Do you like planning games, where you’re in charge of a city or town? Have you ever wondered why your city’s public transit system is late? Complained that there’s never enough parking? There is a field of study and career path centered around those questions and how to solve challenging puzzles! Roll up your sleeves and get ready to learn more about the multidimensional world of “city and urban planning.”
What is City and Urban Planning?
Video games like Minecraft and Animal Crossing are dependent on a few key action principles. They ask players to create or design a world, town, or island and set up civil life around it. Skeptics doubt the methodology of digital games, but even traditional board games reflect the same thought puzzles; for instance, Settlers of Catan, or Risk. There’s a reason we humans like to manage and plan efficient civilizations, and there’s more to these intellectual games than meets the eye.
This kind of logistical game, in fact, asks users to create maps for gamified incorporation of ideas like city and urban planning—and potentially even civil engineering or environmental design (more on that here). For those of you who are interested in learning more about the intersection of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) topics in real life, consider whether you might enjoy a career in the complex world of urban planning and design!
Job Sectors, Titles
Today, the possibilities of job sectors and titles have expanded from what they once were. Harvard University shares the following information regarding careers in urban design.
Typically, graduates work for:
- Landscape architecture, architecture, or planning firms
- Consulting organizations
- Government agencies
- Higher education
Some job titles within the urban planning field include positions like:
- Architect/Urban Designer, multidisciplinary design firm
- Associate Planner, urban consulting
- Consultant, Urban Planning & Development firm
- Development Manager, real estate
- Founder, international NGO
- Planner: city government, consulting, or multidisciplinary design firm(s)
- Project Manager, economic development
- Project Planner and Analyst, nonprofit
- Research Associate, international urban development nonprofit
- And much more!
Blending Creativity and Technical Expertise – Always in Demand
The field of urban planning first emerged in the 1960s and 70s, largely influenced by the writings of scholar Jane Jacobs as a critique of the 1950s policies (or lack thereof). In the 50 years hence, however, the refinement of digital tools like AutoCAD and even 3-D printing technology has changed the landscape significantly.
As a matter of fact, the field is growing at a steady rate. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports: “About 3,800 openings for urban and regional planners are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.” Great news for upcoming students who are ready to explore!
Drafting the Blueprint
If you’re ready to get started and looking for ways to get involved in high school, let’s learn what it takes to achieve it! Initially, research always helps. For inspiration (and to see whether these kinds of challenges interest you) check out this visual collection and backgrounder by National Geographic about what urban planning solutions can look like.
Note that to enter the US job market as a competitive candidate, you should attain a four-year Bachelor’s degree. However, to advance in most careers in urban and city planning, you’ll want to pursue an advanced degree (specifically, a Master’s).
Beyond strong grades and test scores, you’ll want to have the necessary hard and soft skills to succeed in the field you desire. For this industry, career researchers at the organization CollegeGrad highlighted the following as important tasks for future urban planners to practice as part of their career plans.
- Meeting with public officials, developers, etc about development and/or land use
- Administering government plans or policies affecting land use
- Gathering and analyzing data from market research, censuses, and economic and environmental studies
- Conducting field investigations to analyze factors affecting the community
- Reviewing site plans submitted by developers
- Presenting recommendations or projects to communities, officials, and planning commissions
- Staying current on zoning and building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues
Finding ways to practice these skills in your extracurricular activities will round out your profile as you pursue your career goals!
The following two programs could be the perfect opportunities for you.
Remote – Rising juniors and seniors
“The PHC Group Summer Program offers talented high school rising/seniors an opportunity to go beyond the classroom to develop leadership skills and gain meaningful and tangible experience as part of a global team in a paid internship. Interns will participate in scheduled activities throughout the summer, engaging in team projects with senior leadership and exploring independent interests that support PHC Group’s mission.
Students will explore the design process and a standard problem-solving approach used by engineers. They will also utilize a series of design challenges to test and gather data on the efficiency of our designs. Projects include building a scale model structure compliant with code, zoning, and budget requirements as well as creating an artificial limb.”
Online and San Luis Obispo, CA (Cal Poly campus) – Current 6-11th graders
“At EPIC, participants explore the world of engineering through live virtual and in-person engineering labs.
TOPIC 1: Students will go through a variety of hands-on projects to learn about the world of computers, software, and electronics. They will learn about microcontrollers, writing software, reading sensors and control hardware, and constructing a mechanical apparatus.
TOPIC 2: Students will participate in hands-on activities to learn how earthquakes impact buildings as well as the design methods and technologies that ensure greater seismic safety. They will learn about shake-table testing of small structures, applying sensors, writing software to analyze data, as well as constructing earthquake force-resisting systems. Engineering fields that will be covered include Civil/Structural Engineering, Computer Science, and General Engineering.
TOPIC 3: This lab will explore the use of various sensors to monitor weather and soil conditions around a single plant. Collected data will be used with a controller to help provide for the plant’s wellbeing in various ways.”
If you’re struggling to find opportunities to engage in your interests, reach out to Empowerly to learn more about how we develop our student’s college profiles for success.