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Switching to planning, mid-career.

boo

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20
Points
2
this question may seem silly at first but here it goes: at what point did everyone know that they wanted to take the plunge and study urban planning/policy studies/urban design? if anyone has switched to planning mid-career i would really be interested in the motivations or the overall experience. was it what you expected?

some background on me: i have been in my current career for 6 years; i have a computer science degree that has served me well and i have a good position with a company here in detroit. last year, i took one semester of master's-level urban planning classes and i really liked it. i have always been interested in planning-related topics (especially sprawl, transit and traditional neighborhood design) and continue to study planning at home, on my own time. i guess i am scared to jump full-on into planning, considering my current situation is comfortable, if not 100% fulfilling. maybe i don't know enough about what "a day in the life of a planner" is really like. maybe i don't want to deal with the challenges of jumping into something that is so foreign from what i do now. and i certainly don't want to invest so much in school until i get my head straight!

any insight appreciated. thanks all! d.
 

SGB

Cyburbian
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3,388
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26
Aside from immersion in these forums (All Hail Our Great Leader!), another good way to learn more about what planners do is to meet some in your area.

Call some up from the private and public (local, regional, state) sectors, and ask for some time to discuss the profession and their work. Informational interviews rock!

Also, check out the action (or lack thereof) at your local and regional planning boards.
 

PlannerByDay

Cyburbian
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1,827
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24
SGB said:
Also, check out the action (or lack thereof) at your local and regional planning boards.
WHAT?? you want to become a planner?? :-c

No actually I enjoy my job.
I was going to make the same suggestion as SGB, Go to some local planning commission meetings and Zoning Board meetings. This will allow you to get an idea of what kinds of issues the community is facing and throught the discussions at these meetings you learn more about the "job" of planner. HA HA

There have been tons of threads on Cyburbia regarding all aspects of planning, AICP, Education, Internships, the Daily Grind, Night Meetings, Public vs Private planning, on and on. So some searches and I'm sure in one thread or another you will find lots of good, great and not so good info.

Good luck in your decision. There are lots of planners on Cyburbia from Michigan including myself.

BTW, Welcome to the Fourm
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
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25,796
Points
61
You're not the only one.
Started Grad School after 30.
Did not get the job I have now until I was 35.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
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5,443
Points
34
I was sort of mid career. I was working for a county park system and my position was eliminated. I was going through a divorce at the time, and was going to get a masters in environmental studies. I was helping a PHD student with a PASCAL class we were in and he suggested the planning program. The rest is history
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
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13,852
Points
39
Interviewing planners is a great idea. Be sure you check out the many different aspects of planning, such as comprehensive vs. current planning, resource planning, transportation planning, etc. I was a Geography major and worked in resource policy issues, then managed a bookstore for 5 years. I found my niche at the age of 29 when I got a job in zoning/land use and loved it. But it's not for everyone. Now I'm a recreational trails planner and it's great fun.
 

boo

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20
Points
2
thanks for the responses everyone- maybe i will check out some local planning board meetings (never thought of that one!) sometimes you just need some other folk to wake you up to the obvious.
 

teshadoh

Cyburbian
Messages
435
Points
13
For those that had a family & grown up responsibilities that had a mid career switch, did you have any financial difficulties picking back up? I'm a GIS Analyst, & for a 32 year old I don't mind saying I make good money. But I've always had a hankering to be an urban planner but for whatever reason I never did it. I've considered getting a master's, but frankly, I'm a lazy person. But also, that monetary transition scares me - entry level pay? Who, moi?
 

otterpop

Cyburbian
Messages
6,655
Points
28
I too came to Planning later in life. Sort of by the backdoor. I went back to school and bounced around a few departments - teaching, history, biology, and geography - trying to find a good fit and one that offered the possibility of employment. Given my poor math skills, I opted out of hydrology and biology. Geography was the only science with a lower math expectation, and planning seems like a discipline in geography with a good employment probability. So here I am.

I like the work, working for the government, doing good works and helping people. Like every planner, there are good days and bad days. But in all it is a good way to make a living.
 

bmoore81

Member
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19
Points
1
Well first I went to school for Dance, then I started economics, then i got this internship at a center for sustainable suburban development, and was around people who are well respected in the UC system in planning and econ, so I am now going to UCLA for planning. Thats how it hit me.
 
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Well, I am 39 and I have a lengthy previous career in Pro Bono work (aka I volunteered a lot) and as a Domestic Goddess (which sounds better than the reality: domestic slave). Since my present homemaker's salary and benefits include zero money, a future ex-husband, and a ton of debts, any pay will be a step up. :-D :p

How I got to my Decision: I became a homeowner of a fixer-upper at a fairly young age (26 or 27) and put a lot of Sweat Equity into it (cuz I didn't have money) and later rented it out when we moved to another state. Years later, I was in school trying to lock in my ancient college credits by completing an A.A. and I took an online class called Environmental Biology. Two days before class began, I perused the website to see what I was getting into. I immediately had 50% of the solution to the class project that was assigned in place of a final exam. I kind of figured all homemakers wanted a solar home to save on electricity costs (cuz I am so cheap and never had money) and wanted to compost and generally Save The World simply cuz they had kids. But apparently not. Looking back on my cherished experiences as a homeowner and landlord, I decided I wanted to pursue a career having something to do with the built environment. By the end of the semester, I had narrowed it down to wanting a Master's in Planning and a bachelor's in some kind of environmental studies program as background. Later that year I discovered SimCity and had the epiphany that I desperately needed training in GIS as well.

The following year I detoured into medical h*ll and therefore, although I now have my certificate in GIS, I am still working on my Bachelor's degree. :-} :-0 But I am happy with the program I am in and I do go to planning-related meetings in my county sometimes, etc. I haven't made any changes to my plans content-wise, only time-line wise. :)
 

monkeyflower

Cyburbian
Messages
58
Points
4
boo said:
some background on me: i have been in my current career for 6 years; i have a computer science degree that has served me well and i have a good position with a company here in detroit. last year, i took one semester of master's-level urban planning classes and i really liked it. i have always been interested in planning-related topics (especially sprawl, transit and traditional neighborhood design) and continue to study planning at home, on my own time. i guess i am scared to jump full-on into planning, considering my current situation is comfortable, if not 100% fulfilling.
I didn't really change careers mid-life, since I went almost straight from undergrad to a planning master's program, but I did come from a computer engineering undergrad. As far as I can tell, planning departments love (or love/fear?) computer types; you'll be well placed to run circles around people both in school and after.

I came to planning when, in my last year of undergrad, I was trying to figure out where I wanted to get my PhD in computer science. I was specializing in artificial intelligence at the time, and the problems I was interested in were route-finding and scheduling problems. I didn't even know planning existed before I started looking into those problems and found transportation planning. Went to my friendly neighborhood planning school (right across the street from engineering, here at Michigan) to ask, "Hey, what's this planning thing?" Spent an hour each talking to the department chair and a transportation professor, who recommended Jane Jacobs. Me = hooked.

I took planning classes during my last semester, took a year and a half off, and decided during that time that I really didn't care about, say, a PhD in computer science + masters in planning; I just wanted to do planning. I've just finished my first semester as a real actual planning grad student, still at Michigan. I always found CS kind of soulless--in planning it seems like you at least get issued a soul and have the choice of whether or not to sell it again. Of course, that opportunity to have a soul comes at about a 2/3 pay cut, relative to my friends who stayed in coding, but I'm happy with that choice.

If you want to be involved in planning, but don't want to switch careers, you could try to get yourself on a local planning commission--if you live in a small town/township near Detroit, and not in Detroit proper, that might be a realistic option to pursue.

Where did you take planning classes? Wayne?
 
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