Crystal, a Program Manager for an open space and land conservation agency, describes what she loves most about her job, its challenges, the key realization in her career, and work-life balance. She thought she wanted to be an architect but then realized that, instead of having an impact on a single building, she could help an entire region. Conservation is a great field, with many opportunities.
Urban and regional planners identify community needs and develop short- and long-term plans to create, grow, or revitalize a community or area. For example, planners may examine plans for proposed facilities, such as schools, to ensure that these facilities will meet the needs of a changing population.
As an area grows or changes, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning a new park, sheltering the homeless, or making the region more attractive to businesses.
Some planners work on broad, community-wide plans, while others focus on specific issues. Ultimately, all planners promote the best use of a community’s land and resources for residential, commercial, or recreational purposes.
When beginning a project, planners work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues or goals. Using research, data analysis, and collaboration with interest groups, planners formulate strategies to address issues or meet goals.
They also may help carry out community plans, oversee projects, and organize the work of the groups involved. Projects may range from a policy recommendation for a specific initiative to a long-term, comprehensive area plan.
Planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work, including geographic information systems (GIS) tools that analyze and manipulate data. GIS is used to integrate the data with electronic maps. For example, planners may use GIS to overlay a land map with population density indicators. They also use statistical software, visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs.
Short-term on-the-job training
As of 2011, New Jersey was the only state that required planners to be licensed, although Michigan required registration to use the title “community planner.”
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