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What's a BA to do?

Job search season has begun! I will be graduating next May with a BA in History, minor in City Planning, and significant coursework in Environmental Studies and Geography (including GIS). But, I'm afraid that that won't be nearly enough to get a job in the field. I have a good GPA, many relevant courses (including project-based ones), but no direct work experience.

I know I need a Masters to advance as a Planner but I cannot afford it right now. My rationale was that if I worked for a year before applying, I could save up some money for Grad. school, gain more experience (which might lead to a better financial package), and spare myself at least a portion of the burdensome debt I will likely accumulate.

What are your perspectives as Planning professionals? How did you gain experience if you did not go directly to the Masters?

For those of you who have had experience making hiring decisions, how can I make myself stand out? I have seen a few positions for which I *am* qualified (MA not required, work experience not required) but I wonder if BAs are even being considered for them in this tight job market.

I have been looking at a wide range of planning jobs - from government-level planning to non-profits with planning-type interests, to work with consultants. As I get closer to graduation, I will have to start looking at non-planning jobs - and hope that I can find that "ideal" job later down the line.

I appreciate your thoughts on this subject.

Think internship

I graduated with a bachelor's in Pol. Sci. and then got a paid internship at a local county govt. to pay my grad school bills. The internship did not pay well ($9-10) an hour -- but it helped with school bills and it also gave me 18 months of planning experience.

It was not easy to go to grad school and work full time, but it pays off in the end --


Cyburbian Plus
Hi Kim

I graduated from UNCG in 97 with a geography and poli sci degree. i dont have my masters and dont plan to get one in planning nor do i plan to get AICP at any point (*i think its BS but thats another story*)

My advice as someone who has hired and let folks go, someone who has had jobs etc.

get an internship
you will learn more in an internship than you can learn in a classroom. its the best thing i ever did and gives you a foot in when the folks you are interning for look to fill an opening.

I think Greensboro is about to be looking for an entry level planner and they look for folks right out of college.

net work, get to know folks and do the "dirty work" it will pay off in the end and you will see just what its like to be a planner for a gov *assuming that is what you want to do* Please do this before you go to gradschool and blow money-be SURE you want to be a planner.

Email me offlist if you like and ill be happy to help you with stuff in NC



Cyburbian Emeritus
PlannerGirl is right - as an entry level planner you'll need hefty intern experience in order to get noticed. The Masters isn't important for a few years.

Zoning Goddess

Our organization wanted to downgrade several positions (too top-heavy) and bring in entry-level planners. The problem has been finding entry-level planners who will work for entry-level salaries.
I agree that you probably don't need a master's at this time. But when you do go for it, try to be situated with an employer who will pick up the tab for tuition and books.


Its all good... advise, but also don't put off graduate school too long. Getting back in the school mode and finding the time for school later is not easy. Been there, done that...

Put together a killer resume, polish your interviewing skills, and chase every job lead like a hungry dog. If your interest and energy lies in urban planning, that's what you should showcase. The fact that you didn't major in planning and don't hold a bachelors in it is a stumbling block. But, if you demonstrate energy and determination, that's what will come through to an employer and can help compensate for lack of a formal degree.

I'd get out and start interviewing people--even if there isn't a job offer on the table. Write to planning directors or planners that are doing work you're interested in, and schedule a meeting with them. This kind of networking can be invaluable in a job search. You get to know people in the field (and they get to know you), learn more about the profession and what areas you might be interested in, and improve your interview skills.

Or, grad schools start taking applications in the spring... :)

Good Luck!


Congratulations on your educational achievements. However, in general I think that many college graduates are a bit short sighted when looking for that dream job with a huge salary and benefit package right out of school. I, like the others posting to this thread, strongly encourage you to get an internship. In fact, I am amazed that your degree program did not require one.

Speaking from a strictly public sector perspective, most local units of government have closed systems. That is they generally look within when hiring people for key positions. That does not necessarily mean that they look to promote existing employees but rather look to people with whom they have an existing relationship at some level.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. I graduated with a B.S. degree in Community and Regional Planning from a non--accredited degree program. During my second semester I was offered a paying internship with a local consulting firm. From there I made a couple of bad career moves and to make a long story short, found myself working for a Soil and Water Conservation District doing work that I was over-qualified for and being paid less that I was worth. However, that job put me in a position to develop a working relationship with the Board of Supervisors in the County for which I now work. When I was offered the job by the County, there was no interview or any of that other stuff. It was simply, "how much money will it take to get you here and how soon can you start?"

The moral of the story is this: plan your career like you would a project at work. Look beyond the short term gains to the long term benefits. Get yourself into a position that will allow you to meet and get to know as many people relevant to your career path as you can find. And finally, network like there is no tomorrow. You never know what relationship or contact will lead to that "dream job" you have been looking for.