USC Price School of Public Policy

What is Planning?

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What is planning?
Half of humanity now lives in cities. Every problem that we care about – economic development, environmental sustainability, social justice, and democratic governance, to name a few – play out in urban areas. Planning is an inter-disciplinary field dedicated to systematic and creative approaches to improving communities and places. Planners focus on context. They use modern analysis, quantitative and qualitative, combined with participatory methods and theoretical acumen, to solve policy problems. The planner’s approach is that theories and facts must be applied in context. Planners are generalists who value a deep understanding of communities. Planning is immersed in place and cognizant of the links between the character of neighborhoods and communities and quality of life. Planning is explicitly future-oriented. Today’s problems – in economic development, healthy communities, environmental sustainability, or social justice – are necessarily long-term. Planners work with the public, private, and non-profit sectors to bring together stakeholders for long-term solutions.

What is the planner’s toolkit?
Planners understand the theory of cities, from land and real estate markets to methods of public participation and theories of justice. Planners are skilled at both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Planners learn to communicate visually, verbally, and in writing. Most importantly, planners work in teams through collaborative problem solving. The USC Price Master of Planning program teaches all these skills. In a recent survey of USC Price MPL alumni, 89 percent said that the program prepared them for leadership roles.

What are the problems that planners address?
Planners work on a range of issues. Some planners work to increase the supply of affordable housing. Others work with public and private entities to spur job growth and economic development. Some planners work as advocates for local communities, while others are focused more on urban design and place-making. Some planners work on a host of challenging problems related to modern infrastructure – transportation, water supply, and electric power all require an understanding of the issues that range from financing to land use to environmental impacts and multi-criteria decision making. Some planners focus on environmental sustainability. The opportunities are broad.

What kinds of jobs to planners have?
Planners work for public, private, and non-profit entities. USC Price graduates have positions in major consulting firms and at government agencies from the local to the national level. Some of our graduates work for non-profit organizations.