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Competitive for a Masters + other thoughts/comments/questions ?


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Hey everyone, I've been considering an MUP/MURP/MCP (whichever the school prefers) for a while now and keep coming back to it as a goal. Alternatively, I've considered MPP programs, and MPA programs, as well as the combination of both. I'll be graduating in 2022, and plan to take a couple of years between graduation and matriculation.

Undergraduate major: Political Science & Public Policy @ a small no-name public university.
Relevant Coursework: I've taken quite a few policy courses with some low-level economics coursework, I have a little knowledge of GIS (enough to have done a few projects with it), and some brief experience with R and Python.
Undergraduate GPA: Somewhere between a 3.6 and a 3.7, since I still have a few classes before graduation, I'm in the honors fraternity and have made the dean's list every semester but in Spring 2020 when classes went P/F. GPA is being brought down by low transfer grades.
GRE: Haven't taken it yet.
Work Experience: I've been working for the state government, not related to planning at all, for 3 years currently. Will be 6-7 by the time I start grad school. I know how the public sector works, even though I'm not in the field. I know the conflicts between the union and the management team and I know that the managers coming from the private sector have lists of changes unable to be implemented. I assume these still apply for planning/policy positions. We just don't deal with the public at all where I'm at.
Internship Experience: Being a poli sci/pub pol student, I have a lot of stereotypical experience (Political campaign, Worked for Senator, Worked for county's political party chapter). But I also interned for a local non-profit and digitized their mapping system into a usable GIS map for their website. And I interned for a local development firm that does LIHTC projects as well as historical revitalization.

Why planning?
Well, I'm overly interested in housing policy and issues surrounding homelessness and affordable, equitable housing. So, I'd like to focus on housing/community development, but I'd also be open to economic development. Coming from public policy, I'm really interested in how we make this happen. I know it's largely done by those in political power but I have no interest in working in practical politics, I have enough friends interested in that. I don't believe I'm disillusioned as to what is/isn't possible from the public sector, it's just where I believe I'd like to work long-term.

The only thing I'm having trouble with is deciding between a policy degree/job focusing on social policy, or planning focusing on community development. I don't know which provides better prospects/stability for the future, though I think they're related enough to possibly be interchangeable? I don't know for sure. I'm still looking at programs to apply to, so any suggestions that seem to match my background/interests are appreciated. I'm also considering applying to a mixture of MUP and MPP (with focus on urban policy) programs.

I’m currently in the Midwest, but I’d like to go East, potentially settling in VA/NC, but open to pretty much everywhere.

Honestly, any advice/criticism/critique is appreciated about my prospects, the field, my disillusionment, etc.

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  • 4 months later...

Wondering the same thing here: trying to decide between a masters in planning versus master of public policy/admin.

As you indicated, seems to be some overlap in these fields.

I've noticed at some schools mpp/mpa is one year but the planning degrees (at least straight from undergrad) are always two years. Not sure if these means planning is a more valuable degree or just a more expensive/time consuming one. 

Did you ever get any opinions elsewhere on which might have better job/career prospects? Or which program is harder to get into?

Due to good GPA, would probably prefer the degree that's more competitive to get an admissions offer, on the theory it might make the degree more valuable. But really have no idea.

Any insight would be great!

.

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9 hours ago, Making other plans said:

Wondering the same thing here: trying to decide between a masters in planning versus master of public policy/admin.

As you indicated, seems to be some overlap in these fields.

I've noticed at some schools mpp/mpa is one year but the planning degrees (at least straight from undergrad) are always two years. Not sure if these means planning is a more valuable degree or just a more expensive/time consuming one. 

Did you ever get any opinions elsewhere on which might have better job/career prospects? Or which program is harder to get into?

Due to good GPA, would probably prefer the degree that's more competitive to get an admissions offer, on the theory it might make the degree more valuable. But really have no idea.

Any insight would be great!

.

Bottom line is that if what you want to do involves getting your hands dirty with the complexities of zoning and architecture requirements, you should get an MUP and the like. If you want to focus on impact evaluation and or bigger picture policy matters, then an MPP makes sense. 

You can obviously attack the social issues regarding urban planning with both, but each degree lends towards different jobs. 

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9 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Bottom line is that if what you want to do involves getting your hands dirty with the complexities of zoning and architecture requirements, you should get an MUP and the like. If you want to focus on impact evaluation and or bigger picture policy matters, then an MPP makes sense. 

You can obviously attack the social issues regarding urban planning with both, but each degree lends towards different jobs. 

Thanks for your reply! Speaking as someone who'd be happy in either the hands on or the bigger picture role: which one do you think has more job openings? 

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3 minutes ago, Making other plans said:

Thanks for your reply! Speaking as someone who'd be happy in either the hands on or the bigger picture role: which one do you think has more job openings? 

The "hands on stuff" is actually way more lucrative and less competitive. This is because people have an aversion to the nitty gritty of zoning and city planning since it is not "sexy stuff". Additionally, you can readily pivot to construction development (to a certain extent), if you get bored of public sector/public-private venture stuff. The "bigger picture" stuff is more exciting to talk about at dinner parties and delivers social cache, so everyone jumps into that and the pay generally is not that great. Also, you would have to compete with the JDs and everyone else who are "passionate" about the topic - which is a lot. 

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2 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

The "hands on stuff" is actually way more lucrative and less competitive. This is because people have an aversion to the nitty gritty of zoning and city planning since it is not "sexy stuff". Additionally, you can readily pivot to construction development (to a certain extent), if you get bored of public sector/public-private venture stuff. The "bigger picture" stuff is more exciting to talk about at dinner parties and delivers social cache, so everyone jumps into that and the pay generally is not that great. Also, you would have to compete with the JDs and everyone else who are "passionate" about the topic - which is a lot. 

This is very helpful. Thanks very much!!

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