What approach should be taken to pursue a PhD related to urban planning or social/economic geography?

I have a Bachelors with a double major in Political Science and Urban Studies and a Master in Urban Planning with an emphasis on community development (social and economic aspects of urban planning). I got the masters in 1997. I have had no more formal university education in 10 years and I am in my mid-30s. I have been working in the affordable housing industry as a staff assistant, property manager and administrator. I had always planned to pursue my education further and family and friends thought the same, but I got to eat and pay bills. I've always had a thirst for knowledge and research and finding out things for either the sake or learning or to apply it to something. I got my masters straight after getting my bachelors, so I had been in school 6 straight years after high school, so some associates joked about me not been in the real world. Now, after 10 years in the real world, I now have the ironic opposite problem of trying to find the best way to get back into "academic" shape. Heck, I've only been to the public library three times since getting my masters. I do have lots of practical continued education related to my job or keeping up with standard office software and do have a lot of books from my own library that I read, however. These are some options I'm exploring: (1) Take some classes at local state university and/or through distance education colleges to get study habits back and strenthen transcript (it is possible, though not necessarily an absolute goal that I could get second bachelors from this route from a college like Excelsior), then pursue PhD (2) Pursue the MBA, then pursue PhD (3) Pursue Masters Degree in another area such as economics or geography that complements my previous education on the political science and urban studies side, then pursue PhD Back 10 years ago when I was still in grad school, the professor who was my advisor had suggested to me that I go to an MBA program. I had not thought about going to get an MBA before, but he saw that I had loaded up my urban planning coursework with electives in social statistics and economics (he knew I could have taken a lot easier courses). He wanted me to consider going to a place like Wharton. He felt that the combination of a masters in urban planning and an MBA would be a dynamic combination for someone interested in community development. I considered that, but like I said, I need to eat and since I came from very modest means (poor), I needed to work. I am was already in debt trouble, so I wasn't interested in taking on more student loans and will not ever take out any more student loans (and I intend to self-finance any future education and/or pursue any available grants). Now that I've been out for so long, not only am I academically rusty but I've also lost contacts with potential recommenders (a few of whom have since passed including my graduate advisor). So as I see it, at the minimum I need to take a few college courses just to make sure I still got the touch, as well as for the regular business of getting recommenders and strengthening my transcript. I anticipate that the pursuit of the PhD in my situation will be a 8-12 year project. I'm now in my mid-thirties, so I would hope to have the PhD completed by the time I'm in my early to mid-forties. I expect to start my comeback with a course this Fall. For the next year or so, I expect to stay enrolled continuously either in a traditional course or distance education course.

Asked By: Donald C - 8/26/2007
Best Answer - Chosen by Asker
I strongly suggest that any courses you take prior to applying to PhD programs are at least at the Masters level, and are not taken through distance education. Distance ed courses (or anything through Excelsior) will work against you in PhD admissions. If you wish, you could look into terminal MA programs in econ... More
Answered By: Professor X - 8/26/2007
Additional Answers (1)
Answered By: narsimha l - 8/26/2007
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