Urban Planners?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Dec 16, 2012 4:44 AM GMT

    Do Urban Planners walk amongst us?

    After years in the Higher Education sector, I am heading back to university (in a student compacity) to study Urban Planning.

    It's been a long time coming and I'm very excited.

    Are there any Urban Planners here on RJ?

    If so, how did you break into the industry?

    Do you work in the public or private sector?

    Impressions?

    Thoughts?

    Rants and Raves?

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    Dec 16, 2012 5:59 PM GMT
    No, I'm not an urban planner, but often I wish that I had gone into that field. But I don't think it was a full-fledged major when I was studying at university. I think there was a division within the Geography and Geology section that had classes you could take toward that end.
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    Dec 16, 2012 6:02 PM GMT
    I am an Urban Planner on Sim City icon_smile.gif

    It is sooooooooooo much fun.
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    Dec 16, 2012 6:05 PM GMT
    I'm not an Urban Planner, but I work with Urban Planners in my role as a Continuity professional, Security professional, Project Management Professional, and in my work with Urban Forestry.

    It's a cool "sphere" to be working in. I hear that the rewards packages can be quite fulfilling (depending upon the aspect of Urban Planning).
  • Montague

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    Dec 16, 2012 6:07 PM GMT
    Well I know Chicago is hiring them and from the looks of it they start off making six figure salaries!
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    Dec 16, 2012 6:41 PM GMT
    The sad truth is that urban planning is done by Politicians but you can get a cushy government job if you like to play along with that.
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    Dec 16, 2012 7:03 PM GMT
    I got my bachelors in Urban Planning. While I thought it was great, and interesting I felt like it wouldnt amount to anything I wanted for work. I felt like urban planning was more political than just planning. I realized that most people that like urban planning really would fit better in Urban Design. I could see it being more rewarding in the private industry, but the public sector sounded very politcal.
  • FitGwynedd

    Posts: 1468

    Dec 16, 2012 7:03 PM GMT
    With an urban planning degree you can become a either an organ bank or fork and spoon operator for Network Rail, making the big £££
  • monet

    Posts: 1093

    Dec 16, 2012 7:33 PM GMT
    FitGwynedd saidWith an urban planning degree you can become a either an organ bank or fork and spoon operator for Network Rail, making the big £££


    Do we speak the same language? I have no idea what your comment means.
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    Dec 16, 2012 7:57 PM GMT
    tanlejos said
    Do Urban Planners walk amongst us?

    After years in the Higher Education sector, I am heading back to university (in a student compacity) to study Urban Planning.

    It's been a long time coming and I'm very excited.

    Are there any Urban Planners here on RJ?

    If so, how did you break into the industry?

    Do you work in the public or private sector?

    Impressions?

    Thoughts?

    Rants and Raves?



    Not that I'm biased (I am very), but I would consider Landscape Architecture. Like many of the people above me have said: Planning is political. However, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, while affected by politics, is in my opinion real ways to design a better place. I'm a student about to enter the real world. It isn't the best market, but I love what I do and I feel confident I could work in an Urban Planning office (again, a student about to graduate and note an expert).

    But here's an article:
    http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6386

    I'm biased and inexperienced, but I am making this my career.
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    Dec 16, 2012 8:04 PM GMT
    I'm a transportation planner. It is definitely an interesting field and you will meet lots of wonderful people in your ventures. Smart, socially conscious, passionate. It's also, incidentally, one of the best fields to be gay in...the notion of being closeted at work is just laughable to me.

    Learn as many software programs as you can while in school. Adobe Creative Suite, SketchUp, ArcGIS, Transportation modeling software (if you're interested in transportation). That said, more than the particular skills, what set apart the most successful students (and future workers) was a genuine passion about a particular aspect of planning.

    The job market is still tight. There is currently a lot of interest in urban planning, and a lot of students who go to school hoping to work in the field. Many were laid off when city budgets were cut in the aftermath of the recession, and you may still be competing with them. Back when I was applying for jobs in 2010, I heard often that organizations would get 300 or so applicants for one position (and would subsequently fill it with someone more senior than advertised).

    I did find something, but it wasn't the perfect fit, and now that things have gotten somewhat better, I'm taking the relevant skills I picked up and considering a move. Have an interview in early January icon_smile.gif

    Start networking early and be prepared to work your ass off at internships to prove yourself.

    Rants and raves? Well, I had to sit through a one-hour discussion during a City Council meeting because someone wanted to change the font of an approved sign...there are some mind-numbingly dull moments. There are also some great ones, like when I took several city staff out on a tour through their city on bicycles.

    Be prepared, too, for the frustration that will inevitably ensue when you come up with a brilliant, thoughtful solution to an issue and then have it shot down seemingly for no reason. This is more true for private sector planners. They don't get any decision-making authority, but on the other hand, they do get to work on a wider variety of project.

    MontagueWell I know Chicago is hiring them and from the looks of it they start off making six figure salaries!


    I highly recommend not getting your hopes up too high...

    Alpha13The sad truth is that urban planning is done by Politicians but you can get a cushy government job if you like to play along with that.

    It is true that City Councils do ultimately vote on planning issues, and the public process for many projects is important and can be political, but this statement is mostly overly simplistic and false. Politicians are busy as all hell, and a convincing staff report can be very powerful. So is an engaged community, and the planner has hopefully done enough background work to get people excited about the project.

    Also, I work in the private sector, and it's definitely not cushy.


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    Dec 16, 2012 8:36 PM GMT
    This is great advice. I've added some additional comments in GREEN.


    CFL_Oakland saidI'm a transportation planner. It is definitely an interesting field and you will meet lots of wonderful people in your ventures. Smart, socially conscious, passionate. It's also, incidentally, one of the best fields to be gay in...the notion of being closeted at work is just laughable to me.

    Learn as many software programs as you can while in school. Adobe Creative Suite, SketchUp, ArcGIS, Transportation modeling software (if you're interested in transportation). That said, more than the particular skills, what set apart the most successful students (and future workers) was a genuine passion about a particular aspect of planning.

    Definitely ArcGIS! Also, learn statistically sound data collection, analysis, representation, and interpretation knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques.

    The job market is still tight. There is currently a lot of interest in urban planning, and a lot of students who go to school hoping to work in the field. Many were laid off when city budgets were cut in the aftermath of the recession, and you may still be competing with them. Back when I was applying for jobs in 2010, I heard often that organizations would get 300 or so applicants for one position (and would subsequently fill it with someone more senior than advertised).

    I did find something, but it wasn't the perfect fit, and now that things have gotten somewhat better, I'm taking the relevant skills I picked up and considering a move. Have an interview in early January icon_smile.gif

    Start networking early and be prepared to work your ass off at internships to prove yourself.

    Join your professional association NOW while you're in school. Go to the meetings to network. Most importantly, volunteer on project based initiatives which demonstrate your work ethic. Your nonprofit professional association is a great place to get experience which you can turn into "Resume Currency". Also, people will be watching you as you volunteer and you just may get the tap on the shoulder and asked, "Are you looking for opportunities?". Also, as you volunteer in more strategic roles with your professional association, you develop management and leadership skills with experience which becomes more "Resume Currency". Pretty soon, you may even find that the stuff you're doing as a volunteer, you're starting to get paid to do the same thing. As soon as you can, volunteer to be a speaker, or to teach something in a workshop. This establishes even more "personal brand" and "Resume Currency".

    Rants and raves? Well, I had to sit through a one-hour discussion during a City Council meeting because someone wanted to change the font of an approved sign...there are some mind-numbingly dull moments. There are also some great ones, like when I took several city staff out on a tour through their city on bicycles.

    Awareness of, and mastery of, "Stakeholder Management" is a critical in any industry or function in which you end up. Learn early how to:
    identify stakeholders,
    develop a stakeholder register and stakeholder management strategy,
    develop a communications management plan
    execute upon a communications management plan
    manage stakeholder expectations and update your communications plan and underlying stakeholder management strategy and stakeholder register.
    Everything starts and ends with the people. If you fail to address the needs of people, your best laid plans will at best be challenged, and at worst efforts will fail.


    Be prepared, too, for the frustration that will inevitably ensue when you come up with a brilliant, thoughtful solution to an issue and then have it shot down seemingly for no reason. This is more true for private sector planners. They don't get any decision-making authority, but on the other hand, they do get to work on a wider variety of project.

    THIS!!!! Nothing will ever go as fast as you want it too. The key is a collaborative leadership approach and building trust among your stakeholders.

    MontagueWell I know Chicago is hiring them and from the looks of it they start off making six figure salaries!


    I highly recommend not getting your hopes up too high...

    Alpha13The sad truth is that urban planning is done by Politicians but you can get a cushy government job if you like to play along with that.

    It is true that City Councils do ultimately vote on planning issues, and the public process for many projects is important and can be political, but this statement is mostly overly simplistic and false. Politicians are busy as all hell, and a convincing staff report can be very powerful. So is an engaged community, and the planner has hopefully done enough background work to get people excited about the project.

    Also, I work in the private sector, and it's definitely not cushy.




    Best wishes to you as you strive to change the world for the good of humanity.
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    Dec 18, 2012 8:56 AM GMT
    Not an urban planner, but I know there is a demand for them in California local governments. For a number of years now, for just about every proposed change or development, enviornmental impact statements have to be prepared or reviewed by planners. From what I understand, the government jobs can be pretty boring, but private sector work is more interesting. Meet with and talk to some planners.
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    Dec 18, 2012 10:20 AM GMT
    I study spatial planning (that's like urban planning + working with even bigger areas, it's EU thing...). Basically it's like urban planning. I love it, I'm very passionate about it and enjoy every chance to express myself in the field.

    But in everyday life I feel like I would be very depressed because of all the politicians making the (wrong) decisions despite professionals knowing better what to do.

    So I love it, but as soon as I finish the school I'm going to do something else. But it might be different in the country you live in.
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    Dec 18, 2012 11:04 AM GMT

    whoa..

    Thanks everyone for your responses.

    I live in Australia so the job market is a little different.

    As for six figure salaries= I am not movitated by or interested in money .. It's not an influential factor for me.

    The satisfaction of retrofitting middle ring suburbs, demolishing the ones built on the edges of the city and creating medium density, public transport orientated walkable communities will be satisfaction enough!
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    Dec 27, 2012 8:30 PM GMT
    So cool to see other planners on here!! I am working with the Peace Corps right now doing NGO development in Azerbaijan but come next November I will be back and looking for work!

    To quote my girl Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has".

    Keep up the good work fellas!
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    Dec 27, 2012 9:36 PM GMT
    GAMRican said

    Best wishes to you as you strive to change the world for the good of humanity.


    That's debatable, from a Libertarian point of view. Most 'urban planning' is a code word for removing private property rights from individuals. Yes, there should be an order to usage, but what makes a bad name is "eminent domain" and how it's used to enrich well-connected private enterprises. See http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-575343.html And http://www.volokh.com/2012/05/15/eminent-domain-abuse-in-virginia/
  • pandx970

    Posts: 357

    Feb 13, 2013 7:03 AM GMT
    I'm a planning student about to graduate in June in California. So far the planners that I've met have all be quite dedicated to work in the public good, whether it is in traditional spatial and land-use planning or beyond in transportation, urban design, and development.

    I'm currently interning in at the commuter rail authority in Southern California and it's been a positive, interesting experience thus far to see how government agencies work.

    +1 on being out and proud in the field: at the Planning Conference in LA last year, I couldn't help but notice how many LGBT planners there were -- and I did not even end up in the LGBT divisional meeting! icon_twisted.gif Twisted stuff could've gone down were I not too into some of the sessions I attended.

    As a student, an engaged student life seems to work out the best -- entering student organizations, engaging professors outside of the classroom, or working to host conferences or other events -- those seem to provide the encouragement you need.

    All the best my friend.
  • SFGeoNinja

    Posts: 510

    Aug 12, 2013 6:17 PM GMT
    So glad I found this thread! I studied urban planning as an undergrad and loved it. I worked in GIS for a few years after I graduated, only to discover that it's pretty much impossible to become a planner without a Masters. Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and go back to school. I start my Masters in Urban Planning at Columbia this fall and couldn't be more excited.

    Any other planners (or enthusiasts) in the NYC area?
  • pandx970

    Posts: 357

    Oct 03, 2013 6:59 PM GMT
    you'll find a lot of urban planners in NYC. icon_razz.gif They're everywhere! Urban Design/Community Engagement/Community Development/Economic Development/Transportation Planners/Management Analysts. They are everywhere.
  • LJay

    Posts: 11612

    Oct 03, 2013 7:52 PM GMT
    I picked up a book on urban planning once. I remember it said that many views are better when seen upside down between one's legs. I am dead serious.
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14354

    Oct 03, 2013 9:43 PM GMT
    I unfortunately wasted four and a half years of my life studying urban planning. I regret going to college and getting that bachelors degree in urban planning. Talk about a dead field and with lousy, shitty wages compared to most other professions. If I were you, I would stay away from urban planning because of the dealing with the politics and citizens that oppose any new ideas. Plus job opportunities are not all that great due to budget cutbacks. A degree in urban planning is almost guaranteed to result in either under employent or unemployment. Word to the wise, pursue a more lucrative career field and forget about urban planning. There is no lucrative future in urban planning.
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    Oct 03, 2013 9:52 PM GMT
    I did my Masters in Urban Planning but didn't go into the field. I was very disenchanted with it and the area I focused in studying is almost non-existent in this country.
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14354

    Oct 03, 2013 10:20 PM GMT
    If I were all you guys who think urban planning is such a great and fascinating profession, you need to think twice before wasting your time and money on a degree that is most likely never going to help you land a good paying job unless you want to kiss a crooked politicians ass. Planning jobs are still very scarce and the wages are not that great. It is a very difficult field to work in and you have to devote a lot of additional time to the profession. Urban planners don't have much of an outside life beyond planning. It can be very stressful work as well especially when dealing with the politicians and the general public. Requiring a masters degree for entry level planning jobs is ridiculous. There is no legitimate need for a masters degree for an entry level planning position. Some of these employers are unrealistic in their requirements but yet they don't want to pay a decent salary. That is another major disincentive for pursuing urban planning. Plus on top of all this is the budget problems in all levels of American government. Most states, counties, and cities have tightened their budgets and eliminated the non essential luxury positions like urban planning to focus on the important basic government services like schools, police, street repair etc. Urban planning is just a shitty, dead end profession that is best avoided. The professional associations for urban planners are just a bunch of money grabbers, everything costs an arm and a leg and their membership fees are astronomical. No wonder most urban planners are impoverished for life. That is why I abandoned that profession. The American Planning Association was of absolutely no help in securing a good job and all they wanted was a ton of money. Fuck that.
  • pandx970

    Posts: 357

    Oct 04, 2013 3:32 AM GMT
    SfTransplant3 saidI did my Masters in Urban Planning but didn't go into the field. I was very disenchanted with it and the area I focused in studying is almost non-existent in this country.


    Which one was that? icon_question.gif