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Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Urban and Regional Planning Program



The Planning Profession

What is Planning?

  • Planning is a systematic, creative way to influence and respond to a wide variety of changes occurring in a neighborhood, in a city, in an entire region, or around the world.

  • Planners assist communities to formulate plans and policies to meet social, economic, environmental, and cultural needs in the face of societal forces.

  • Planners do so by identifying problems and opportunities, evaluating alternative solutions or plans, and communicating their findings in a way that allow citizens and public officials to make knowledgeable decisions about the future.

  • Planners offer options - so that communities and their citizens can achieve their vision of the future.  Planners are the key to implementing wishes, hopes, and aspirations of citizens all across the spectrum.  Isn't that what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he envisioned a true American democracy?

Planning can:

  • Preserve and enhance the quality-of-life

  • Protect the physical and natural environment

  • Promote equitable economic growth

  • Distribute services to disadvantaged communities

  • Respond effectively to development of all kinds

Should I Become A Planner?
  • Are you interested in positive social, economic, environmental, and physical change?

  • Do you want to work with people from various backgrounds to develop a better community?

  • Do you like to communicate with others about ideas, programs, and plans?

  • Are you challenged by complex problems - and excited about devising solutions to those problems?

  • Do you think about the future - about what could be - rather than about what is?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, you should consider a career in planning!

What Do Planners Do?

The planning process typically involves the performance of a number of roles. Some planners function primarily as technical analysts or researchers, others as designers or program developers, others as agents of social change, and still others as managers or educators. Some planners will make a career in only one of these roles; most, however, will perform several of them at different stages of their careers.

  • Planners formulate plans and policies to meet the social, economic, and physical needs of communities, and they develop the strategies to make these plans work.
  • Planners develop plans for land use patterns, housing needs, parks and recreation opportunities, highways and transportation systems, economic development, and other aspects of the future.
  • Planners must be technically competent and creative and show both hardheaded pragmatism and an ability to envision alternatives to the physical and social environments in which we live.
  • Planners work with the public to develop a vision of the future and to build on that vision.
  • Planners often function as mediators among conflicting community interests; they may also become facilitators, using their professional judgment to help identify the best resolutions to the issues creating conflicts.
  • Planners analyze problems, visualize futures, compare alternatives, and describe implications, so that public officials and citizens can make knowledgeable choices.
  • Planners design and manage the planning process itself, in order to involve interest groups, citizens, and public officials in stimulating and thought-provoking ways.

Below is a list of the most common types of planning practice:

  • Land Use Planning

  • Environmental Planning

  • Coastal Planning

  • Emergency Management Planning

  • Economic Development Planning

  • Transportation Planning

  • Housing, Social, and Community Development Planning

In addition to the substantive areas listed above, you can find planning jobs in other planning areas:

  • Geographic Information Science (GIS) technology

  • Health care delivery

  • Infrastructure planning

  • Landscape architecture

  • Urban design

  • Urban revitalization

  • Urban growth management

  • Sustainable development

  • Real estate development

  • Brownfield redevelopment

  • Historic preservation

  • Public finance

  • Public policy and management

  • Criminal justice

  • Law