Urban Institute Reviews | Glassdoor

Urban Institute Reviews

Updated February 11, 2017
44 reviews

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3.6
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Sarah Rosen Wartell
6 Ratings

44 Employee Reviews

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  1. "Good place to work overall, a few project management qualms"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Great learning environment for junior staff. Opportunities to write and be published. Flexible 80 hour/two week pay period schedule. Ability to work on a variety of interesting topics.

    Cons

    Working simultaneously on half a dozen projects at most times, which can make it difficult to focus fully on any one at a given time. Billable hour structure is a pain to deal with.

    Advice to Management

    Could be beneficial to have staff assigned to fewer projects, but with faster turnarounds -- this would allow people to more fully throw themselves into each subject while still producing the same quantity of work.


  2. "Great Internship"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Recommends

    Pros

    I learned a great deal about criminal justice. My bosses were supportive and generous with their time. The office was a fun place to be.

    Cons

    Very hard and sedentary work.


  3. Helpful (2)

    "Epitome of a research think tank for better and worse"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Research Associate I in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Research Associate I in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Urban Institute full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    -Work with very intelligent and really awesome people on issues that are relevant and compelling.
    -Every day I learn something new from my colleagues and my research - a great feeling.
    -Excellent work-life balance and very strong benefits package (good retirement, lots of PTO, professional development resources, etc.)
    -Relaxed office environment (including business casual work attire)
    -Horizontal cooperation, with opportunities to collaborate on projects and papers with both senior and junior colleagues.
    -Communications is does a good job at connecting researchers and their research with external audiences.

    Cons

    -Most supervisors are researchers without actual management skills meaning you should be comfortable managing your own career development and not getting frequent feedback on work performance.
    -Pace of research creation is slow and colleagues may agonize over seemingly unimportant questions and decisions.
    -Difficult to plan a career at Urban given the hierarchy, uncertain career ladder, and nature of the industry. To its credit, Urban is working to overcome these issues.
    -Some researchers are fiercely territorial over issues, topics, and localities that are in their "lane".
    -The office building and facilities are a joke, making it an unpleasant place to work and embarrassing when there are external guests. Luckily Urban is moving to new digs but not for a couple years still.

    Advice to Management

    Hard to balance the core research focus of Urban with the importance of good management but the later is really critical to the former, especially in order to attract, retain, and grow talented researchers. Significant deference is given to senior researchers who are experts in a given area but less attention appears to be given to the boring but important tasks of employee and project management.


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  5. Helpful (1)

    "Project Administrator"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Project Administrator in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Project Administrator in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Urban Institute (More than a year)

    Pros

    Flexibility, independence, and consistently learning new skills.

    Cons

    Chaotic work environment, no standardized policies and procedures, and no accountability.

    Advice to Management

    Make researchers accountable for working on proposals until the last minute and sending their administrative team last minute requests concerning their projects. If not, hire a project manager who can PROPERLY stay on top of your deliverables, milestones, invoicing, subcontract/grants, purchase orders, consultant agreements, and most importantly YOUR PROJECT SPENDING!


  6. Helpful (1)

    "Great if you love research and independent work, but otherwise not a very appealing place to work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Urban Institute full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Excellent benefits package for an entry-level job, hardly any office drama or tension, lots of autonomy.

    Cons

    Probably TOO MUCH autonomy - in that you rarely get any detailed feedback or advice on the work you've done. Any sort of work culture is practically non-existent; given that the majority of employees are hardcore researchers, most of them are fairly introverted/anti-social (exceptions are the Exec, Communications and HR departments), making for an unexciting work environment. As stated in other reviews, there are few opportunities for young employees to "rise the ranks" - meaning most leave for grad school within 2-3 years, so that is another factor contributing to the lack of a true work culture.

    Advice to Management

    Focus on hiring supervisors who are specifically trained in management, and checking in on the work that younger staffers do. The fact that all supervisors are tied up with their own research makes it hard for them to really help younger workers grow and thrive.


  7. "Research assistant"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Urban Institute full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Great mission, wide range of opportunities for entry level work, and great career step in policy world.

    Cons

    RAs are treated as disposable and often not taken seriously or given real creative work. The path up the ranks is not based on merit or fit for types of work, but prescriptive based on seniority.

    Advice to Management

    Create more respect and upward potential for junior staff.


  8. "Great Work/Life Balance"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I have been working at Urban Institute full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Very laid-back easy-going environment. Great work to life balance and flexibility in schedule depending on your supervisor.

    Cons

    Administrative staff (i.e. non-research staff) is undervalued in both salary and appreciation.

    Advice to Management

    Need to generate more career ladders for non-research staff, compensate them more competitively and support them in their enforcement of business processes/compliance.


  9. "Okay job"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Research Associate II in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Research Associate II in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Urban Institute full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Interesting areas of research; working with smart people, some of them national experts; great work-life balance; great benefits; great location

    Cons

    Mid level staff not appreciated enough even though they practically run the projects, do most of the work, including study design, data collection, project management; difficult to advance without a doctorate, unless you don't mind doing same type of work for years and years


  10. "Not a good place to work straight out of college"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Research Associate in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Research Associate in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Urban Institute full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Smart people to work with, and some interesting work.

    Cons

    No management. Get stuck doing administrative work, not research.

    Advice to Management

    Give your management to be successful.


  11. Helpful (1)

    "Good place"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I have been working at Urban Institute full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Interesting work, staff is really nice and really smart. A chance to do research that is relevant to state and national policy. Lots of flexibility re work site; many work in far-flung corners of the U.S. or from home. That's the story in the Health Policy Center; I think it's similar elsewhere, but I'm not totally sure.

    Cons

    In some corners of the organization, a limited vision of research is constraining action. That's not the direction from the President, but Center directors call the tune. There's some favoritism, alas. Also, salary reflects where you enter the organization, since most people get cost-of-living, routine increases.


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