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Planning Dogma - Anyone Can Plan

Can anyone become a professional planner?

  • Yes, irregardless of background or training, anyone can be a planner

    Votes: 4 7.8%
  • Sort of. With appropriate training at a planning office, anyone can become a planner

    Votes: 32 62.7%
  • No, you must possess, at a minimum, any bachelors degree

    Votes: 8 15.7%
  • No, you must possess, at a minimum, a bachelors degree in planning

    Votes: 3 5.9%
  • No, you must have a masters degree in planning

    Votes: 4 7.8%

  • Total voters
    51

ianplanner

Cyburbian
Messages
22
Points
2
Planning Dogma - "Anyone Can Plan"

Legitimacy of Professional Planning Practice

Can anyone plan? Or do you need a set of credentials to legitimize your effectiveness in the office and your community?
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
We've been through this one sooo many times. Credentials, no. Training or education may help. It also takes innate talent.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
It's also a mind set. Even with the "proper training" some people jus tdon't see big picture items, or can't relate to "the public" very well.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
bturk said:
It's also a mind set. Even with the "proper training" some people jus tdon't see big picture items, or can't relate to "the public" very well.
I agree.

I have met planners with Master's that just don't get it, whereas I have met people with no more than an AA in teaching do quite well in an Associate Planner position (after working the front counter as an office assistant and then as a Planning Tech). I think the education helps a little more with the long range planning, but I think current planning and processing development applications can be taught in a work environment.
 
Messages
5,353
Points
31
Education can only take you so far. The person has to have the aptitude for the job......regardless of the profession.
 

troy

Member
Messages
68
Points
4
Anyone can plan if you show them how.

Of course, I also believe that anyone can perform brain surgery with a little bit of on the job training, a steady hand, and a knack for that sort of thing ;)
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
29
Education is a wonderful thing (although a lot of current planning education could be more wonderful …), but success, as others are saying here, is about ATTITUDE, about how regard this work and the people you are doing it for. If you don't have a commitment to community, you are not going to be a good planner!
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
I think it depends on how you phrase the question - if you mean planning within the "system" that has evolved, then I think you really do need some education, or at least some experience in order to work within the system.

If you meaning planning in terms of intuitively being able to plan/design a community then I think it's fair game for almost anyone. Even 8 year olds given a blank sheet and told to draw up an ideal community can come up with some totally amazing ideas.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
When I look back at the experience that I recieved as a Planning Intern vs the knowledge acquired, I believe that the internship is really what taught me about planning. The only way you can really learn how to be a planner is to get in a planning office or a consulting firm. I have people that graduated with me that, if put in a planning office, would have no idea what to do because those people took different jobs after recieving their masters. On the other hand, we have a planning assistant here who has no planning experience, but is learning on the job and in a few years could probably go out and get another mid-level planning job.
 

DA Monkey

Cyburbian
Messages
84
Points
4
I like the comment, "anyone can plan if you show them how" as well as "even 8 year olds........

Im not so comfortable with words like ATTITUDE, aptitude, or the concept of innate talent.

Afterall, look at all the Simcity "planners".

I realise its a bit of old tripe, but in this case it has relevance, "what is planning?" Given the dictionary definition everybody plans to some extent.

I have met planners who are terrible statutory planners but really make really good local area planners or strategic planners, council planners, state agency planners, community planners etc.

I have also met engineers and policy officers who undertake development control or social planning.

Ultimately you dont need anyone to tell you that your a "planner", its a job with many differing facets and if you like it - well your a planner.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,401
Points
32
powerplan said:
Im not so comfortable with words like ATTITUDE, aptitude, or the concept of innate talent.

Afterall, look at all the Simcity "planners".

As far as I know there are no public meetings with dozens of pissed off people, or stubborn single minded elected officials in Simcity. That is where the talent attitude and aptitude come in.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
I think you can teach anyone to approve things (plans, building permits, confirmation of zoning) provided they comply exactly with the by-law / standards, but it takes creativity, thought and intuition to develop the standards and to assess complex proposals against them. We have staff that have worked in our office for 25 years, great at approving the cut and dry cases, but if really complicated or out of the norm, they tend to miss the big picture.
 

132543

Member
Messages
5
Points
0
I have a planning degree, and it has helped in my current position, but I find that is only a beginning. I have to continue educate myself to remain effective. Books, conferences, classes and other educational opportunities are very important. One of the most effective means of communicating is not using double negatives: "irregardless"? That is just poor.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
I think the correct answer option is not available above. The first option of anyone can plan is OUT, but all others could apply under certain conditions. I know planners with only office training that are brilliant, and also had classmates in my masters program that did just not “get it”.

The answer is a combination. You need training (no matter what your education), you need education (whether self instructed through reading or in a classroom setting), and you need to have the mindset or the other two criteria are worthless.

But the most important is no matter how you learn… you must keep learning. There is nothing worse than a planner that received their degree decades ago and has failed to change with the times.

We must continue to learn and adapt or we wont be able to fulfill our role.
 

dczipf

Member
Messages
5
Points
0
Accreditation doesnt apprar to have much weight in this thread or on this website in general. I view accreditation as an indication of commitment - commitment to the profession, commitment to further education and commitment to making our commuities a better place to live in.

Also consider Josiah Royce who said it in more flowery terrms:
"I believe in the beloved community, and in the spirit which makes it beloved, and in the commuion of all who are in will and in deed its members. I see as yet no such commuity but nonetheless my rule of life is: Act so as to hasten its coming."
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
When I look at commitment to the profession, I look at other things than initials. Has the person been active in professional organizations such as APA, IEDC, ULI or others? Do they take advantage of opportunities to learn, through conferences, seminars, etc.? Do they speak at conferences or write articles? Those are persons who are dedicated to the profession. Unfortunately, too many people seek AICP or other designations as a career move. Once obtained, they do nothing to further advance their knowledge of planning, or to advance the field of planning in general.
 

dbhstockton

Member
Messages
12
Points
1
I'm intrigued that so many have downplayed the importance of credentials. I'm new to this forum and just beginning to consider a career in planning. I believe I have the innate aptitudes requireed of the profession, but I'm stuck on formulating a strategy to "break in" to the field.

I'm 26 and I have a BA in History. I've been working in technology the past few years (which has helped me realize I need to be doing something I really care about and feel is important). I live in the New York Metro area.

I'd like it If anyone in this forum can help me, or point me to a relevant thread. What I'm interested in is what schools in my part of the country are respected, ways to gain experience other than interning, information on what the profession is really like, what's rewarding, what's frustrating, where to get more information (I've toured one school, read up at the local library, and have been trolling the internet -- I don't know any planners to talk to).

Thank you.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
For expereince I would suggest doing volunteer work with a neighbourhood improvement association an architectural preservation group and generally being involved in local activities. You can also go one step further and attend public meetings and forums on planning issues.

I would also suggest giving your local planning office a call make an appointment and speak to a senior person, and ask the same questions you did here.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
donk said:
For expereince I would suggest doing volunteer work
Yes, and even though there are great planners that do not have a degree in planning, the fastest and most comprehensive experience is a master’s program. I was going through the same problem about 3 year ago. Most people will let you volunteer, of course, but unless you are independently wealthy and can work full time, this can be a slow experience process. During school you will get a vast, intense and in-depth tour through the field and most schools work with hands on projects in their area or region. Also, many times, this organizational process will help you meet contacts that might lead to future employment.

As far as respected schools in your area, well, if a school is accredited then it is respected. After that I would go where you feel most comfortable because you spend a lot of time there. Also, many offer assistantships that help you pay for school and this is a plus as well.

Good luck and have fun, because if you enjoy it…it is.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Breaking into planning (or economic development) can be very difficult. Very few jobs are not listed without a requirement for experience. One of the exceptions I have found are the smaller neighborhood organizations and Main Street programs. Of course, they also pay poorly. Your background in technology can also help you to find an entry. If you did web site design, for instance, you might approach planning departments or consultants to use your services. Once there, soak up everything else they have to offer. None of the strategies are a quick entry. It will take time.
 

DJohn3

Member
Messages
6
Points
0
For planning schools in the NY Metro area, have you considered Hunter College? It's part of the City University of NY system, thus less costly than the private schools. Plus, it's founder was Paul Davidoff, a proponent of advicasy planning -- if architecture and land development aren't your areas of interest. When I went, back in the 70s, it was a very small program. Good luck.
 

dbhstockton

Member
Messages
12
Points
1
Thank you very much, guys. Could you offer me opinions on what it's actually like to practice planning? I sense some strong views on the topic. Maybe you could start by saying "You should definitely not be a planner if ____." or "What makes it all worthwhile is when_____ ." or "I had no idea that I was going to be doing so much _____." These are the sort of questions (or rather, answers) I'll be asking planners when I meet with them.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Huston said:




As far as respected schools in your area, well, if a school is accredited then it is respected.

.....or it hasn't missed its monthly APA payments in quite some time. Don't pass over an "unaccredited school" without researching it. I went to one, and couldn't imagine a better program. All classes were taught by various planning directors, higher ups, etc. Granted, most of our classes were geared on PA planning, but that is where 99.9% of the students in the program were from.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
I agree. I don't know if the program I attended was accredited or not...It really doesn't matter. I had great profs. and no employer has ever questioned the value of the education I recieved. The accreditation is run through the APA anayway and we know what kind of racket they have running.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Don't pass over an "unaccredited school" without researching it.
I don't know if the program I attended was accredited or not...It really doesn't matter. I had great profs. and no employer has ever questioned the value of the education I received.
Of course, I in no way was trying to insinuate that no unaccredited schools were good ones, of course many are excellent, just like there are many planners who do a great job that never went to school for planning at all. Mike is right; schools should be researched, accredited or unaccredited. The point I am trying to make, is that if a school is accredited then it has it’s ducks in a row and is most likely a respected school and a good place to start looking into (regardless of what one thinks of the APA).

As far as your other question, Q: “You should definitely not be a planner if ____." A: “you don’t have thick skin”. No matter what is done, even if it is nothing, someone will be unhappy. But, Q: “What makes it all worthwhile is when_____”. A: “through a collection of ideas you see improvement due to the planning process”.
 

Howard Roark

Cyburbian
Messages
276
Points
10
Think planning is a problem, try going into architecture. For a lot of clients, they see this, as they’re one and only chance to vent their creative juices. And trust me, a lot of real estate people, and HR people (who end up making facilities decisions at companies) see you as an architect as just a hired contractor and conveyer of their ideas, at best, or an obstacle to their golden vision of a building, at worst. They will tell you that the market will not support your ideas (there is no market research in to style that I know of) or that the city will eventually cave in and give you that - curb cut, setback, extra story, etc…. because they need this project.

They come in with little out of scale sketches, and odd criteria, some of my favorites -

“I want to see all my employees from my window”

You have 150 employees, unless we go big brother, this can not be done.

“My wife wants to pick the colors”

Hey, its your money, can I tape this conversation for future evidence, uh.. I mean reference.

“I want it to look like this cool adobe building I saw on vacation in New Mexico last year”

That’s find and dandy but lets check our zoning first, and see what kind of parking we need. And adobe is not really part of the vernacular around here, so let’s concentrate on what your “needs” are.

“I want to fit into the community”

Great!

“I shall do this with 12 acres of parking pressed up against and arterial road, and massive signage”

Ah.. Which community are we trying to fit into?

Or the absolute best-

“We can’t let the architect design it! All they do is run up the costs to try to get published in some high-flouting magazine”

Well, you got me there
 

Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
7,335
Points
30
what it takes...

I am currently in a quasi-internship with a small, politically volatile city. I'm operating almost like a director of planning, but without the cool title.

Honestly, a planner has to be patient. Many decisions recommended to City Councils or Commissions by planners don't have results until 20 years down the road. Sometimes you get immediate gratification, but not all that often. Likewise, a planner has to be patient when it comes to the political nature of the decision makers. Remember, something that is an objective decision to you can be politically costly to the actual decision maker. I definitely agree about the "thick skin" comments earlier. As a planner, you will receive criticism. NEVER take it personally.

In my case, I do a lot of public relations along with planning. PR can be very rewarding, especially when people swing by the office the day after a Commission meeting and thank you for guiding them through a process.

If you ever feel down and out remember- We planners are a family. If you're having problems dealing with some specific issue, call another planner and they will probably be glad to help you out. Most planners share a common cause: improving communities.

Good luck with your decisions.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,394
Points
43
I don’t think that just anyone can be a planner. I think that people can be trained, and then they can kind of be a planner. Think about how we look at places. Many of us well look at a place with more detail to try to understand how different elements interact with each other, and how everything connects to make a place work. We also look at current, and potential future problems a place will have based on it’s current situations.

Many other people don't think quite like that.
 

ssc

Cyburbian
Messages
209
Points
9
dbhstockton said:
I'm intrigued that so many have downplayed the importance of credentials. I'm new to this forum and just beginning to consider a career in planning. I believe I have the innate aptitudes requireed of the profession, but I'm stuck on formulating a strategy to "break in" to the field.

I'm 26 and I have a BA in History. I've been working in technology the past few years (which has helped me realize I need to be doing something I really care about and feel is important). I live in the New York Metro area.

I'd like it If anyone in this forum can help me, or point me to a relevant thread. What I'm interested in is what schools in my part of the country are respected, ways to gain experience other than interning, information on what the profession is really like, what's rewarding, what's frustrating, where to get more information (I've toured one school, read up at the local library, and have been trolling the internet -- I don't know any planners to talk to).

Thank you.

I used to live in NYC and was involved with the local APA chapter. I believe the NY Metro APA chapter is still very active. If you want to meet some real live planners, you could attend one of their meetings or other events. At one time there were regularly scheduled happy hours - I think they were called Third Thursdays. The Metro APA website is www.nyplanning.org.

As you contemplate your career future, you may want to consider other allied fields. I am not sure exactly what about planning attracts you, but some other related fields to consider (along with planning) are: public policy, architecture, urban design, land use/zoning or environmental law (Pace law school is one of the best in country for env. and land use law), geography (I think Hunter is supposed to be excellent for this), real estate development (Columbia and NYU both have great real estate programs). I am not discouraging planning, just encouraging you to explore all options.

Good luck!
 
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