I’ve been asked variants of this question hundreds of times over the four years I’ve run this tumblr. At this point, I’m moving on from these discussions and I kindly refer readers to the archives.
I also kindly invite mitigation folks to deeply reflect on Kevin Anderson’s work on the realities of emissions, as well as the rhetorical emissions scenarios that politicians and many scientists have bought into. Anderson is the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, a primary source for the world’s climate science.
Importantly, see Kevin Anderson’s deeply important emissions reality lecture, here. As well as the revised lecture, here.
First, check out my advice for students at the bottom of my FAQs page. Please have a look!
Depends on your point of view - are you into theory or developing your career? If you are into developing your career, think of a masters degree as an apprenticeship. Look for schools that offer real world experience - ones that offer you a graduate assistantships or good internships that will place you in a some sort of development office - a city or town’s planning department, economic development office, historic planning association etc.
Once there, work very hard and cleverly to get onto any project in addition to your assigned tasks. For example, if you are assigned to work on updating GIS data (a cauldron of terrible doom, btw), ask to edit the latest economic development report, ask to take pictures of easements, request to take minutes at planning board meetings (you should show up anyway). These experiences will be invaluable later on (you’ll also be ahead of your cohort).
I also recommend working with professors that used to be urban planners and, if you can find out, have funded projects.
Yes! Hit me up and we can chat offline.
Clever, but this is like asking me to be an engineer in addition to being a surgeon. I choose to work on adaptation and I love my work. I work with governments and people in over 30 countries - and I witness improvements in many people’s lives. I’m interested in deepening my expertise, not thinning them out.
This is what I do, from my current CV:
Mr. Michael E. Cote is an international climate adaptation specialist with 12 years’ experience specializing in urban planning, program management, and institutional capacity building. He focuses on managing teams that develop capacity for effective programming and efficient use of climate adaptation techniques and technologies. Mr. Cote has worked with governments, NGOs, universities, and the private sector in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South Asia to create, implement, and build capacity for uptake of modern adaptation mechanisms.
For USAID’s GCC office, Mr. Cote manages the $2.1M High Mountain Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) program, which has attracted climate adaption planning buy-ins from Peru’s Ministry of Environment, Government of Nepal, and the UNDP. He is the Technical Lead for the $650K urban planning technology project called CIMPACT-DST in Vietnam. CIMPACT-DST is a climate adaptation decision making software tool for use by urban planners that a) increases capacity to understand climate impacts and b) aims to lower climate and economic risks to planning and development goals. Mr. Cote also serves as Director of Communications for the overall CCRD contract, managing a team of environmental writers, editors, designers, and videographers.
Mr. Cote has published over 25 technical publications, journal articles, and reports on the laws and policies of climate adaptation, sustainable land use planning, and institutional capacity building. He is currently an editor for The International Journal of Climate Change, member of USAID/GCC’s National Adaptation Plan working group, and was Expert Reviewer on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Working Group II. He is Engility’s focal point to the UNFCCC Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change.
This is a lot of work. It’s difficult and tiring. And I’ve chosen to focus on getting better at it.
I’m into climate adaptation, not mitigation. See FAQs. Cheers, m
Such an interesting question - what are alternative careers other than “urban planning” with an urban planning degree? There are a lot of options. It depends on your interests and your focus area. During my urban planning education at UMass-Amherst, I studied adaptation of coastal cities. But, I gained a lot of real world skills from graduate assistantships and volunteering - survey design (learn this!), historic preservation, economic growth, eminent domain, city park protection, water infrastructure, even apple orchard design, (don’t go into GIS, btw). From there, I became a specialist in adaptation and now I work around the world (OK, it’s not that easy, but I apply what I learned in grad school on a daily basis).
Here’s an interesting job for recent graduate at the BLM $47k to $82k: “Recent Graduate Interdisciplinary (Natural Resources Specialist/Mining Engineer/Geologist”
There are tonnnnns of options for urban planners. I recommend, for your masters, that you latch on to an adviser that has very interesting ideas and projects in the real world. Avoid theorists (unless you want to teach). Protip: get as many graduate assistantships as you can with various city departments - then call them “consultancies” on your resume - you’ll blow your competition away come job hunting time. Oh, and apply for jobs 6 months ahead of your cohort (trust me on this, your cohort will turn on you come graduation and are vicious competitors for the same jobs you’ll be applying to.).
Hope that helps a bit…