of the game. Many times as a planner you make recommendations and have to stake and defend your position. It may not actually go your way, and it is frustrating. There is little appreciation for what we do, so that's why it's important to find a job that doesn't rely on the approval of others. However, there is great satisfaction in defending a position. In such a gray world, it's nice to see some advocacy.

Now a caveat. I look at this from mainly a public sector point of view. I would like to hear from the private sector planners to see how their experiences are. Good luck in your decision.
 

Joe Iliff

Reformed City Planner
Messages
1,441
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29
Well, this is a place to vent, so don't be surprised if you see more discussion dedicated to the frustrating and difficult parts of the profession. But that certainly doesn't represent the whole experience of being a planner. I find many of my experiences to be rewarding, and enjoy much of what I do.

Perhaps by having this kind of a forum where we vent our frustrations, we are creating a negative image of the profession for potential future planners. Maybe we should create a forum where we discuss the good things about our jobs, the times we enjoy being planners, and the things we learn. (Are you reading this, Dan?)
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,782
Points
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Joe Iliff said:
Perhaps by having this kind of a forum where we vent our frustrations, we are creating a negative image of the profession for potential future planners. Maybe we should create a forum where we discuss the good things about our jobs, the times we enjoy being planners, and the things we learn. (Are you reading this, Dan?)
Well, there's the other forum topic areas. I do with more people would post messages detailing their accomplishments -- some "brags" as they're known on the dog breed mailing lists. See something that you like, or a city or town that seems to have some rather progressive attitudes towards the built environment -- let us know. Want to tell us about the planning process you have in place, and how you streamlined it? Great!

I've found that we planners tend to be a rather modest lot. I've found that I'm great at selling ideas, but not at selling myself or my accomplishments. :|
 

avisame

Member
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4
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you read my mind

i could easily have written your message, portlandor80. i am also considering applying this fall to masters program in planning. my concern isn't just the money, but the thought of working away in an office on a great project only to get shot down by less-educated, incompetent elected officials. my question to those of you already in the field: how are those of you who AREN'T working as city planners doing? to me, working for the federal gov't seems more appealing than local gov., non-profit, or private, as it seems to provide more job stability & salary than non-profit while allowing one to have a life (unlike private). is this true??

from my research, i'm come to agree with vman68 about focusing on a specific interest within planning. i am narrowing my search to programs with a strong emphasis in water resource management. any thoughts on good schools (outside of the west preferred) that are strong in this area?
 

laxman33

Member
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8
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hell, after getting by BA in geography I am going after my MBA. An MBA i've found brings you more money, lets you widen you career possibilities while still working in the planning/geography field.

Did I mention that it brings more money??
 
Messages
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Response to vman68: Public and Private Sector

vman68 raised a question regarding public vs. private sectors planning. I worked in the public sector for seven years after graduating from Ball State University with a planning degree. During this time I got a masters in public administration from Indiana. Public sector to the core, right?

Well, now working as a consultant, I can see the other side of things. My firm does a variety of comprehensive, transportation, and smaller focus area plans for communities.

The variety of projects and places to work in is one of the attractions of consulting work. For me, it has also been one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes it feels like "commando planning"--dropping into a community and learning everything about it as quickly as possible and churning out a plan for them. This is a stark contrast to working in one place and having an intimate knowledge of the geography, politics, and history.

I'm not asserting that one is better than the other. I haven't figured that out for myself yet.
 

vman68

Member
Messages
6
Points
0
Response to Andy

Not having worked in the private sector before, my only experience has been working with some of our consultants. I think the variety of work that can be done is attractive. Although we have had a number of consultants work on a number of projects, we have been able to develop a strong relationship with many of them. I believe that some of the private firms may have as much local knowledge than many of the people working in our department.

I think that what has always attracted me about the private sector is more of a sense of accountability. I think we've all experienced that career government employee who over time has become rather comfortable. The job has become a formality, as well as any sense of urgency or responsibility. Just biding their time until retirement. Not to say that they don't exist in the private sector, but I think it would be less tolerated. I may be wrong though. I just don't think that private firms have the patience/money/resources to allow for that. I'm pretty sure if some of my associates acted as unprofessionally here as they would in a private sector job, they wouldn't last very long. Bottom line, I just think it's a lot easier to identify who you're customer is in the private sector rather than the public sector. Some in the public sector don't think they have customers, and it's frustrating to see.
 
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