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Hi all,

I'm an international relations major who speaks a few lesser-known languages with several years in management consulting under my belt, and I'm planning to apply to urban planning/public policy programs this fall. I'd like my classes to have a strong international focus as well as give me a solid understanding of quantitative (statistics) skills and technical (GIS, data management, data visualization using R, Python, etc) skills, as I didn't get these in undergrad either because they didn't mesh with my qualitative studies or were too stovepiped at the time in the engineering/math departments to be widely applied to political science/international development. 

I've considered a public policy master's, but urban planning seemed like a great fit for my creative interests in design and interests in working on international issues where my language and cultural knowledge could be put to use. Sound logical, or too romanticized for someone with no experience in the urban planning field beyond some GIS work? 

Beyond grad school, I'd like to be competitive at either an international development group in the private sector (tech startup?), international finance (World Bank), or NGO sector. Here's my list of schools: 


Harvard HKS/GSD

Columbia GSAPP/SIPA (Urban Studies concentration)


And a few others with less of an explicit Urban Planning emphasis: 

Tufts Fletcher

UChicago Harris/Computational Analysis

A few questions on both grad schools and careers: 
1) Any schools I'm missing that I should check out? I've heard the Ivies may not be as important with their brand-name as say for business schools, but the programs look interesting. I'd like to be in a major city for networking purposes as well as to get some exposure to local infrastructure/planning programs, even though I don't see myself working in local or state government long-term. This list was also put together to give me the most flexibility in terms of career options in the field. 

2) What are some urban planning jobs outside of local or state government that do work or plan internationally? I'm aware of a few civil engineering or international development groups like AECOM or Louis Berger, but welcome any other suggestions. 

Thanks for any advice you can provide!

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@matt99 I work in the planning department of  boutique architectural/structural engineering consultancy that is globally prominent. In my experience, project time tables and budgets trump creativity almost every time. This dynamic increasingly impacts the performance metrics of team mates who handle projects related to management and operations consulting. Moreover, if you end up at a firm that is dominated by engineers either contemporaneously or historically, silos can be everywhere, "creative" can come across as "weirdo," and opportunities for upward advancement can be limited.

However, based upon the way things are going with "big data," you may have ample opportunities to show your creativity via data visualization. 

Your linguistic skills may help you get a job and a subsequent assignment to a regional office abroad. If such is the case, you will want to make sure you understand how business is done in that country so that you can manage your expectations and not get blindsided by cultural sensibilities. 

I recommend that you do additional research on firms that do the kind of work you imagine, offer the types of jobs you'd want, and have offices near schools you'd like to attend. Then, you'd be in a good position to apply for summer internships. Please note that competition for such internships has greatly intensified. Before the recession our interns were generally collegians entering their junior or senior years. Now, most interns have a master's degree.


Edited by Sigaba

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Take this with a grain of salt, as my work experience is rather at the cheap and dodgy edge of this, but there is an ecosystem - albeit not a huge one - of international development/urban planning work. Theres the multilaterals themselves, ie the World Bank itself but also it's various little cousins, like the EBRD (which says Europe on the tin but also works a lot in central Asia and Northern Africa), ADB, IADB, etc, as well as UN HABITAT and occassionally other bits of the UN amoeba that dabble in planning - UNDP has its projects in things like urban governance capacity building (although I know at least one project they funded that was straight up small-scale placemaking) and UNHCR has an interest in projects to do with stuff like physical planning of refugee camps and urban policies of migrant absorption, etc. They hire people.

BUT, what mostly happens is that many of the banks in particular farm this stuff out to consultants and firms of various sizes, and the UN likes to go through NGOs. (And there's big national aid organizations, like USAID or DFID, which do both. And big NGOs (Oxfam, Mercy Corps, whomever, etc) sometimes contract out to firms or consultants to do relevant research or program design for them...etc, etc, etc.) There's giant ones like ARUP or Atkins that do all sorts of civil engineering, architecture and planning projects all over, and there's little three-person firms with niche expertise in, say, housing policy in developing countries. And the pinnacle of success (I guess? The money is good anyway, I think) is independent consultants who flit in and out of these kinds of projects depending on what they can get. And there are a few NGO's the specifically work in development/urban planning - take a look at WRI, for example. They also all hire people. 

So there is work out there. An MA in urban planning is not a bad start (being in more or less the same boat, I at least like to think so) especially coupled with languages, but like anything in development, the crux is gaining relevant international field experience. Coming in with an architecture or civil engineering degree might be easier, since urban planning tends to put you in the big boat of good generalists without specific technical skillsets, but probably not as bad as an IR masters or something. A strong GIS foundation might be helpful in getting a foot in the door, just - i've been told, as someone with good GIS skills - be careful not to become "the GIS guy (well, girl)", because then you easily become basically another part of the IT department. 

If you're really nuts about this, one interesting guide would be to rifle through the World Bank procurements database. It is one of the most horrible websites you'll ever meet, but it shows you who's winning commissions from the WB on different projects. Look under categories like environmental assessments, transportation, housing, governance, WASH. See who those firms are and what kind of education or experience they look for. 

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i want to know about funding issues in urban planning in canada universities like ryerson,simon fraser,mcgill and ..

is it possible to take a fully-funded course in urban planning?

if it is possible,what 're the eligibility conditions for applicants to take full-fund?

by the way, I 'll be accounted an international student and should submit TOEFL score

Thank You all

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