As an urban planner, you will be called on to solve the complex problems of communities and to help shape their built environments.

This growing profession is dedicated to:

  • the quality of life affected by place
  • visions and policy consequences that extend beyond the near term
  • problem solving that relies on multiple disciplines
Skilled planners are needed for communities everywhere to jump-start reinvestment, respond positively to change or growth, enhance their sense of community, and improve their quality of life.

Many urban planners find they have a commitment to environmental recovery, sustainability, social equity, the restoration and preservation of historical and cultural building, and have success finding jobs in those areas.

They frequently work for:

  • nonprofits
  • land development and professional service firms
  • planning and housing agencies
  • community development agencies

Planners use their skills in all three economic sectors—public, private for-profit, and private nonprofit. Their work involves the development and redevelopment of distinct and varied communities, including:

  • inner-city neighborhoods
  • rural small towns
  • sprawling suburbs
  • metropolitan downtowns
  • commercial districts
  • new residential and mixed-use developments
  • recreational and cultural venues

The more obvious work of urban planners is in the shaping of the physical future of the community. This may include careers in comprehensive planning, physical planning, community development, enterprise planning, economic development, environmental preservation, transportation, housing, and land use.

While most people associate urban planning with changes in the physical environment, the day-to-day work of planners focuses on people. Planners help communities identify their problems and central values, formulate goals and alternative approaches to achieving community objectives, and avoid undesired consequences of change.

This process results in frameworks for coping with change, such as:

  • physical elements, including streets, roads, and sewer lines
  • concepts that serve as guides to action, such as the goal of becoming a major distribution center or of encouraging investment in the city's core
  • regulatory measures, reflecting the desires of the community to encourage good development and discourage bad development

Planning professionals help communities become more diverse, broadening the variety of employment, educational, cultural, entertainment, shopping, and housing opportunities and promoting a broad range of land uses, income levels, and types of people. To do this, planners will meet with people individually in their offices, in small groups around the community, and with the public at large formal meetings.

They also help communities deal with the clashes of interest produced by such variety and turn these differences into a positive force for constructive change. 

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