What You Should Know About Working in Urban Planning

An urban planner uses programs and plans to develop communities as the population grows. Another part of the job is revitalizing existing areas in metropolitan areas. If you are thinking about entering this career field, there are several things you should know.

Educational Requirements

You will need to go through quite a bit of education to enter this field, so it’s best to start as early as possible. Even if you are still in high school, you can begin the journey. You’ll want to research the career to determine whether it is for you. Math skills are often critical since you will be forecasting and doing analysis. And having great computer and tech skills can help you with creating presentations and models. In high school, consider taking computer classes and trigonometry. You can consider getting an internship at a governmental agency to learn how they manage cities.

While in college, you will need to plan on having at least your bachelor’s degree. However, if you stop here, you can expect to work only as a junior or assistant planner. It’s best to get a master’s degree, since that’s what most people in this field have. You can often get into a good master’s program with one of many bachelor’s degrees.

Typically, you would get a master’s in urban planning. You will learn from labs, seminars, and workshops. The coursework will often include complex planning cases to help you hone your skills. If paying for your master’s degree seems challenging, you might want to consider taking out a student loan from a private lender to pay for graduate school. It’s an option with serious benefits since you will not need to work during school and can focus on the often-difficult course work.

Getting an Internship

If possible, consider getting an internship either while in school or right after graduation. This can help you be more competitive and end up with a higher starting salary. Often, you can expect to work for various government agencies, whether it’s at the federal, city, state, or county level. Typically, this job involves working in an urban area, although there could occasionally be a demand in a rural area. In this case, it might be a rural area on the outskirts of a rapidly expanding city.

The work setting is often an office, but it could also include some work in the field. That way, you can inspect and research plans for land use in a real-life setting. Regardless of the exact setting, you can expect to use a range of computer tools, including GIS programs and forecasting tools. The information gained from these tools is often imputed into documents and spreadsheets. Having a strong attention to detail can help you succeed in this role.

What You Will be Doing

There are quite a few job responsibilities for this position. You will typically work full time in this role, during the week. However, if you are meeting with the officials or a neighborhood group, or you are planning a commission, you might need to work during the weekend or evening to accommodate their schedules. You will likely need to meet with these groups to present plans on developing and using land.

It might also be your responsibility to carry out policies and plans that affect the use of land, and you will likely do some investigations in the field. That way, you can analyze factors that might affect community decline or development, such as use of land. And you will often analyze information collected from environmental or economic studies.

Urban Planning Illustration

The Importance of Data Analytics

As an urban planner, you will need to use data analytics to create the most effective plan. These processes will help you get more insight into both current and future situations, allowing you to come up with a more precise method of catering to the population’s needs. You can use data analytics to identify gaps that might need to be addressed, and come up with new opportunities.

Data analytics can also help you determine how amenities and infrastructure need to be changed, allowing you to allocate the right number of resources for each period of time. For example, often the demographics of an area will change as more people move in. You might need to determine which amenities and facilities need to be added so you can better support the area’s residents.

Of course, being able to use data analytics successfully is only part of the equation. You also need to know how to look at the findings and take action based on them. You will need to come up with a clear hypothesis and match your findings with the available actions. Any action will have certain tradeoffs that you will need to address, so it’s all about coming up with the best solution for the time.

The Importance of Collaboration

Part of the role involves contributing to innovative solutions using advanced tools. You might face challenges in new ways of working, and you can expect to contribute to creating an experience across all domains. You will be working closely with cross-trained teams and individuals to bring together technology and planning. Expect to work with people from a range of backgrounds. You may even be collaborating with professionals from completely different industries. For example, a real estate agent looking to up their real estate game may come to you with a building idea that they need help cultivating using your knowledge of landscapes and city planning.

You will also be working closely with other agencies in the area, as well as the community as a whole. By working with these various teams, as well as the private sector, you will gather this information together. It often comes in the form of collaboration with industries or academia, conducting joint research. You and your team will be translating this information into solutions so you can quickly implement them. All these things will require having strong communication and interpersonal skills. Of course, having a strong attention to detail will also serve you well in this position. The life of an urban planner is busy since it contains meetings, data entry, and plenty of details to stay on top of. And you will also need to keep up with trends in the industry.

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