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Old 01-13-2014, 08:50 PM
 
4 posts, read 6,036 times
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Hello,

I'm considering going back to school for a planning masters and then potentially a degree in urban design most likely. I have always had an interest in cities, buildings, development, etc. I may be doing the degree in the US or potentially Europe (UK). I have some questions which are important in helping me to decide if the career is right for me.

I am wondering what is the difference in typical days and projects between the public and private sectors? My goal would be to work in a planning consultancy. I do not have too much interest in government and politics which is why I'd prefer to be in the private sector rather than city government. That is one of the aspects that is not appealing to me. Also, how hard is it to get a job in the private sector straight from school?

How much creativity is there in planning, especially in a consultancy? Does it come close to the level of creativity available in other fields such as urban design or marketing? Honesty is appreciated as I'm interested to know how creative the field is which is important for me.

What do roles in urban design involve for people without an architectural degree. Are they primarily research/writing policy roles rather than actual sketching/CAD/Masterplanning? Would you be working with designers and what are some typical duties that are done on any given day.

I'm also considering GIS as career, but I fear it's too computer orientated and technical for me. I assume that is a career involving the computer all day long which I am not sure would be appealing. I have a BA in geography which is the primary reason I am looking at it. Which is he better career path overall, pros/cons, salary, etc?

What are the typical salaries in planning/urban design in a major East Coast US metro or European City at entry level and again after 10 or 15 years experience? Do planners typically progress to management roles in consultancies that bring higher salaries?

Thank You
A.

Last edited by towers001; 01-13-2014 at 09:11 PM..
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Old 01-13-2014, 09:56 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,954,341 times
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I don't think there's much of a point in getting a masters in planning then another degree in urban design. Just do a masters in urban design. I have a MURP and have been working in planning/development for 15 years and, IMO, a degree in Urban Design or Landscape Architecture would be a lot more marketable especially at the entry and mid-levels and especially if you want to work in the private sector.

In my experience, having worked on both sides, there's a bit more stability with public sector jobs - lower pay but slightly better perks and a more even keeled work pace. When I was in the public sector we had always had 3 month, 6 month, 1 year project schedules, etc. I say there's a bit more stability. You get a mayor or governor who knows everything and hates "socialism" your job will be the first to go - especially if you're new.

In the private sector it's feast or famine and you could spend more time responding to RFPs than actually working on a project. It's been a really tough 5 years for a lot of people. The work is ultimately driven by the real estate market and that's highly cyclical (and fickle). The more you're willing to move around the better you'll be able to keep yourself busy and to advance your career. Take learning another language seriously and get your feet wet with a few others. If this last decade was about China (and they look like the recession is catching up with them) I think the next one will be about South America.

How much you make really depends on your specific skill set, the kind of market you're graduating into and what aspect of planning you want to be in. It also depends on what city/country you're living in. Your starting pay will be much higher in the Bay Area vs. a small town in TN. Here in Australia planning pays well because there's high demand and not a lot of domestic students studying it. In the US/Canada not so much. Things are changing slowly but it's still awfully difficult for graduate planners to find work. 7 or 8 years ago you probably would've graduated into a job paying in the high $40s in the private sector. Who knows now. Only the public sector jobs post a salary and it's generally in the low $40s.

There's a powerful element in the US right now who think that paying for infrastructure is bad. What they don't realize is that it drives the rest of the economy and since that economy is global, capital isn't going to waste its time investing in a place where things may or may not get built. I guess what I'm saying is, "follow the money." If you're a young coder living in Romania and you really want to make something of your career you're going to try your hardest to get to Paris or London or Palo Alto. If you're really into the design aspect of planning then you really need to go where that's happening. Otherwise you'll be toiling away in obscurity trying to make the bike paths and train stations of Houston look less ugly.
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Old 01-14-2014, 07:17 AM
 
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This is less about "paying for Infrastructue is bad" than the simple fact that the economic melt down that happened becuase of the housing bubble decimated both the private sector jobs in planning / urban design (generally the SAME degree...) as well as the ability for municipalities to pay for such staff. There are lots and lots of folks that worked for architectural firms, consultancies, and government offices that have seen their career prospects vanish. It is extremely difficult for experinced people to find work and new graduates are in massive oversupply. Even for licensed professional engineers and architects, the ranks of which are much more highly regulated, there are far fewer jobs than before the bubble burst.
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Old 01-14-2014, 06:50 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,954,341 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
This is less about "paying for Infrastructue is bad" than the simple fact that the economic melt down that happened becuase of the housing bubble decimated both the private sector jobs in planning / urban design (generally the SAME degree...) as well as the ability for municipalities to pay for such staff. There are lots and lots of folks that worked for architectural firms, consultancies, and government offices that have seen their career prospects vanish. It is extremely difficult for experinced people to find work and new graduates are in massive oversupply. Even for licensed professional engineers and architects, the ranks of which are much more highly regulated, there are far fewer jobs than before the bubble burst.
Yup - it's important that if planning is really the field the OP wants to get into that they keep their options open on a global level and that's especially so if you expect to work in the private sector.

FYI - there are plenty of universities (too many to name here) that offer a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and also offer a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design (or some similar phrasing). While there is some overlap the curriculums are quite different so if Urban Design is really what the OP is interested in then that's the route s/he should go.

The economic meltdown is more broadly known as the GFC or "Global Financial Crisis". The US housing bubble was simply one domino in a (deliberately) poorly constructed financial system with virtually zero firewalls. It also, but not coincidentally, happened after a prolonged period of deliberately declining tax revenue which severely hampered any chances for a quick recovery - and actually only made the situation worse with mass government layoffs. I'm not even talking about it from the perspective of "a planner's gotta work" - when the stuff hit the fan I was driving a truck then managing a restaurant - i'm just talking the big picture here.

Municipalities don't typically build or pay for infra. They might pave the local streets every few years, take care of their libraries and playgrounds - but the bulk of highway, transit, and even streetscape project spending comes from the state and federal levels. In a lot of states these days most arterial roads, libraries, large parks, water, sewer/storm water, etc are managed at the county level.

The US and most states were far from broke. US GDP contracted by about 6% in 2008 and by less than 1% in 2009 and was back above pre-recession levels 2 years after the collapse. This supply side/austerity BS that has been propagated in North America and Europe has been great for the banks and terrible for everyone else and is the only reason that the "recession" will drag into a 7th year on both continents.
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Old 01-16-2014, 08:39 PM
 
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Thanks. I'm wondering what planners trained with a focus on urban design typically do on the job rather than trained architects with a degree in urban design. This is because I don't feel an architecture degree, which seems to be a prerequisite for an urban design degree in the America's, would be in the cards for various reasons. I do notice that some urban design degrees are open to non-design degree holders especially in Europe, but I don't see how that would be useful. I assume in that case the person from the non-design background would probably end up working in a more policy writing or design guideline writing role rather than a sketching/CAD design role, yes?
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Old 05-11-2014, 09:00 PM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,954,341 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by towers001 View Post
Thanks. I'm wondering what planners trained with a focus on urban design typically do on the job rather than trained architects with a degree in urban design. This is because I don't feel an architecture degree, which seems to be a prerequisite for an urban design degree in the America's, would be in the cards for various reasons. I do notice that some urban design degrees are open to non-design degree holders especially in Europe, but I don't see how that would be useful. I assume in that case the person from the non-design background would probably end up working in a more policy writing or design guideline writing role rather than a sketching/CAD design role, yes?
Architects design buildings. Urban designers design the spaces between buildings. A lot of people I know working in design got a masters in landscape architecture so you can think of it that way if you'd like.

You should learn CAD and sketchup anyway (if that's going to be your field) but I don't think coming from a non-design background would hinder you in an urban design masters program as long as you were confident using the programs they wanted you to use. It's all about learning how to look at and use public space in a different way . . . and it's their job to teach you.
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Old 10-10-2014, 06:40 PM
 
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Just curiously - I've been hearing about supposedly strong demand for urban planners but weak demand for architects in the US. If this is true, why the disconnect between the 2 fields?
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Old 10-12-2014, 07:45 AM
 
3,492 posts, read 4,954,544 times
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If you get that degree and some toilet paper....



you can wipe twice.

Welcome to student loan debt. Jobs in urban planning are about nepotism. The degree won't do ANYTHING for you.
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