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Professional Development

Advisors and faculty help students transform the knowledge and skills gained through a rigorous program of advanced professional training into success in a competitive employment market. Here are a few of the ways this is done:


Professional Development Lecture Series and Workshops

Each semester URPL faculty members coordinate a Faculty Lecture Series, which is a brownbag forum to foster cross-campus research and collaboration.  The lectures are open to the public and students have the opportunity to learn how distinguished faculty from all over the world are studying and addressing contemporary planning issues. 


In addition, URPL offers students a series of workshops through classes through the Wisconsin Student Planning Association that cover essential skills they must have to be successful in graduate school and in their careers. Topics may include Geographic Information Systems (GIS), professional networking, presentations skills, résumé writing and interviewing tips.


Alumni Connections

Students have the opportunity to meet and work with URPL alumni, many of whom hold important positions in international organizations; federal, state, and local government agencies; private business; and nonprofit and community development organizations. Our alumni are an invaluable resource for students in their career development. One way students and alumni connect is through local planning conferences such as the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association’s annual spring conference. For many students, a huge task is gaining an understanding of the possibilities to guide their job-search process. Many URPL alumni share with students with information about their jobs and workplaces, participate in professional development functions that highlight their knowledge and experience, and provide informational interviews for students. Students interested in contacting alumni should get in touch with the Alumni Relations Council or WSPA.



URPL strongly believes that hands-on professional work experience is an invaluable learning experience for students and requires an internship with a planning-related organization. The internship is normally for 10 weeks of full-time work (400 hours) and no formal course credit is given.  The objectives of internships are:


1) To give the student a sense of the operation of planning-related organizations, including:

  • The organization’s relationship with the community and other organizations;
  • Alternative styles of management;
  • Planning approaches and methods used; and
  • Effective strategies for influencing public debate and policy.


2) To give students one (or more) experience(s) in analyzing and preparing recommendations on planning problems and issues within the constraints imposed by working for a government, private, or nonprofit planning or planning-related agency.


See a sample list of previous URPL student internships here.


Employment Information

URPL grads have successful careers in the federal government, state and local governments, nonprofit arena, and private sector.  The key to securing a job after graduation lies in the networks formed while in school through the internship experience, conferences, and other URPL events.  In addition, current students can read an evaluation of past student internship experiences in the URPL Library to generate ideas of where to look for an internship and the duties of each position.  Also, student advisors, who cultivate close relationships with professional planners both in locally in the Madison-area and around the world, are another potential resource for employment information.


Additional Resources

URPL is lucky to be in two colleges, meaning URPL students have access to two highly-trained and professional career services offices. Make an appointment today to meet an advisor at CALS Career Services or L&S Career Services. Their websites are also a wealth of resources and information with basic professional development tools and tips. 


The Writing Center is a great place to take a resume or cover letter to get some objective feedback. They also offer a number of excellent workshops related to both professional and academic writing. 


The La Follette School of Public Affairs keeps a helpful list of basic career development handouts here.


The APA Arizona Mentorship Program and Professional Development Committee put together this excellent survey summary of Career Advice for Emerging Planners.