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Almost all City Planners have a master's degree in city planning, urban planning, environmental planning, some variation of that name, but not everyone comes to their masters program with a background or a bachelor's degree in city planning. Generally the requirement is just that you have to have a bachelor's degree. A lot of times people do have something related to urban planning as their bachelor's degree. So, a geography degree, a community development degree, economics, sociology, environmental science. These are all things that actually do prepare you for an urban planning graduate program. The graduate program I attended required that between our first and second year of grad school that we complete a two month internship and that was really valuable. I was able to secure a paid internship at Oregon Metro, which is Portland, Oregon's Metro Regional Government and I worked on a climate change report there. Throughout my two years at graduate school was employed by an organization called the Institute For Environmental Negotiation and that was the first experience I had with outreach on sea level rise issues. We worked in coastal Virginia and talked to people about their experiences with coastal flooding. Those are valuable things to look our for when you look at a graduate program is what kind of resources do they have to support students, grow, and build their resume before they go into the city planning world. So, I'm really grateful for my, really two internships that I had during grad school. I don't think that I would have the job I have today without those experiences. I had a couple of years after grad school where I was really searching for the right job. I was offered a fellowship with NOAA in Washington, the state of Washington but, my husband suggested that he would not move with me if I took that fellowship because it only paid 32,000 dollars a year and that was just too much for him to consider leaving a job that he had that was well paying. So, I turned down that opportunity, even though it would have been working on coastal resiliency issues and that was really hard. I am fortunate that the organization I worked with throughout grad school offered me a full time job. So, the Institute for Environmental Negotiation offered me a job managing a program for environmental leaders in the state of Virginia and it was a really great job. It paid about 42,000 dollars a year. It was not, however, an urban planning job. So, it was a lot of like logistics, and coordinating, and organizing, and finding speakers, et cetera. I do think that was actually really valuable in the end because as part of my work as a city planner I, you know, need to do a little bit of meeting logistics, workshop preparation, and those kinds of skills that I learned in the year and a half after grad school, ended up being really valuable. But I saw the job I have today on actually, an online job search platform, I was typing city planner, city planning technician, resiliency planner, flooding planner, like all these different terms and I saw the posting for, it was actually for a flood resilience city planning technician at the New York City department of City Planning and I saw that and it sounded perfect. I was asked to be interviewed for the job, however, I was in Virginia and the job is in New York and city governments typically don't fly people out for interviews. I don't actually know of any, there might be some, though. They didn't offer to fly me out and I wasn't feeling in a financial position to fly myself up here. So, I actually interviewed over the phone. I interviewed once, the first time it went really well, they then called my references and my boss said really glowing things about me, which was really great and then, I sensed that maybe they were picking between a couple of candidates because they called for a second interview which I now know is unusual they typically only have one, one hour, interview session. I did a follow up, half hour, forty-five minute phone interview and the following week I was told I didn't get the job. That was really devastating because I thought, this is my perfect job, if I can't get my perfect job, what am I? You know, what am I doing? A couple a days after they told me that I didn't have the job they called to actually offer me the job. That was a little strange, but it turned out that their other, the other person that they had chosen for the position fell through, that person already lived in New York City, and so, I think it was easier for them to offer that person the job because that person could start right away, they had met that person face to face, and there was, they were just more comfortable. I think it's really unfortunate that, it came down to, it almost came down to me not being able to be there in person for the reason that I didn't get the job. Governments and non profits typically don't have the budget to fly people out for an interview so if you're really interested in a job, if you think this might be your perfect job, which I'm not sure that there is such a thing, but if it's the job that excites you, and that you think you might really enjoy, if I had to do it over again and if I did this in the future, I would fly myself out for an interview. When employers are hiring City Planners, of course they're looking, usually for a masters degree in city planning. The other skill sets that they're looking for are generally a familiarity with ArcGIS which is a computer software to map data. City planners also need to be able to understand those maps, to understand the spacial display of information, you know, how different information is distributed across neighborhoods and what that means, what the disparity or change of information means across neighborhoods. So, that's actually something that almost all City Planners know how to utilize is this ArcGIS platform or another mapping computer platform. Typically, as a City Planner, when you're starting out you are trying to find your niche in the world of City Planning. You're trying to find out really what interests you and what you're good at. Maybe you're interested in environmental planning, but are you more interested in the project management side or the community outreach side, or the analysis side, that's something I think you learn in your first job. Over time, you might be promoted to different positions depending on what your skills set is. There's very obvious ways to be promoted in government from City Planner I, to City Planner II, to City Planner III, and so forth, but if you want to move beyond government, you might work for a private company. You would make more money most likely, your title could be any variety of things. Project Manager, Project Director, Assistant Vice President, all these different titles that, you basically, they're not always clear what the promotional titles are for City Planner. So, you kind of have to discern by reading the job description, by talking to people, whether or not it's a good fit for you. I think most City Planners do end up working for the government and staying working for the government. That's something that really draws City Planners is the prospect of serving their communities. However, there are better salary prospects if you looked toward city planner jobs in the private world, and that might be working for, like, an international building or development firm that works on large scale planning projects. They might work on large scale city plans to support a city that doesn't quite have its own urban planning staff to complete a project. They might do environmental analysis that the city doesn't have the technical staff for. So, a lot of times, private firms are, end up actually supporting the city, or they're supporting a developer in their work. And, the salary prospects at a private firm are much more lucrative. They work, probably, longer hours than I do at the city government, but eventually at a private firm you might make 125,000 or 150,000 dollars a year. Especially as you get more senior in the role. In my ideal world, I would continue working on climate change planning issues in perpetuity. There aren't always job opportunities available to support that work. So, I'm not sure what the future prospects are for someone working specifically as a resiliency planner. I think I can carry my skills set to any number of other jobs that I would also really enjoy as long as I'm interfacing with he public in my work I think I'll be really happy.
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