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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 2:30 AM
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Ryerson and McGill University Urban Planning Students: Opinions?

Hello to the folks of Skyscraper Page's forum,

I'm trying to make a decision between Ryerson and McGill for their Urban Planning Masters program and I was wondering if anyone here is a current or former student in their program and would be willing to provide some thoughts and feedback.

I've been going through old posts on Urban Toronto, Reddit, and Skyscraper Page's forum looking for discussion. It's there, but some is old and/or discussing Ryerson's undergrad program, so I thought I'd start a new topic.

I've heard good things about both programs and I'm trying to figure out which one fits best with my own personal and professional goals.

I'm interested in urban design, community building, bike shares, and people-based spaces.

Ryerson has a lot of things going for it -- it's centrally-located, downtown, and has a well-reputed program. They also have a few urban design courses and a strong studio focus. The school and the program is a little less well-known than McGill's, but the tradeoff is that there would be a better opportunity for me to find an internship in Toronto and maybe even develop some connections. I'm interested in working for NGOs since that's where my previous and current experience lays and I really enjoy it. I suspect I'll have an easier time making those connections in Toronto.

McGill is a well-known school and has a very well-reputed program. As with Ryerson, I'll be able to network with my classmates and they'll be a valuable resource. Rent and metro pass is cheaper (metro until I'm 25 at least). Unfortunately, the chance of finding an internship in Montreal is basically zilch for me (my French is okay, but not at a working level in Montreal, I suspect) and I would have to move to find work. McGill doesn't have any urban design courses, but one professor has said that it's integrated into the coursework.

Some feedback would be great, especially if some of the pros/cons I've outlined are a bit off. This is just based on what I've researched and people have told me.

Toronto is a good option for networking and job hunting, I think, but a bit more expensive.

Montreal has a well-known school and program, but poor networking and job hunting. French language is a bonus (improve my French!) but also poses a problem (no job opportunities).

Current/ recent grads,

- What did you study? (University, program name, any other details)
- When did you study at the school?
- What was your best experience studying Urban Planning? What really made you enjoy the program?
- Was there anything that really bugged you? Anything you wish you'd known before you started?
- What were the courses like? A lot of readings in the first year and then more projects, or was it balanced? A lot of small assignments vs larger ones?
- Were you able to find work in the field or somewhat related? (Would you mind sharing your position/ positions following the completion of your degree?)
- Follow-up: are there any skills/ tasks/ programs you learned on the job that would have helped you when you were job hunting? Anything I should tackle? I keep hearing that I should dig in to GIS - this may be a good way to get my foot in the door, from what I understand.
- What kind of positions were your classmates able to find?
- Did any of your classmates find positions abroad?
- Did you establish any networks that you rely on/ relied on? Any groups you stay in contact with? (Your graduating class counts - I'm just curious!)
- Was there an opportunity to attend events and get to know people in the field? (I.e., network?) This could include your own personal interests, e.g., Montreal cyclists group

Thanks in advance to anyone who took the time to read this long post and especially thank you to anyone who replies!

Also, feel free to add comments not asked... I just tried to put some things down that I think most folks might be able to answer!

Edit: I'm specifically looking into Ryerson and McGill, but please feel free to comment on any University in Canada. We can start a thread to discuss all of Canada's Urban Planning programs. Please see the Professional Standard Boards' Accredited University Planning Programs in Canada webpage for which schools and programs are accredited in Canada.

Last edited by cloudzebra; Mar 27, 2015 at 1:25 AM. Reason: Opening this up to all programs/ schools
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 3:28 AM
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Didn't MikeToronto graduate from Ryerson's Urban Planning dept?
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 3:36 AM
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^Yes, but he did the 4 year undergrad program and not the Master's. I didn't go to either for my planning degree (was on waiting list at McGill, Ryerson's only had undergrad at the time) but can maybe give a bit of insight tomorrow.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 6:35 AM
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I am about to graduate with a urban design degree but I chose a different path (Canadian undergrad planning program at UQAM, European masters) Unfortunately I don't know anyone who studied in the two programs you mentioned.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 4:39 PM
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I think York U has a masters program too... personally, I don't see the advantage of a Masters in Planning (provided your undergrad is already in Planning).
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 5:03 PM
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Is there a PhD in planning? Post-doc in planning?
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 5:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony View Post
I think York U has a masters program too... personally, I don't see the advantage of a Masters in Planning (provided your undergrad is already in Planning).
Very few people (relatively speaking) do their undergrad in planning, and not too many universities offer it. I think Ontario only has 2 that do (Ryerson and Waterloo), but as a result Ontario actually has way too many planning graduates! A Master's still puts you above that pack and is the preferable route if you want to go into planning policy as opposed to development planning.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 5:13 PM
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Originally Posted by MolsonExport View Post
Is there a PhD in planning? Post-doc in planning?
Apparently there is somewhere... some consultant we deal with often flaunts his PhD (at OMB or whatnot).... but is a complete dipsheet.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 5:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by niwell View Post
Very few people (relatively speaking) do their undergrad in planning, and not too many universities offer it. I think Ontario only has 2 that do (Ryerson and Waterloo), but as a result Ontario actually has way too many planning graduates! A Master's still puts you above that pack and is the preferable route if you want to go into planning policy as opposed to development planning.
I suppose it may for Policy Planning, but I doubt it gives that much of an advantage.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 6:03 PM
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I'm doing my Urban Planning undergrad at the University of Saskatchewan.

At least out west it seems a Masters is only required if you want to work in a Calgary/Vancouver.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 6:29 PM
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Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
I'm doing my Urban Planning undergrad at the University of Saskatchewan.

At least out west it seems a Masters is only required if you want to work in a Calgary/Vancouver.
Couldn't you still work in those cities with the degree and experience?
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 9:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony View Post
I suppose it may for Policy Planning, but I doubt it gives that much of an advantage.

I've been very bluntly told before that I've gotten jobs over other candidates because of my Master's degree. The area where this probably wouldn't be the case is for more technical jobs.

Regardless, many people either don't seem to be aware you can do planning as an undergrad program, or simply aren't that focused coming out of high school. However I have talked to people who did an undergrad at Ryerson followed by a Master's at York or UofT. The main difference is the level of critical planning theory. That's not really Ryerson's strong point to begin with though.
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2015, 9:13 PM
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Originally Posted by niwell View Post
^Yes, but he did the 4 year undergrad program and not the Master's. I didn't go to either for my planning degree (was on waiting list at McGill, Ryerson's only had undergrad at the time) but can maybe give a bit of insight tomorrow.
That would be great, thanks! I've read a bit about the undergrad program here and there, but comments on Ryerson itself, the department, and Ryerson's ability to assist students learning would be great.

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Originally Posted by le calmar View Post
I am about to graduate with a urban design degree but I chose a different path (Canadian undergrad planning program at UQAM, European masters) Unfortunately I don't know anyone who studied in the two programs you mentioned.
No worries! How are you enjoying your post grad in planning?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony View Post
I think York U has a masters program too... personally, I don't see the advantage of a Masters in Planning (provided your undergrad is already in Planning).
It does, but I'm currently deliberating over the two schools I had applied to and was accepted at. I don't have an undergrad in planning and as niwell mentioned, very few get their undergrad in planning. Since it's a professional degree, most do it as a Masters.

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Originally Posted by MolsonExport View Post
Is there a PhD in planning? Post-doc in planning?
McGill offers an ad-hoc PhD in planning. Not sure what you'd do with it if you already had a Masters in planning though. *shrugs*

Quote:
Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
I'm doing my Urban Planning undergrad at the University of Saskatchewan.

At least out west it seems a Masters is only required if you want to work in a Calgary/Vancouver.
From what I understand, a Masters is the norm across Canada. Though I'm sure you could get in to planning with an interest in the field and some previous experience, considering how tough it is to find a job, I'm not planning on risking it. I haven't really come across any jobs that I'd be qualified for.

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However I have talked to people who did an undergrad at Ryerson followed by a Master's at York or UofT. The main difference is the level of critical planning theory. That's not really Ryerson's strong point to begin with though.
That's interesting. I didn't really have any interest in studying at York, but it's interesting to hear how programs compare to one another.
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Old Posted Mar 26, 2015, 2:58 AM
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I did the Waterloo undergrad program but will give my ... Once you get your foot in the door, I don't find that Masters vs Undergrad makes much of a difference... experience is key. I would look at the program that offers the best internship opportunities. GIS is a useful skill and I would take at least one course, but in a larger municipality you have people that will make maps for you. If you want to work in Ontario I would go with Ryerson... for some reason I've met more Dalhousie grads than McGill grads in Ontario, maybe others have a different experience.
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Old Posted Mar 26, 2015, 3:21 AM
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I'm definitely planning on going into a Masters program following completion of my undergrad. I often look up job descriptions for current full-time planning opportunities, and just about all of them ask for a Masters degree in planning, especially the big cities. And like other posters have mentioned, very few schools have undergrad programs for planning.

Maybe this could be turned into a broader "studying urban planning in university" thread?
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Old Posted Mar 27, 2015, 1:23 AM
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Originally Posted by waterloowarrior View Post
I did the Waterloo undergrad program but will give my ... Once you get your foot in the door, I don't find that Masters vs Undergrad makes much of a difference... experience is key. I would look at the program that offers the best internship opportunities. GIS is a useful skill and I would take at least one course, but in a larger municipality you have people that will make maps for you. If you want to work in Ontario I would go with Ryerson... for some reason I've met more Dalhousie grads than McGill grads in Ontario, maybe others have a different experience.
Good point on the internship opportunities. Ryerson's sounds FAR better and they sound a lot more proactive in helping you find an internship. I didn't get that feeling from McGill; it definitely seems as though you have to fend for yourself a lot more, which would be a big challenge if you're trying to find internships in other cities. Even if you speak French, it sounds as though internships are hard to find in Montreal.

It's interesting that you've come across more Dalhousie grads. I've heard good things about their program, too.

I hope to work in Ontario or worldwide; I've always wanted to get out of Canada for a bit, but never could because of the cost. It would be nice to experience a bit more.

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I'm definitely planning on going into a Masters program following completion of my undergrad. I often look up job descriptions for current full-time planning opportunities, and just about all of them ask for a Masters degree in planning, especially the big cities. And like other posters have mentioned, very few schools have undergrad programs for planning.

Maybe this could be turned into a broader "studying urban planning in university" thread?
Yeah, I've never seen any posting that asks for an undergrad, but most do say "or similar/ requisite experience" so I imagine if you've got an undergrad and internships, you're in a good position. An undergrad is also 4 years rather than 2 of schooling, so you'd be learning quite a bit, though not sure how much of those are just your basic 1st and 2nd year mandatory introductory courses.

And sure, I'm certain it could! I think anyone who's studied could probably fill out some of the questions in my original post and indicate what they studied, what level, and where. Ryerson actually offers 4 programs... post-diploma, post-digree, Masters, and Bachelors, so it's good to be specific.
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Old Posted Mar 27, 2015, 2:28 AM
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Similar to Waterlooson said, I don't think I have ever come across a McGill planning grad in my professional experience. I've worked with people from Dal and UBC but not much else outside of Ontario.

I think you nailed most of the points regarding McGill vs. Ryerson. MG is a more prestigious program, and it is certainly harder to get into. You would be likely to learn more critical theory but at the same time may be at a disadvantage for practical experience. I'm not sure what their studio time is like but given that McGill has a separate urban design Master's it could go either way. In terms of internships you are absolutely correct - it's probably very hard, and even harder if you aren't bilingual. Not that it's stopping you from going elsewhere, but that's difficult too. You probably won't get a planning job in Montreal afterwards but have a good degree behind you.

The quality of the Ryerson degree is certainly less in critical theory compared to McGill. It likely makes up for it in studio time and internships. The school has very tight ties with the planning / development community and helps ensure its students do practical work for their internships. This can easily turn into a career after school is done. From my experience it's more likely that Ryerson grads work for developers right after school, and maybe move on after that.

It really depends on what you want. Do you want a planning job in Ontario? Ryerson may be the way to go. But do you want to work for a developer? McGill may give that critical planning theory that allows you into the policy side of planning if you are interested in that. You will have to work harder for your job but you have better credentials, at least at first. After 5 years work experience this doesn't matter really.

Even more pertinent - have you been accepted into both? McGill is hard to get into. I was on the waiting list with good marks after being accepted by Queen's (only 25 students admitted). U of T is similar in that respect. Ryerson is a bit easier and I would have applied if it had existed when I was looking to do my Master's. I settled on York because they gave me money, and it turns out they have a big network in Toronto that helps out. Career-wise I've mostly worked in policy with a few planning positions but I don't regret having a Master's.
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Old Posted Mar 27, 2015, 2:28 AM
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A Master's still puts you above that pack and is the preferable route if you want to go into planning policy as opposed to development planning.
Hmm not so sure about this one...many employers know that an undergrad Planning degree comes with 4-5 years of schooling (5 at Waterloo with co-op), whereas a Masters in Planning is about 2 years of school, and a good portion of which can be self-directed learning (i.e. a thesis). This of course will depend on what the Master grad's previous undergrad degree is in.

If an undergraduate with 5 years of school and co-op paid work experience in Planning is going up against the same job as a Planning Masters grad who has never worked a day in Planning, it's pretty clear who has the one up (again, considering the undergraduate degree the Masters candidate has).
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Old Posted Mar 27, 2015, 2:43 AM
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^That's why I said planning policy as opposed to development planning. You have demonstrated you can achieve in undergrad and beat out tons of candidates to get into a Master's. But yeah - it does depend on your undergrad for sure. Generally it's hard to get into a planning Master's. Almost everyone I've worked with in planning has one, and many in other policy areas. This is in government though - the development sector is a bit different.
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Old Posted Mar 27, 2015, 3:15 AM
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I'm currently finishing up my second year of Ryerson's Undergraduate, feel free to ask me questions.


Keep in mind however that I can only answer Q's about the first two years.
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