An urban planner, also called an urban and regional planner, creates a vision and then crafts a plan to improve an urban environment to fit the needs of the population. They can provide this service for large cities to smaller towns. They consider community needs such as transportation, recreation, historical preservation, and items brought up by community members while conducting an analysis of the project.
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How to Become an Urban Planner
According to O*NET OnLine, over 80% of urban planners all hold master’s degrees with less than 10% holding a bachelor’s degree. There are master’s degree programs that are offered specifically in urban or regional planning. You would want to ensure that the program is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). To enter a program you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. Though a specific bachelor’s degree may not be required, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that a degree in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design may be most beneficial to earn.
In addition, there is a certification offered through the American Planning Association (APA). Once one is working as an Urban Planner or after earning a degree you can apply for an AICP Certification. To gain this certification APA looks at academic qualifications and mastery of essential skills required for urban planning. APA also has chapters in each state, where there may be opportunities to network and access local resources such as scholarships, professional development, workshops, or conferences. This may be a good opportunity to gain more information or find someone in the field to shadow before deciding on this career path.
Job Description of an Urban Planner
An urban planner has to conduct a massive amount of research to get to know the needs of a community so they can design an environment that fits those needs. To do this, they would meet with public officials, members of the community, business owners, and any structures and land in the area. They also look at market data and trends to project how the space they design will support further growth. This includes any transportation needs the community may have, sites that must be preserved for historical reasons, and outdoor spaces such as parks. They would also review any plans current developers may have and make recommendations for improvement as necessary.
Urban planners must ensure their project stays within laws and regulations. This includes staying within building code and meeting any environmental policies in place. These planners often use computer software to craft visual representations of their vision, create presentations, and use programs that help analyze data.
Urban Planner Career Video Transcript
From Manhattan’s sky-high grid to the tangled sprawl of Los Angeles, urban and regional planners play a key role in making sure cities become more connected communities rather than concrete jungles. Urban and regional planners develop plans for how land will be used and oversee complex projects that help accommodate population growth while retaining, or revitalizing, functional communities.
The zoning policies they administer have an impact not just on historic buildings but also on the environment, housing, transportation, and more. Using statistical techniques, field investigations, and technology, urban and regional planners gather and analyze data to understand the current and future needs of their local area. They develop plans to address the needs they uncover, from planning new parks and schools to meet anticipated growth, or sheltering the homeless, to making changes that might attract business development.
Urban and regional planners present their project proposals to communities, officials, and planning commissions. Their recommendations help guide decision-makers to consider all the factors involved in a new project. Most urban and regional planners work for local governments. They may work evenings or weekends to attend meetings with neighborhood groups and frequently leave the office to inspect proposed development sites. Urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Urban and Regional Planners.
National Center for O*NET Development. 19-3051.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.