Bachelor's in Sustainability

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Careers in Urban Planning: Sustainability in Action

Urban planning involves the orderly design and development of land in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the country. It draws upon architectural, engineering, political, and social concerns to forge plans to develop open land, such as empty fields, in addition to making recommendations to revitalize various parts of the community.

Urban planners not only develop short- and long-term plans to create or revitalize a community, but also help communities manage the various social, economic, and environmental impacts of those plans. For example, if a city wants to install a dedicated bike lane on a busy street, urban planners envision how the installation can be carried out, in addition to planning for the impact that the bike lane may have on traffic, street parking, and parking meter revenue.

An urban planner consults a land use map.

Professionals who choose this career path should also understand the importance of incorporating sustainability into various development and revitalization efforts. For example, forging a suburban development plan that involves linking sidewalks and private streets to transit stops can help reduce vehicular trips, which in turn can reduce pollution.

Individuals who want to pursue a career in urban planning have a range of professions to choose from, including four popular, in-demand positions: urban planner, planning and development surveyor, environmental manager, and community service administrator. In any of these positions, an important first step is the right education, such as an online bachelor’s degree in sustainability.

Careers in Urban Planning

Careers in urban planning are extremely varied, especially since professionals who work in large metropolitan areas, such as Chicago and San Diego, will be guided by different policies and objectives than those who work in suburban or rural areas. However, municipalities of all sizes seek professionals with expertise in urban planning and sustainability to fill the four important roles.

Urban Planner

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans for cities, suburban areas, and rural communities. In addition to developing plans that meet an area’s existing needs, they also make accommodations for changes that may impact an area in the future, such as population growth. Duties of urban and regional planners may include assessing the feasibility of various proposals, identifying needed changes in proposals, and making recommendations about whether a proposal should be denied or approved.

Most urban planners must have completed a master’s degree from an accredited institution to be considered for most positions. However, bachelor’s degree graduates may find that they’re eligible to pursue entry-level roles in this field, such as assistant planner and junior planner. Necessary skills to succeed in this career path include analytical, communication, decision-making, and leadership skills.

According to May 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for urban and regional planners was $74,350.

Planning and Development Surveyor

Planning and development surveyors mark and document property lines. They research land titles, land records, and survey records; prepare maps and reports; and establish official land and water boundary lines for deeds and other legal documents. For example, if adjacent commercial lots are sold to different buyers, a surveyor may be asked to mark the property boundaries to prevent future disputes.

Aspiring planning and development surveyors often need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as an online bachelor’s degree in sustainability, to be considered for entry-level employment. Further, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require that surveyors pass a licensing exam to be considered for advanced positions. Candidates typically work for several years under a licensed surveyor before they’re eligible to become licensed. Surveyors must develop several important qualities to succeed, such as strong communication and visualization, time management, and problem-solving skills.

Data from the BLS indicates that as of May 2019, the median annual salary for planning and development surveyors was $63,420.

Environmental Manager

Environmental managers, also known as environmental specialists, use their knowledge and expertise to protect human health. For example, environmental managers provide information to government officials, business owners, and community members about possible environmental health hazards, such as sewage spills. They may also be asked to develop plans to prevent, fix, or control environmental problems, such as water pollution.

Most positions require that candidates possess at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as an online bachelor’s degree in sustainability. However, individuals interested in pursuing advanced positions may need to complete a master’s degree. Aspiring environmental managers are likely to find that developing strong analytical, communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills can help them succeed.

The BLS reports that as of May 2019, the median annual salary for environmental managers and specialists was $71,360.

Community Development Administrator

Community development administrators oversee the caretaking and operation of community facilities, such as parks, schools, roads, and other public infrastructure. They provide aid and information to public and private developers and, in some instances, research, prepare, and submit grant applications to state and federal agencies. Professionals who choose this career path conduct community needs assessments, prepare budgets, and supervise staff who are involved with cleaning, maintaining, and running community facilities. They may also prepare benchmark and performance measurements for the administration of grant funds.

Although bachelor’s degree holders often find that they’re eligible for entry-level positions in this field, some roles require that applicants hold a master’s degree. Community development administrators must also develop several key skills to be successful, such as analytical, communication, managerial, problem-solving, and time-management skills.

Data from the BLS indicates that as of May 2019, the median annual salary for urban and regional planners, including community development administrators, was $74,350.

Your Path Toward a Career in Urban Planning Starts at Maryville

Individuals who want to pursue careers in urban planning must start by developing the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed. Earning the right degree, such as an online bachelor’s degree in sustainability from Maryville University, can provide you with the background you’ll need to pursue your professional goals.

Let’s be brave together. Learn more about how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability program can prepare you for a career in urban planning.

Sources
Career Trend, “Job Description for a Community Development Coordinator”

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Urban Planning

Houston Chronicle, “Role of Urban Planners”

Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Duties of a Land Surveyor?”

Society for Human Resource Management, Environmental Health and Safety Manager

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Environmental Scientists and Specialists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Surveyors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Urban and Regional Planners

World Bank, 3 Big Ideas to Achieve Sustainable Cities and Communities