What is Planning?

Planning is a profession with the primary purpose of improving the communities in which we live. Planners look not only at existing conditions and problems, but also develop a vision, with goals and strategies, of what a community could be in the future. Planning deals not only with physical development, but also social and economic improvement of our society. It looks at the issues of urban cities and rural communities, housing, environmental protection, historic character, economic development, improvements to our transportation system and social policies.

Good planning gives direction to civic leaders, businesses and citizens to make meaningful decisions for the long term and how best their communities can grow into that future, while allowing for essential services to be provided in the near term. Planning is done not only by trained professionals working in the public sector for planning departments or in the private sector for developers; planning is also done by lay persons who volunteer on local committees or commissions, including a planning commission, zoning board of appeals or historic district commission.

What Planners Do

The field of planning is broad. Many community planners work in a community's planning department or other agencies. The planning director for a community serves the municipal council, other agencies and departments, the development community, neighborhood organizations, special interest groups, and individual citizens. Some planners work in the private sector with developers, architects, landscape architects and civil engineers. Corporations use planners to help in planning for growth of their facilities.

What Specializations Are Common?

Planners specialize in many diverse areas. Some of the most common include land use planning, housing and community development, urban design, economic development, environmental and natural resources planning, parks and recreation planning, historic preservation, downtown revitalization, urban policy and public administration, and transportation planning.

Are There Jobs in Planning?

Planners continue to be in high demand throughout North America. There are promising career opportunities in every planning specialization. Most planning programs help you get a “jump start” on finding a job at graduation by involving you in real-world planning projects and by encouraging you to do a planning internship as part of your education. These activities show how planners do their jobs, as well as giving the opportunity to interact with practitioners who might offer you a job when you graduate. In fact, many planning internships turn into full-time jobs after graduation.

Planning is a great career for women and people of color. Forty percent of new hires are women, and there are few salary discrepancies between men and women. Many planning programs strongly encourage minority students to obtain planning degrees because the profession values varying perspectives and backgrounds.

For more information on planning, visit the American Planning Association.

Interested in Planning?

Consider taking an introductory course...

URP 115, The American City (a Gen Ed course)
URP 215, Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning
URP 216, Readings in Urban Planning

Grad students:
GEOG 553, Urban and Regional Planning

The web site Planetizen is an excellent resource for information on planning. Also review its book, Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning.

Any questions? Ask Bob Jones,
Director of the Urban and Regional Planning Programs

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