Urban planning is a set of processes for managing the development and design of cities and their surrounding areas. Some of the issues that factor into urban planning include efficient land use, transportation, maintaining clean air and water, economic opportunities, and education. Urban planners have to balance forward-thinking with historic preservation, and they work with multiple municipal agencies to achieve their goals. They also consider the needs of multiple constituencies in their work. You'll see urban planning at work throughout the world, and cultures have practiced it in one form or another since ancient times.
Urban planning is an important discipline because urban planners explore the issues that face our cities today and attempt to address them. If you have a passion for your city—large or small—you can make a difference by studying urban planning and putting it into practice. Your work is different from that of an architect, because you're not looking at the city as a whole rather than particular structures. Urban planning involves big picture thinking and looks at issues that will affect the city not just today but also in the future.
There are opportunities to use your urban planning knowledge in historic preservation and conservation jobs, and many municipalities have departments that handle planning and strategy for the future. Urban planning is a wide discipline, so you might consider looking at other industries that are similar to planning and preservation. Landscape architects, land developers, and transportation boards often have job openings for urban planners. Look for jobs with nonprofits that advocate for better urban planning or for particular environmental causes. If you're passionate about a particular neighborhood or historic estate, you may be able to turn that calling into a career as well.
Online courses on Coursera about urban planning provide you with the opportunity to learn about green cities, public health, sustainability, and geographic information system (GIS) mapping and spatial analysis. You might discover the principles of successfully managing smart urban infrastructures as well as connecting cities and nature through innovation. Learn about international urban planning concepts too, such as urban planning for cities in Africa, global environmental management, and mitigating climate change in developing countries through online courses on Coursera.
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