So what is a land planner, anyway? Plant planners come in a variety of professional guises, but they typically serve as mediators and integrators of major land projects as diverse as shopping malls, housing subdivisions, and forestry projects.
Land planners can be found in the major cities, in suburbs, rural areas, forests and parks. They also have a wide range of employers, from city and state governments, airports, land developers, and national transportation departments.
Whenever a new road or transportation system, housing project, strip mall, or recreational area is being planned, you can count on a land planner to be involved in the process.
And while land planning might sound like an easy job, it’s really a complicated orchestration of various people and entities. It requires the knowledge of pollution control laws, local zoning regulations, building codes and more.
Land planners are responsible for looking at all points of view of a project, from the community, to the builders and engineers, the local government, and everyone in between. They also have to take into account water, air and land safety considerations, as well as any social problems that might result from the project.
About the job
Today’s land planners work with diverse groups of people, and utilize a wide variety of skills, such as communication, diplomacy, analysis, critical judgement, decision making, and even economics.
After an initial meeting and discussions with the parties concerned with a land project, the planner goes to work studying the land, soil, water and air, as well as any other environmental factors of the proposed project. These factors could include the natural trees and other vegetation at the site, birds and other animals, and even insects.
In this early stage of the process, the land planner also has to take into account the goals of the project. For example, one goal might be to rehabilitate a decaying urban neighborhood by building a new housing development for lower income residents. The goal for another project might be to improve the transportation network of a city by constructing a new cross-town highway.
The land surrounding these projects will also have to be carefully considered, along with the local residents, and how the project will affect them. If it’s a highway project, for example, how disruptive will that be for the people who live along the construction zone? How noisy will the construction be? How will the residents navigate the construction site?
These factors and more have to be considered before the project can move past the planning stages into actual construction. Once everything has been thoroughly studied, the land planner will then make recommendations and proposals for the best use of the land under development, based on cost, function, and environmental concerns.
Then the process moves forward, and these recommendations are given to the construction and development professionals, local government agencies, and the general public where they can be debated in public hearings.
Training and certification
If you choose a land planning career, you should plan on getting a master’s degree if you intend to get a position in this field. If you’re currently in high school, you should start anticipating your undergraduate coursework and plan accordingly.
Once you enter college, your major should be in environmental studies, urban planning, or urban studies. Your course curriculum should include public administration, civil engineering, landscape architecture, public health and natural science. You should round out your college studies with subjects like written and oral communication, social science, political science and economics.
You’ll also want to develop strong problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as critical thinking abilities as you pursue your master’s degree.
Some hands-on experience is also beneficial to your future career prospects, so if you have summer time off, look to get a job working at the planning department in your area, and also attend any public hearings on land-use and neighborhood and urban renewal projects in your home town.