Planning is the process of organizing the activities required to meet certain goals or objectives. Planning assistant is an entry-level position within professional planning, and focuses on helping senior planners develop intricate plans for various public and private development projects. Although planning assistants can work for a wide range of organizations, top employers include government agencies.
Mastering the Skills
Planning assistants need a blend of strong analytical and organizational skills. For example, when an organization wants to establish a community school, the planning assistants must collect and study a variety of statistical data to accurately forecast project timelines and identify and organize the required resources appropriately. Prioritizing and creative problem-solving skills are also crucial to these assistants, since they must schedule tasks in a logical order, as well as provide solutions to logistical challenges that might arise during the course of the project. Other useful skills include communication, multitasking and record keeping.
The main role of planning assistants is to perform research and compile project proposals. For example, when a local authority wants to construct a new road, the planning assistants are tasked with reviewing the financial, environmental, social and economic aspects of the project to establish whether it is viable. This typically involves conducting field assessments, interviewing local citizens to gather their views and studying similar projects that have been completed. If they establish that the project should proceed, they then develop a project proposal that provides the local authority with a detailed action plan for implementing the project, from concept through completion.
When they are not busy conducting feasibility studies and writing reports, planning assistants may help to execute other project needs, such as obtaining special permits or licenses, supervising providers of consultancy services, maintaining communication between the developers, government agencies and other interest groups, and ensuring adherence to all relevant laws and regulations. After the completion of various development projects, planning assistants may arrange for community reviews and respond to public inquiries.
To become a planning assistant, you need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, economics, public policy or a closely related field. Because most employers prefer professionals with one or two years of experience, you should seek internships while in school or after obtaining your degree to gain some practical work experience. Planning assistants don’t need to hold any licenses, except for those looking to practice in New Jersey or Michigan. To improve your chances of becoming a senior planner, you can obtain professional certifications offered by the American Institute of Certified Planners, as well as earn a master’s degree in planning.
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