Who is an Urban Planner and what does an Urban Planner do?
So who is an urban planner or urbanist? What does he do and why are they very much in demand these days? As you may have already guessed, he is the person in charge of planning out the city before it is even built. They decide where to place certain establishments, how wide the streets and roads should be, how much space they would allocate for businesses and how much space they would allocate for homes. They make sure that addresses can be easily found and that schools are not placed near bars or malls that could distract students from their studies.
It is the job of Urban Planners to make sure that the city functions well, looks nice and artistic. Although efficiency is of prime importance, it should not be at the expense of building things that will give the city a charm that it can call its own. It must be a place that residents would be proud of and happy to call it a home. It should be a masterpiece that tourists would appreciate. On the other hand, it should also be practical to make things convenient for the residents and the visitors alike. Most importantly, an urban planner must be a visionary. That means that he must be able to plan for the future. For instance, although there are only a few homes needed in a particular city today; it doesn’t mean that the numbers will stay the same in the next 5 years. A good urban planner will be able to extrapolate and plan the city accordingly in such a way that it can accommodate population growth. That means providing more room for subdivisions and wider highways that can take in more cars.
It is also a challenge to an urban planner to protect the environment despite development. They should not build at the expense of ruining our mother nature; which is also important for future generations. As much as they are advocates of development, they must also be advocates of the environment.
Various roles played by Urban Planners
The term “urban planner” is something that is gaining popularity in the past couple of years. There are so many good reviews about it that more and more people are considering a career in this field. However, what is it actually? What do they do and what are their main job scope and responsibility? It is important to have answers to these questions because it is unwise and impractical to pursue a career in a field that one does not have a full understanding of. If you are considering become one; we would suggest that you take your time and read on. You have to know exactly what it is that you are getting yourself into.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is the responsibility of an urban planner to develop and fix the plans for the community and its resources. That is why a lot of urban planning graduates end up with a career with the local government. They are the ones with a bachelor’s degree in the field. Now that you have a general idea of what it is, you need to understand its job description. That way, you will know exactly what is expected of you and you will be able to train for it earlier and thus excel in your field.
Among the many things that an urban planner does, most of the time you will see him attending meetings that involve other people and agencies. This means dealing with different staff members, engineers, architects, developers and the list goes on. At times, he is also expected to make presentations to the city council or even a neighborhood association. He will inform the people there of his plans for a respective lot or land area. This can be approved, disapproved or revised depending on the feedback of the audience. That is why urban planners must be able to work well with all kinds of people.
Aside from that, he has to be very detailed because every aspect of his work demands it. He has to be present in every aspect of the project from its conception to its completion. Of course, the team is bound to encounter setbacks and hurdles. That is why he needs to have a sharp mind with highly analytical and problem solving skills.
In order to meet the demands of his job description, an urban planner needs to specialize in certain fields. He can choose from urban design, historic preservation, housing and community development. Of course, he can choose to work as “general practitioner” so he will get to handle all specialities. That is also the reason why while a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement, there are many of them who choose to get a master’s degree and even pursue a PhD which will make them more qualified for more challenging work.
Importance of “Internships” in Urban Planning
The urban planning of an entire city is not handled by just one urban planner. They are a team that consists of those specializing in different tasks. Some will be in charge of transportation – making sure that it is smooth, traffic free and efficient and there are those who will take care of building homes and renovating neighborhoods that are already old and dark. Due to the huge responsibility tasked upon them, they need intensive training in order to hone their skills and experience. That is why unlike most college courses, urban planners cannot just go straight to work without prior on the job training. An internship is highly recommended if one aim to have a promising career after college.
What Is An Urban Planning Internship?
Just like any other internship, consider it your on the job training so that you have an idea what it is like in the field even though you are not officially employed by a company or a firm.
In fact, even undergraduates can opt to go for one. Naturally, they will not be given major responsibilities because they are not yet professionals. Do not be surprised if an intern is tasked to encode information or photocopy items. What is important is that you will get to see professionals at work and learn as much as you possibly can from them. Another thing that you have to know is that most of the time, it is not paid. Yup, you will be working in an office and spending hours there but do not expect the company to pay you. Just charge it to experience and if you pay close attention, believe me; you will still benefit greatly from it.
However, students in a post graduate program will have a completely different urban planning internship from those who are still under graduates. They will be tasked with heavier responsibility and will be treated like one of the team members because they are supposed to be trained for the job. What is good about going for an ‘on-the-job training’ (OJT) before actual employment is that you know what to expect once you get a real job. This will help you manage your expectations and act accordingly. Of course; learning does not stop once you are done with school so getting into an internship even if you are already in the postgraduate level is always a good idea. There is always something new and something more to learn from professionals who have been in the field far longer than you are.
In most cases, companies are open to interns. All that you have to do is give them a call and submit your application.
Pursuing a degree in Urban Planning
Urban planning must be one of the fastest growing careers today. Although in the past, the term was never even heard of, today, people are clamoring for good urban planners to make sure that their city stays safe, beautiful and well organized. However, the path to being one is not easy. Just imagine planning every detail to make sure that every aspect of the city is smooth flowing. It takes a lot of training and skill to do that – skills that people are simply not born with. Although there are really certain people who are more inclined to this kind of job, they still need a degree in it to make sure that they really know what they are doing. Because of the rigorous training involved, studying to become an urban planner is not an easy thing and neither is the tuition fee light. That does not mean, however, that only a privileged few can reach their dream of becoming one. Even those who are not as well off can pursue a career in it. They just need to be aware of how to go about getting a scholarship when pursuing the studies.
Just like any other career path, there are urban planning schools that do offer scholarships. Naturally, not just anyone can apply for it. They must be the most hardworking people and the cream of the crop. Hence, scholarship is granted on an application process. Here, the students have to submit their transcript of records, pass an exam with a top exceptional grade and of course, maintain their grade throughout the entire duration of study. Otherwise, their scholarships will be stripped off from them. It is a challenge, indeed but for the right person with the drive and the wits, it is completely doable.
For further reading and getting more information about Urban Planning you can read the following articles (all articles open in new tab/ window):
- Urban Planning Job Description
- Why political agendas never actually solve your problems whereas planners can!
- Planning process without planners
- Loss to community because of incompetent planners
- Planners as knowledge workers
- Understanding the limitations of planning
- Urban Planning – Largely Unknown Profession