So you want to be an urban planner? Or perhaps you want to finally get your Masters degree? Great news, there's plenty of solid urban planning schools out there that will teach you the theory behind best practices in urban planning. That being said, there are a number of factors you should consider before picking your grad school alma mater. These are the things I wish someone told me...
Planning Accreditation Board (PAB)...accreditation
First and foremost, if you want to be a professional urban planner and be competitive early in your career for top jobs, you're going to want to rank urban planning schools that are PAB accredited higher on your list. PAB accredited programs are held to the highest standards in urban planning education. Also, graduation from one of these urban planning schools will make you eligible to sit for the AICP exam right after graduation with the new AICP Candidate Pilot Program. Graduates from non-PAB programs need to wait at least three years before being eligible to sit for the exam. Click to see Planning Peeps' Top PAB urban planning programs.
dual degree programs in MPA or JD
What's better than one graduate degree? That's right, two degrees completed simultaneously. There are many programs out there that offer dual programs in MURP/MCRP and Masters in Public Administration or Juris Doctorate. If you want to set yourself up nicely for future options and marketability, select a school that offers a dual degree program and make the most of it!
service learning opportunities
The urban planning graduate program that you select should have service learning courses to expose you to real-world applications of the craft. Whether it is a specific planning project for a municipality, or perhaps working toward improving access to healthy food and healthcare in LI-LA areas, these experiences are critical in not only giving back to a community but also keep you driven to making a difference in the world!
strength of internship pipelines
As a budding urban planning professional, you will need real-world experience. Firstly because it will be required and secondly because you will need to find out quickly whether planning is for you. That being said, the urban planning graduate program that you select should have good contacts and pipelines for planning internships. If the planning program doesn't have good contacts or relations with area municipalities and firms, then you might check out a different school.
job placement rate
Yes, it will be incumbent upon you to get your first job out of grad school. However, you will want to definitely find out where previous graduates from the program are and how many are employed in planning within the first year. This will serve as an indicator of both the perception of the planning program as well as how important placement is to the program. If you get a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ from the program chair, then reconsider attending that program.
AICP exam pass rate
Like job placement, AICP pass rate is largely an individual's responsibility. That being said, the ability to pass the AICP exam on your first try at the end of your degree program or within two years of graduation says a lot about the program, warranted or not. It is worth asking the graduate chair how their grads fair in passing the AICP. If its not good, then that may be something to consider in making your urban planning graduate program selection.
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