Career Opportunities

Career Opportunities

What do Planners do?

Planners use the term planning to cover primarily "land use planning". Although there are many other types of planners only the professional institutes, the Canadian Institute of Planning and the Planning Institute of BC focus on the use overall development of towns, cities and even rural areas. Planners are concerned with much more than the use of land, but the principal power of planners in BC is provided by the Local Government Act. This includes the responsibility for making Official Community Plans and the Zoning Bylaws.

Planners can be required to undertake a wide variety of work. For most planning departments in local municipalities planning work is split between:

  • The regulation of development
  • The creation of planning policies and bylaws
  • The preparation of long term plans for the municipality or neighbourhoods
  • The preparation of specialist plans, such as housing plans, heritage plans and transportation plans.

The majority of planners work either for a municipality or planning consultants. Other employers include provincial ministries or other government or quasi government agencies, such as the Ministry of Transportation and Highways, the Agricultural Land Commission and BC Assessment.

What do Planning Assistants and Planning Technicians do?

Is there a difference between Planning Assistants and Planning Technicians? Well it depends. Often people use the terms interchangeably. In some municipalities in Metro Vancouver, planning technicians take on more complex work, require higher qualifications or more experience, and have higher pay rates. In some municipalities the term planning technician suggests someone who works on specialist technical issues, especially involving the use of computers.

Most planning assistants and planning technicians would be expected to be proficient in the use of basic computer programs, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Access. They would probably also be familiar with graphics software and maybe desktop publishing software. More specialized computer applications include Geographic Information Systems software (GIS), such as ArcGIS (Arc View). The Langara Applied Planning Program has two GIS courses as part of the requirement for the Diploma.

Some planning assistants and planning technicians may also use Computer Assisted Drafting (CAD) programs, such as AutoCAD. These are used for drawing subdivision layouts, site plans or architectural and engineering drawings.

What skills and education are required to work in Planning?

Planning is a diverse profession. Planners must be able to address a wide range of issues and projects. Starting out as a young planning assistant or planner it is a good idea to get as much experience as possible in different types of planning. Most planners tend to specialise later in their careers.

Starting out looking for work in planning you may find that the requirements in job advertisements include the following.

  • Knowledge of planning theory and techniques
  • An understanding of short and long range planning Subdivision design skills
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills
  • Knowledge of planning procedures in the local area
  • Research skills
  • Presentation skills for public displays and reports
  • Ability to work effectively in teams with other professionals and paraprofessionals
  • Ability to work well with the public as planning assistants are often required to work at inquiry desks and are the first people to meet the public.

Can the Langara Program help me become a planner?

To work as a planner in many municipalities you may be required to demonstrate that you are eligible to be a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), or its BC affiliate, the Planning Institute of BC (PIBC).

The PIBC webpage on memberships states the following:

"A Full Member has a degree from a planning school recognized by the Canadian Institute of Planners and two years professional planning experience, or has a degree in a field related to planning and four years professional planning experience and has achieved a pass on a written examination or portfolio. Only Full Members are entitled to use the professional designations 'MCIP' and 'Registered Planner' after their name."

For full information on membership of the PIBC, check the Institute webpage, at

How can I find out more about jobs for Planning Assistants and Planning Technicians?

Check the website of the Canadian Association of Certified Planning Technicians for more specifics.

CACPT members are mostly located in Ontario. For information on jobs for planning assistants in BC, you may need to check the websites of local municipalities.