Career Development

What Does a Planning Assistant Do?

Find out what a Planning Assistant does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Planning Assistant.

The Planning Assistant role is designed to support the planning department in organizing and managing schedules, resources, and project timelines. This position acts as a foundational support system, ensuring that all planning activities are aligned with organizational goals and objectives. By assisting in the coordination of various projects and facilitating communication between departments, the Planning Assistant helps maintain a smooth and efficient workflow. Their contributions are essential in enabling the planning team to forecast, strategize, and implement plans effectively, thereby ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget. Through meticulous attention to detail and a proactive approach to problem-solving, individuals in this role play an integral part in the success of the planning department’s operations.

Planning Assistant Job Duties

  • Assist in the development and implementation of urban and regional planning projects, including analyzing data, preparing reports, and creating presentations for stakeholders.
  • Coordinate public engagement efforts, including organizing meetings, workshops, and public hearings to gather community input on planning initiatives.
  • Review and process planning applications, including zoning changes, site plans, and special use permits, ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.
  • Maintain and update geographic information systems (GIS) databases, using mapping software to analyze spatial data and create maps for planning projects.
  • Conduct environmental reviews and assessments to evaluate the impact of proposed developments on natural resources, ecosystems, and community health.
  • Prepare grant applications and manage awarded funds to support planning projects, ensuring compliance with grant requirements and reporting obligations.
  • Monitor demographic, economic, and environmental trends to inform planning decisions and forecast future community needs.
  • Research and draft amendments to local planning and zoning ordinances, proposing changes to address emerging issues or align with best practices in urban and regional planning.

Planning Assistant Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing a Planning Assistant’s salary include years of experience, specialized skills in urban and environmental planning software, proficiency in data analysis and GIS tools, as well as a demonstrated ability to manage complex projects. Additionally, the sector (public vs. private) and the size of the employing organization can significantly affect earnings.

  • Median Annual Salary: $65,625 ($31.55/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $108,000 ($51.92/hour)

The employment of planning assistants is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing urbanization and the need for sustainable development, requiring Planning Assistants to support urban and regional planners in creating comprehensive plans for land use, community projects, and infrastructure development, amidst evolving environmental regulations and community needs.

Planning Assistant Job Requirements

Education: A Planning Assistant typically requires a diverse educational background, with many holding high school diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, post-secondary certificates, or associate’s degrees. Relevant fields of study include urban planning, geography, public administration, or environmental studies. Coursework in statistics, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and project management can be advantageous. While some positions may accept candidates with substantial coursework in related areas, a bachelor’s degree is often preferred for more advanced roles, emphasizing analytical, communication, and technical skills.

Experience: Planning Assistants typically enter the role with a background in urban or environmental planning, administrative support, or related fields. On-the-job training is common, allowing newcomers to adapt to specific planning processes, software, and documentation practices. Experience in project coordination, data analysis, and community engagement is valuable. Training programs focusing on planning regulations, GIS software, and public policy further prepare candidates. A blend of practical experience in planning environments and formal training programs shapes well-rounded Planning Assistants.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications and licenses are not typically required for the role of Planning Assistant.

Planning Assistant Skills

Urban Development Knowledge: Comprehensive insights into city planning, zoning laws, and sustainable development practices enable Planning Assistants to facilitate the creation of vibrant, functional urban spaces. Their expertise ensures effective collaboration with architects, engineers, and public officials, aligning projects with community needs and regulatory standards.

Zoning Regulations: Planning Assistants meticulously analyze and apply local, state, and federal guidelines to ensure proposed projects comply with land use policies. Their ability to interpret complex legal documents and maps advises on development possibilities and constraints.

Project Coordination: Orchestrating the various components of a project, from scheduling meetings to liaising with stakeholders, Planning Assistants ensure initiatives progress smoothly and meet deadlines. They integrate resources, manage timelines, and facilitate communication among team members, optimizing project outcomes.

Public Engagement: By facilitating open communication between the planning team and the public, Planning Assistants ensure community feedback is effectively integrated into project plans. They are adept at organizing public meetings, managing social media interactions, and synthesizing public comments into actionable insights.

GIS Mapping: Spatial analysis and data visualization techniques enable Planning Assistants to communicate complex geographical information, supporting informed decision-making. They create detailed maps that illustrate demographic trends to environmental risks, aiding strategic planning and community engagement.

Environmental Impact Assessment: Planning Assistants analyze the potential environmental effects of proposed projects to mitigate negative impacts and promote sustainable development. They liaise with stakeholders, incorporate environmental considerations into planning decisions, and comply with legal requirements, facilitating responsible project planning.

Planning Assistant Work Environment

A Planning Assistant typically finds themselves in an office setting, surrounded by the tools of their trade: computers with specialized software, maps, and various planning documents. The workspace is designed for both individual focus and collaborative projects, reflecting the dual nature of their tasks.

Work hours for Planning Assistants are generally standard, but there can be periods where the demands of specific projects necessitate longer days. The dress code leans towards business casual, striking a balance between professional and comfortable, which suits the varied nature of their interactions, from internal meetings to public consultations.

The environment is one of steady engagement, with the pace of work ebbing and flowing with project timelines. While mostly office-bound, there might be occasional travel for site visits or community meetings. Technology plays a significant role in their daily tasks, from data analysis to presentation preparation, ensuring that Planning Assistants are always at the intersection of current trends and traditional planning principles.

Advancement Prospects

A Planning Assistant, pivotal in urban and regional planning departments, can ascend to a Planner or Senior Planner role through demonstrated expertise in project management and policy development. Mastery in utilizing GIS software and data analysis is crucial for advancement, as these skills directly impact the ability to manage complex planning projects.

Engagement in high-profile projects showcases a Planning Assistant’s capability to handle responsibilities at a higher level, making them a prime candidate for promotion. Additionally, specializing in a niche area, such as environmental planning or transportation, can open doors to specialized roles within the field, offering a clear path to career progression.

To achieve these advancements, a Planning Assistant should focus on building a robust portfolio of successful projects and seek mentorship from seasoned planners to gain insights and strategies for navigating the planning landscape effectively.


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