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Thread: Difference- planner/planning technician

  1. #1
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    Difference- planner/planning technician

    I am trying to decide what to study after high school. I want to know what is the difference between a planner and a planning technician. Who is actually responsible for doing things like designing a subdivision and site plan? I am more interested in doing design work. I have a choice of taking a planning technician program for a diploma or a urban and regional planning program for a bachelor's degree. Can someone please help me out? Do planners and planning technicians in the private sector usually make more money than public sector?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by tsangboy View post
    I am trying to decide what to study after high school. I want to know what is the difference between a planner and a planning technician. Who is actually responsible for doing things like designing a subdivision and site plan? I am more interested in doing design work. I have a choice of taking a planning technician program for a diploma or a urban and regional planning program for a bachelor's degree. Can someone please help me out? Do planners and planning technicians in the private sector usually make more money than public sector?

    Thanks!
    Hi tsangboy. Welcome to Cyburbia. Your question is really dependent on location. Every community has different job descriptions for planners or planning technicians. In general though a planning technician is the more entry level job which usually entails permitting or code enforcement duties. It might include small amounts of site plan review, but that is normally left for the mid to high level planner in the office.

    You can search around the Student Forum to better understand some of the educational opportunities for planners, but if you want to do planning, then getting a planning degree from an accredited program is important. I have not seen a planning technician program before. I would imagine it is a less intense planning degree?

    As for how much you make, if you are worried about that... don't go into planning. Good luck.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    From what I've seen of planning techs, they're frequently relegated to the more menial and tedious planning tasks. Often times there's limited opportunity for advancement just because techs usually don't have the credentials to move up to planner.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I've actually never heard of the term "planning technician." I've worked in firms that have teams of drafters and other "technicians" to do the menial work and I actually don't personally think this is a good model. In my opinion, junior professionals should carry the preponderance of responsibility for maintaining documentation, creating maps and drawings, developing and running GIS models, doing field surveys, etc, not as an exclusive focus, but as much of their time. As they progress, these responsibilities will shift away from them and they'll spend more of their time managing, doing and giving presentations, going to meetings, liaising with clients and the public, etc. That's what my current firm does, and I think it's a better model. Seniors should know how to do all that stuff.. and that means spending time as juniors actually doing it.

  5. #5
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    Where I work the technicians aren't necessarily even entry level positions. The position is like an administrative assistant where anyone with any experience level can do it. None of our techs have any background in planning nor will they ever be in a position to make the jump to planner. Two of our techs have been here for over 20 years and are still below entry-level planners in the department hierarchy.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    My only private job was as an intern. I did a combination of tech work like drafting and helping to research codes or review and draft proposals with the planners. The planners and engineers did the actual design work, techs just put it into autoCAD. As far as public sector, the job changes. I haven't seen any design work in the public sector. I might advise someone to move or redesign to make it work better for my community or codes, but I don't actually design much.
    For my advice, if you're going into planning, go for the bachelor's. It gives you more options and makes you promotable, but like they said earlier, don't do it for the money. You don't hear about many philanthropic planners dedicating a wing to the new hospital or a university building.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  7. #7
    Planner Technician is really a secretary within the planning department. So some of their tasks are unique to planning (routine permit processing), but it's still clerical in nature. I've seen some planner graduates take planning tech jobs, but only out of necessity, obviously, since there's nothing about going to college for planning that would only prepare you for that level. Again, it's just a secretarial position within a planning department.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    My only private job was as an intern. I did a combination of tech work like drafting and helping to research codes or review and draft proposals with the planners. The planners and engineers did the actual design work, techs just put it into autoCAD. As far as public sector, the job changes. I haven't seen any design work in the public sector. I might advise someone to move or redesign to make it work better for my community or codes, but I don't actually design much.
    For my advice, if you're going into planning, go for the bachelor's. It gives you more options and makes you promotable, but like they said earlier, don't do it for the money. You don't hear about many philanthropic planners dedicating a wing to the new hospital or a university building.
    Thanks for your explanation! And thanks to all the other awesome people who replied!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Planner Technician is really a secretary within the planning department. So some of their tasks are unique to planning (routine permit processing), but it's still clerical in nature. I've seen some planner graduates take planning tech jobs, but only out of necessity, obviously, since there's nothing about going to college for planning that would only prepare you for that level. Again, it's just a secretarial position within a planning department.
    I'll echo this point of view. The planning tech position deals more with the administrative side of a project, and the same is pretty much true for the engineering tech, building department tech, etc. (at least for the public sector in this area).
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Ive found sometimes around here Planning Technician and Planner 1 are synonymous.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by AG74683 View post
    Ive found sometimes around here Planning Technician and Planner 1 are synonymous.
    In a smaller office there is more blending of duties because you have fewer low-ranking people who can do all the clerical work.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    I have a planning technician in my office. The position is very much an entry level position and was established to handle a particular kind of adminstrative permit that we happen to get a great number of (>300 per year). I'm trying to transition the position to assistant planner, which essentially is a Planner I position. The planning tech position in our office is much more than a secretarial position, but does not have the level of discretion of even a Planner I. It does have a degree of discretion and autonomy, and certainly is on the track to more senior planning position. I am giving this individual more responsibilities such as some of the simpler conditional use permits and associated staff reports. I do not expect there to be an assistant planner position to open up in my office and I want him to be able to move up into a good position in another organization when he wants to.

    Designing subdivisions and so on generally would be a private sector opportunity, although in the public sector we often re-design subdivisions for applicants who seem to be clueless about what is actually on the ground and what is possible or practical.

    Private sector pays more, but has less job security. Think about how risk-averse you are.

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