The urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas. The professionals identify community needs and develop short and long-term solutions to improve and revitalize communities and areas.
As an area growing or changing, urban and regional planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning new parks, sheltering the homeless, and making the region more attractive to businesses. Planners often work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues and goals
Through research, data analysis, urban and regional planners collaboration with interest groups, they formulate strategies to address issues and to meet goals. The planners may also help carry out community plans by overseeing projects, enforcing zoning regulations, and organizing the work of the groups involved.
Urban and regional planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work. They commonly use statistical software, data visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs.
Geographic Information System (GIS) software is used to integrate data, such as for population density, with digital maps. They may specialize in areas such as transportation planning, community development, historic preservation, or urban design, among other fields of interest.
Important Qualities for Urban and Regional Planners
Analytical skills. Urban and regional planners analyze information and data from a variety of sources, such as market research studies, censuses, and environmental impact studies. They use statistical techniques and technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in their analyses to determine the significance of the data.
Communication skills. Urban and regional planners must be able to communicate clearly and effectively because they interact with colleagues and stakeholders, prepare research reports, give presentations, and meet with a wide variety of audiences, including public officials, interest groups, and community members.
Decisionmaking skills. Urban and regional planners must weigh all possible planning options and combine analysis, creativity, and realism to choose the appropriate action or plan.
Leadership skills. Urban and regional planners must be able to manage projects, which may include overseeing tasks and planning assignments.
Urban and Regional Planners Education Information
Most urban and regional planners have a master’s degree from an accredited urban or regional planning program. There are 71 programs accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) that offered a master’s degree in planning.
The Master degree programs accept students with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds. However, many candidates who enter these programs have a bachelor’s degree in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design.
Most of the master programs have students spending considerable time in seminars, workshops, and laboratory courses, in which they learn to analyze and solve planning problems. Although most master’s programs have a similar core curriculum, there is some variability in the courses they offer and the issues they focus on.
For example, programs located in agricultural states may focus on rural planning, and programs located in larger cities may focus on urban revitalization.
A Bachelor degree holder can qualify for a small number of jobs as assistant or junior planners. There are 15 accredited bachelor’s degree programs in planning. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree typically need work experience in planning, public policy, or a related field.
It is not necessary for all positions, some entry-level positions require 1 to 2 years of work experience in a related field, such as architecture, public policy, or economic development. Many students gain experience through real planning projects or part-time internships while enrolled in a master’s planning program. Others enrol in full-time internships after completing their degree.
Urban and Regional Planners Duties
- Meet with public officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use
- Administer government plans or policies affecting land use
- Gather and analyze data from market research, censuses, and economic and environmental studies
- Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting community development and decline, including land use
- Review site plans submitted by developers
- Assess the feasibility of proposals and identify needed changes
- Recommend whether proposals should be approved or denied
- Present projects to communities, planning officials, and planning commissions
- Stay current on zoning and building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues
Within cities, urban planners will be needed to develop revitalization projects and address issues associated with population growth, environmental degradation, the movement of people and goods, and resource scarcity.
Similarly, suburban areas and municipalities will need planners to address the challenges associated with population changes, including housing needs and transportation systems covering larger areas with less population density.
Urban and regional planners should expect to face competition for positions. Job opportunities for planners often depend on government budgets and economic conditions. When municipalities and developers have funds for development projects, planners are in higher demand.
Culled from CollegeGrad | Urban and Regional Planners