How to become an Urban Planner in Australia?

urban planning

Photo by Sean Pollock on Unsplash

Urban planning is a technical and political process of using space and shaping the urban environment to ensure the controlled development of settlements and communities. It determines the future of urban areas, sets goals and creates strategies for achieving those goals. Although it is called urban planning, it shapes all spaces people live in, including cities, suburbs, and villages.

The top staffing agencies are always looking for Urban Planners. According to the latest data, more than 86% of Australians live in urban areas, so the need for urban planning and the people who will do the job is growing. The future for Urban Planners seems bright and promising. However, there are some rules you should follow if you decide you want to enter this field. We will now discuss some of the areas included in the Urban Planner’s job description and some of the most important steps to become an Urban Planner in Australia.

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

Urban planning is an interdisciplinary science that includes elements of sociology and other social and technical sciences, such as architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, archaeology, design and more. The main thematic areas to be considered in the urban planning process are natural resources, population growth, urban and rural settlements, economy, infrastructure, public services, environment, natural and cultural heritage. All of these thematic areas function independently, but they need to work in sync in urban planning. The urban planner should be at least partially familiar with all segments of urban planning.

urban planning 1

Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

Although primarily concerned with settlement and community planning, urban planning includes elements from other areas, such as:

  • Water management, which provides water supply and sewerage
  • Management of rural and agricultural areas
  • Arrangement of parks
  • Preservation of parts of nature with environmental values
  • Human creations that have historical or other value

The main duties of an urban planner are:

  • Population growth forecasting
  • Geographical mapping and analysis
  • Zoning
  • Spatial analysis
  • Determining transport routes
  • Water supply needs analysis
  • Sewage planning
  • Food supply needs determination
  • Allocation of social, health and other services
  • Land impact analysis.

After delving into the urban planner’s job description, let’s move on to the steps you should take in order to become an urban planner in Australia.

Step #1 – Get Degrees

If you want to do something significant in this field and maximize your career and financial benefits, you can’t do anything without a degree. Many urban planners on the market have already established themselves as professionals, so it is pointless to try anything without a degree. We recommend you build a strong foundation for the next step, which is a master’s degree in Urban Planning.

Start with the undergraduate program. We advise you to start with one of the following: Economics – if you want to specialize in economic activities; Civil engineering – if you’re going to engage in construction activities; Public administration – if you’re going to engage in legal or administrative activities; Public policy – if you want to do advocacy, etc.

After completing your undergraduate studies, you will realize which part of urban planning you want to engage with. Next, it’s time to broaden your horizons and acquire the title of urban planner. Master’s studies can be completed either by enrolling in a specific master’s program and attending lectures or by enrolling in a master’s program held online. Both cases are welcome. In any case, you will gain knowledge followed by a Master’s degree.

Another thing you can do is take an urban planner short-term course. Of course, you do not acquire a title by obtaining that certificate, but you surely do gain knowledge. The sky is the limit if you know how to use your abilities. So, let’s explore now how to put your newly-acquired abilities to good use.

urban planning 2

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

Step #2 – Network with people and companies in the industry

According to a famous saying, capital consists of (a network of) people and significant knowledge. Of course, knowledge is gained through experience and learning, but knowledge means nothing to you if you do not use it. And the successful use of knowledge requires, above all, networking with people and companies in your field of interest.

Another extremely important thing in networking is that people and industry professionals are up to date with the latest trends related to urban planning. This is a perfect opportunity for a good starting position.

With the development of new technologies, especially in constructions, civil engineering and architecture, the work methods in urban planning are constantly changing, if not from year to year, then from decade to decade.

Therefore, it is extremely important not to fall off track. Instead, make sure that you, as an urban planner, do follow and stay aware of these technological advances.

Step #3 – Become a member of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA)

One of the most important networks you should get into is certainly the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA). The PIA is a competent institution for urban planning. You can become a member of the institute if you are a student at an urban planning program or a worker in the field.

On the other hand, this network is home to people who have been in this business for many years, and they can help you find a job. And most importantly, the PIA institute is a treasure trove of knowledge, which you can use in your future work.

Now let’s take a look at how and where to look for a job in urban planning.

Step #4 – Gain experience through work or volunteering

You have acquired theoretical knowledge; now it is high time to gain practical experience as well. As we have said, professionals from the urban planning industry are in high demand. Therefore, be optimistic about your job search because the market lacks urban planners.

In the industry of Urban Planning alone, there are more than 2500 people hired every year. And there are many ways to get your first job. Urban planners need to be familiar with the many fields within their profession to succeed. It is certainly important to start with entry-level jobs because that is by far the easiest way to learn the basics.

In addition to traditional employment, volunteering is also recommended for gaining valuable experience. If you show the will and desire to work, the employer will surely notice you, and you will be closer to permanent employment.

Lastly, there is the option of freelancing. Just sign up for one of the freelancing platforms, like Upwork. It is possible to find quite decent entry-level jobs on such platforms, which is a good place to start with your urban planner career.

Importance of Climate Change in Decision Making

Climate change is an important factor in the decision-making process for urban planning careers in Australia due to the fact that urbanized populations are prone to extreme weather conditions. Australian urban areas are vulnerable to climate change due to the environment and infrastructure.

We have been witnessing the impact of climate change on Australian cities and rural areas for the past few years. There are no indications that the wildfire situation, which is the biggest environmental and social threat, will improve in the near future.

Over 80% of Australia’s population lives in the coastal area of Australia, and many are on the edge of bushes and rivers, making them vulnerable to the effects of climate change. These effects include sea rise and increased storm surges resulting in coastal erosion and wildfires.

Final Thoughts

As we have said, urban planning is a multidisciplinary activity, so this work is often done by teams in which each member specializes in one area. Therefore, not one person can ace all activities encompassed in urban planning. It is important to choose a specific niche that you want to deal with. For example, you can opt for economic, environmental, construction, advocacy activities. Your decision depends only on your desires and interests for particular undergrad fields.

After completing the Bachelor’s degree, enrolment in a comprehensive Master’s program follows suit. This is where you get the ticket to the world of urban planning and where you become an Urban Planner. On the other hand, attending online classes is also possible. However, this provides a certificate with less weight than a diploma. In any case, you will gain knowledge that is crucial for this kind of job.

The next step after graduation is networking. Networking is extremely important because it provides insights into the work environment and the current market situation. Besides that, networking enables you to connect with other people who work in the area of urban planning. Networking can also happen simultaneously with a job search.

Demand for urban planners is high, especially in Australia, where almost everyone lives in cities or towns. Furthermore, the importance of urban planning in Australia is reflected in the obvious consequences of climate change. One thing is for sure: the demand for Urban Planners will continue to rise in the future.

Author bio: Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.


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