Engineering and Planning

I’ve always had somewhat of an internal struggle regarding whether I want to be a planner or an engineer. I graduated from BYU with a bachelors degree in Civil Engineering, but was unsatisfied with a strictly engineering approach to transportation. Engineering methods, while mathematically sound, often seemed theoretically flawed and would ultimately produce unsatisfactory results, mainly because of the inability to fully capture parameters that are not easily quantifiable.

Through popular literature, I began to realize that there was a field known as Urban Planning making powerful arguments that I agreed with in many ways. I knew I was going to grad school, but was unable to decide if I should pursue transportation engineering or urban planning. I never did decide, and so I attended grad school at the University of Minnesota, where you can complete BOTH degrees in only 2.5 years (if you kick your own ass and never sleep).

Well, now I’m graduating once (twice) more, and am again faced with the decision of whether to follow an engineering path or a planning path. In practice, the distinctions between these paths can be slim. Often, planners do some engineering, and engineers do some planning. After all, everything that is planned must also be engineered, and everything that is engineered must first be planned. So perhaps it doesn’t make a lot of difference. But I suspect engineers do a heck of a lot more planning than planners do engineering.

Each path has strengths and weaknesses, utility and (missed opportunity) costs, but I’ll probably just take whatever I can get.

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