Planning Technician

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Planning Technician


Have you ever thought about why cities are built around lakes or rivers? Or why streets are often laid out in grids? Cities do not just form naturally but are well planned out designs by experts. Planning technicians assist urban planners in the design and coordination of land-use changes, civic design and urban renewal. They use technical knowledge to help plan urban and suburban centers.

Planning technicians work under the guidance of urban planners to build and maintain spatial databases, plan and design land development projects within a community context and prepare graphic presentations. They serve as the link between urban planners and civil engineers because their work focuses on planning effective land use along with improving our existing infrastructure problems in relation to urban sprawl. Technicians adopt mathematical and engineering principles in order to solve various technical planning problems in the areas of research and development, manufacturing, inspection and maintenance. Some technicians suggest locations for particular planning projects, while others survey land-sites, prepare sketches and computer drawings or monitor instruments used in different research studies.

Planning technicians usually focus the majority of their work on the research, development and planning stages. They conduct studies in laboratories and also go on location for field inspections of proposed sites. Based on their research, they can determine whether or not a proposed zoning project is a good idea and recommend a project be terminated if it appears that it may damage the town or the region in some way. Their primary interest in planning is to help a community, not detract from it. Therefore, if a shopping mall in an historic neighborhood would jump-start the economy, but destroy its natural beauty and style, planning technicians may recommend stopping the project. These recommendations also establish guidelines for future developments and community preservation. For instance, they could recommend that no major developers be granted permission to build in an ecologically fragile region or that buildings cannot surpass a certain height.

Planning technicians use computer-aided design (CAD) to create three-dimensional drawings. They also respond to zoning enquiries, write planning proposals, prepare public notices on planning matters, while complying with legislative by-laws. They usually specialize in a type of development area such as commercial buildings or suburban neighborhoods or natural zones such as parks and mountains. They are required to keep up to date about new ideas and changes in planning legislation, design standards and zoning regulations.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
What interests and skills does it take to become a planning technician? They should be analytical, with an aptitude for both technical and creative tasks. They are imaginative and can envision physical and social alternatives to our communities and urban centers. Technicians should also be interested in the relationship between people, animals and their respective habitats in communities.

Planning technicians should have good written and oral communication skills. They must be able to explain complex ideas to everyone from the public to senior government officials, as well as write concise reports and persuasive proposals. They should feel comfortable with computers and solving difficult problems. Finally, most planning technicians are concerned with helping the public in a culturally sensitive manner.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conduct research on planning proposals for planners and engineers
  • Make designs and maps using computer-aided design (CAD) systems
  • Meet with various people, including planners, architects, developers, Native leaders and city councilors
  • Review proposals regarding development and amendments to by-laws
  • Present project ideas to planners and engineers
  • Write reports on planning research and recommend actions to be taken
  • May speak with members of the media regarding city development
  • Planning technicians spend the majority of their days working on computers in an office. Since they are assistants to planners and engineers, they must have work prepared for them, often working with strict deadlines. They will often travel to proposed sites and sometimes to other cities to help in large projects. They may even simply walk around a neighborhood, park or recreation area to generate ideas or monitor initiatives. Technicians generally work standard 40-hour weeks, with occasional overtime.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Planning technicians work for governmental agencies. In municipal governments, they focus on transportation, engineering and recreational needs of the city. Some work for educational institutions and health care facilities. Private companies, such as consulting firms, research facilities, architecture and urban planning firms, law firms and non-profit organizations also hire planning technicians.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Although, technicians are "assistants" by job title, once they acquire further knowledge, they will be given more responsibility. With experience, planning technicians can advance into more supervisory and management positions. Other possibilities include becoming a full time urban planner or an industrial or civil engineer, along with the proper educational steps, of course.

  Educational Paths  
The educational steps for becoming a planning technician involve taking a college program in planning technology. Many of these programs include a co-op term, which will give students some hands-on experience.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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