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Planning, also called urban planning or city and regional planning, is a dynamic profession that
works to improve the welfare of people and their communities by creating more convenient,
equitable, healthful, efficient, and attractive places for present and future generations.
Planning enables civic leaders, businesses, and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating
communities that enrich people's lives.
Good planning helps create communities that offer better choices for where and how people live.
Planning helps communities to envision their future. It helps them find the right balance of new
development and essential services, environmental protection, and innovative change.
What Do Planners Do?
Professional planners help create a broad vision for the community. hey also research, design,
and develop programs! lead public processes! effect social change! perform technical analyses!
manage! and educate. "ome planners focus on #ust some of these roles, such as transportation
planning, but most will work at many kinds of planning throughout their careers.
he basic element is the creation of a plan. Planners develop a plan through analysis of data and
identification of goals for the community or the pro#ect. Planners help the community and its
various groups identify their goals and form a particular vision.
In the creation of a plan, planners identify the strategies by which the community can reach its
goals and vision. Planners are also responsible for the implementation or enforcement of many of
the strategies, often coordinating the work of many groups of people. It is important to recognize
that a plan can take a variety of forms including$ policy recommendations, community action
plans, comprehensive plans, neighborhood plans, regulatory and incentive strategies, or historic
%ther e&les of plans include$ redevelopment plans, smart growth strategies, economic
development strategic plans, site plans, and disaster preparedness plans.
What Specializations Are Common in the Planning Profession?
'ost planners perform their work in one or more particular fields of specialization within the larger
planning profession. hese specializations represent specific bodies of planning knowledge that
#ointly further the welfare of people and communities. (hile some planners spend their entire
career within one of these specializations, most will move between them or find employment
opportunities that combine specializations. )ere are several of the most common specializations
within the planning profession$
* +ommunity ,evelopment
* -and .se / +ode 0nforcement
* ransportation Planning
* 0nvironmental12atural 3esources Planning
* 0conomic ,evelopment
* .rban ,esign
* Planning 'anagement14inance
* Parks / 3ecreation
* )istoric Preservation
* +ommunity 5ctivism10mpowerment
What Skills Do Successful Planners Possess?
In addition to a formal educational background, planners possess a unique combination of skills
that enhance their professional success. 6ecause planning is a dynamic and diverse profession,
individual skills vary depending on a planner's role and area of specialization. "uccessful
planners possess a combination of these skills$
7nowledge of urban spatial structure or physical design and the way in which cities work.
5bility to analyze demographic information to discern trends in population, employment, and
7nowledge of plan8making and pro#ect evaluation.
'astery of techniques for involving a wide range of people in making decisions.
.nderstanding of local, state, and federal government programs and processes.
.nderstanding of the social and environmental impact of planning decisions on communities.
5bility to work with the public and articulate planning issues to a wide variety of audiences.
5bility to function as a mediator or facilitator when community interests conflict.
.nderstanding of the legal foundation for land use regulation.
.nderstanding of the interaction among the economy, transportation, health and human
services, and land8use regulation.
5bility to solve problems using a balance of technical competence, creativity, and hardheaded
5bility to envision alternatives to the physical and social environments in which we live.
'astery of geographic information systems and office software.
A Typical Day for a Planner, and With Whom Do Planners Work
Planning is a highly collaborative field, and planners spend much of their time working with
others. 5 planner's day may start with a staff meeting to discuss the management of a planning
pro#ect. %ther meetings might include a team meeting with engineers, architects, health
professionals, and landscape architects to review the specifics of a plan. 9et other meetings
might take place with developers as part of a pre8application process. he planner's role is to
provide the big picture and to relate the pro#ect to various goals and guidelines, such as
ordinances or design review, in order to achieve a final pro#ect that meets the needs of the
community. his might include appropriate design, environmental considerations, support for the
local economy, or equitable access for all members of the community.
Planners are also responsible for knowing state and federal legislation and court rulings that
relate to the pro#ect, plans, or guidelines. 4or e&le, planners must know how the 4irst
5mendment of the ..". +onstitution relates to sign controls or how street designs relate to the
5mericans with ,isabilities 5ct. %nce again, planners are responsible for providing this technical
knowledge to the pro#ects. In comple& pro#ects, a developer will likely consult his or her own legal
"ome part of the planner's day involves working on his or her own. Planners may conduct
research and gather data from a variety of sources, including economic development or market
research studies, from census reports, or from environmental studies. he planner tests
assumptions about the meaning and importance of the data by using a variety of technologies.
%ne common tool used in planning is Geographic Information "ystems :GI"; that link data and
electronic mapping. %ther tools may include scenario building visualization tools, electronic poling
systems, financial analysis spreadsheets, and demographic databases. Planners prepare reports
on their findings and analysis. %ften, they will provide alternatives for policy makers to consider.
(riting and synthesis skills are necessary for this part of the #ob.
Planners also do presentations. Presentations are made by mid8level staff, department heads, or
the planning director. Planners frequently provide presentations to the city council, business
groups, neighborhood groups, and professionals. hese presentations place the specific pro#ect
or issue in the conte&t of the community's plans and guidelines for development and change.
oday, planners are proficient in using PowerPoint and other visual technologies to present
information and ideas in planning. Presentation skills are very important for private sector
planners who have to present pro#ects at various stages to clients, officials, or the public.
Pro#ect management is another important skill for planners, especially for those working in the
private sector. Planners manage a variety of pro#ects from neighborhood planning programs to
the design and development of a new bike path to much larger scale pro#ects. hey also oversee
grant programs, such as historic preservation or community development block grants.
Planners also engage in more lengthy processes of public participation. In these pro#ects,
planners call upon their skills as facilitators working with a broad spectrum of community
members. hese processes have become very creative and planners often use e&ercises,
charrettes, visualization techniques, and group work in the development of the plan.
5 planner's day often e&tends into the evening as he or she provides staff support to the monthly
planning commission meeting. Public sector planners provide reports to the commission and
provide support to the public meeting. Private sector planners present pro#ects to the commission.
It is not uncommon for a planning attorney to present proposals to the planning commission or, on
occasion, to provide legal counsel to the planning commission. %ther evening meetings may
include neighborhood meetings or staffing the historic preservation review board.
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